McAfee Internet Security Suite 2005 review

Price when reviewed

Given its reputation for having a stable of solid, high-performance core products wrapped up in a frankly ragged shell, we weren’t overly hopeful for Security Suite 2005. Having said that, perhaps we should have remembered just how much of an improvement VirusScan 8 Professional had been when we reviewed it some months back – so much so that it earned a place on our A List.

McAfee Internet Security Suite 2005 review

There’s no doubting that the McAfee Security Center management console is the best-looking and most functional on test. It’s what the Windows XP SP 2 Security Center can only dream of being: elegant, informative and truly useful. From the central console you can gain one-button access to VirusScan, Personal Firewall Plus, Privacy Service and SpamKiller 2005.

SpamKiller is rather optimistically named, we fear, as it was the worst performer on test here. Out of the box, it undershone the opposition with a meagre 82.3 per cent of spam correctly identified and a truly appalling false-positive rate of 6.8 per cent. It isn’t all bad news though: the interface again won the day with clear controls enabling the eventual tweaking of that filtering to produce better results. We were also impressed by the statistical graphics, providing at-a-glimpse reports on not only how badly SpamKiller is doing but rather more usefully the type of spam you’re being targeted by. Predictably, our testbed machine was more than half full of adult-themed spam.

We certainly can’t criticise VirusScan for its end result. It kept every nasty at bay as it should, and proved seamless when automatically downloading updates. But, and this is a huge but, it was so slow that at first we thought the hard disk was giving up the ghost. This isn’t a bit of colourful licence either. Our testbed machine for these tests is an Athlon 64 3400+ with 1GB RAM – no slouch as you can imagine. Yet it was many hours before the full system scan was complete, almost half as long again as its nearest rival.

This doesn’t mean that VirusScan hogs resources in everyday use – it’s no worse than Norton in this respect – but don’t expect it to do a regular system scan in the background while doing anything else. It was thorough though, picking up our spyware implants without fuss; an impressive result. Indeed, VirusScan is also responsible for dealing with adware and pop-ups, which is helpful.

Thankfully everything else was as good as we’ve come to expect from McAfee in recent years, with the parental controls deserving of special praise. These come with pre-populated options for every age group from ‘young child’ through to ‘older teenager’ and beyond. As well as the blocking of websites, it was nice to see that McAfee has brought a feature from the specialist content and access control players into its suite, namely usage restrictions based on time.

Select the user and then, in much the same way as you can with AOL, you simply choose the days, and time of day, when that user can go online. Not only does this combat the problem of inappropriate activity when you’re not around to lend a helping hand, but it also reduces the risk of Internet addiction – all too easy with the lure of chat, games and music these days. Our group of eager mini-testers were floored at every hurdle, and found the time-limiting aspect particularly impressive if rather annoying.

The highest praise must go to Personal Firewall Plus, which just worked. No tweaking was required, there was no ongoing interference – it just sat there in the background keeping our personal data in and the would-be attackers out. We like this kind of invisible firewalling because the less requirement to tweak, the less damage the do-gooder can do to their security.

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