McAfee – Total Protection 2007 review

antivirus, spyware, firewall and more
Photo of McAfee – Total Protection 2007

McAfee’s Total Protection is an all-in-one solution for the home user that crams an impressive amount of tools and applications into a single suite. These can either be installed as a complete collection or, unlike many other multi-application security suites, McAfee makes it pretty easy to install specific elements only (for example, just Antivirus if you’re happy with the Windows Firewall or have a hardware Firewall on your router).

Considering that one of the drawbacks of these commercial security applications is the large footprint they carry and resultant impact on your system, this is a welcome feature to help reduce lag. Installation of the full suite is pretty straightforward but expect considerable slowdown while McAfee configures itself, performs initial scans and retrieves automatic updates as necessary.

When the tide has subsided you’ll find all of the tools integrated into a single control window, in a similar fashion to the popular ZoneAlarm. Unlike ZoneAlarm, though, you can expect a veritable host of additional processes on your system that nibble away at your resources and can cause noticeable hold-ups, particularly when scanning or updating definitions.

The various facets of protection on offer include Virus and Spyware, a System Guard to protect against changes to your PC and script protection. You’ll also find a pop-up blocker, personal information guard and phishing protection with the built-in firewall. There are additional tools for e-mail based spam and virus protection, as well as IM and parental control.

Where McAfee’s suite comes into its own against rivals like Microsoft’s OneCare is in offering a series of additional tools like Wi-Fi Network setup and protection, document shredding and online backups. All of these are available through sub-menus on the main interface alongside other handy applications like a task scheduler, defragmenter and Quickclean utility.

McAfee’s interface has been improved somewhat with the latest release. You’re now notified with a rather dominating green tick if your security is up to scratch, and if not you’re told why not, and often given the opportunity to let McAfee rectify the problem for you. Unfortunately, browsing through the additional features isn’t quite as easy: most are represented by text-based links that lead to further menus, and it takes a bit of time to work out exactly what tools are available and where to find them.

You’re given about the right amount of control over fine-tuning security by adjusting firewall settings and program access, which works in a similar way to ZoneAlarm with an adjustable slider and straightforward information on the level of security of each application accessing your system. You’ll also see similar warnings appear when new access is requested.

We were impressed by the range of tools and high level of protection that McAfee offers. However, partly due to the size of the suite and partly down to how the interface is organised, expect to spend quite a bit of time setting things up the way you want them. The lack of any kind of wizard-based configuration means that beginners might be a little daunted by the floods of submenus that appear when you get down to the advanced tweaking stage.

There’s no doubt that the level of protection here is extremely comprehensive, particularly when you consider notable additions such as Wi-Fi and network security that are missing on many rival security tools. It would have been nice to see something a little more structured and accessible for the casual user, but if you’re used to getting your hands dirty with tweaking and fine-tuning these sorts of applications, you’ll find plenty here to keep you busy.

Total Protection also includes McAfee SiteAdvisor, an anti-phishing tool that monitors any Web sites you visit and notifies you of potential problems via colour-coded warnings on the system tray icon.

Company: McAfee

Contact: 020 7949 0107

McAfee has certainly succeeded in offering one of the most comprehensive all-in-one protection packages on the market, and there's a number of worthwhile improvements in the latest version. While the suite does a decent enough job of working away in the background without interruption, beginners attempting to fine-tune settings themselves will find it far harder to do here than on more user-friendly, albeit more basic, alternatives.