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Webroot Internet Security Complete 2011 review

Webroot's updates for 2011 needed to overhaul the program to keep it relevant, and on that count the company succeeded.

The bottom line: Webroot's updates for 2011 needed to overhaul the program to keep it relevant, and on that count the company succeeded. The competitive feature set in Webroot Internet Security Complete 2011 might mitigate its midrange efficacy and performance scores for some, but the noisy firewall will drive all but the biggest Webroot fans batty.

Review:

Security suite maker Webroot, best known for its Spy Sweeper program, finally has released the long-delayed upgrades to its PC security programs, updating its line in a bid to make it more competitive and relevant in an increasingly crowded security field. Webroot Internet Security Complete 2011 makes its debut this year, providing tools that go far beyond basic threat detection and removal, and combining the popular engine that drives Webroot Spy Sweeper with antivirus, a firewall, a password manager, online storage and syncing, and system management tools.

Installation
Installing Internet Security Complete 2011 is straightforward and generally quick, taking less than 5 minutes. Webroot doesn't boast the lightning-fast, sub-60-second installations of Symantec's Norton or Trend Micro's Titanium, and those are the current standard to match or beat when it comes to speed. The registration process isn't required to run the trial, although the online storage bucket and cloud syncing can't be used until you register.

Webroot's new interface makes its myriad features much easier to find and manage, usually.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

As with most of its competitors, a reboot is required to finish the install, after which the program will ask you to run a security scan. Webroot's first scan is a lengthy process where the program marks files as known to be safe, unsafe, or uncertain, and bounces the information back anonymously from Webroot's servers. Be prepared to leave your computer on as the scan runs, although credit is due to Webroot for preventing the scan from interfering with otherwise normal computer use.

Expect to run a registry cleaner after you uninstall to ensure that no program traces have been left behind. This is slightly annoying, but it's a standard and expected problem with security suites.

Interface
We found Webroot's interface surprisingly easy to use, given how many options have been crammed into it, but there's room to streamline it further. The main landing window presents you with a color-coded security status indicator that sits atop four icons for accessing your security tools. Scans can be run and configured from the first icon, followed by sync and sharing, system cleanup, and identity protection. At the bottom is a prominent link to video tutorials on how to use Internet Security Complete's tools.

Watch out for the excessively noisy firewall. Pop-ups occur regularly and require user action, often merely to approve a legitimate, well-known program.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Each icon has persistent buttons that make accessing features easier. For example, a Run Scan button is attached to the PC Security icon, but when you mouse over the icon, another button appears to allow you to edit your scan settings. Given the vast empty space at the top of the main window, it would better to make these ancillary functions simpler to reach.

The deeper settings window actually has a more useful layout. The four main icons are represented at the top of the window, and choosing one will change the settings displayed below. The majority of the window is devoted to the settings configuration, while a helpful gray box on the right side places key information in an easy-to-see spot when appropriate.

The landing page could use a redesign to make the information it conveys more accessible, but the associated configuration pages that it leads are well done, making good use of tabs for keeping the multitude of features organized.

Features and support
Webroot Internet Security Complete 2011 certainly gives users a lot to work with, but be prepared to shell out for the privilege. It's got a sharp list of solid security features, from antivirus and antimalware to a firewall, online storage, synchronization, and password protection. Webroot's features are a mish-mash of tools developed in-house and licensed from third parties, yet they all appear to function organically and with no noticeable hang-ups. There's a solid emphasis on making sure the user understands what's going on, with tutorials readily available, but at the end of day the goal of a security suite should be to keep the user safe with a minimum of fuss, and Webroot doesn't always hit that in each of its features.

On a real-world computer, Webroot Internet Security Complete 2011 completed its first test in 1 hour, 27 minutes, not an unusual time for a first scan. A subsequent test the following day took around 25 minutes, slower than expected given that competitors can finish subsequent scans in a few minutes.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Most notable of Webroot's problems is the excessively noisy firewall. Pop-ups occur regularly and require user action, often merely to approve a legitimate, well-known program. Several Webroot competitors utilize their reputation-based threat detection networks to keep these common firewall interruptions to a minimum, and that's sorely missed here because firewall makers have discovered that people tend to deactivate noisy firewalls, rather than configure them properly.

Webroot's also missing parental controls, which for a premium security product is very unusual. The antispam protection is restricted to Outlook and Outlook Express only, making the suite much more tight-fisted than the competition.

