Rather than relying on a series of different security tools from a hotchpotch of vendors, home users are increasingly making the switch to a single, unified solution for their PC security needs.

With big names like Norton, McAfee and ZoneAlarm roaming this territory, it's little wonder that other players often get left in the shadows. One such player that's definitely worthy of consideration is BitDefender Internet Security 2008.

All bases covered

Like Norton, BitDefender originally made its mark in the anti-virus arena and has since evolved into a comprehensive suite of Internet security tools. This latest version includes anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, privacy control and anti-spam components. As an added bonus, BitDefender also includes a parental control module, helping parents have the final say on what their young ones can access online.

The big plus in BitDefender is its streamlined Security Center interface. This tool is arguably far more effective than the native Windows tool, providing an excellent overview of your computer's security situation and the ability to fix any issues with single-click ease. If you want solid protection but would rather be shielded from all the details, this feature is a winner.

Advanced users will also find their needs met with the ability to dig deeper and control virtually every aspect of the program, from the configuration of advanced firewall rules through to the finer points of spam filtering.

The only niggle is the wording of configuration items in the advanced settings section, which can be a little confusing because of numerous grammar and spelling errors in the interface.

Getting the job done

Poor grammar aside, the core programs get the job done. After installation we were alerted to the unsecured nature of the local wireless network and advised to get it fixed. Access to this network was blocked until we designated it as trusted - an easy task. All outgoing connections were blocked until permitted via the on-screen pop-ups, and the firewall worked in stealth mode automatically.

While the virus scanner isn't the fastest we've seen, it caught all of our planted viruses and prohibited the download of new threats. The anti-spam component is better than most, and did a great job of recognising spam messages as they arrived.

Over days of testing only a few spam messages got through, with no false positives on legitimate messages. The privacy control module worked flawlessly, blocking personal data from leaving our PC via Web or email connections.

Of all the components in the suite, only the parental control module disappoints. It provides some great features (such as the ability to restrict time spent online on a per-user basis), but the traffic filter for young children or teens is aggressive. While it blocked access to inappropriate content, it blocked too many legitimate searches to make it an effective tool.

Choosing the security suite that's right for you comes down to test-driving them and deciding which you like best, and BitDefender 2008 is definitely one to consider. At £22, it's easily among the most competitively priced suites around.