ZoneAlarm Review

The name ZoneAlarm should ring a bell for anyone even vaguely familiar with antivirus software. Since 1997, ZoneAlarm has protected computers all around the world from cyberthreats. Over the years, Check Point Software’s application has grown from a simple antivirus app to a suite of specialized protection tools that are well-adapted to the challenges of the modern cyberscape. 

Our ZoneAlarm review reveals whether the application has successfully stood the test of time. With a combination of antivirus capabilities, a zero-day attacks firewall, anti-phishing features, mobile protection, and other security capabilities, it seems to offer nearly impregnable armor against threats. But can it compete with industry titans?

Key features:

  • Kernel-Level Virus Prevention
  • Customizable protection
  • Real-time Cloud database with latest threats
  • Full Stealth Mode

Things we liked / disliked:

  • All-in-one protection
  • Proprietary firewall technology
  • Scanning files in a safe, virtual sandbox
  • Affordable
  • Generous free plan
  • Subpar visuals

Main Features Overview

ZoneAlarm’s security packages come in three versions: The free stand-alone antivirus and firewall program – Pro Antivirus + Firewall – and ZoneAlarm Extreme Security, which has the most advanced security features. Here in our ZoneAlarm security review, we’ll check out this software security shield and look into how effective it is in defending your PC from the dangers that lurk beyond.

Dashboard

Like most antivirus programs, ZoneAlarm runs in the background after you launch it. That lets it provide real-time protection. The dashboard looks like this:

ZoneAlarm Review dashboard

There’s no other way to say this: It looks kind of horrible, as if it crawled out of the Windows XP era. Besides the dated UI, the program looks slightly blurry, as if unaccustomed to running on high-resolution screens. However, behind the unattractive visuals lies a truly powerful security system.

The dashboard is divided into three main sections – Antivirus & Firewall, Web & Privacy, and Mobility & Data. In our ZoneAlarm Extreme Security review, we found the layout to be intelligently organized, intuitive, and easy to navigate. Clicking one of the sections takes you to a screen with specific measures that you can toggle or scans you can run or schedule.

In the top-right corner are the Scan, Update, Tools, and Help buttons. The Scan button allows you to run quick or regular antivirus scans immediately. The Update button serves to check online for antivirus database updates and new versions of ZoneAlarm software. The Tools section is where you find system diagnostics and a toggle for Game mode, while the Help button is where you contact support or check the knowledge base.

Antivirus

Now we’ll delve deeper into our ZoneAlarm Antivirus and Firewall review. The backbone of ZoneAlarm’s defenses – and the technology upon which the company has built its name – is antivirus protection. ZoneAlarm antivirus technology provides real-time protection for your PC, constantly scanning for new threats that may appear from any source: emails, websites, executables, and so on. ZoneAlarm’s virus protection operates at kernel level, the core of your PC’s operating system, which means it can guarantee full and thorough protection.

ZoneAlarm Review antivirus

The Antivirus & Firewall tab lets you run and schedule scans to detect viruses and spyware. You can specify when you want to run quick scans and full scans, and you can define which will run when you press the Scan Now button. As most ZoneAlarm antivirus reviews will tell you, you shouldn’t set Full Scans to occur too often, as they take quite a while and they effectively prevent you from using your PC while they’re running.

ZoneAlarm lets you toggle behavioral scanning on and off. With this extremely useful feature, ZoneAlarm checks your system for strange behavior. This lets it identify infections even for malware that isn’t part of the antivirus database yet. We definitely recommend keeping this option enabled.

Like most antivirus software, ZoneAlarm lets you check which files are in quarantine. You can add exceptions to the scan list for benign programs and data whose safety you are sure of.

While researching our ZoneAlarm antivirus review, we noticed that the option to scan files upon access is turned off by default. It might be useful to keep it enabled if your PC can handle regular small-scale scans, as it can protect you from most malicious executable files.

Firewall

ZoneAlarm’s firewall is as impressive as its antivirus features. The ZoneAlarm firewall protects your system from inbound attacks while stopping data thieves on their way out the door. The firewall automatically blocks suspicious unauthorized connections, while “Full Stealth” mode makes you undetectable to hackers.

As we compiled our ZoneAlarm firewall review, we also noticed that ZoneAlarm features Kill Controls. This feature is similar to the kill switch found with some VPNs. It shuts off malicious programs immediately, preventing them from sending information out to the network – and, presumably, the hackers who launched them.

