PC Tools produced an impressive performance the last time we reviewed it. Can the 2011 version keep up the good work?
PC Tools hasn’t always been a big name in internet security, but lately it’s achieved some impressive detection rates: in our last Labs test, the 2010 product ranked a mere 1% behind Norton Internet Security, and this month – pitched against a current selection of malware – PC Tools Internet Security 2011 achieved an identical 98% score. It may be no coincidence that the company was acquired by Symantec in 2008.
PC Tools also echoes Norton this year by bringing only inconspicuous changes from the previous edition. Look closely, however, and you’ll spot that the Anti-Spyware and Anti-Virus buttons have now been merged – a sensible idea since all malware is unwanted – and the General information panel has tabs giving more specific data about the firewall and anti-spam modules.
There’s a definite sense that the interface is becoming more serious, although the simple blue and green design still looks a little cheap to our eyes.
There are some new tools tucked away in the interface, too. The ISO burner helps you create a bootable Linux-based security disc, to help you detect deeply embedded malware, and a nice touch is that it works with USB drives as well as optical media.
Less useful is the File and Registry tool, which lets you view, edit and delete hidden Registry keys and files. It’s hard to imagine many users having much need for such a tool.
Our least favourite aspect of the package remains the firewall. As with the 2010 edition, with default settings, it allowed us to probe open ports from a remote PC and access a huge amount of potentially useful information about user accounts and network shares.
In fairness, if your computer is sitting behind a router and has UAC enabled, it should be difficult for an attacker to get this close in the first place, but as a last line of defence we’d feel happier with a less trusting firewall.
PC Tools’ package is also one of the heavier options we’ve seen. Installing it saw our available system RAM drop by a whopping 337MB, and in the two minutes after the desktop appearing, we saw 16 seconds of continuing CPU activity as the package initialised.
And so, like its Symantec stablemate, PC Tools’ 2011 suite gains a repeat of last year’s verdict: it’s definitely on the right track, but we’d prefer a lighter footprint and a stricter firewall, so for now we can’t wholeheartedly recommend it.