When I reviewed McAfee VirusScan 8.0, I only gave the program a rating of 2-stars. I've increased the rating this time around to 3-stars, but only because in hindsight I think I was too harsh on McAfee regarding what I consider to be blatant advertising, otherwise known as McAfee SecurityCenter.
I'll talk more about that in a little bit, but first let's review the actual virus scanning ability.
McAfee VirusScan 9.0 is, essentially, the same program as the previous version. The only real difference is the scanning engine that operates the program, which is a behind-the-scenes item. Other than that, the only changes are cosmetic in nature.
As with the previous version, VirusScan 9.0 is relatively easy to install. I say relatively easy because before you can install the program, you need to uninstall any previous VirusScan versions as well as follow the "pre-install" instructions that come with it. (WARNING: I also recommend that you uninstall ALL McAfee products on your computer before trying to install any VirusScan version. VirusScan is notorious about causing conflicts if you do not perform what they call a "clean" install.)
Despite following the above advice, I installed, updated, and adjusted the settings in less than 10 minutes. I experienced no problems with the set up, or with conducting several test scans.
In version 8.0, McAfee condensed not only the number of settings to adjust, but also the number of levels you had to navigate in order to get to all of the settings. The company also introduced their "virus map" feature, which allows you to, if you wish to participate, anonymously send virus information to the map system. The virus map also allows you to track viruses around the world. Wisely, McAfee left these options alone.
One area I wish McAfee had made a change to is how the program "updates" itself. I prefer to have the program tell me when an update is available to download (I've never really been comfortable in allowing any program to automatically download an update). Unfortunately, this requires me to physically log-in to McAfee's Website each and everytime there is an update. Thankfully, I participate in Microsoft's Passport program, so logging in only requires a click of a button. But I still think you should be able to program your McAfee username and password into Security Center. In addition, the time required to download an update is still substantially more than it was back in version 7.0. Luckily, I now have a DSL connection so the time requirement isn't that bad. But if you still have a dial-up connection, be prepared for what can be substantial update times.
In all the years I have used McAfee VirusScan, I have never once had a virus or trojan horse successfully download or install on my computer. I give the virus scanning ability of McAfee a 5-star rating.
So why the overall reduced rating? There are three reasons for it.
REASON 1: For some reason, McAfee can't help themselves when it comes to screwing up either VirusScan or Security Center during updates. In each of the last four years, McAfee has issued an update that caused severe problems for its users. During version 7.0, it was the introduction of Security Center through an update that caused many computers, mine included, to lose the ability to connect to our ISPs. During version 8.0, a Security Center update created a boot-up problem that caused many computers, again mine included, to frequently be unable to start VirusScan. I'm hoping this will be the year that McAfee can avoid screwing up our computers during the udpates, but I won't hold my breath.
REASON 2: McAfee's customer service is one of the worst in any industry. Their live instant messaging help is a joke. The people who run this don't listen to your problem at all. They are only trained to have you run through a series of steps. Last year my then ISP made a change in how users connected to the Internet that caused a conflict with VirusScan. My ISP knew exactly how to fix this, but I needed to get one piece of information from McAfee. Their customer service people refused to listen to me when I tried to explain to them what I needed. When I refused to follow their "remedy" instructions, they would disconnect from the conversation. In an effort to get an answer, I finally capitulated and followed their instructions. Big mistake. Their instructions so screwed up my computer that I had to reinstall my operating system, as well as pay money to talk to McAfee on the phone (even then, it took three weeks and 5 different people before I got my answer).
REASON 3: I still do not like the blatant advertising that is called Security Center. I know this is not a big deal to many people, but it just really bugs me. The taskbar icon that is installed is not what bothers me (I actually like this feature, because I don't have to add desktop icons for each McAfee program; instead, the Security Center taskbar icon keeps everything in one, easily accessible place). What really bothers me is the Security Center splash screen (which cannot be disabled) that pops up every time you start, or restart, your computer. This splash screen is oh-so-nice in telling you whether or not you have also installed McAfee's Firewall Plus, Privacy Service, and SpamKiller. Having to see this everytime I start my computer makes me feel like I paid good money to install a pop-up advertisement.
Let me condense all of the above into the following: The underlying scanning engine is about the only real change in McAfee VirusScan 9.0 (although, this version does appear to fix a couple of bugs that were introduced through the previous version's updates). The Virus Map is still neat, the update feature is still time consuming, and Security Center is still basically a McAfee adversting tool.
Bottom line: If the updates during version 8.0 are causing you problems, then go ahead and buy this version. Otherwise, it won't hurt to wait for version 10 before you upgrade.