Network Associates – McAfee VirusScan 6.0 review

powerful anti-virus solution for the desktop
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Anti-virus software such as this has two key components. There’s the scanner itself, which is used for thorough file checking and virus removal, and a memory-resident program that watches for virus-like activity all the time your PC is switched on. Inevitably with the latter there’s a trade off between scanning efficiency and overall PC performance, but the processor overhead here is relatively small.

Each time the PC boots, VirusScan performs a quick scan from the Autoexec.bat file, checking the boot sector and system files for infection. If none is found, the PC will boot into Windows as normal, otherwise a warning will be given and the disinfection process started.

Once Windows has loaded, a memory-resident utility called VShield watches for virus-like activity. It scans all program files and can be configured to scan data files too, although there’ll be a performance drop if you ask it to do too much work whenever a file is created, read, written to or copied. Usually it’s sufficient to scan program files and office documents (which could harbour macro viruses), unless you have reason to believe that virus code is hiding in your data.

VShield can watch over e-mail and Internet downloads too, blocking known viruses and some malicious content hidden inside Java applets and ActiveX controls. It will also monitor e-mail activity, warning if bulk e-mails are being sent. This protection is something that’s usually managed by a firewall and in fact McAfee Firewall 3 is included in the box, making this a comprehensive security package.

The other major component of VirusScan is the scanning engine itself. This can be run either on a scheduled basis or specifically by the user. It provides a more thorough scanning and disinfection mechanism than the memory-resident module and can scan within compressed archives too. It should be run on a regular basis as a complement to the memory-resident program.

During installation, VirusScan will walk you through the creation of a virus-free rescue boot disk which you can use to recover the system should a virus infect your PC, and the installation CD itself is bootable and can be used to boot cleanly if a boot sector virus is suspected. Updates to the data files and scanning engine are made via secure connection to the McAfee/Network Associates Web site. The purchase price will entitle you to a year’s free updates – vital given the speed with which new viruses are created.

Company: Network Associates

Contact: 01753 217 520

We've used an earlier version of VirusScan for a couple of years and it's been pretty reliable, spotting viruses before they could do much harm and removing them from Word documents in particular. We had some installation niggles with the review code for this version on a Windows 98 PC, but that seems to have been ironed out. The inclusion of a firewall is a sensible move and makes this a good value security product.