Thursday, January 31, 2008

Anti-Virus: ClamXav - Get the production you need at the right price

OK, we all know how vulernable Macs are to viruses. I'm sure we've all heard the countless stories about how we need to protect ourselves against all these nasty viruses. Really, when was the last time you heard about a virus on a Mac? Honestly, I don't think I have. This was one of the reasons I wanted to get a Mac.

But being as paranoid as I was coming from a Windows environment, I searched the market for the most appropriate Anti-Virus protection and I found ClamXav. As I was familiar with ClamAV (the Unix version often times used on email servers), I figured it was worth a try. So far it has proven to be worthwhile. But then again, how can I be so sure with so many viruses targeting Macs out there...

ClamXav has the basic Anti-Virus features. You can scan files on-demand, schedule scanning of your machine, automatic updates, scan emails and scan files in real-time. The product seems to do a good job of the basic functionalities. The only complaint I have is that it can be slow at times. But as I do not actively scan files while I am using my Mac, it is hardly a drawback for me. The scheduled & real-time scanning is done in the background.

Below are some screenshots of the basic functions.


From left to right: (left) General settings for Anti-Virus allowing you to log & quarantine. (middle) Schedule settings where you set the daily schedule for the Anti-Virus scan. (right) Enabling of Sentry (Real-Time scanning) of certain directories. Here I have set my download directory where I am most likely to pick-up a virus.

Before you make your decision on the level of security you require, let me do a quick comparison of the competition. I have heard of one product that does a very good job of Anti-Virus scanning called Intego Virus Barrier. It also has a high price-tag to go with it: $70 to buy and $30 per year for support (new virus updates). It seems to do a very good job according to MacWorld. There is also Norton which was recommended on Amazon. As a major player in in the security market, it has the resources and reactivity to stop the viruses quickly after they become wild. But for me, in my last life, their products did more bad than any good. I do not like to bash products but it happened to me two times in a row!

While we are on the topic of the drawbacks of Anti-Virus products, an interesting article about Anti-Virus & Macs: Mac OS X anti-virus software: More trouble than it's worth?

Going back to Anti-Virus products, ClamXav is free and the other 2 have free trials. Before buying, I would recommend giving them a try. Be warned, only try Norton if you are really serious in using this product. I have heard that the product installs files everywhere making it difficult to remove after the trial.

To summarize, for me, the 3 main drivers for deciding on ClamXav as follows:
  • Its free!
  • It does its job
  • Macs are not infested with viruses so why pay for more (at least for now)
For more details please visit the ClamXav website.

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