Review of PC Tools AntiVirus Free 2011:
PC Tools, formerly known as WinGuides, is a software company headquartered in Australia. Perhaps most well-known for its anti-spyware program, Spyware Doctor, but also accomplished with its other security software offerings. This review will focus on the Free antivirus offered by PC Tools, and we'll see if PC Tools can break free of the stereotype of being solely an anti-spyware software company.
1) Installation: 4/5
The PC Tools installer executable is a shell installer, in that it serves mainly to download the latest version of the actual PC Tools AntiVirus platform. Once the actual installation begins, the process is speedy: on our reference machine*, PC Tools AntiVirus Free finished installing in a respectable 74 seconds, with no rebooting required. (See Installation Time Comparison Graph)
By default, unless you unselect the associated checkbox, the installer will create a desktop icon - an antiquated method of organizing programs that does little except clutter your desktop. On the plus side, however, PC Tools downloads the latest virus definition database during installation itself. This ensures that it's executing with the most recent virus information right out of the gate.
*Reference Computer: Windows 7 Home Premium running on a Toshiba Pentium Dual-Core T4200, with 3GB of RAM and a 210GB hard drive.
2) Features & Ease of Use: 5.5/10
The first thing we noticed about PC Tools was...well, to be blunt, it's ugly. Unnecessarily ugly. (Would it kill them to use anti-aliased text?) Aesthetics aside, PC Tools contains many of the basic features found in most free antivirus software. The Dashboard provides links to all of the program's major features, along with information on the computer's current security status. Large buttons off to the left side provide access to PC Tools' keystone features such as IntelliGuard, its real-time virus monitoring technology.
PC Tools 2011 Dashboard:
View Larger PC Tools Screenshots
PC Tools' features aren't very well organized. A small button menu on the upper right of the Dashboard contains miscellaneous commands, few of which seem useful. My Account simply links to the account login page on the PCTools.com Web site. The so-called Smart Update button launches an ugly dialog for manually updating the local virus definition database.
Other important features are buried. The Quarantine window, for example, is a tab on the Settings page. The Report Card window, which displays a summary of files scanned and viruses detected, is a menu command on the Help menu, of all places.
Nag Factor: Unfortunately, most of the remainder of PC Tools AntiVirus Free is locked until you upgrade. Every screen contains a prominent message (let's be frank: it's an advertisement) announcing that you're running free software, and coaxing you to click through to buy the full version. The application provides very minimal support, and withholds basic features that other vendors provide free of charge, including rootkit scanning and zero-day virus protection. In fact, all but two of the nine features on the IntelliGuard screen are grayed out. The same situation holds on the Settings screen, where tempting features such as Game Mode and Power Saving Mode Detection are visible, but disabled.
3) Virus Scanner: 3/5
PC Tools Free AntiVirus supports the typical three scan types you find in antivirus software: Full Scan of the computer's hard drive(s); Intelli-Scan (called "Quick Scan" by other programs), which examines the most susceptible files and hard disk areas; and a Custom Scan that can scan your choice of files and/or folders.
PC Tools Virus Scanner:
View Larger PC Tools Screenshots
Speed: On our reference machine (see above), PC Tools scanned at an average rate of 18.0MB per second, processing 1GB worth of test files in just under 57 seconds. Intelli-Scan finished in an ultra-speedy 5 seconds - giving you a quick option to ensuring the latest web site you just visited didn't install a virus on your machine. (See Scan Speed Comparison Graph)
Updates: PC Tools AntiVirus Free downloads an average of 4 virus definition updates per day which is fairly good in the free antivirus market. (See Updates Per Day Comparison Graph)
4) Performance Testing: 4/10
A good antivirus program should not only prevent viruses and malware from infecting your computer but also not impact the Performance of your computer too much. We run each free antivirus program through a series of Performance Tests to see the impact it has on a standard computer. The results of our testing for PC Tools AntiVirus Free are below:
Memory Use: PC Tools AntiVirus Free 2011 uses 27.0 MB of system memory. #7 rated of the 12 antivirus programs we tested.|
Reboot Time: PC Tools added 25.9 seconds to our test computer's reboot time. #11 rated program we tested this year.