In most other areas, Webroot handles itself decently. Password protection has been licensed from LastPass, one of the best cross-platform password managers available. SugarSync provides the engine for Webroot's customizable and robust online storage and syncing tool. The 10GB of storage in the cloud is at the high end of the spectrum for this feature, something that ought to ease the concerns of the cost-conscious.

The system cleanup tools have been brought in from another Webroot program, Webroot Window Washer. Like the externally sourced components, the Window Washer tools--which are listed only as System Cleanup--have been so smoothly integrated into the suite that it's impossible to tell that they were developed separately.

Webroot's support is tied to the account you create when you install the program, unless you've got a pre-existing one. It's well worth doing, however. In addition to the live, free phone tech support, available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mountain Time in the United States, Webroot has included a link to five tutorial videos. The videos are quite helpful, although we'd prefer it if Webroot notified you that the link opens in your browser. At least the videos aren't autoplay.

Performance
With a few exceptions, Webroot's 2011 suites are solidly average. The program's performance leave plenty of room for improvement, both in efficacy and system impact benchmarks.

Security program Boot time Shutdown time Scan time MS Office performance iTunes decoding Media multitasking Cinebench
Unprotected system 42.5 11.28 n/a 917 180 780 4,795
Webroot AntiVirus with Spy Sweeper 2011 50.76 15.19 540 980 198 826 4,724
Webroot Internet Security Essentials 2011 47.32 15.46 1429 1031 200 780 4,743
Webroot Internet Security Complete 2011 47.86 15.97 1459 992 198 848 4,729

*All tests measures in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better.

CNET Labs' benchmarks showed that the suites tended toward the slower end of the suites reviewed this year, although they avoided being the slowest in the key categories of computer start-up time, computer shutdown time, and scan times. Start-up was 5 seconds longer with Webroot than on an unprotected computer, and shutdown took 4 seconds longer. Scan times were among the fastest for Webroot AntiVirus with Spy Sweeper 2011, but Internet Security Essentials and Internet Security Complete were the third- and fourth-slowest scans benchmarked so far this year.

On a real-world computer, Webroot Internet Security Complete 2011 completed its first test in 1 hour, 27 minutes, not an unusual time for a first scan. A subsequent test the following day took around 25 minutes, slower than expected given that competitors can finish subsequent scans in a few minutes. As noted earlier in the review, Webroot does incorporate "always-on" scanning so users shouldn't feel compelled to manually run scans, but that doesn't change the fact that the real-world scan time is slow.

Two tests where Webroot's suites stood out were in the iTunes decoding and media multitasking test. In the former, both Webroot AntiVirus with Spy Sweeper 2011 and Internet Security Complete 2011 tied for fastest with Norton Antivirus 2011 and AVG Internet Security 2011. In the latter, Webroot Internet Security Essentials 2011 caused no impact whatsoever. Though important for gauging how a program can affect a test computer while in use, the start-up, shutdown, and scan time tests are more important.

When it comes to efficacy, one independent testing organization has found Webroot to be a good security choice. Webroot Internet Security Essentials did well in the AV-Test.org tests, getting certified by the organization in two recent tests. In the Windows 7 test from the second quarter of 2010, Webroot Internet Security Essentials 2010 (version 6.1) scored 12 out of 18, with 3.5 out of 6 rating in Protection, 4.5 out of 6 in Repair, and 4.0 out of 6 in Usability. The Windows XP test from the third quarter of 2010 tested Webroot Internet Security Essentials 2011, and gave the suite 4.0 in Protection, 4.5 in Repair, and 3.5 out of 6 in Usability for the same overall score as before.

Unfortunately, current test results for Webroot Internet Security Essentials and Internet Security Complete aren't available. The well-known Virus Bulletin passed Webroot AntiVirus with SpySweeper in April 2010, but dynamic, real-world results have not been released.

Although the public testing is sparse, the efficacy ratings for Webroot are encouraging. Still, the suites haven't been subjected to the heavy testing that many competitors have, and so we're reluctant to strongly recommend Webroot based on how safe it will keep you.

Conclusion
Webroot Internet Security Complete 2011 provides a decent level of security, although its lack of parental controls and emphasis on supplementary security tools make it a quirky choice. Webroot fans and those looking for alternatives to mainstream protection will get the most out of this suite.

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