PC Tools Internet Security installs easily enough and doesn't complain about other installed software, such as Spybot - Search & Destroy, as do products from Kaspersky and McAfee. It's usually best not to run the resident parts of more than one malware scanner concurrently, though, to avoid clashes.

The look of the PC Tools Internet Security Home screen is excellent; well laid out and clear. The main functions are allocated to five tabs, though, and these can look a bit overcrowded. Many of the options you can leave at default settings, but some could usefully be relegated to an Advanced list.

The Home tab shows the status of IntelliGuard, anti-spam and firewall protection, as well as the number of scans you've performed with PC Tools Internet Security, and their overall results. The IntelliGuard tab breaks down the protection the program offers into sub-categories like browser, cookie, email and rootkit guards. They can each be turned on and off independently. See also: Group test: what's the best security software?

The Settings tab offers more, well… settings, under 10 categories. Here's where you set up scheduled scans and blacklists, among other things. Support Tools offers a threat removal app, an ISO CD burner, a registry editor and a malware detection tool. Finally in the PC Tools Internet Security Home screen, Start Scan Now actually offers three different scans: full system, IntelliScan (which checks particular danger spots) and a custom scan.

PC Tools Internet Security 2012 home screen

The only snag came when we tried to scan a specific folder. PC Tools Internet Security's Custom Scan function should do this, but it gets bogged down with a list of 13 different scan types, including KSP, DNS and Kernel Threat scans, which many people will find confusing. What about offering the same scan type used in the full system scan, but focused just on selected folders?

We set PC Tools Internet Security off on a file scan, before aiming it at our 50GB test basket. It took 59 minutes to check 125,866 files, a scan rate of 35.6 files/s, which sits in the middle of the products we've tested.

With PC Tools Internet Security installed but not actively scanning, a 1GB file copy took 41 secs, the best time we've seen to date – but that's still almost three times longer than a scan without Windows anti-virus (16 secs).

With a full file scan also running, this wait time lengthened to 2 mins 38 secs, the second worst result we've ever seen.

AV-Test has tested both the 2011 and 2012 PC Tools scan engines and it seems the control interface has improved noticeably between the two. The 2011 product initially scored 10.5, while PC Tools Internet Security achieved 12.5. Points are now spread evenly between the Protection, Repair and Usability categories, where the earlier product only managed 2/6 for usability.

Now, with 4/6 for protection and usability and 4.5/6 for repair, PC Tools Internet Security is above average in most areas. There were however a higher than average number of false warnings during the download of legitimate software. We also saw Low Virtual Memory alerts from Windows XP. After some examination, we found PC Tools' pctsSvc file was using over 230MB of Windows' VM allocation.

PC Tools started life in Australia but is now a global supplier of Windows-based security software and PC utilities, a sub-brand of Symantec which makes Norton virus software. PC Tools produces Registry Mechanic and the PC Tools Performance Toolkit, as well as its Internet Security Suite. The new version 9 release is the subject of this review. Visit: Security Advisor

PC Tools Internet Security 2012: Specs

  • Windows XP/Vista/7 32-/64-bit (XP 32 bit only)
  • 1GHz processor
  • 1GB RAM (2GB 64-bit)
  • 500MB drive space
  • Windows XP/Vista/7 32-/64-bit (XP 32 bit only)
  • 1GHz processor
  • 1GB RAM (2GB 64-bit)
  • 500MB drive space

OUR VERDICT

PC Tools Internet Security 2012 sets out to be straightforward and effective and to a large extent it succeeds. There are a couple of places, though, where the versatility of the program means its many controls can clog up the interface. It would be useful to have 'normal' and 'advanced' interfaces, so those who just want protection and the occasional extra scan can get at these things more easily.

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