Review: PC Matic Gets a Zero!

Category: Anti-Virus

After years of hearing from AskBob readers about PC Matic, I finally decided it was time to give the popular antivirus and PC optimizer software a test drive. So 18 months ago, I did just that, and published my PC Matic review. At the time, I was impressed enough to ditch my current security software, and entrust my home and office computers to PC Matic. A year and a half later, I'm giving PC Matic a ZERO. But wait... that's actually a GOOD thing! Read on for my updated review and recommendation...

PC Matic Review - Part Deux

I've written about PC optimizers, computer security, and antivirus software many times over the years. And every time I've published an article on these topics, AskBob readers would write and ask "Why didn't you mention PC Matic?" I had seen the PC Matic TV commercials, and I thought they were a bit on the corny side. And I was happy with whatever I was using at the time, so I brushed them off. But eventually, the number of AskBob readers imploring me to check out PC Matic was too large to ignore.

I've been running PC Matic since September 2018, and as I mentioned in the opening lines of this article, I've given it a score of ZERO. That's ZERO for how many times my computers were infected by viruses, spyware, or ransomware. ZERO for the number of times the software nagged me to upgrade or buy some related service. And ZERO for how many times the company sold my personal information to third-party data brokers.

Ransomware is everywhere now. Every day we read stories about another user, school, business, or government office being impacted by ransomware. Just this week, ransomware forced the shutdown of a natural-gas pipeline for two days. It's obvious that in all of these attacks, the installed antivirus software FAILED to protect the computer that was infected.

PC Matic Review

But PC Matic assumes the opposite of what most mainstream anti-malware suites assume. The latter rely heavily on “black lists” of known threats and viruses, while the former assumes that any unknown software is unsafe until proven otherwise. If it's not on the white list, it's not allowed to run, period. So the "white list" approach stops ransomware cold. This video explains the difference between the whitelist and blacklist approaches.

I worried that PC Matic's white list feature might cause me many false positives and unnecessary interruptions, but PC Matic knew that LibreOffice and other programs I use were legitimate. There was only one instance where PC Matic questioned a 30-year-old DOS program that I occasionally need. But I was able to allow it to run with just one click.

Selling Your Digital Soul?

You might remember the recent stories about Avast, the popular antivirus company, caught selling "highly sensitive" data about their customers' web browsing activities. For years, Avast was tracking clicks and collecting data on Google searches, YouTube videos and other online activities. That data was then sold to advertisers. They actually promised their clients "Every search. Every click. Every buy. On every site." This is an internet security firm, whose software has full access to EVERYTHING that happens on your computer, and they're selling that data to the highest bidder. Outrageous, but it seems that is the price you pay for "free" software and online services.

In response, PC Matic published a Data Integrity Pledge which outlines how the company collects and protect your personal information. In summary, they promise not to sell or distribute your personal information, web browsing history, or data about the performance of your computer.

The PC Matic Story

PC Matic had its origins when PC Pitstop was founded in 1999 by Rob Cheng, a former Gateway 2000 Senior VP. At first, the company offered a free computer diagnostic and optimization service. The PC Matic software began life in 2009, aiming to be a “comprehensive tool to care for the maintenance and security of all your computers.” In the beginning they were licensing a third party antivirus engine, but after family members were infected with the "FBI Virus" they created their own antivirus software based on the whitelist approach, developed entirely in the United States. As far as I know, PC Matic is the only internet security product that's entirely US-based, including research, development and support. In the fall of 2019, the PC Pitstop brand was retired and the company now operates as PC Matic. And despite the PC-centric moniker, it's also available for Mac, and Android.

PC Matic has followed a road less traveled by its many competitors. First of all, PC Matic eschews the “freemium” shareware model. If you want to try it, you must first buy it for $50. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee but it offers no functional free version at all. The “free trial” version scans and reports problems that are found, but does not make any changes unless a license is purchased. The $50 annual charge lets you install it on up to 5 computers, but there's also a $150 "Evergreen" one-time payment option that never needs renewal.

Second, PC Matic is “as seen on TV.” Yep, Mr. Cheng takes to the airwaves to sell his software. Apparently, TV advertising and the "Made in America" pitch still work. You can see the PC Matic commercials here. If you lived in the greater NYC area in the 1980s, you might remember "Fudgie the Whale" and other commercials that Tom Carvel did for the Carvel ice cream company. And Crazy Eddie? They were terrible, but I loved them! So maybe Cheng is on to something with the personal approach, because the company is going strong.

