McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 with Site Advisor is a solid all-in-one security suite delivering antivirus, anti-spam, firewall, and network security protection. McAfee's Security Center is slick yet robust, delivering excellent PC security software specifically for the home and small business user.
While the interface has had a minor facelift from the 2007 release, this 2008 version of McAfee VirusScan delivers comprehensive functionality. With fast and effective antivirus scanning, a solid firewall, and neat PC utilities, the core components of McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 delivered more than I expected.
The McAfee Security Center offers a proactive forum to optimize your PC’s performance and online security to prevent malicious attacks, thus allowing end users to browse, search, download, interact, and transact with confidence.
McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 was tested on desktop, laptop, and tablet PC
architecture using Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 2000
As a multi-faceted application suite, McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 is most definitely on the mark.
Installation & Setup
- I won’t mince my words here: the download/installation process of any McAfee product is either atrociously poor or exceptionally quick depending on your luck and your ability to "think outside the box." The Download Manager program itself is so unintuitive that I fear for anybody who encounters a problem at this initial step of the installation. Competitor antivirus, anti-spyware, and firewall software already installed on your computer prevents you from proceeding, as does any rogue component or file left over from a previous uninstallation of said products. The fragmented data in the registry simply prevents the download manager from running. The presence of cookies, temporary Internet files, or a system without extensive Windows updates, XML scripting, and .NET components will also impede installation. Worst of all, the McAfee download manager fails to even deliver a meaningful reason as to why the download failed. It only generates the same dialog box in every instance. [See Image 1]
- Once you do negotiate this Download Manager minefield, the install process is quick. This leads me to wonder why McAfee doesn’t just launch a download component like 99 percent of applications provide to download from the Internet. McAfee says their download management process adds security, version control, and individual licensing coordination. However, since none of the other "big boys" require such a convoluted process, it just seems like an unnecessary aggravation. [See Image 2]
- The McAfee installation process is quick to deliver an informative message when successful. It just needs a more informative reason for a failed download: i.e., "temporary Internet files need clearing," "presence of conflicting software detected," or "Windows updates required." [See Image 3]
- The McAfee Security Center is a 53 MB software package, which is about right for such a multifaceted dashboard of PC security features.
- The uninstall process is unfussy and clean after rebooting the system, unlike Norton and Panda, which leave fragmented registry and system files behind.
- The user interface of McAfee Security Center hasn't changed visually since the 2007 release, but it's much improved by the fully integrated suite of components, which deliver an uncluttered and user friendly experience.
- Intuitive setup combines great security, utility, and networking tools making for a clean all-in-one interfaced solution. For such an assortment of utilities, McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 is easy to navigate largely because of the two-tier Basic and Advanced menu setup. [See Image 4]
- The Advanced menu is well presented with extensive functionality and configurability. For the expert user, there are plenty of tweaks to tighten security and system resilience. [See Image 5]
- For speed of navigation, the McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 GUI delivers only mid-range performance, and like Computer Associate's Security Center, it has an annoying tendency to display "Attention" warnings of functionality gaps. This is a hard-sell approach to showing users what products would provide them with greater security. I don’t like such scare mongering, and at the very least would like some form of configurability to disable such "warnings." [See Image 6]
There are several features which are new in the 2008 release of McAfee VirusScan Plus:
- IM message scanning and monitoring, which works effectively with all common messaging services such as AOL, MSN, and Yahoo.
- StateAware processing allows users to use multimedia and applications without interruption by deferring update tasks and alert warnings.
- Integrated antivirus, anti-spyware, and firewall configurability. [See Image 18]
The Site Advisor utility with antiphishing is a novel new tool that applies safety ratings to sites and search engine results using up-to-date spam, adware, and online scam routing procedures.
Scheduled or automatic system diagnostic configuration allows users to test PC setup and run utilities to optimize performance like disk/file cleanup, drive defragmenting, and application prioritizing. [See Image 7]
The heuristics scanning functionality is less cumbersome and easier to operate, as are the antivirus, spyware, and adware detection, and the blocking and removal process. [See Image 17]
The improved Intelligence agent monitors PC behavior and activity to prevent spyware, adware, cookies, viruses, and hacker threats. [See Image 19]
With McAfee VirusScan 2008, users have the ability to hide a PC's presence online. This "ghosting" allows for anonymous browsing, hence increased security.