ZoneAlarm uses proprietary firewall technology called OSFirewall, which the company says provides better protection than you find with other antiviruses and firewalls. Other extremely useful features include Zero Hour protection and Application Control, which keeps you safe while your system is booting – when other security programs haven’t even started up yet. Additionally, in our ZoneAlarm firewall general review we saw that the firewall also has Wi-Fi protection, reducing the risk of connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks.

We found ZoneAlarm’s application control a bit overzealous. In our tests, it automatically blocked 20 programs, which might prevent important processes and updates from running. Make sure to check the list of blocked programs to remove ones you know are safe.

ZoneAlarm Review firewall

As you can see, the Firewall tab gives you an overview of your security level within different zones. Under Advanced Settings, you can fine-tune firewall settings for the type of network you connect to.

Web & Privacy

The next stop in our ZoneAlarm review is the Web & Privacy tab. Here you’ll find two tools that are intended to increase your security while browsing.

The first is the Web Secure extension for Google Chrome. The purpose of this extension is to safeguard you from phishing attacks and to allow you to download documents safely in Chrome. The extension isn’t installed by default; you need to install it from the Web & Privacy tab if you wish to use it.

In addition to protecting your PC from phishing attacks, the browser protection extension blocks malicious scripts, files, and executables at the sites you visit. Our ZoneAlarm internet security review rates this too as very useful. It’s unfortunate that it is available only for Google Chrome, and not for other popular browsers.

The second tool in this section is the Anti-Keylogger. This add-on is also not activated by default. It can block programs that secretly record your keystrokes – especially but not only when you’re entering passwords.

Mobility & Data

Ransomware has become an increasingly common type of cyberattack in recent years, and it is potentially one of the most damaging. ZoneAlarm has recently introduced an anti-ransomware system to combat this emergent threat. During our ZoneAlarm anti-ransomware review, we saw that this system serves to block any attack that tries to lock your files – whether you’re online or offline. It can also restore locked files, saving you from paying the ransom fee to the hackers.

The second feature in the Mobility & Data tab is Identity Protection. This tool monitors your credit card activity and scans your credit bureau file for suspicious activity. This option, which is available only in the US, is a great addition to the already-strong security ZoneAlarm provides. Credit card theft is extremely common in America, and this simple tool could save you a lot of pain and money. During our review of ZoneAlarm Extreme Security, Identity Protection notified us immediately by email of a couple of suspicious transactions, allowing us to contact the bank and verify that they were authorized.

ZoneAlarm Review mobility and data

Threat Emulation

One of ZoneAlarm’s most advanced features – one that is rarely found among its competitors – is its Threat Emulation tool. This app inspects MS Word, MS PowerPoint, MS Excel, and Adobe PDF files by sending them to a safe virtual sandbox where they’re opened and examined for suspicious code or behavior.

The sandbox lets ZoneAlarm analyze downloaded documents while protecting your PC. During our ZoneAlarm extreme review, the Threat Emulation tool immediately notified us when files turned out to be malicious so we could dispose of them.

By default, the Threat Emulation tool monitors the desktop and the downloads folder, but you can freely add additional folders to the list.

ZoneAlarm Review threat emulation

Threat Emulation is a strong layer of defense against zero-day attacks – new threats that are yet to be documented and included in malware databases. When ZoneAlarm detects a new kind of malware, it adds the threat to its database of security threats.

Mobile Security

In our ZoneAlarm review, we also tried out one of the suite’s newest features: Mobile Security. This app is a package of security measures aimed at protecting your mobile device from the most common outside threats.

The Mobile Security app is available for both Android and iOS. The app protects your phone in multiple ways. First, it provides a secure connection to public Wi-Fi networks, protecting you from fakes that could steal your credentials. Secondly, it prevents unauthorized access to your camera and microphone – one of the most frequent ways hackers and privacy-intruding agencies attempt to hijack your phone. Lastly, it alerts you if you happen to download any malicious apps.

As any ZoneAlarm free firewall review can tell you, this feature is available only with an upgrade to ZoneAlarm Extreme Security.

User Experience

We’ve already touched on ZoneAlarm’s unstylish, dated user interface. Insiders say the visuals are scheduled to be totally revamped in coming months – we’ll see. In the meantime, the software is actually very easy to learn and use.

The installation process is quite simple; just download the installation program and run it on your PC. It will download additional files. You’ll have to restart your PC to complete the installation. As you can see from the screenshots we’ve included with this review, ZoneAlarm options are clearly labeled. Short explanations under the tool names explain their exact functions.

