- Excellent anti-spam
- Good interface
- Minimal system performance impact
- No parental controls
- Not as proactive as competitors
By Charles P. Jefferies
PC Tools Internet Security 2011 packs antivirus/antispyware protection with antispam and a firewall for less than competitors. Is it worth your money? Read our review to find out.
Internet Security 2011 is a $49.99 home security suite that covers three PCs for one year; it is $10 more than the company’s bread-and-butter Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2011. The extra $10 nets the following:
- Personal Firewall
- Spam filter for Microsoft Outlook/Mozilla Thunderbird
All in all, not a bad package for $49.99, especially considering it covers three computers. The only thing missing is parental controls, which most competing suites include.
Note that PC Tools has a free antivirus/antispyware suite, AntiVirus 2011 FREE. Also note that we are testing the free trial version of PC Tools, which the PC Tool website notes may be feature-incomplete, as follows: “The trial version offers time unlimited real-time protection (free threat blocking), but does not remove threats detected during on-demand scans.”
Download & Installation
Internet Security 2011 is a hefty 100MB download; once installed, it proceeded to download another 100MB worth of updates, making it the largest program I have tested to date. Downloading that amount of data could take some time depending on the speed of your Internet connection. The install took a long time too — about ten minutes; competing suites take four or less. A restart was required to finish the install.
Internet Security 2011 has a friendly look. Clicking on the Scan Now button starts a scan immediately; I like how it is so simple to start a scan, since that is the only reason most users open their antivirus application.
Clicking on the IntelliGuard, Anti-Spam, or Firewall sections goes to the settings for that particular item:
The basic settings are in plain English and easy to understand. Some of the more nitty-gritty settings like anti-spam blacklists can get a touch confusing. I found it odd that the firewall was set to Low protection by default.
Overall, there is not a whole lot to get excited over nor is there much to complain about; the interface is functional and fulfills its purpose.
Unlike other security suites, Internet Security 2011 does not include extra utilities such as system file cleaners and performance optimizers. It is a small loss — somehow I doubt those little features are used much to begin with (otherwise they would be sold separately) — but worth mentioning. Also worth mentioning is the fact that Internet Security 2011 is not as expensive as competitors.
Internet Security 2011 unfortunately does not include parental controls, which is disappointing. One of the target audiences for full security suites is families, which is why I place an emphasis on their inclusion. However, PC Tools is not the only vendor to neglect parental controls — more expensive suites like ESET Smart Security 4 do not include them either.
Real-World Security Testing with PC Tools Internet Security 2011
This section is broken up into four parts: Firewall, Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, and Anti-Spam. We use Internet Explorer for all testing.
We use PCFlank’s Exploits Test to test the firewall component; detailed test information can be found here. The tests essentially bombard your system and test its reaction to various types of attacks and unexpected packets.
PC Tools Internet Security 2011 successfully defended my test computer from the simulated attacks.
To test the effectiveness of Internet Security 2011 I used several virus files from Eicar.org, an IT security website. Please see the test description for extensive information on the tests.
Internet Security 2011 did not prevent me from downloading the files, which I found alarming; most security suites I tested identified them as malicious and prevented the file transfer. Internet Security 2011 did not find them until I performed a system scan; as a matter of fact, Windows Defender found them before that! (Note: PC Tools subsequently informed us that the Download Guard product feature is required to intercept these files. I was never prompted to activate Download Guard during installation or setup and it is unclear if the average user would know to do so, either.)
We use Spycar.org to test the anti-spyware module. It mimics spyware behavior on a computer, detecting whether the anti-spyware component can block or detect it. We run all available tests.
Internet Security 2011 did better in this test, blocking all of the attempted malicious changes; it let me know with a system tray pop-up message every time it did so.
We use the Apache SpamAssassin Project to test the anti-spam filter. I send an email containing the string on the page to a test email account; if it gets blocked, we know the spam filter is working. Mozilla Thunderbird is used as the email client on our test computer.
Internet Security 2011 put up the best performance I have seen to date in this test. It supports Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Expres, Windows Mail, and Windows Live Mail and also includes extensive support for Thunderbird. PC Tools goes so far as to provide a wizard to guide you through the anti-spam setup process. The wizard allows you to setup spam folders, train it on spam and good mail, and tell it how to label spam email.
It successfully blocked test spam emails I sent and put them in the folder I specified during setup; very nice. This is the best antispam plugin I have tested thus far.
Note: This is an updated version of a review originally posted on Dec. 2, 2010 that includes a number of corrections.