We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Security software Reviews
15,669 Reviews

PC Tools ThreatFire 3.5 review

FREE

Manufacturer: PC Tools

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

Your current antivirus program may offer plenty of protection, but new, unknown threats still could slip through. That's where PC Tools' ThreatFire comes in.

Your current antivirus program may offer plenty of protection, but new, unknown threats still could slip through. That's where PC Tools' ThreatFire comes in.

Now in version 3.5, PC Tools ThreatFire is a free utility that adds an extra layer of protection to the security software you already have. It blocks an impressive number of threats through behaviour-based analysis. As can sometimes happen with security tools, however, it caused some system lockups in our testing.

The new edition of PC Tools ThreatFire, released in May, adds an on-demand signature-based scanner, a mostly just-for-fun world map that shows detected threats, and a useful system-activity monitor that provides a good deal of information on the programs and services running on your PC.

To identify a malware threat based on a positive signature match - which is still the primary method that most antivirus programs use - a lab must first obtain a sample of the malware and create a full signature for it. It that window of time, before a signature is available, your machine could be infected with the virus. By contrast, proactive detection such as behavioural analysis can detect and block brand-new threats without signatures, thereby providing immediate protection. Most antivirus programs supplement signature scanners with some type of proactive detection, but not all are as effective as ThreatFire.

In independent tests conducted for PC Advisor by AV-Test.org, a German security-program testing operation, PC Tools ThreatFire's performance was outstanding. It correctly identified 18 of 20 new, relatively unknown malware samples by looking purely at factors such as where the program came from, what changes it made to files or the system Registry, and whether the program attempted to send information to the Internet. It successfully blocked 17 of those 18 (one sample stopped ThreatFire before the block could occur), and it successfully cleaned 16 of those blocked (it left part of one infection behind).

What's more, PC Tools ThreatFire didn't register any false alarms in AV-Test.org's run-throughs; this is a definite plus, since proactive, nonsignature protection is often prone to false alarms.

Version 3.5 adds PC Tools' signature-based scanner, formerly available only in the pay for Pro version. Since it isn't real-time protection, it won't scan every new saved file, so you will need to schedule it or activate the scan manually. The free version also requires that you keep its community features (which send anonymous detection info to PC Tools) enabled in order to continue receiving no-cost updates; doing so improves threat detection for all users, and there's no good reason to disable it. The Pro 3.5 version of PC Tools ThreatFire allows you to disable the feature, but unless you're running a business, you have no need to shell out for Pro. The free version of ThreatFire 3.5 is for home use.

The anonymous detection data also provides info for PC Tools ThreatFire's new Threat Detection display. Red dots on a global map show infection points for selected malware and adware threats.

Although the map is interesting, the new system-activity monitor is more useful. For the programs and services that are currently running, the monitor displays in-depth background info, such as the author, the command line, a list of open windows and modules, and other details for all processes. You can stop a process, or kick off a Google search for more information on it, with a right-click on the process name.

Other changes in PC Tools ThreatFire 3.5 include better default options for handling alerts. For one thing, you can now instruct the tool to automatically quarantine, allow, or prompt whenever it encounters a suspected threat or potentially unwanted program (known threats are always quarantined). This version of ThreatFire also has improved master boot record scanning.

NEXT PAGE: system overhead and our expert verdict > >

Visit Security Advisor for the latest internet threat news, and internet security product reviews

Threatfire Expert Verdict »

Windows Vista or Vista SP1, Windows XP SP1 or SP2 (Home, Pro & Media Center Editions), Windows 2000 SP 4 with Update Rollup 1, Windows 2003, or Windows 2008
15MB of disk space
Some program functions require a connection to the Internet
  • Ease of Use: We give this item 9 of 10 for ease of use
  • Features: We give this item 7 of 10 for features
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

ThreatFire's thorough behavioural protection provides a worthwhile additional layer of security, particularly for shared or other at-risk PCs. It's all the more impressive for being free. As always, however, be careful about loading your computer down with security programs.

  • PC Tools Threatfire 4.5 review

    PC Tools Threatfire 4.5

    PC Tools Threatfire 4.5 is a free behaviour-based antivirus utility that serves as a great supplement to your existing security software, offering superb behaviour-based detection.

  • PC Tools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010 review

    PC Tools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010

    PC Tools Spyware Doctor is available with anti-virus capability in this updated security package.

  • PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition review

    PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition

    PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition is free AV that distinguishes between antispyware and antivirus.

  • F-Secure Internet Security 2010 review

    F-Secure Internet Security 2010

    You get a lot for your money with F-Secure Internet Security 2010, thanks to its low price and extensive features. However, it suffers from uneven performance in detecting and removing malware.

  • PC Tools Internet Security 2011 review

    PC Tools Internet Security 2011

    Does slow and steady win the race? PC Tools Internet Security 2011’s answer is a definite yes. This security software will get your PC clean, no matter how long it takes. Updated 19 January, 2011


IDG UK Sites

Best Black Friday 2014 tech deals UK: Latest bargains on phones, tablets, laptops and more this...

IDG UK Sites

Tech trends 2015: 3D printing grows up

IDG UK Sites

25 iOS apps turn (Red) for World AIDS Day campaign

IDG UK Sites

Black Friday 2014 UK: Apple deals, Amazon deals & other Black Friday tech offers