Installation Size: PC Tools AntiVirus Free requires 275 MB of hard-drive space for installation. #7 rated program we tested.
Initial Scan Speed: PC Tools scans files the first time at a speed of 18.0 MB/s. #8 rated program we tested.
Subsequent Scan Speed: PC Tools performs subsequent scans at a speed of 142.2 MB/s. #2 rated program we tested, and PC Tools' top ranking this year in our tests.
Initial Application Launch: PC Tools AntiVirus Free 2011 added 2.540s to launch a web browser for the first time after a reboot. #12 rated program we tested.
Subsequent Application Launch: PC Tools added 0.525s on average for subsequent web browser launches. This was the #12 rated program we tested.
File Conversion Time: PC Tools added 0.43s on average to convert a MP3 file to four other file types. #8 rated program we tested.
System Impact Score: The "System Impact Score" is a comparative score tallied from the above 8 Antivirus tests. PC Tools AntiVirus Free scored a total of 37 out of 96 points when compared to the
other antivirus programs tested. This ranked PC Tools as the #11 rated (out of 12 programs) free antivirus program we tested this year - PC Tools only finished better than Microsoft Security Essentials 2.0.
View graphs of the above Free Antivirus Performance Tests.
5) Effectiveness: (Virus/Malware Detection) 11.5/15
The most important function of an antivirus program is to keep your computer free from Viruses and other Malware. Below we'll take a look at some of the industry's top Virus/Malware Detection testing and certification.|
a) AV Comparatives is an independent antivirus testing lab in Austria
providing some of the most trusted virus detection tests in the industry. They have 2 major virus/malware tests that they perform. In the most recent test in November, the Proactive Test, PC Tools was rated 2 out of 3 Stars. In the 2nd test last August, the On Demand Detection Test, PC Tools performed better receiving a 3-Star rating.
b) AV-Test is another major antivirus testing lab which is located in Germany. In their recent antivirus testing in 2010, PC Tools received a 13 / 18 score on the Windows 7 platform. In the 2nd set of tests run on Windows XP, PC Tools received a 15.5 / 18 score. While on the 3rd test run on Windows Vista, PC Tools received a 12.5 / 18 score. All 3 of these scores were high enough to receive AV-Test's Certification level which is given for scores of 12 points or higher on each platform. Despite these tests being run on PC Tools' Internet Security software, they are useful when evaluating PC Tools' more basic antivirus program since they test the software's Protection and Repair capabilities against Viruses and Malware.|
Win 7: Win XP: Win Vista:
c) Virus Bulletin's VB 100% Certified. PC Tools passed the most recent VB100 test (April/2011), and has passed the previous 4 tests dating back to December 2009. However, in the August 2009 test, PC Tools failed the VB test miserably - with 1355 WildList misses and 1 false positive. The VB 100% award is given to antivirus software that detects all viruses "in the wild."
6) Help & Support: 2/5
PC Tools provides both a local help file and a Support Web page, both accessible from the Help button in the upper right corner of the dashboard. The local help within the program is thin. For some reason, the file only contains a single page of help information for PC Tools AntiVirus Free; the remaining pages pertain to PC Tools' other commercial products. Much of the content is poorly written, and of little use to anyone but computer newbies.
The online support page is equally useless for users of AntiVirus free, as little (if any) of the content pertains to the Free edition. The Community Forum page doesn't even contain a forum dedicated to the application.
»Quick Support Links:
Support Main Page
PC Tools AntiVirus Free has little reason to recommend itself over its competition. With an unattractive interface and an annoying abundance of upgrade pitches, it feels more like an advertisement than an application. This coupled with the 2nd-worst Performance we tested this year, and it's apparent that there are far better free antivirus alternatives available. (Almost ANY other program!)
|Overall Rating: Fair || (Total Score: 30 / 50 = 3 Stars)|
| Version Tested:||126.96.36.1993|
| Release Date:|
| Review Date:|
| Last Updated:||May 5, 2011|
| Previous Version:||PC Tools AntiVirus Free 2010|
| Other PC Tools Software:||Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2011 (Commercial Version)|
Top 5 Free Antivirus Reviews:|
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PC Tools AntiVirus Free 2011 Screenshots