You demanded more results from our security solution performance benchmark series, and here they are! If you’re a newcomer, here’s what’s been happening—in January, we kicked off a series of speed tests to measure the impact of antivirus solutions and full-blown security suites on a typical PC. We explore how much security tools affect Windows boot times, program startups and day-to-day office tasks, as well as demanding jobs. We’re sharing these numbers with you because we want to help you make a good choice regarding your security product. As we stated in our first post, the effectiveness of these solutions is the main criterion! Don’t select product A (with a low virus detection rate) just because it doesn’t impact your performance as much as product B (with a higher detection rate). However, if you’re deciding between two products with a 99.8% detection rate, you should of course go with the one that’s faster!
McAfee Internet Security 2011
Next on our list is one of the old players in the business: McAfee. Founded in 1987 and acquired by Intel in 2010, McAfee is one of the most experienced security solution providers in the Windows world. Despite their growing focus on the enterprise business (with Data Leak Prevention suites and enterprise security management tools), their Internet Security Suite 2011 continues to be extremely popular with consumers.
To understand how we perform tests, just jump back to part 1, where we explain what tests were performed, why we picked them and what hardware we used. Now without further ado, here are the results:
Timecode 00:00:00 – Scenario starts: Boot Performance
As you can see, total boot time suffered quite a bit. While the desktop was visible early on, you really couldn’t work with the laptop for another 60 seconds—the system froze the entire time. Our favorite boot measurement tool, XPerf from Microsoft’s own performance labs, also showed quite an increase in CPU activity during boot time.
This is a graph that shows CPU activity during bootup without McAfee Internet Security 2011 installed. There’re some obvious spikes during the initial boot phase, but after the desktop appears, it slows down since most of the operations are related to RAM and the hard disk.
Here’s the same graph from XPerf after we installed the security suite. There’s a huge surge in CPU activity over the entire boot procedure. We find this very alarming, given the fact that we’ve installed just one “simple” program.
Timecode 00:10:00 – Resource Check
The total load on our machine increased as well, going up from 827 Mbyte of memory usage to 946. Not as bad as some competitors we tested, but definitely a significant hit you’ll notice when running low on memory. Now for the good news—overall CPU usage for all of McAfee’s processes remained fairly low, about 0-2% in idle mode.
Timecode 00:11:30 – Browser start
As with most of the other security suites, Google Chrome took a hit of exactly one second. We suspect this is due to heavy registry and file system checks that occur in the background. In spite of that, we couldn’t find any performance decrease while browsing or opening new tabs.
Timecode 00:12:30 – Launch Outlook
Thanks to McAfee’s built-in antispam feature, Outlook 2010 needed about twice as long to load. We noticed a significant delay between the moment we double-clicked on the “Outlook 2010″ shortcut and the Outlook splash screen.
Timecode 00:14:30 – Open a 8 MByte photo in PhotoImpact
As with Outlook, there was quite a delay before the PhotoImpact logo appeared on the screen, which leads us to believe that McAfee’s real-time protection pauses and monitors every application launch. Of course, this is done in order to improve user security, but a) it shouldn’t take that long (four seconds) and b) it shouldn’t check the same application every time.
Thanks to McAfee’s low resource utilization, photo rendering wasn’t affected at all.
Timecode 00:16:30 – Open up a PowerDirector project
PowerDirector took twice as long to launch, no matter how many times in a row we repeated these tests (and trust us, we repeated all of these tests many times to be sure of the results). Apparently, one of McAfee’s weaknesses is that it delays startup times quite a bit.
Timecode 00:19:30 – Convert a large (220 MByte) MP3 file into AAC with iTunes
No difference. Our large MP3 file was converted in exactly the same amount of time as before: nine minutes and 24 seconds—not one second more or less. It’s obvious—if you want a security solution that doesn’t affect your processor too much, McAfee is the way to go.
Timecode 00:30:30 – Copy a large file over the network
Same results here as well! McAfee did not affect network bandwidth. We really didn’t expect this to happen, as there are no real network defense mechanisms built into McAfee Internet Security 2011—users who need that protection might want to look into their higher-end “Total Protection” product.
Timecode 00:35:00 – Extract a large file
Using WinRar, we extracted about 550 files from a single RAR archive. Despite the fact that McAfee’s real-time protection was ON the entire time, performance did not drop at all.
Timecode 00:38:00 – Get Cinebench results
(More points equals better performance)
Neither the processor nor the graphics card showed any signs of fatigue. McAfee didn’t interfere with the rendering jobs we performed using CineBench.
Timecode 00:47:00 – Get PCMark results
(More points equals better performance)
We had to skip this test for a simple reason—with McAfee enabled, PCMark Vantage gave us a wide spectrum of results each time. When we performed the gaming score for the first time, we got 994 points, then the second run concluded with a staggering 1910 points. This happened in seven of the tests we performed. The conclusion: the real-time protection must have interfered with some tests, but not with all.
Performance Results: McAfee Internet Security 2011
Overall, McAfee did very well on our CPU- and GPU-intensive performance tests—it did what it needed to do and stayed in the background while performing processor-intensive operations. On the other hand, it delayed all startup operations very significantly (including Windows bootup). All in all, most of our security solutions have proven that you need to trade performance in return for digital protection! McAfee is no exception to that rule, in spite the fact that it doesn’t totally “ruin” your PC’s performance.
13 Responses to “Do Security Solutions Slow Down Your PC? (Part 6 – McAfee Internet Security 2011)”
- Do Security Solutions Slow Down Your PC? (Part 1 – Introduction) » TuneUp Blog about Windows
- Performance Shoot-Out: Do Security Solutions Slow Down Your PC? » TuneUp Blog about Windows
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- Do Security Solutions Slow Down Your PC? (Part 9 – F-Secure Internet Security 2011) » TuneUp Blog about Windows