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IntroductionWith McAfee VirusScan Plus 2007, McAfee demonstrates that they not only know how to deal with software that may threaten your computer but they also know how to write software you'll be happy to put on it. McAfee VirusScan Plus 2007 offers robust customization, speed, solid protection, and a clean, intuitive interface.
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Price to ValueRating What's Hot:
McAfee VirusScan Plus 2007 includes the basics any user would expect from a modern security suite: virus protection, spyware protection, and firewall. McAfee adds some nice extras that provide value-add for the money including system maintenance options, integration with online services, and email and IM protection. Not a bad package for less than $40 USD.
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Installation & SetupRating What's Hot:
Installing McAfee VirusScan Plus 2007 was smooth and effortless. VirusScan's installation program is simple and clean--the way an installer should be. In just a few clicks, the installer is writing bits to your hard disk, keeping you well-informed all along the way. The installer interface provides the appropriate amount of information for most users regarding what is being installed and the status of the installation of a given feature.
The UI shows what feature is being installed, the status for that feature, and the amount of data to be written to complete the installation of that feature.
McAfee uses information "glyphs" throughout the VirusScan user interface and carries that idea into setup, so the setup interface is nicely integrated with the actual product interface. Clicking on a glyph will provide more information (essentially a tooltip) about a given feature or process. Some of the tips are useless, but in general, I found the information helpful.
The installer also uses color to inform the user about the status of a given feature. Green (and checked) means the feature was installed properly. Yellow indicates that the feature was already present on the system and was not reinstalled.
Once installation is complete, the installer will start all needed services, check for updates, and doesn't produce ads or upsell screens. The user is presented with a registration screen, which can be easily dismissed.
The installer writes approximately 88Mb to the disk on a clean install. While the installation didn't require a reboot, the update installer did. I suspect this is because the services were running when the updates were downloaded and installed.
If the product is installed and the installer is rerun, it will not detect the presence of the product on the system and won't offer to uninstall. This means that uninstallation is only provided though the Windows "Add/Remove" interface. The uninstaller does allow for the removal of particular features, leaving others on the system. [mcafee_install_uninstalloptions.JPG]
The uninstaller left about 500Kb on the system and failed to remove teo registry keys. The uninstaller requires a system reboot.
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User InterfaceRating What's Hot:
The main application, the McAfee Security Center, is well-designed. The user interface offers two views into the feature set: Basic and Advanced. The Basic view surfaces the more important and widely used features of the product and allows the user to access them by way of big buttons. [mcafee_security_center_basic_menu.JPG]
This view reduces the confusion new users might face with some of the more advanced features and gives the casual user an easy way to accomplish basic tasks using VirusScan.
The Advanced view is set up hierarchically with relationships between items moving from left to right. [mcafee_security_center_advanced_menu_scan.JPG)]
Whereas the basic menu has a single "Scan" button, not allowing you to choose which type of scan to run (virus or malware), the Advanced menu lets you set options for your scan and configure scan locations and the like.
The engineers at McAfee smartly brought real-time help more to the surface. Instead of relying on roll-over heuristics for its menu items, McAfee VirusScan Plus 2007 sports an "i" glyph next to many options.
Clicking on the glyph produces a tooltip for the item in question. While roll-over tooltips are helpful, I found the McAfee approach effective for two reasons. First, tooltips are produced only when the user needs them, instead of being produced simply by moving your mouse over a specific area of the user interface. Second, and more importantly, it shows clearly that help is available for specific UI items. I think many novice and surface users will appreciate this.
The McAfee Security Center integrates cleanly with the Windows Security Center and provides a seamless experience between the two.
I have one minor complaint about the UI. The interface doesn't provide breadcrumbs to help navigate the relationships between screens. For instance, if I'm on the home screen and click the Computer and Files button, two "Configure" buttons appear.
There is little to indicate the difference in functionality between these two buttons. Clicking the upper "Configure" button takes you to "Computer and Files Configuration".
Clicking on the lower "Configure" button takes you to "Security Center Configuration".
In neither case does the interface indicate the relationship between the two configuration screens and the rest of the UI, nor is it clear how to get back to the screen from which you just came.
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Product FeaturesRating What's Hot:
McAfee uses its own alert system instead of leveraging the Windows taskbar bubbles. The alerts (sometimes affectionately referred to as the "popup toast" in other applications) are fairly large and intrusive and include a brash, somewhat retro-sounding but attention-getting "ding". Regardless, they are clear to read and informative. [mcafee_internet_access_warning.JPG]
Customization in VirusScan Plus 2007 is robust and I rarely found something I wanted to customize but couldn't. Everything can be customized, from alerts to software updates. The level of customization will most likely please even many power users. For most users, there is more than enough here to satisfy.