AV-Test, the independent security testing lab, gave PC Matic a perfect score in Protection and Performance in their latest round of testing. They dinged PC Matic in the Usability category, due to a number of false positives for legitimate software. But that's the beauty of whitelisting. If a program is not on the list of "known good" programs, PC Matic puts up a warning and only lets it run if the user approves.

So yes, 18 months ago I gave my credit card number to PC Matic, paid the $50 and became the owner of a 5-seat license. I confess it felt weird to buy software I had not thoroughly checked out. But all those recommendations from my own readers and the money-back guarantee persuaded me to give it a try, and thus far I'm a very happy camper.

Last month I upgraded my last Windows 7 laptop to Windows 10, so I decided to install the PC Matic software on that computer. There were a few minor glitches in my 2018 install, but this time everything worked flawlessly. The software started up and prompted me to run an initial scan. To my surprise, it flagged three potentially malicious programs that Avast had allowed in. There was also an option to turn on the PC Matic Adblocker extension.

PC Matic seems to have little concern for aesthetics and other trappings of software “coolness.” IObit's Advanced SystemCare, a competing PC optimizer, always annoyed me with skins and themes and other things I could not care less about. Instead, PC Matic focuses on improving performance and security. PC Matic’s user interface ignores Google’s trendy Material Design minimalism. Most of the screen is filled with text and big, easily clicked icons.

In other words, PC Matic is software for us Elder Geeks. I like it!

Easy to Use and Understand

Super Shield is the real-time antivirus scanner for PC Matic that prevents malicious programs from running on your PC. Known threats will be blocked and known safe programs will be allowed to launch. Super Shield blocks polymorphic threats (malware that evolves as it spreads), and also catches emerging threats such as fileless malware and ransomware. If you are currently running another anti-virus program, you should disable or uninstall it before turning on SuperShield. Click the Super Shield icon on the main screen to enable or disable the Super Shield protection.

Clicking the “Scan” button launches multiple clean-up, optimize, and security scan routines that just run one after another while you do something else or stare enraptured at flying toasters and other signs of benchmark test activity. Very little effort is required of the user.

When PC Matic finishes a scan – which took less than five minutes the very first time, you can review the results. Any malicious files, outdated software and drivers, or unneeded junk files will be reported. Clicking "Next" displays a list of what it proposes to delete or tweak to improve your PC’s performance. The plan seemed quite feasible to I clicked just once to allow all of the “fixes” to be performed. That did not take long, either.

After about ten minutes, total, I had what seemed to be a brand-new PC: speedy, responsive, smoothly flowing. To my surprise, my Internet download speed was actually a bit higher than the 200 Mbps promised by Optimum. Usually it measures about 10% on the low side. On a second computer, an older laptop with a wifi connection, my speed measured in the mid-60s of Mbps, twice as fast as before when I let Advanced System Care Pro optimize my Internet configuration. Disk operations are swift and silent; PC Matic’s disk optimizer seems superior, too.

PC Matic scan results

After completing its tweaks, cleanups, and security precautions, PC Matic displays a one-screen summary of what it has accomplished. It also recommends a restart and re-scan of the system to make sure all proposed tweaks were executed. I ran a second scan and found only a couple of new tweaks necessary. The second scantook only half the time of the first scan I ran on this machine.

While using the program, I got a few cryptic popup messages. But clicking "Ok" to continue seemed to clear things up with no noticeable repercussions. PC Matic also flagged a few items as malware that I felt were false positives, but they were old programs that I no longer used, so I allowed for their removal.

The Bottom Line

Is PC Matic worth $50 a year, to protect up to five computers? That compares favorably with most PC optimizer and security suites. They do offer an "Evergreen" option, which costs $150 and never expires. Mr. Cheng seems a bit old-fashioned in his pricing strategy, but that means he’s honest about what he thinks his product is worth. I have to agree with him.

I'm running PC Matic with Super Shield, and aside from the few cosmetic glitches, so far I'm very pleased and impressed. Over the past year and a half, it has done a great job of protecting several computers in my home and office from ransomware and other threats. The regularly scheduled scans and optimizations keep them running smoothly.

If you are looking for an all-in-one PC optimizer/cleaner/security tool, PC Matic is an excellent choice, and my current recommendation.

