Friday, April 01, 2005

McAfee Internet Security Suite

Nine months ago I was looking for security software for my home computer. I wanted a virus scanner and a personal firewall. While shopping around, I discovered McAfee Internet Security Suite 6.0. It includes a virus scanner, a firewall, SpamKiller, and a privacy service. It was four products for the price of 1-1/2. I figured it was a reasonable deal, so I bought it.

Now I am ready to toss the whole thing out the window. Just a few of the many reasons:
  • It's all or nothing. Within a day of installing the suite, I decided I didn't want SpamKiller. I went to the "Add/Remove Programs" applet in Control Panel, and found there was no way to uninstall just SpamKiller. I could uninstall the whole suite, but I could not uninstall individual components. After much head scratching, I discovered I could disable the SpamKiller service, but I had to use Administrative Tools - Services to do it. That is way too obscure for most casual users.

  • It updates components constantly. Every time I connect to the Internet, McAfee starts downloading updates to one or more components. Even though I have disabled SpamKiller, it updates SpamKiller virtually every time I connect. That's just annoying.

  • Privacy Service is a headache. About a month ago I started having problems retrieving mail from my ISP. Outlook would get to the 13th message in a set of 18 and hang. Again, after much head scratching, I found I could work-around the problem by disabling Privacy Service. It turns out Privacy Service was setting up a proxy to my POP3 server and sniffing my mail. So far so good, but there is apparently a new bug in Privacy Service that makes the proxy hang. The bug must have arrived courtesy of McAfee's automatic update service. That was just the last straw for Privacy Service. I have had many problems with it, so I disabled Privacy Service too.
I actually have no complaints about the virus scanner and firewall -- the original reasons I bought the suite -- but this whole experience has soured my view of McAfee software. I have been working with PCs for twenty years and it has taken me hours of debugging and tuning to get the suite working. I can't imagine how a PC newbie would deal with it. McAfee is targeting products to the casual user, but not investing the resources to make it usable and reliable. They should be ashamed.

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