ZoneAlarm Antivirus Review
ZoneAlarm Antivirus is a well-known antivirus solution from the days of yore. Age has, however, not treated it well and it could now badly use an update to its interface as well as a new round of security testing. Read our full ZoneAlarm review to see what we think.
Free plan available
ZoneAlarm Antivirus isn’t among the best antivirus software we’ve seen. It had good lab results a couple of years ago, though. That said, its interface needs updating to be more user-friendly.
In this ZoneAlarm review, we’re going to cover the pros and cons of the software so you can decide if it’s the right one for you. We’ll look at the features, pricing, protection and support before rendering our verdict.
ZoneAlarm Antivirus could become a contender in the antivirus market with a little effort from parent company Check Point. The main things holding it back are the weak interface and lack of recent testing.
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- Easy installation
- Advanced firewall
- Two-way firewall
- Identity protection
- Free version
- No anti-phishing
- No real-time cloud security
- Little online support
- No threat emulation
- No anti-keylogger
- Poorly designed interface
- No parental controls
- No password manager
- No file shredder
ZoneAlarm Antivirus requires Microsoft Windows and takes quite a bit of space besides. In our installation, it took 520MB.
The free version has the usual features you’d expect from antivirus software: basic protection against malware and spyware, a good firewall and identity protection. The firewall protects you against invasions and hackers. It has advanced settings for blocking a variety of servers, as well as determining your preferred network settings.
You’ll probably be fine using the default settings but you have the freedom to change them to suit your taste.
There is a button for activating 5GB of online storage for free on the “identity & data” tab, but it requires a separate download and installation. There is also an option to set up your identity protection, which sends you to ZoneAlarm’s website to do so. The “price” for free software is a lot of return trips to the company’s website.
The paid versions include online support that isn’t available for the free version. Anti-phishing and cloud security are added to protect you online, as well. The high-end Extreme Security version also has an anti-keylogger to prevent hackers from copying your keystrokes to find out your passwords and other sensitive information.
ZoneAlarm Features Overview
| ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus|
| ZoneAlarm Pro Antivirus + Firewall|
1-year plan $ 3.33/ month
$39.95 billed every year
|ZoneAlarm Extreme Security|
1-year plan $ 5.00/ month
$59.95 billed every year
The free version is the stripped-down model and doesn’t include online support. Adding anything to it requires repeated trips to ZoneAlarm’s website for bare-bones add-ons that are designed to whet your appetite for the paid version. What we like is that it doesn’t have an end date the way some “free” versions do.
The mid-tier Pro version is where you can get online support, along with anti-phishing and real-time cloud protection. The other major difference is the increase from one PC to five.
On the high end, ZoneAlarm’s Extreme Security delivers everything the Pro version does, plus threat emulation and an anti-keylogger. It follows a normal stair-step path that we’ve seen before with software, where each increase in functionality is accompanied by a corresponding increase in price.
The free version includes the firewall and identity protection that the free version of AVG lacks, but AVG’s mid-tier plan adds the Android protection that ZoneAlarm leaves out. Read our AVG review for more.
ZoneAlarm Pro is cheaper than Avira Antivirus Pro. Unlike ZoneAlarm Pro, though, Avira Antivirus Pro includes macOS support. See our Avira review for more details.
ZoneAlarm Antivirus is easy to install, set up, configure and use. The interface is crowded and difficult to read, especially on a laptop. To be fair though, there is a lot of functionality in it.
Downloading and installing ZoneAlarm is simple. Clicking the download button brings up a page of instructions.
Once it downloads and you click the executable to begin installation, it gives you the option to do a quick install using the default settings or a custom install. The quick install is the easiest and you probably won’t need to change the default settings.
You have to accept and agree to an end-user license agreement before it allows you to proceed. After that, the installation is hands-free until you get to the end, at which point it requires your email address so it can send you updates and upgrades. After that, it takes you online to a thank you screen from the company. It’s a small thing, but it’s a nice touch all the same.
From there, it displays the main splash screen, which is where you’ll start each time you launch the software. There are three main areas: “antivirus”, “firewall” and “identity & data,” plus a light blue menu bar just above them.
Clicking anywhere on one of the three area buttons will send you to a new screen. The layout is clean, but some of the labels are confusing. The three areas turn into three tabs, which they should have been in the first place, with a tiny “home” button to the left of them.
In the “antivirus” area, there is a green checkbox beside the real-time protection label. To the right is a button labeled “enabled” that should be labeled “options” because clicking it takes you to a subscreen of options to choose from.
The other two buttons in the “antivirus” area are scanning and updating and more appropriately labeled. Clicking the scan button opens a floating box menu with further options.
While we were playing with the buttons, we noticed that the behavior of the mouse pointer wasn’t consistent. Sometimes it would change to a hand icon and the text under it would change color to indicate a clickable option, but in other places, nothing happened when an option was clickable. It was especially noticeable when using the buttons on the screen.
The antivirus/anti-spyware settings screen is intelligently laid out. The options down the left are appropriately labeled, with checkboxes for picking which you want to be activated.
