ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2013 Review
Check Point’s ZoneAlarm is best known as a firewall product, which is how the brand started out in 2000. Even now, the entry-level ZoneAlarm product is a personal firewall. The product we review here is the next up in the vendor’s commercial consumer range, ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2013. Check Point also offer free versions of their products.
WIth ZoneAlarm starting out as a firewall, we were curious to find out how it fared in terms of protection from viruses and malware, and delighted that it made easy work of our real-life tests. It wasn’t plain sailing all the way through our review, but we would still recommend this product – read on to find out the details.
As described in the summary, Check Point offer a comprehensive range of security products. First, there are free versions of both ZoneAlarm Firewall and ZoneAlarm Antivirus + Firewall, both with trimmed down feature sets.
In addition, Check Point offer an array of commercial products. At the “bottom” of the range is ZoneAlarm Pro Firewall, which doesn’t come with any antivirus functionality. Then there is ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2013, which is reviewed here. Finally, higher up the range, there is ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite and ZoneAlarm Extreme Security.
A single copy of ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall covers up to three Windows PCs, and subscriptions are available lasting one or two years.
At the time of writing, a one year package costs $34.95 in the US, €26.95 in Euro countries, and £21.95 in the UK. Two year subscriptions are $64.95, €49.95 and £39.95 respectively. It’s worthy of note that the product appeared to be “on offer” when we conducted our review, so these prices could increase. As they stand, however, they offer really good value, especially given that they cover three PCs.
Check Point offer thirty-day trials of all their products. There is also a thirty-day money back guarantee.
The list of features for ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2013 is fairly extensive, and notable as it includes a comprehensive personal firewall.
Key facilities of the software are as follows:
Advanced Firewall: This is a two-way firewall that also claims to monitor programs for “suspicious behaviour.”
Antivirus and Antispyware: As well as standard viruses, the product also protects against “spyware, Trojan horses, worms, bots and rootkits.”
“Do Not Track”: This feature is designed to stop companies tracking your browsing activities.
Facebook Scan: This feature looks at your Facebook activity and alerts you to possible privacy issues.
Download Protection: Download protection is intended to prevent you from inadvertently downloading malicious files.
Privacy Toolbar: This is a browser toolbar that provides easy access to the program’s privacy features, including “private browsing.”
Online Backup: ZoneAlarm includes online backup functionality, with a free allowance of 5GB of storage. This was quite a pleasing (and surprising) free extra.
ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall covers all the usual bases, and adds a few features we don’t see that often. We were keen to get it installed and put it to the test.
Installation and Configuration
We used the 30-day trial of the software to complete our review. Our test PC was running a clean 32-bit installation of Windows 7 Professional.
The initial download was just 2MB, with the remainder of the program downloading during the install. On the first page of the installer, we were offered a “quick install” or a “custom” option, but we chose the former as we always like to review products with their default settings.
On the next page, we had to accept a license agreement, and also had to decide whether to change our home page and search provider to “ZoneAlarm Search.” We’re not big fans of this kind of thing, so we were glad to find the options unticked by default.
After we accepted the agreement, the installation proceeded without asking us any other questions. A bold progress bar told us what was going on throughout.
Unfortunately the install then stalled at the “Preparing to download” stage. We waited over five minutes to see further progress, but it remained stubbornly at 0%
Unfortunately, there was no “x” icon or cancel button, so we had to turn to Windows Task Manager to abort the process, and then try the install again. Interestingly, there was a “Resume ZoneAlarm Install” icon on the desktop, which cynically made us wonder whether this happens a lot! Double-clicking the icon, however, just landed us back in the same place:
We restarted our machine. After the reboot, the install continued automatically, and finally managed to continue properly. Although this glitch was time-consuming, it could have been caused by anything, so we didn’t mark it down as anything more than a minor fault.
The total data download amounted to 235MB and seemed to take a very long time. The download stalled for several minutes at 41%, and again at 42%. While we accepted that all our problems could well be caused by a simple problem with the ZoneAlarm download server(s), we were, by this stage, beginning to get a little impatient – we were experiencing a download at dial-up speed.
We even ran a speed test on our Internet connection to check that there was no issue “at our end,” but everything checked out OK. We resigned ourselves to a long wait. Things eventually speeded up, but the total download time was still extraordinarily long.
Anyway, we waited and eventually the install completed, concluding with a request for our email address.
With the install finally done, we were able to take a look at the program interface. This was pleasingly clean and simple.
Beyond the first screen of the interface were several levels of more in-depth options, culminating with some “advanced settings” screens, which provide plenty for techies to get their teeth into.
We also noticed a “game mode” amongst the options. This is quite common in modern antivirus packages, but the vendor website hadn’t told us about this feature.
With our tour of the interface complete, we decided to proceed with some real-world testing.
We grabbed an infected USB storage device in order to introduce some real threats to our test system.
ZoneAlarm didn’t offer to scan our USB key as soon as we plugged it in, which was a little disappointing as we like to see this as a default configuration. Instead, all we saw was the standard Windows 7 AutoPlay menu.
However, as soon as we clicked “open folder to view files,” an automatic scan began without our prompting. Furthermore, the scan picked up two of our three test threats, including the one that many antivirus packages find hard to detect: a fake Google Chrome installer containing malware.
Surprisingly, the automatic scan didn’t do anything about the “easiest” of our test threats, a dummy virus from the European Expert Group for IT Security. However, it did find it when we tried to run the file.
In totality, this meant that ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2013 had scored 100% in our real life tests – a perfect result!
Finally, we kicked off a full scan of our PC in order to see how much ZoneAlarm used our system resources.
CPU use was low, typically below 20% with few peaks, but RAM usage was surprisingly high, running to nearly 300MB, which is as high as we’ve seen.
We knew what support options to expect from ZoneAlarm, as they were listed as part of the software’s features round-up.
As well as self-service options such as forums, there is live chat support on offer 24/7. However, we couldn’t find any support phone number on the vendor website.
- Automatic external device scanning
- Perfect real-life test results
- Generous feature set
- 5GB of free online backup
- Great value with prices at the time of our review
We weren’t so sure about
- Slow initial install
- High RAM use during scans
When we were drumming our fingers on the desk waiting for ZoneAlarm’s slow install, we wouldn’t have predicted ending our review so positively, but ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2013 is a great product. We also think it more than likely that our slow install was a one-off issue.
All-in-all this is a very generous package at a very good price. You get a well-known firewall product, free online backup, and an antivirus program that dealt perfectly with all our test infections.
The interface also strikes a good balance between ease of use and configurability. There’s something here for everyone.