Bargain hunters, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus is the security deal for you.
Zone Labs' popular ZoneAlarm firewall, available in both free and fee versions, has always been a lone wolf in the realm of PC security. While Trend Micro and other antivirus software vendors have already taken the logical step of combining antivirus and firewall protection into one program, ZoneAlarm resisted the urge to merge -- until now. Not only does the new ZoneAlarm with Antivirus shield against viruses and hacker attacks, it does so for the rock-bottom price of US$19.95 (~AU$28). Limitations? ZoneAlarm with Antivirus doesn't block ads, manage cookies, or have all the perks of pricier security suites, including Zone Labs' own ZoneAlarm Security Suite, of course. But for students and home users who simply want solid yet very basic security for their PCs, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus is a winner.
Installing ZoneAlarm with Antivirus is child's play. A configuration wizard leads you through setup, making it easy for everyday users to secure their systems fast. For instance, the program automatically scans your system for viruses after setup, but you can cancel this scan if you wish. Unlike Norton AntiVirus 2004, however, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus doesn't perform a preinstallation scan, which would be an added measure of protection.
The ZoneAlarm with Antivirus interface is excellent. A left-hand column provides one-click access to the program's main modules -- Firewall, Program Control, and Antivirus -- and the configuration options are clearly explained and easy to change. Longtime ZoneAlarm users will feel at home immediately with the program, since it looks nearly identical to Zone Labs' firewall-only offerings.
Novices will like the 10-part tutorial that explains in detail ZoneAlarm's default settings. For example, it describes the significance of pop-up alerts (such as when an unrecognised program tries to access the Internet), and shows you how to use the Stop and Internet Lock buttons to block all Net traffic (if you fear you're under attack).
Expert users will like the granular controls for both the firewall and antivirus modules, including the ability to block incoming and outgoing pings, thereby making your system more invisible to Internet intruders. The E-mail Protection module allows you to add or delete file extensions from the list of e-mail attachments scanned.
You might expect ZoneAlarm with Antivirus to get clobbered in a feature-to-feature bout with such antivirus heavyweights as Norton AntiVirus 2004 and McAfee VirusScan 8.0, both of which cost much more. Surprisingly, however, ZoneAlarm holds its own. The main reason, of course, is the firewall/antivirus combo. Neither McAfee VirusScan 8.0 nor Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2004 currently includes a firewall (although their pricier security suites do).
Still, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus isn't exactly packed with features. For instance, unlike most antivirus apps, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus doesn't defend against instant-messenger (IM) spam, IM-executable URLs, and other IM attacks. For that, you'll need Zone Labs' free IMsecure or paid IMsecure Pro. While Norton AntiVirus 2004 detects spyware running on your system, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus doesn't. On the plus side, like most antivirus apps, ZoneAlarm with Antivirus will scan e-mail attachments and quarantine suspicious files.
Rather than build its own antivirus software, Zone Labs licensed Computer Associates' Vet Antivirus engine, also used in eTrust EZ Antivirus, a program we previously found to offer speedy scanning and a mediocre interface. Zone Labs wisely pasted its very user-friendly ZoneAlarm interface over the Vet engine, and the results are positive. Unlike other antivirus programs, however, ZoneAlarm won't allow you to pause virus scans to run a computational- or disk-intensive task; your only option is to cancel them and start over. We prefer the pause option, but that's our only major antivirus nitpick.
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