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Getty Images/ PC Matic
Comprehensive tool with lots of extra features
Lots of optimization recommendations
Whitelist-based anti-malware should block emerging threats
Happily ignores most well-known, approved software
Not the most appealing user interface
Blank screens and missing information
No tooltips, nor obvious way to apply advice given
Broad, but shallow information keeps users in the dark, but holds hand too much for professionals
Missing many modern anti-malware features from other developers
Reviewers report false positives
PC Matic claims to do a lot, but its interface is rather dated, showing unhelpful loading bars and an overly detailed scan results page. It's too complicated for average users but doesn't give enough information for professionals. Overall, it's an adequate anti-malware solution, but we'd look for security elsewhere.
PC Matic is an all-in-one antiviral PC optimization tool that targets the most hands-off of PC users. Its infomercials feel like they're selling you a ShamWow, and the application itself looks and feels like it was ripped right out of the early 2000s. But it's a popular product that's been around for more than a decade, so it must be doing something right.
To see if that's the case, we put PC Matic 3 through its paces with a variety of hands-on testing and in-depth research.
PC Matic doesn't give a great first impression. Its interface is extremely antiquated, with huge, chunky buttons and a style that feels like it was left behind by modern software design years ago. You have to sit through a short, but obstructive loading screen when transitioning between any menus. Some information screens are entirely blank if you haven't conducted that particular scan yet, and when you are scanning anything, the loading bar just bounces around arbitrarily, with no clear indication of how long it might take.
PC Matic doesn't give much hierarchy to anything either, so the software gives the impression that defragmenting your hard drive is as important as protecting you against malware. It's a jack-of-all-trades antivirus solution, and it doesn't hide that fact, but we can't help but feel that some measure of prioritizing security should be in place.
PC Matic uses a safelist system for its antivirus protection. That is, if an application is on an official list of approved applications, it can operate as normal. If it's not, then PC Matic will automatically block it and prevent it from working. That means that new and emerging threats can be stopped and analyzed, even if they've never been encountered anywhere in the world before.
It should also stop ransomware attacks, but we do have our concerns. It's not clear how PC Matic would respond to a hijacked application that is on the arbitrary safelist.
We've also heard reports of PC Matic blocking legitimate applications that aren't too common. While end-users can safelist those apps themselves, safelisting is a little heavy-handed. Other anti-malware companies utilize techniques such as machine learning to look at software behavior rather than the application itself.
PC Matic uses a safelist system for its antivirus protection. That is, if an application is on an official list of approved applications, it can operate as normal.
When you start a scan, PC Matic takes a comprehensive look at your system. It scans all of your drives for malware and viruses, but also looks at various applications to see if they might be vulnerable to attack or require updating. It also looks over your drivers to see if they need an update and provides a comprehensive report on unwanted programs, junk files, and any other aspects of your PC that you could delete to help improve performance without sacrificing security.
PC Matic is designed to protect against all types of viruses, worms, and trojans, as well as ransomware attacks and spyware. It even protects against fileless scripting attacks.
However, we couldn't confirm whether PC Matic protects against cryptojacking and web-born attacks—but PC Matic does, by default, install a protective browser extension on Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. That should provide some measure of protection against web exploits.
PC Matic feels a little too in-depth for the average user, but doesn't give power users enough information and hands-on options to make it worth their while. Although the malware and optimization scans feel comprehensive, they are very opaque, with information about their contents buried in layers of menus behind icons that can only be understood by loading up the separate key.
There's a bewildering amount of potential optimizations you can dig through if you want to, which isn't going to be particularly interesting for the average user. However, some of the changes and optimizations it makes when you hit the Fix button aren't well explained, leaving us unsure about what it's actually doing.
PC Matic feels a little too in-depth for the average user, but doesn't give power users enough information and hands-on options to make it worth their while.
Considering any changes it makes to Windows services and startup processes would need to be re-enabled manually, we'd like the information displayed more clearly and backed up so we could refer to it later.
Interface problems plague the program's use as well, with some menu items overlapping, missing crosses in corners forcing you to guess that the Escape key closes the window down. If a particular component of the scan wasn't run, the results still appear, but as a purely blank page.
The whole experience feels a little untested. Nothing really got us stuck, but we can't help but wish for a little more polish and some helpful tooltips throughout to ease us into the PC Matic experience.
