Review: VirusBarrier Plus

You know the old saying: Macs don’t get viruses. Well, the truth is, they don’t get as many. Yes, Windows has had hundreds of thousands of known viruses in its time, while the Mac has had a few dozen, most of which are over ten years old.

But that doesn’t mean that Mac users should have no concern over viruses whatsoever. Mac users are still capable of being “carriers” for Windows viruses–open an infected e-mail on a Mac, and without knowing it you could transmit that virus to all of your Windows-using contacts. And there could certainly come the day when Macs will become popular enough that more people start writing viruses and malware aimed at Macs; the recent MAC DEFENDER fiasco was a chilling reminder of that fact. So it is a good idea for Mac users to have some anti-virus protection, and my recommendation is VirusBarrier Plus.

Lightweight, Simpler Virus Protection
I have always hated anti-virus software because the programs that I’ve tried have always been bloated, over-complicated, resource-intensive, and expensive. In my view, Mac viruses are such a rare occurrence that I shouldn’t need to be convinced to constantly dedicate precious time and resources towards keeping an anti-virus program up-to-date and running, nor should I have to break the bank to purchase it. Well, this is exactly the market for which VirusBarrier Plus is aimed.

VirusBarrier Plus is a lite version of Intego’s $50 VirusBarrier X6 product. It’s sold exclusively on the Mac App Store for only $10 and offers an array of virus protection that should be adequate for the vast majority of Mac users.

The user interface for VirusBarrier Plus is also really simple. A big green dropwell lets you drag-and-drop specific files to be scanned, and it turns red if it identifies an infected file. There are also buttons to run a Full Scan of your hard drive, or a Quick Scan–where VirusBarrier Plus only scans the most common places on your hard drive where infected software would tend to lurk. A blue tab on the upper-right shows when your virus definitions were last updated; simply click on it to download the latest definitions (new ones are released twice a week). Two other tabs in the window let you specify trusted files and folders (which will never be scanned) and set up schedules.

VirusBarrier Plus advertises itself as having no impact on performance, and it’s not kidding: you absolutely can’t tell when it’s scanning in the background, and every other app on your computer feels just as responsive as ever.

Scheduling
You can configure VirusBarrier Plus to run scans on a schedule, which it will do even if the VirusBarrier Plus application is not running. You can configure scans to run daily, weekly, or monthly, and you can choose for those to be a Quick Scan of your computer, or you can do a full scan of your whole computer or any designated folder on your hard drive. You can also do a repair scan on a schedule as well.

You can create as many schedules as you want, though one wish I would ask for would be for VirusBarrier Plus to be smart about not doubling up its workload. For example, I tried doing Quick Scans daily and a Full Scan weekly, but the problem was that during that weekly basis, VirusBarrier Plus would do a Quick Scan (“quick” is a relative term, it still takes at least half an hour) and then immediately start up a Full Scan after the Quick Scan was done. A little less redundancy would be nice.

A few other concerns I had with scheduled scans: While the scans can run when VirusBarrier Plus isn’t open, the scans still pop up a progress bar in a floating window that gets in the way of your work. Sometimes you can minimize the window, other times you can’t and you have to cancel it. I’d prefer if these scheduled scans would just happen completely in the background without my knowledge of them happening, or else VirusBarrier Plus could add a menu bar item to control those background scans.

Lastly, while scans may happen in the background, updating your installed definitions doesn’t. You have to open VirusBarrier Plus yourself and remember to update the installed definitions yourself to keep them up to date. Considering that out-of-date definitions don’t tend to be particularly useful, this seems like an ability that ought to be added.

Conclusion
VirusBarrier Plus is the first anti-virus app I’ve seen that addresses my needs: a basic, to-the-point anti-virus program that is simple to use and doesn’t hog up my computer. It’s still got a little ways to go before I can say that it doesn’t get in my way at all, but it has at least gotten me in the good practice of regularly scanning my Mac for viruses and malware. VirusBarrier Plus offers the perfect juncture between anti-virus protection, minimalism, and price that makes it perfect for Mac users who don’t need to go over-the-top with internet security anyway.

The Nitty-Gritty
VirusBarrier Plus Version 1.1.1 by Intego
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $9.99
Download: Mac App Store

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About Douglas Bell

I live in Washington, D.C., and work as a Broadcast Technician at WAMU 88.5 FM, the local NPR affiliate in the Washington metro area. My primary shift is to engineer the local feed of NPR’s Morning Edition, including local news and weather, long-form features and station breaks… and yes, the shift starts at 5 am, so I’ve got the whole quasi-nocturnal thing going on. I am also the Coordinating Producer for Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie, an independently-produced podcast and public radio program. Extracurricularly, I play cello, and participate in a church choir and a handbell choir. I enjoy discovering new places, and am constantly searching for the perfect cheeseburger. I am also known as a frequent teller of puns.

One thought on “Review: VirusBarrier Plus

  1. Perhaps the comment or question has been addressed elsewhere but, how can you set a time in the middle of the night when you may not be using the computer? It is disconcerting to be working on something and have this window pop up, even though it is minimal.

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