Have you tried PC Matic? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Review: PC Matic Gets a Zero!"

(See all 45 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Frank
21 Feb 2020

Add me to the "True Believers" list. I am coming up on a year with PC Matic since ditching IObit Advance System Care and Avast before that. Both just "nickel and dime" me to the point of aggravation. No problems with PC Matic. Running on two desktops, one smart phone and a tablet is next on the list. As soon as I can spell "able" I am going to Evergreen. I am thoroughly happy with my made in the USA product.


Posted by:

Bob K
21 Feb 2020

Very happy with Malwarebytes, no need for trying anything else.


Posted by:

marty m
21 Feb 2020

I have been running PC Matic for a couple years and love it. It has blocked a site or 2 but a simple click and it works fine.
I ran Trend Micro for over a decade and it only had one or two failures. So far PC Matic is flawless.


Posted by:

Alan D
21 Feb 2020

Yes Bob, I thoroughly agree with your assessment of PC Matic. I read your review, I guess about a year ago. I was running Norton 360 at the time and still had a full year to go on my subscription. My subscription was about to expire so, I went with PC Matic and am very pleased with the program. It ran flawlessly the first time and thereafter. It costs a little less than Norton, and that makes me even happier I made the change. I was initially impressed when I watched the ads on TV, when Mr. Cheng said it is made in the U.S.A. and most of the others aren't!


Posted by:

Stephen
21 Feb 2020

I went in a different direction. I stopped using Voodooshield, Sandboxie and Bitdefender and replaced them with ReHIPS, Windows Defender and MalwareBytes Windows Firewall Control. The latter two are free programs. I've had no problem with malware, virus etc in the past two years.


Posted by:

tristram
21 Feb 2020

@Curtis wrote:
"On reading your review last year I decided to try it over Norton 360. Iam glad I listened to you (purchased through your patch to give the credit proper)"

Where can I find this "patch" for purchasing?


Posted by:

misterfish
21 Feb 2020

Another useful report, thank you Bob. From your recommendation I would happily stump up the evergreen fee, but as a pensioner on pathetic British pension it is beyond my means for now. In fact it costs more than my desktop...
Yep, I know the risks of running lesser protection free software, but I'll have to make do with it - at least a good back-up regime is free!


Posted by:

Ray Clinton
21 Feb 2020

I've been using PC- MATIC for over 5 years and have never had a problem with it. I went to the evergreen plan after the first year and no longer deal with a yearly charge and removing old computers and adding new ones is a easy. I have had excellent success with there tech support. I recommended it to our church after they had some malware problems and they purchased a lifetime for 10 computers. They haven't had any additional problems since we installed it 4 years ago


Posted by:

Old Guy
21 Feb 2020

I started using PCmatic taking the commercial claims at face value several years ago. I had previously dodged a couple of ransomware attacks that my free security missed. Since using PCmatic no threats, no issues. It's great piece of mind knowing I have one less concern about those seeking to mulishly attack my online activity.


Posted by:

Norman Rosen
21 Feb 2020

I also have been using PC Matic for at least 15 years. The first time I used it on a computer I had been using for a number of years, I immediately noticed an improvement in performance. I then put it on every new computer I have owned. Never had a problem with it, never had a virus. I have an Evergreen license, one of the best purchases I have ever made. Wonderful program.


Posted by:

Joe
21 Feb 2020

I have been using PC Matic for about 6 years and I also went for the "evergreen" and paid the $150.00 for the for-ever service and I have not had any
problems.I run the complete scan about once a month just to let it do its thing. Great program!


Posted by:

michael
21 Feb 2020

I read your piece with both mighty optimism AND skepticism. It is very STRANGE that a top picks article embedded in the midst of your piece, i.e., numbers of Google top listings web pages DIDN’T EVEN MENTION PCMATIC. Are we to believe that your recommendation supersedes those of a long listing of “security” programs, even from Google? Might this simply be a result of a Google programmer who doesn’t like PCMATIC and dropped it from their comparison? Gotta wonder!
Moreover, although I’m impressed with PCMatic’s listing of functionality, BUT the pricing is VERY MUCH OUT OF WHACK! As a single user I find it abhorrent that we are demanded to pay five times the amount of those with a brood of users. Aren’t my pockets emptied sufficiently by the government to pick up the “differential” cost for their promises?
I respectfully suggest that PCMatic restructure their cost for single-seat customers to $50/per five years in lieu of $50/yr. As it currently stands, the payment structure is no different than our paying for government programs promised by politicians for votes, especially since the single user gets nothing beyond reducing the weight of dollars in their pockets. If I want to contribute to such programs or people I’ll give at the office. I am confident that I am not alone in such sentiments and that returning moral equity to their pricing also would induce a lot of singles to buy in.