PC Matic makes sure to update its virus definitions twice daily, keeping your system protected against the latest threats and allowing through all the legitimate applications.
Performance in PC Matic is predominantly quick, but there are some odd hiccups. Transitioning to any menu or window requires a brief loading screen, which seems totally alien in the world of modern convenience software where any hindrance to interaction is a surprise.
The scans themselves, however, are fast, lasting a couple of minutes at most on a system equipped with a handful of SSDs and a storage hard drive. Multiple hard drives or older drives with lower overall performance would likely result in a slower scan time, but that's to be expected. You can also adjust the relative length of scans by turning certain optimization scans off, too.
One of the major concerns with a safelisting antivirus service like PC Matic is the potential for false positives—applications that are legitimate but that the security software flags as potentially problematic. We didn't encounter that ourselves, but we did note some third-party and user reviews which had.
We also found the arbitrary nature of PC Matic's scanning and ultimate recommendations a little disconcerting. Whereas other anti-malware companies talk about their specific exploit kit and ransomware protections, as well as how they use machine learning and behavior tracking to spot malware, PC Matic simply claims it has those protections in place.
While we're not suggesting there are any falsehoods at play, PC Matic's whole infomercial-driven feel makes it sound a little untrustworthy by virtue of how hard it's trying to appear trustworthy. Fewer sales tactic buzzwords and more actual information on how the service works would be a welcome change.
PC Matic isn't just an antivirus application, it's also a comprehensive PC optimization suite. It includes driver update checks, vulnerability analysis of outdated programs, browser add-on security checks, junk file listings, internet speed tests, registry scans, hard drive fragmentation checks, and a number of additional optional tweaks.
If you can make a change to your PC which may speed it up, PC Matic offers it. Many of these are quite opaque, with no obvious information about the changes it's making in response to the discovery of any particular issues. That's nice for a hands-off approach, but registry changes aren't something that Microsoft even recommends be undertaken automatically, so we're not entirely happy recommending them ourselves.
PC Matic isn't just an antivirus application, it's also a comprehensive PC optimization suite.
Automated driver and software updates are good if you're not in the habit of doing them yourself, but we'd caution against running too many tools that tweak your PC without your knowledge or understanding, lest they cause a problem that you are then unable to fix because you're not sure what changes have been made. Multiple changes to a system at one time are also a bad idea in general because if something goes wrong, it's never clear what caused it.
Although designed as an easy-to-use tool, PC Matic will run into problems now and again like any software, and when you do hit that wall, you want to know there's someone there to help. PC Matic pushes users to use its knowledge base and public forums as their first port of call, only reluctantly giving up an email ticket form when you've jumped through a number of menus.
We would have liked to have seen some live support systems in place, whether phone or online chat, to give users a little more personal attention for their concerns.
At $50 for a year's usage of PC Matic on as many as five devices, it's exceedingly affordable. You can even stump for the $150 Evergreen subscription that gives you PC Matic and all future updates for life. That's a great deal if you like what PC Matic offers.
If you don't, there's always the 30-day money-back guarantee.
One of our favorite anti-malware applications is MalwareBytes, which offers multiple high-level technologies for tackling viruses and all sorts of nefarious programs. When compared with PC Matic, MalwareBytes appears quite bare-bones, offering very few optimization tools at a much higher price of $40 per year for a single device.
However, MalwareBytes is one of the best anti-malware scanning companies in the world and PC Matic had to learn from it in 2017. When MalwareBytes started catching PC Matic as a potential unwanted program (with some exploit concerns of its own), PC Matic changed its scanning system to work more in line with MalwareBytes' own.
While there are things PC Matic can do that Malwarebytes can't, we'd trust a focused security application over a more general-purpose tool when it comes to keeping us safe online.
Adequate, but you can find a better antivirus solution.
As an anti-malware solution, PC Matic is adequate, but it's hard to tell how effective it would be against some of the more targeted or nefarious attacks we're faced with. PC Matic doesn't go into detail about how it protects us, so we have to take its word that safelisting is enough. And its optimization features are impressively broad, which might be good for those who want a hands-off PC optimizing experience. However, when it comes to staying safe online, we'd feel better recommending a more targeted, bespoke application that isn't trying to do quite so much.
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