What price do you pay when it comes to performance after installing a security solution such as Norton Internet Security 2011 or McAfee Internet Security 2011? Is your PC slowing down to a crawl thanks to a plethora of background services and real-time protection?
This is the ninth blog post in a series that investigates the impact of security solutions on your PC.
So far, we tested:
- Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) 2.0
- Norton Internet Security 2011
- Kaspersky Internet Security 2011
- AVG Internet Security 2011
- McAfee Internet Security 2011
- ESET SmartSecurity 4
- Avast Internet Security 6
And today, per readers’ requests, we’ll explore the impact F-Secure Internet Security 2011 has on our trusty test bed. F-Secure Internet Security 2011 has all of the ingredients that make for a good security solution: a built-in anti-virus/spyware engine, a full-blown firewall, online protection, and several spam and phishing protection tools. Let’s dive right in!
Timecode 00:00:00 – Scenario starts/Boot performance
To determine F-Secure Internet Security 2011′s impact on overall start-up time, we used four testing methods. First, we used a stopwatch to measure how long it took the PC to display the desktop. Then, we measured the amount of time needed to launch Windows Live Messenger and Skype.
Unlike some of the other solutions we tested, F-Secure didn’t delay boot time by a massive amount. However, it took exactly 10 seconds longer for the desktop to appear. According to Microsoft Performance Toolkit, all system services and start-up entries were loaded after exactly 198 seconds—that’s about 20 seconds longer than with the original configuration. Which is acceptable given the fact that nearly all solutions produced much more overhead during boot-up. Only ESET performed better. What we weren’t so impressed with, was the heavy amount of hard disk activity that went on in the first couple of minutes after booting the PC.
Notice in the Windows Performance Toolkit excerpt above how much the disk was utilized, especially after the desktop was visible (at 67 seconds).
Timecode 00:10:00 – Resource check
The disk thrashing stopped after about 10 minutes which is when we launched Task Manager to check current memory usage and the amount of active processes running.
Our machine is equipped with 2 GB of RAM with access to a dynamically expanding page file—both amount to exactly 3528 MB. This is what Windows calls “Commit” memory. Of this, F-Secure used 89 MB of RAM—this is a rather resource-friendly security solution!
Timecode 00:11:30 – Browser start
The browser is probably one of the most regularly used tools. If it launches slowly, users get annoyed. That’s why essentially all browser makers push efforts to reduce start-up times and resource usage. Does F-Secure Internet Security 2011 counteract this?
Just a bit. As with most of the other security solutions we tested, Google Chrome needed a second longer to launch. The good news is, subsequent launches were equally fast (under one second) regardless of whether F-Secure Internet Security 2011 was installed or not.
Timecode 00:12:30 – Launching Outlook
Microsoft Outlook is quite a beast to load. It initializes hundreds of files and plug-ins, and needs to read your local email folder. How did this test fare?
Not so good. Even with subsequent launches, F-Secure Internet Security 2011 added a noticeable delay of two seconds. This was probably due to the spam filter which apparently needs some tweaking to not slow down Outlook’s start-up time. Even when using Outlook (especially when opening larger folders or using the search indexer), we noticed a bit of a delay which certainly wasn’t there before we installed the security solution.
Timecode 00:14:30 – Opening an 8 MB photo in PhotoImpact
Running Corel PhotoImpact X3, opening a photo and applying a typical photo effect filer should demonstrate the security solution’s impact on CPU and hard disk performance. Did our PC suffer?
Luckily, F-Secure Internet Security 2011 (and specifically its real-time protection) had no effect on performance whatsoever.
Timecode 00:16:30 – Opening up a PowerDirector project
In our previous tests, nearly all of the security solutions delayed the launch of our video-editing suite, Cyberlink PowerDirector. We wondered if F-Secure Internet Security 2011 would show the similar results.
Unfortunately, it did! Real-time protection needs to watch over every single step of loading files into memory, and this had quite an effect on opening our PowerDirector video project and even on converting an HD clip into SD format.
Timecode 00:19:30 – Converting a large (220 MB) MP3 file into AAC with iTunes
iTunes puts a heavy burden on your CPU when converting music from one format into another. That’s why we measured the time it took to convert a massive MP3 file into the handier AAC format.
Compared to our other more CPU-heavy tests, the iTunes conversion took a bit of a hit. We suspect that this wouldn’t be noticeable on a smaller MP3 song, but if you’re converting batches and batches of CDs or your entire MP3 library, you might get annoyed with F-Secure Internet Security 2011 slowing overall conversion speed down.
Timecode 00:30:30 – Copying a large file over a network
F-Secure Internet Security 2011—as most other security suites—comes with a network firewall. The question is: Does this slow down incoming and outgoing network traffic? We copied a 180 MB file across our network and measured the average speed.
Good results! In all three runs we performed, the firewall had only a slight impact on network performance. This is what we expected from a thorough, lightweight firewall.
Timecode 00:35:00 – Large file extraction
Extracting the same 180 MB file (which is a RAR archive) is a very resource-intense task: The decompressing puts a burden on the CPU, and the hard disk is busy with reading and writing small chunks of files. Since F-Secure Internet Security 2011 actively watches I/O operations, we were wondering if it had any effect on extraction performance.
Extracting the 350 files from the RAR archive took only three seconds longer than usual, which is quite good.
Timecode 00:38:00 – Cinebench results
Cinebench 11.5 is the status quo when it comes to measuring the performance of graphical rendering (both on the CPU and GPU).
Let’s see if and how F-Secure Internet Security 2011 slowed things down.
We somewhat expected this result. Cinebench did not slow down at all. The OpenGL test ran at 3.32 FPS (which is the fault of the built-in, low-end graphics card), no matter if the security solution was active or not, and the CPU test didn’t produce different results.
Timecode 00:47:00 – PCMark results
PCMark Vantage tests a variety of critical performance areas, such as file copying, text editing, file compression, etc.
In all of the tests we ran, we noticed only a slight performance drop which is a satisfactory result.
Performance Results: F-Secure Internet Security 2011
F-Secure Internet Security 2011 proved to be a comparatively lightweight solution that had a minimal impact on performance. While boot speed suffered a bit and hard disk I/O went up noticeably, we barely noticed that the security solution was running. Bravo!