IN SHORT, INTRODUCE EQUITY INTO THE PRICING SCHEMA OR CONTINUE TO FORGET ABOUT SINGLE “SEAT” USERS.


Posted by:

soussi
21 Feb 2020

If PCmatic costs $50,00 for 5 PCs, why is it not possible to sell it for $10,00 for 1 PC only? 50:5=10$). If this is the case I´ll buy one even if it costs $20,00; but $50,00 is too expensive!!!

Thank you for the reply.


Posted by:

Charley
21 Feb 2020

Over the years I have used MANY different anti-malware solutions (Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro, Bitdefender, AVG, Avast, Avira, etc.). Sometimes I chose a free one because I had an extra computer I didn't use very often and didn't want to pay for another license. Other times I switched because of performance problems (Norton in the old days was a known performance hog but they eventually fixed that). Sometime I just wanted to try out the different interfaces and features. And I keep up with the reviews on av-test.org and other testing sites to make sure that the software I choose is doing a good job protecting me.

I currently use Norton because it works wells and it is free from Comcast if you are Comcast Internet subscriber. Many ISPs provide you with a decent free antivirus.

Depending on your needs, Windows Defender is probably good enough for most people.

PC Matic when it was PC Pitstop had a mix of good and bad reviews. But current reviews of PC Matic seem to have gotten better and it gets pretty good reviews these days.


Posted by:

Dana Lynch
21 Feb 2020

I have been using paid Avast Premium Security for 2 years and also had zero results. It has blocked suspicious websites and script. It blocks suspicious software I'm installing which I know is safe by adding to Block Exemption. I have no popups of any kind so I'm happy with it so far.


Posted by:

Dave Rodgers
22 Feb 2020

@michael @soussi The license fee is for 1 or up to 5 computers. My guess it takes as much work to cover 1 computer as it does for 5. For a long time, I had a ransomeware problem that occurred a couple times a week, locking up my computer. The only way I could defeat it was to MANUALLY turn off my computer, wait at least one minute then restart. Since installing PC Matic, this ransomeware has never reoccured! Very happy two year plus PC Matic user!


Posted by:

Buffet
23 Feb 2020

Dear Bob,
I've been using ESET's NOD32 Suite (paid version) for many years now and am very happy with it, with one MAJOR exception - it will not allow me to temporarily turn it off or disable it - even using the Task Manager?? Seriously!!
I DO NOT like that.
Makes me feel as though the program itself has highjacked my PC. My question sir is: Would PC Matic alleviate this problem for me? If so, I believe I would switch.

EDITOR'S NOTE:PC Matic does have the option to temporarily turn off.


Posted by:

ChrisR
24 Feb 2020

Interesting article, Bob.

I was a little suspicious of the "non-tranferable" bit of the PC-Matic licence and emailed to ask them what would happen if I changed PCs or had a hard disk failure.

They replied very quickly, assuring me that it meant non-transferable to another person and that it could be transferred free of charge to a new PC or replacement drive.

I'm suitably impressed by their customer service, even though I'm not yet a customer.

Cheers
Chris


Posted by:

Allen McDonald
25 Feb 2020

Thanks for the PC-Matic review Bob.
I'll continue using it as I always have. I trust
their approach.

Allen


Posted by:

Carl A. Giffels
25 Feb 2020

Last summer, after an overnight reboot, presumably for an update, I discovered the next morning that my financial management app was no longer able to save its data to the "Documents" folder as before. The app's technical support service was unable to help. I subsequently found I could change the save location to the "App Data" folder. All was well, except that some other apps also reported inability to create or write to the "Documents" folder. Last week, my scanner couldn't even save to the "Pictures" folder. I decided to take my laptop to a local computer shop for help. After a few minutes of examination, he said I would need to leave it, but when I pressed him on what he was going to do, he said he didn't have time to work on it. So I took it back home. I read your article on PC-Matic, and decided to buy it. After I installed it and it did its scans, I discovered the problem was gone. I don't know what caused the problem, but I think PC-Matic fixed it! I am now a happy PC-Matic fan.


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