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Macintosh anti-virus software part 2

Last time I looked at three of the commercial anti-virus packages available for the Macintosh, from Symantic, Sophos and Mcafee. Of the three only Symantic’s Norton anti-virus for Mac was aimed at home users, and Sophos was anything but straightforward for a home user to buy. So what else is available?

Avast!Avast! anti-virus Mac Edition is part of a family of security products that includes protection for Windows and Linux. I was very disappointed to discover that the Windows and Linux home versions are free for non-commercial use, where the Mac version costs £29.69 per client. Mac market share is on the up, and a Macintosh anti-virus scanner isn’t essential at the moment so isn’t this the time to be laying the foundations for future sales? Looks more like this product is targeting the creative professionals. I installed this software over the weekend for a test, and was puzzled at first that the program re-launched every time I closed it. There’s an option in the preferences to stop this unusual behavior. A full hard drive scan yielded some confusing results, with over 200 alerts. None of these were virii, and most were unhelpful posix error codes. I don’t expect to have to start searching the internet to figure out virus scanner errors, so Avast! didn’t last on my drive very long. Uninstalling the software took a while as well, and required a visit to the Avast forums for help. If you want to buy Avast! for Mac it will cost you £29.69 per license, and it’s compatible with Mac OS 10.4 and later.

Virus Barrier X5The last Commercial anti-virus package I looked at was Intego’s Virus Barrier X5. Intego have a wide range of Mac security products, and only focus on the Mac platform. The installer scores points for offering a simple uninstall option without using scripts, and it’s looking good until the interface launches. It’s a large window with a flashy graphics and lots of empty space. There’s some good stuff on offer here, like turbo mode to remember previously scanned files that haven’t changed. This enormously sped up scanning times on a second scan and looks genuinely useful. There were no error messages or other problems. Another nice point was that all the Intego software adds a common icon to the menubar for easy access to the software. I could live with the oversized interface but certainly not the price, at £47.78 per single license. It’s compatible with Mac OS 10.4 up if you want to pay that much for protection.

ClamXavThe only other option I found is the free ClamXav, a Mac interface to the open source ClamAV virus scanning engine. This doesn’t have a flashy interface or clever features, but it will automatically check for virus definition updates. Another feature is the ClamXav sentry, a live scanner that will monitor any folders you specify for virii and trojans. This was an easy package to install, though the sentry wasn’t enabled by default (it’s a menu option). Adding the application to the dock for drag and drop scanning worked very well, and I’m watching the sentry component to see how much of a hit it makes on the system.

So how do these programs compare? Sophos and Intego’s offerings are just too expensive, and Symantic’s is not that much better. Mcafee is better value if you have three or more Mac’s, and Avast is the cheapest for a single computer. I’m sticking with ClamXav for now, as although each of the packages would probably do a good job there just isn’t enough of a threat to warrant spending £30 or more

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