Integration with Online Services
VirusScan integrates cleanly with McAfee's online services. It checks regularly for software updates but also provides feedback on current virus activity around the globe with its "HackerWatch" tool. [mcafee_security_center_hacker_watch.jpg]
VirusScan integrates a number of tools that can assist with activities ranging from disk defragmentation (see screenshot on left) to monitoring Internet traffic to and from your computer (screenshot on right).
Whether users make use of these tools is another matter, but McAfee has done a nice job of cleanly integrating the tools into the Security Center interface.
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ProtectionRating What's Hot: It is beyond the scope of this review to provide a report on the scanning effectiveness of VirusScan. For a full report with lab-tested results, I recommend reading Consumer Reports review (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/electronics-computers/protection-software-9-06/overview/0609_software_ov.htm) of virus and malware scanners (subscription). In the modest testing I did, McAfee VirusScan 2007 detected obvious problems and took appropriate action.[mcafee_virus_detection.JPG]The Firewall performs well alerting the user when programs attempt to access the Internet (left) or when a new network is detected (right).[mcafee_internet_access_warning.JPG][mcafee_new_network_detected.jpg]This behavior is standard among modern security tools and VirusScan does not disappoint. My own view is that firewall alerts are more annoying than helpful and I would like to see McAfee come up with an innovative way to alert users when the firewall is being breached. For most users, the alerts will not be intrusive. But for power users like developers who are doing a lot of testing, installing a lot of new software, and the like, having frequent firewall alerts can get irritating.
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PerformanceRating What's Hot:
One concern many users have with security suites is the potential performance hit to their computers. I've used McAfee software in the past and had to remove it because performance was so poor. I went into this review fairly pessimistic. I was pleasantly surprised.
I ran some non-scientific tests to evaluate whether the scanning software negatively affected basic tasks like browsing the web and copying files. I wrote a small software program that would precisely time these operations. I ran a first set of tests without the software installed and running, and a second set with VirusScan Plus running in the background with all scanners turned on. For the first test, I copied five 21Mb files over my home network from the local machine (on which McAfee would be installed) to a network share. The second test copied three hundred 8kb files over the network. I was testing to see if smaller files and more of them would affect the scanners negatively. Finally, my program went to five major websites (with complex layouts) and downloaded their home pages. I ran each test five times. Here are the results:
Without scanners: average transfer time of 16583ms.
With scanners: average transfer time of 16986ms.
Without scanners: average transfer time of 4690ms.
With scanners: average transfer time of 5526ms.
Without scanners: average transfer time of 6968ms.
With scanners: average transfer time of 7058ms.
Given the variability of network conditions and operating system processes the differences in all three tests are statistically insignificant. Of course, this may or may not represent real-world behavior, but the purpose of my tests was to see if the scanners would cause an immediate and obvious drop in performance doing some basic tasks.
I also used the machine to listen to music and browse the web with the scanners running and noticed no obvious performance degradation.One feature I'd like to see is the ability to turn off all real-time scanning from the system tray icon. In order to turn off real-time scanning, the Security Center has to be opened. There are many occasions when I need all my computer's processing power for a given task (compiling; working with video or music) and I would like the ability to temporarily turn off real-time scanning easily for these tasks. The best implementation I've seen for this feature is in Network Solutions' eTrust product. From the system tray, the real-time scanning could be disabled for a given time specified by the user. When the time expired, the real-time scanning would automatically turn back on. Happily, McAfee's offering does implement a similar timer. However, you have to open the Security Center to access it.
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Help & SupportRating What's Hot:
VirusScan uses the old-style CHM help file format. This is good because it means you don't have to be connected to the Internet to get help--the file is local. Because it's compiled, it's also fast. The downside is that help does not contain updates, corrections, and new information. Users will have to use the McAfee website for latest information.
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McAfee's VirusScan Plus 2007 is a solid offering from a veteran in computer security. The package is well-rounded, performs well, and is easy to use. The proof of any security application is how it performs in everyday usage. Does it slow things down? Does it detect problems? Does it stay out of my way and do its job? VirusScan appears to be poised to perform well in each of these areas.
I recommend VirusScan 2007 for home and small office/home office use. Casual users will find the interface clear and the functionality solid. There's also plenty of "tweakability" here for the more advanced user.
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