All-in-One Security

Best Protectors

All of the suites we tested proved good at something, but none excelled at everything. Our Best Buy, Symantec's suite, performed consistently across our tests. Highlights include a second-place ranking in detecting AV-Test.org's collection of back doors, bots, and Trojan horses, and a perfect firewall score. It provides instant-messaging protection, parental controls, and a data-privacy feature. Its interface could be more streamlined, though, and its telephone tech support charges a whopping $30 per incident.

The top performer in our malware tests was McAfee's suite, which also has extra features such as instant-messaging protection and an antiphishing plug-in for Internet Explorer. However, the suite suffers from a bad installation routine and pricey phone support ($3 per minute).

Zone Labs' suite, which integrates an older version of CA's lackluster eTrust antivirus engine, ranked seventh in our performance tests, despite its great firewall. Zone Labs plans to update its CA engine in June. Regardless, the suite still managed sixth place overall, as it's packed with features and easy to use.

The poor performance of the BitDefender suite surprised us. Slow speed, a mediocre adware scanner, and a less-than-impressive firewall contributed to the suite's ninth-place overall ranking.

Aluria's suite can scan packed files but not compressed executable programs.
Aluria's suite can scan packed files but not compressed executable programs.
Newcomer Aluria's inexpensive but bare-bones suite placed last. The software can scan your whole drive, but it lacks the ability to scan a user-defined set of files and folders. It also can't look for malware embedded within packed executable files such as ASPack or UPX. (Worm authors hide malware within packed executables, and sometimes, to avoid detection by security software, they take existing malware and repackage it.) In addition, at its default settings Aluria's firewall is too permeable, and it's a resource hog.

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