- The clear PC security setup keeps update information as the focal point in the main dialog box, thus keeping updates at the forefront of operations to counter potential threats. [See Image 9]
Network tools monitor PC access, connectivity, and activity across trusted networks, probing for weaknesses and "hot spots." The network map is also an excellent visual indicator of network architecture. [See Image 20]
As an free add-on, the Virtual Technician provides an optional interface to diagnose PC performance and advise on utilities/products to run. This is a great idea, especially as other major PC security suppliers charge for such services. Symantec offers such a service at $70. [See Image 8]
- McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 performs admirably as an all- in-one security solution, so I'm being harsh in saying that it is only adequate in terms of processing speed. It's apparent, however, that it runs slower than other specifically designed antivirus and anti-spyware software packages. [See Image 10]
- The Security Center is slicker than the 2007 edition, delivering updates without fuss or complication. However, the lack of hourly updates is noticeable, largely because other providers supply this "live" interaction. This shouldn't deter the average user, though, because daily updates should be sufficient for the home and small business market for which this product is intended.
- The antivirus and anti-spam tools alone were quick, returned impressive results, and dealt with quarantined/deleted files efficiently. VirusScan Plus delivered superb speed when dealing with generic file/folder structures and audio and video files, and even better performance when scanning Microsoft, Lotus, and Novell applications. Compressed files were, however, processed only in an "average" timeframe. [See Images 11-12]
- Startup and multitasking of other applications while running a scan or utility are slow. Processing capacity wasn’t highly intensive, but it does take time toggling between applications and running queries. However, the final results of scans were excellent. McAfee caught and effectively removed 98 percent of all viruses, whereas spyware and adware testing caught 80 percent of malware and effectively removed them all. [See Image 13]
Help & Support
- As a concept, the Technical Assistant/Virtual Technician functionality is great, but in reality it doesn't offer any meaningful support to complex issue resolution. As responsive as these tools are, at this stage they just don't deliver helpful advice. Instead, they simply route users to the online support services. [See Image 14]
- The FAQ section is too basic and leads you to an even more unhelpful Help section. Both of these facilities are quick and lightweight, but again, they don't offer any meaningful guidance to problem solving, particularly when it's of an advanced nature. [See Image 15]
- Online help as a forum is a minefield of drop-down menus and index-driven pages, and not particularly intuitive for either level of user this product might attract. This will just lose a novice user early and frustrate expert users. [See Image 16]
However, the online chat forum is free of charge and extremely professional. The staff are dedicated to solving problems in a responsive manner.
The 217-page McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 manual is anything but "light reading," especially for this target market/user.
Technical support is $2.95 per minute or $39 per incident. As I have mentioned previously, I feel this is expensive for a $40 product.
- All component parts of McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 work well, but individual modular downloads could help improve responsiveness and coverage. Antivirus, firewall, networking as concentrated product offerings would use fewer system resources and be easier to coordinate and run.
- The interface has only had a minor facelift since the 2007 version of McAfee VirusScan Plus. A simple background change or similar visual indicator would have been nice to differentiate between the 2007 and 2008 versions.
- The problem I endured with the McAfee download manager isn't something I would wish on my worst enemy. As I've said, if it weren't for reviewing this product, I would have long since asked for a refund. McAfee needs to streamline this process and make it more intuitive.
As good a product as I believe McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 is, if it wasn’t for the fact that I purchased it for reviewing and testing purposes, I would have lost patience with McAfee long before the six hours I spent trying to get it to download. And I consider myself an expert in information systems management.
That said, McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 with Site Advisor is a great all-in-one solution offering excellent entry-level virus and malware protection, firewall configuration, PC utilities, and network security. Of course, for higher levels of security governance I would suggest specifically designed standalone products for dedicated antivirus, firewall, and network configurability. However, at under $40 for an all-in-one solution, who can grumble? It does deliver a comprehensive and uncomplicated suite of security tools. For home or small business security requirements, McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 works without mishap or fuss. It doesn’t make your machine grind to a halt and can deal with most security threats.
Norton Internet Security 2008, Kaspersky Internet Security 7.0, Windows Live OneCare 2.0, Kaspersky Antivirus 2008, BitDefender Antivirus, Norton Antivirus 2008, ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite