Another new feature is Active Protection, McAfee's near-instant communication with the master signature database back at McAfee. Whenever a new malicious software is trapped by McAfee Internet Security, rather than wait for the new update, protection is sent back to the desktop. Trend Micro is offering something similar, using "in the Cloud" technology. By comparison, Norton is sending mini database updates every few minutes.
Although not new, we like McAfee's home networking feature; it's much easier to use than Norton's. Also enhanced over last year's version is the integration of antivirus, antispyware, firewall, and antiphishing. The heuristics, or System Guards, have also been improved. Returning are home network monitoring, parental controls, and backup and recovery. McAfee remains one of the few suites to include system utilities such as secure file shredding, which we think should be a part of every Internet Security suite
In CNET Labs' performance tests, McAfee Internet Security 2009, in general, scored considerably better than last year's version, and on one test it scored better than Norton Internet Security 2009. In third-party, independent antivirus testing using live viruses, McAfee Internet Security 2009 scored in the upper ranks, although not always at the top position. On the CNET iTunes test, McAfee Internet Security 2009 came in at 271 seconds, 3 seconds above the test system but one second faster than Norton Internet Security 2009. On the CNET Microsoft Office test, McAfee Internet Security 2009 finished at 1,495 seconds, squarely in the middle of the pact. In a test scanning a single folder with compressed and media files, McAfee Internet Security 2009 completed this test in a fast 200 seconds, virtually tying Norton Internet Security 2009. In terms of boot speed, McAfee Internet Security 2009 took only 30 seconds, faster than Norton and most of the other suites we tested.
To find out how we test antivirus software, visit CNET Labs' How we test: Antivirus software page.
In terms of whether McAfee Internet Security 2009 will protect your PC, we cite results from two leading independent antivirus testing organizations. In the September 2008 AV-test.org results, McAfee Internet Security 2008 scored well, having a few false positives, but is scored toward the bottom of the list in response times to new threats (something that the new Active Protection features should address in the 2009 version). In the latest test results from AV-Comparatives.org for on-demand scans, McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 earned an Advanced (second highest) rating, catching 94 percent of all malicious software tested, falling behind Norton, Kaspersky, Eset Nod32, and others. The same is true for the Retrospective/Proactive test, McAfee VirusScan Plus 2008 earned an Advanced rating, proactively stopping 32 percent of the "new samples" in the test.
Once again, McAfee comes up a little short on the technical support end. Unlike Trend Micro and Norton, which both offer free telephone support, McAfee only offers its support for a limited time. The 30-day free phone support is available daily from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Pacific. Afterward, telephone support is listed under fee-based support, with a variety of per-minute or per-incident plans starting at $9.
McAfee Virtual Technician is an optional plug-in that , when downloaded, will diagnose the state of your McAfee product, the computer's health, and then make recommendations on how to fix it--for free. It seems unnecessary, but then again you can't argue with the price. User support forums remain hidden, not easily accessible from the technical support area where it is expected. McAfee doesn't have a tutorial or online manual. By comparison, Kaspersky offers a complete 321-page manual, a robust user forum, and toll-free telephone support.
In a strictly Norton versus McAfee universe, McAfee Internet Security 2009 once again offers more features than Norton Internet Security 2009 and integrates them with a more intuitive user interface, one that allows you to understand the specific feature as well as tweak its settings. Although independent security test scores could be higher and the technical support could be better, McAfee provides you with more than adequate protection.