ZoneAlarm Antivirus tries to cram too much information into too small an area, though. For an idea of what a better, easier-to-read layout should look like, check out our Avast Pro review.
Once you get past the layout, the information provided is thorough and accurate.
In the application control setting on the “firewall” tab, there are provisions for adding or removing applications from the list the software created during installation. You can click any application to let the firewall know if its trusted. You can select several options, including outbound, inbound, internally in a local network or externally on the internet.
There is an “identity lock” feature under the “identity & data” tab in which eBay and PayPal are the only trusted websites by default. If you activate the identity lock, be sure to view the trusted websites immediately and make the changes you think are appropriate. It’s quick and easy to make changes, so don’t skip it.
Also under the “identity & data” tab is a button to activate or manage your data on the cloud. Clicking the button takes you to part of ZoneAlarm’s website that will protect your data for for free for one year, after which you’ll start being billed for it. Be sure to read the fine print on this page.
ZoneAlarm Antivirus’s user-friendliness is fair but we’d like to see a better, clearer presentation with larger fonts and more contrast. The small font sizes can be a strain on the eyes and the inconsistent hover attributes of the mouse pointer need to be addressed.
We use third-party lab tests to get objective results on software performance and functionality. Out of the top three labs, two of them, AV-Comparatives and MRG Effitas, appear not to have tested ZoneAlarm Antivirus. Neither had results posted for it.
The third lab, AV-Test, had test results from September-October 2016 posted, but nothing more recent. In that test, ZoneAlarm scored 100 percent for protection and detection of malware, gaining a 6 out of 6 rating from AV-Test.
It scored 5 out of 6 in performance, which was mainly because it created a significant slowdown during the installation of frequently used applications, but it returned to the 6 out of 6 score for avoiding false positives when visiting websites or downloading software.
Those results were obtained with ZoneAlarm Antivirus 15.0. The current version is 15.4, so major changes haven’t been made to the software for two and a half years. That’s a long time between version changes. It’s in danger of being left behind at that rate.
Because we only got old test results from one lab, we reverted to plan B. We tested it with EICAR files. They were created by the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research to test antivirus software without the need to expose machines to genuine threats.
EICAR files are industry standard test files that every antivirus should recognize, block and quarantine. Failure indicates the software isn’t meeting the industry standards.
On the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization website we use for our in-house testing, ZoneAlarm Antivirus gave us mixed results.
It stopped us from downloading the test virus and flagged a drive-by download, warning us not to allow it. It didn’t fare so well with compressed malware. Out of 11 compression formats, it only recognized and contained the test file in two of them. The other nine slipped past it.
It stopped the download of a potentially unwanted application, but failed the anti-phishing test and didn’t protect us on the cloud.
Downloads, email attachments, instant messages and phishing constitute the bulk of malware transmissions, so it performed adequately, but downloads aren’t the whole story. Outside of ordinary downloads, ZoneAlarm Antivirus didn’t respond well.
Because it recognized the existence of the EICAR files in some cases, but didn’t stop them in all cases, there appear to be holes in its defenses. Without further lab testing, it is difficult to be sure where the problem lies.
The lack of current lab data, plus the mixed results on EICAR tests, leads us to believe ZoneAlarm Antivirus still needs work. The lack of movement in the version numbers confirms it.
ZoneAlarm has been stuck on version 15 since at least October 2016 and the support seems to echo that. The support options we found were overly simplified and not helpful. We even discovered some bait-and-switch going on.
The light blue menu bar across the splash screen has headings on the right side for “scan,” “update,” “tools” and “help.”
Clicking “help” opens a floating menu. The options there are “about,” “top 10 questions,” “help,” “offline help” and “technical support.” Selecting the top 10, help or technical support options takes you to the same company website page. Different choices should take you to different destinations, but ZoneAlarm doesn’t do that.
Once online, an area labeled “full knowledgebase” has four options under it.
No matter which you choose, it takes you to the same help page, just different portions of it. You can access any part of the help page by scrolling up and down regardless of how you got to it.
If you choose the offline help option from the floating menu, it opens a browser and displays an HTML page uploaded to your hard drive during installation. It’s nothing more than suggestions for reconnecting your system to the internet. It doesn’t contain help files for configuring or using the software. Again, it’s somewhat deceptive.
The live chat is slow and the answers weren’t always relevant, causing us to suspect we were talking to a bot. The system may have a method of detecting whether we had a paid or free version of ZoneAlarm Antivirus on our computer. Since it specifically says free online support is reserved to the paid versions, we may have been shunted aside.
We couldn’t find a phone number for telephone support, nor could we find video help files or training.
ZoneAlarm Antivirus has nice features, but it hasn’t changed since October 2016. It feels outdated and has interface issues with overcrowding, small fonts and mouse pointer hover problems.
It achieved impressive scores in third-party testing in 2016, but hasn’t been rigorously tested since. The software is solid, but it needs to be updated to stay current. We’d like to see better customer support, too. If you want something more up-to-date, check out our antivirus reviews for better options.
What do you think of ZoneAlarm Antivirus? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.