Related Products

ZoneAlarm products come in several packages. You can download the antivirus program and the firewall separately at no cost. The paid versions are Pro Firewall, Pro Antivirus, Anti-Ransomware, and Extreme Security, the last of which combines all the others.

Customer Support

ZoneAlarm’s support staff can be contacted across multiple channels. Live chat agents are available throughout the week. During our ZoneAlarm free antivirus review, the members of the live chat staff we spoke to were knowledgeable professionals, not uninformed third-party support agents. In addition to chat, you can contact support via email, though you must create a support account first.

Before contacting the support team, you can also consult the knowledge base on the website and speak with other users on the company’s community forums.

Pricing

ZoneAlarm offers both free packages and paid plans that implement advanced security features. You can download basic versions of ZoneAlarm Antivirus and ZoneAlarm Firewall at no charge and use them indefinitely.

In our ZoneAlarm free antivirus review, we were pleasantly surprised at the features included in the free packages. They include full antivirus and anti-spyware protection, the two-way firewall, identity protection, and access to Game Mode – a tool designed to reduce the CPU strain of running ZoneAlarm while you’re gaming.

A ZoneAlarm Pro Antivirus + Firewall one-year license for five PCs currently costs $39.95. Included with it are the Web Monitor service, Anti-Phishing, Threat Extraction, Real-Time Cloud Security, and 24/7 online support.

The most valuable addition here is the Threat Extraction feature, which protects you against zero-day attacks, and cloud security, which monitors online databases for new viruses. While our ZoneAlarm free review has revealed that the free package is very powerful, these advanced security features – and the ability to use the software on five different computers – make the Pro package worth the money.

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security is the priciest suite. It includes all the features of ZoneAlarm Pro plus new security measures ZoneAlarm has developed: anti-ransomware, mobile security, keylogger protection, and Threat Emulation. The one-year license costs $44.95 and covers five devices, which can be a mix of PCs and mobile devices.

As you will have read already in our ZoneAlarm security suite review, the combination of these security measures practically guarantees your PC will be safe from all sorts of cyberattacks, both offline and online. With the current 50% discount, it’s definitely worth at least considering this package. Given that the difference between Pro and Extreme Security is only about $10, there’s really no reason not to buy the full package.

zonealarm logo zonealarm review
  • Kernel-Level Virus Prevention
  • Customizable protection
  • Real-time Cloud database with latest threats
  • Full Stealth Mode
Price $39.95
kaspersky logo
  • Award-winning antivirus
  • Data leak checker
  • Encrypted browser for shopping and banking
  • Smart VPN
Price $44.99/year
bitdefender logo
  • PC maintenance
  • Fast and reliable performance
  • Advanced ransomware protection
  • Multi-layer ransomware protection
Price $44.99/year

Conclusion

What are our thoughts after our review of ZoneAlarm free and paid plans? 

ZoneAlarm is like a bulky suit of plate armor. It protects you from virtually any attack, but it’s in need of a good polish. Its proprietary firewall and Threat Emulation technology make it one of the best available antiviruses. The outdated visuals shouldn’t keep you away. After you’ve set up the software, you’ll see it only when you’re running scans anyway. It’s a small price to pay for such invaluable PC protection and the peace of mind that comes with it.

 

Things we liked / disliked:

  • All-in-one protection
  • Proprietary firewall technology
  • Scanning files in a safe, virtual sandbox
  • Affordable
  • Generous free plan
  • Subpar visuals

FAQ

Is ZoneAlarm any good?

As we’ve shown in our ZoneAlarm firewall and antivirus review, Check Point’s software is one of the strongest antivirus packages available, featuring cutting-edge technology aimed at providing full-scale protection for your devices.

Is ZoneAlarm better than Windows Firewall?

Thanks to its proprietary firewall technology, ZoneAlarm’s firewall is definitely stronger than the one that comes with Windows 10.

Do you still need antivirus with Windows 10?

Even though Windows 10 antivirus software has gotten better over the years, it can’t fully compete with advanced antivirus software like ZoneAlarm.

What is the best antivirus for 2020?

Some of the best antiviruses to use in 2020 are from Kaspersky, Norton, ZoneAlarm, Bitdefender, and Avast.

Should I pay for virus protection?

As we’ve indicated in our ZoneAlarm review, the advanced security features its paid plans include are definitely worth the money. While free antiviruses are enough to protect you against most common threats, investing in a paid antivirus is one of the smartest choices you can make.

zonealarm logo zonealarm review
Price $39.95/year
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