Software Review: McAfee VirusScan Professional 7.0

In our Internet age, protecting a company’s computers from viruses is just as important as locking the doors to the office, password-protecting networks and PCs, and activating the burglar alarm. Unfortunately, today, simply sending and receiving email, sharing data files, and surfing the Web can expose a business to malicious viruses, worms, trojans, and hackers. For whatever lurks out there, McAfee VirusScan Professional 7.0 is a worthy product that identifies and catches such threats and adds firewall protection and some first-rate utilities into the mix.

To defend your business from viruses, VirusScan can scan and recognize viruses in e-mail and data files and allow you to decide whether to delete, clean or quarantine the infected files. You can also tell the program to clean files at a later date, submit suspicious files to McAfee for analysis, or isolate a file so it’s inaccessible to the operating system.

As you would expect, the program automatically updates the signature files that are constantly needed to recognize new viruses. McAfee includes only a one-year subscription for free signature updates, which, unfortunately, is standard practice for anti-virus programs these days. But the $9.95 annual subscription rate after the first year is an adequate deal.

McAfee’s new features do a more thorough job of monitoring and detecting virus activities. The Script Stopper detects, blocks and alerts you to viruses, such as the infamous “I Love You” virus, that use malicious script actions. Another new feature, the Hostile Activity Watch Kernel (Hawk), monitors your computer for virus-like activities, including mass-mails and attachments that carry double file extensions.

New integration with Windows Explorer and Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint let you scan files from within those programs. Once installed, VirusScan offers right-click options for scanning files in Windows Explorer, as well as an option under the application’s File menu. Within Microsoft Office applications, the program offers only the right-click options. While some may find this feature useful, we found it to be of limited value because VirusScan is already monitoring incoming files.

A useful new feature checks data as it’s being synchronized from Palm III and Windows CE/Pocket PC PDAs. It also examines file downloads from popular instant-messenger applications, including those from Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft.

VirusScan also comes with related utilities that are worthwhile additions. A firewall effectively places a barrier between the Internet and a PC and helps stop hackers from accessing the system. This feature can be particularly important for systems that are continuously connected to the Internet via cable, DSL or other lines.

QuickClean Lite looks for and removes temporary files and those that are no longer needed, which frees hard drive space. It eliminates shortcuts, lost file fragments, cookies, bloated browser history, and even cleans the registry. The program does a good job of searching for and identifying unneeded files and walking you through the process of erasing them. VirusScan also comes with McAfee Shredder, which permanently erases files from a computer so they may not be recovered and read.

Put To The Test
Installation was straight-forward and painless. We simply inserted the VirusScan CD into the drive of our test system, followed the prompts and quickly installed the program. VirusScan immediately jumped onto the Web to register the product and download the latest virus signature and updates. If you own an earlier version of VirusScan, you have to manually remove it before installing the newest VirusScan. While it’s not a major inconvenience, we wonder why the newer program can’t take care of this for the user, as is standard for many program upgrades.

The interface is intuitive and easy to use. It offers clear options for virus scanning, configuring automatic protection settings and checking for virus signature updates; as well managing quarantined files, viewing and editing scheduled scans, examining activity logs and more. The program tells you when automatic scanning has been activated, whether virus definitions are up to date and how many files the program has scanned. There’s also a graphical representation of network traffic that the firewall has filtered.

In use, we found that VirusScan worked well in the background and was mostly invisible during our daily tasks. As you would expect, the firewall initially produced a lot of warnings about various programs that were trying to access the internet. This was bothersome at first, but once we had removed unneeded programs and established that others were legitimate, the firewall ceased to provide alarms and only monitored for hacker intrusions.

Documentation, which consists of a Quick Start Card and product guide, is brief, but adequate. A plus is that McAfee’s technical support is thorough and convenient. The company’s web site offers good troubleshooting advice and other information, and a chat-line connection with technical support representatives. Phone support is pricey at $2.95 per minute (the first two minutes are free) or $39 per incident. It adds up.

VirusScan’s main competitor, Norton Internet Security 2003, also offers a firewall and anti-virus capabilities and tosses in ad and spam blocking to discourage unwanted e-mail. At a fairly comparable price, Norton’s entry is definitely worth a look. While VirusScan lacks a spam filter, Norton doesn’t monitor PDA synchronization or clean unwanted files off a computers hard drive, so choosing between the two is something of a tradeoff.

Bottom Line
McAfee sells VirusScan Professional 7.0 for $69.99 for the downloadable version, and $79.99 for the boxed version. For a limited time, McAfee is offering various rebates that can lower the price. These are worth looking for and checking out.

VirusScan Professional 7.0 is available for Windows 98, Me, 2000 Pro and XP.

As a first line of defense against the evils of the Internet, McAfee VirusScan Professional 7.0 is a competent and worthwhile product. At a nearly comparable price, you must also consider Symantec’s offerings, as each product comes with its own useful extras.

McAfee VirusScan is available at

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