PC World.com (US)
Utility suites are among the most popular additions to Windows because they provide essential tools for dealing with PC disasters, such as lost data, hacker attacks, and viruses that can corrupt your files. Norton SystemWorks has been the long-time leader in the utility suite category, but a new version of McAfee Associates Inc. Office offers a vastly improved set of utilities over versions past.
The US$69 McAfee Office 3.11 contains a core set of essential utilities, including McAfee VirusScan Version 5.0, McAfee Utilities Version 3.0, and McAfee UnInstaller Version 6.0. McAfee Utilities is almost a suite in itself: Among other functions, it’s designed to organize your hard drive, run maintenance checks, make backups of essential system files, repair damaged files on your hard disk, and recover deleted files. UnInstaller detects unneeded files that would be left on your hard drive by Windows’ uninstall function.
In addition, the company has bolstered the suite with three new utilities that were formerly sold separately: Internet Guard Dog Pro Version 3.0 blocks cookies and protects your personal information (such as credit card numbers and financial data), McAfee Firewall Version 2.0 lets you set rules to protect your PC from hackers and other Internet hazards, and the updated PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) Security 6.5.8 handles encryption. (The original release of McAfee Office version 3.0 included version 6.5.3 of PGP.)
In my tests, I found a useful and highly customizable set of utilities designed to fix, protect, clean, and secure your PC. And more importantly, this version is more stable than previous McAfee suites. It works with Windows 95, 98, 98 SE, and Me, but not with Windows 2000 or NT.
I installed McAfee Office 3.11 on two PCs, one with a PII-333 processor and the other with a PIII-600 CPU, both with 128MB of RAM and Windows 98 SE. After installing the software and then rebooting, I immediately saw one of the improvements McAfee made to the suite: an installation dialog–essentially an interview–that helps you choose which features of the individual utilities you want to run automatically and which you want to run manually. The interview provides clear and thorough explanations of each feature.
To save memory space and system resources, for example, you can opt to manually run components such as RAM monitors and drive monitors, which can bog down slower PCs. You can designate other tools, such as full-time virus protection, to run in the background without user intervention. You can also set reminders for disk defragmentation or software update tasks.
Inside McAfee’s Software Toolkit
Noticeable improvements have also been made to McAfee UnInstaller, especially in the area of removing unneeded and unused files (what the program appropriately calls “accumulated junk”) from your PC. You can either let the software decide which kinds of accumulated junk to remove, or select them yourself.
I found the improved BackTrack component of UnInstaller particularly useful. BackTrack is designed to restore your system to the exact state it was in before you installed an application; it restores files and registry entries that were overwritten. Even though UnInstaller doesn’t offer as many options as Adaptec’s GoBack or Imagine LAN’s ConfigSafe, it’s a nice inclusion.
Setting up Internet Guard Dog to filter offensive content and protect my personal information was easy. You just select which information you want filtered from a set of categories, or enter your own information. You can also block objectionable URLs. McAfee also includes its Firewall, which filters both incoming and outgoing communications between your PC and the Internet. And PGP Personal Privacy lets you encrypt both your e-mail and selected data on your PC for extra protection. If you have a cable or digital subscriber line Internet connection, these three utilities are alone worth the price of the suite, because an always-on connection means your computer is more susceptible to attack.
Overall, McAfee Office 3.11 is easier to use and offers more utilities and functionality than prior versions. And the typical set of always-running background processes didn’t bog down either of my test systems or cause any unusual behavior.
Not everyone needs a comprehensive utility suite, but buying even a couple of McAfee’s individual utilities can cost considerably more than the full suite. For $69, McAfee Office 3.11 is a solid package.
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