Virus protection software is almost as old as the PC itself—and it has seen almost as many changes. As the Internet has grown, virus protection programs have become much more proactive, scanning files as they reach the PC and updating themselves from their manufacturers’ Internet sites.

But until recently, the software has always resided on the PC. Aside from consuming resources, this arrangement means that a virus won’t be detected until it hits the PC. Updates have to be searched for and updated by the PC, and of course, there’s always a period of time between updates when a PC might be vulnerable to new viruses.

McAfee Clinic has gone to the next level by placing the software on the Internet. Now only a very thin client (about 40 KB) is resident on the PC. Manual updates are unnecessary because the software continuously updates itself.

The small software client is easily downloaded and installed from McAfee’s Web site. After that, all that’s needed is a subscription to the service, and you’re set. No more updates or software upgrades. The Active Shield can be set to check for updates and new information at any point during the day. (I leave mine set for 1:00 A.M.)

You can also set McAfee’s online virus protection to scan all files or just program files and documents. It should be noted that “program files and documents only” is the optimum setting. There is nothing more painfully slow than a PC set to check all files if that PC is running an application from an application server. However, checking all files would probably be a good idea for a corporate mail server.

Other features
McAfee Clinic includes all the latest virus detection features, as well as these tools:

  • Optimize Performance, for scanning system files and analyzing a system for potential problems.
  • Y2K Compliance, a service that checks files and analyzes hardware and software to ensure Year 2000 compliance. (Some users might think this feature is irrelevant by this point, but some older systems might have some as-yet undetected problems. In addition, you never know about older files that may have been created with early software versions and never updated.)
  • Software Update Finder, for getting software updates directly from the software vendor’s sites
  • Clean Hard Drive, a service that provides uninstall and application restoration capabilities in addition to a cleaning utility for removing unnecessary files in the Internet cache, lost clusters, the Recycle Bin, and temporary files
  • Tech Support Yellow Pages, which can create a personalized list of support information tailored to your PC
  • Windows Advisor, a service for obtaining support for Windows problems

For more information on McAfee Clinic, visit the company’s Web site. Free trials of the service are available. Yearly subscriptions are $49.95, and a special introductory promotion is available for $29.95 (at the time of writing).
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