McAfee Internet Security Suite 2006 adds several new weapons to its defensive arsenal, including automatic spyware detection, an antiphishing plug-in for Internet Explorer, daily viral signature updates, and a Gaming Suspend feature that turns off firewall pop-up messages when a program is in full-screen mode. Despite its impressive security lineup and competitive $70 list price, McAfee Internet Security Suite 2006 is a bloated sentry that slows system performance, particularly boot times. McAfee Internet Security Suite 2006's laggardly virus scans take far longer than those of Symantec Norton Internet Security 2006. McAfee says this is by design; a longer scan, it argues, uses fewer system resources and allows you to run your PC normally. McAfee also needs better-trained tech-support reps. During one support chat, our rep wasn't aware that McAfee Internet Security Suite 2006 had a file shredder. McAfee Internet Security Suite 2006 is good for loyal McAfee users, but its slow performance makes it a so-so choice for everybody else. We recommend ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 2006 instead.
McAfee Internet Security Suite 2006 installs in a jiffy--5 minutes in our tests. As with Norton Internet Security 2006, however, once you've rebooted and configured McAfee's various security settings, setup becomes at least a 30-minute job. McAfee Internet Security Suite 2006 speeds setup by making its postinstallation antivirus scan optional. This is smart, as McAfee VirusScan 2006 took 2 hours, 15 minutes to scan a 19GB disk partition on our test PC. (By comparison, the postsetup scan is also optional with Norton Internet Security 2006, but that program scanned the same partition in 1 hour, 45 minutes--30 minutes faster.)
The interface for McAfee Internet Security Suite 2006 retains last year's clean, organized appearance. The Security Index on the main screen uses colored bars--green means good security, red means bad--to display your current vulnerability to viruses, spam, spyware, and hacker attacks. McAfee's security components hook into other programs, too. For example, McAfee Internet Security Suite 2006 adds a bare-bones toolbar to Internet Explorer that allows you to start an antivirus scan. Its McAfee SpamKiller 2006 toolbar for Microsoft Outlook is much improved this year, adding new buttons that can quickly rescue e-mail from the spam folder or keep spam out of your in-box. Unfortunately, unlike Norton's antispam feature, McAfee SpamKiller 2006 doesn't provide a toolbar for Eudora users.
McAfee Internet Security Suite 2006 is big on pop-up messages--and sometimes they get bloody annoying. Pop-ups tell you when virus definitions are downloading, and they seek your advice when the firewall is learning which programs need Internet access. (Thankfully, the firewall learns fast, and its pop-ups vanish after a day or two.) While it's nice to know the security suite is working, chances are you'll want to deactivate these alerts by clicking "Turn off this alert type" within the pop-up message box.
One interface gripe: McAfee Shredder, which overwrites deleted files to prevent snoops from recovering their contents, is too difficult to find. Hint: it's accessible via the Run The Utilities link on the Privacy Service menu. We'd like to see this handy utility displayed more prominently. Another tip: when you right-click a file within Windows Explorer or on the desktop, you can access McAfee Shredder through the Send To submenu.