Some years ago, as the cost of providing updates for their products escalated, antivirus companies moved away from one-off, ‘lifetime’ pricing to charging an annual subscription. Consumers have accepted this grudgingly – especially as annual renewals sometimes go in hand with product upgrades that don’t always go smoothly. It’s to this dissatisfaction that the rise in popularity – and technical excellence – of free security products can be attributed.
GFI, which bought Sunbelt Software’s Vipre antivirus suite in mid-2010, seems to be turning the clock back with its new Lifetime Edition. This offers a single-PC lifetime licence with no ongoing subscription charges for either virus definitions or software updates. Given that it costs roughly the same as many of its rivals, it sounds like an attractive deal – but is there a catch?
The answer is a resounding no’. Installation is quick and straightforward, finishing up with a useful Setup Wizard that guides you through basic email and firewall configuration. It also gives you the option to join the ThreatNet community, which automatically gathers new threat information from users. At the end of the wizard, you can choose to watch a decent demo video explaining how the product works.
The Lifetime Edition includes all the features of the Premium version, such as firewall, web filtering and intrusion detection. The optional firewall replaces Windows Firewall, and can be run in either Simple or Learning mode. In the former, it blocks all incoming connections but doesn’t check outgoing connections. In Learning mode it pesters you for a while to ask about every incoming and outgoing connection before eventually settling down.
It’s a shame there’s no intermediate mode that duplicates the Windows Firewall presets – novices will be baffled by the Learning mode, whereas Experts will just be annoyed. It’s a shame, as the firewall is very flexible, with user-defined rules, intrusion detection and process protection (to prevent code injection attacks).
Given that antivirus software runs in the background, it’s vital that it doesn’t consume vast amounts of your computer’s resources, leading to a sluggish and unresponsive system. Here, Vipre has a commendably small memory footprint – we found it took up less than 7MB of system memory in normal operation, rising to around 40MB when running a scan.
The scan engine incorporates both antivirus and anti-spyware protection, and you can choose between Quick or Deep scans; on our clean test system the Deep scan took 45 minutes, only about 20 per cent longer than the Quick scan.
An uncluttered interface gives you all the important information at a glance, with tabs for the other modules. Extra tools include a file shredder, history cleaner and PC Explorer, which lets you browse a variety of security-related system information such as ActiveX downloads.
At the time of writing, the Lifetime Edition is available exclusively via Amazon – only the subscription editions are sold on GFI’s website.
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