McAfee Review: Summary
McAfee is ranked #3 out of 28 antivirus software.
What sets McAfee apart, is that it you can protect an unlimited number of devices with some of its more expensive plans, like Premium and Advanced. On top of that, it is a leader in identity theft protection, just like Norton.
However, if you turn off McAfee’s auto-renewal, it activates a VPN data limit of 500 MB/day, removes the virus protection pledge, and limits dark web monitoring. Also, Norton and Bitdefender earn far better user reviews.
- Malware protection: 100%. McAfee averaged 6 out of 6 in the last 10 protection tests. It is excellent at detecting and removing malware.
- Speed impact: 85%. McAfee averaged 5.85 out of 6 in the last 10 performance tests. So it has a minimal impact on your PC’s speed.
- Features: 100%. McAfee offers anti-malware, anti-phishing, firewall, unlimited VPN, password manager, parental controls, and more.
- Price: 95%. McAfee offers better value for money than most competitors, except Kaspersky, which is slightly cheaper.
Try it risk-free, thanks to the 30-day money-back guarantee.
|Ranking||#3 of 28|
|Operating systems||Windows, macOS, iOS, Android|
|Discount||Save 60% on McAfee|
Below, we have compared McAfee Basic to Norton 360 Standard. These are the most affordable products at each brand, which allow you to protect at least 1 PC with the core features:
- Anti-phishing (web protection)
- Password manager
- Unlimited VPN (no data limit)
Test score comparison
We’ve compared the 10 most recent test scores of all antivirus brands. The tests were performed by AV-Test, the German anti-malware test lab. They use three factors:
- Protection (1-6): Antivirus protection against malware attacks.
- Performance (1-6): System slowdown caused by the antivirus.
- Usability (1-6): Frequency of false alarms and disruptions.
We used their results, and this formula, to calculate the final score:
Final Score = 60% Protection + 20% Performance + 20% Usability.
Brands not listed in the table haven’t participated in the analysis by AV-Test. This is usually not a good sign. Because most reputable brands, except Panda, ESET, and Sophos, partake in the test.
We’ve compared the prices of the top antivirus products for Windows. To make it a fair comparison, we looked at what it would cost us, to protect a Windows PC with the following essential features:
- Anti-phishing (web protection)
- Password manager
- Unlimited VPN (no data limit)
A few notes:
- Some brands are missing features, lowering their value for money.
- Prices are second-year prices in the USA, without first-year discounts.
- Prices are rounded up for readability (e.g., $99.99 becomes $100).
Brands have different prices outside the USA. See those on their website.
We’ve compared the user reviews of all antivirus brands. We’ve used the scores and review count of TrustPilot, a leading user review platform. However, take these results with a grain of salt, as some brands actively attempt to increase their ratings.
Personally, we are wary of exceptionally high scores. Especially those by brands such as TotalAV, known for aggressive marketing and sales tactics.
We consider scores between 4.0 and 4.5 good and realistic. Higher scores are dubious, and lower scores indicate that the brand might have a poor product or customer service. McAfee’s scores, for instance, are worrying.
In the table below are the core products with their features and prices.
The prices shown are from the USA. However, most brands have different prices (and currencies) in other regions. So visit the brand’s website to see the price in our country.
McAfee antivirus review
McAfee’s antivirus uses traditional detection methods and heuristics, checking against a big virus database and studying file behavior. I tested McAfee with a large malware database on my PC, and it detected 100% of them. Only Norton and Bitdefender can compete with McAfee’s excellent results.
The full system scan took about 1 hour, similar to Bitdefender but slower than Norton and Avira. McAfee’s quick scan took under 3 minutes, and custom scans varied in time. One downside is that McAfee slows down the system during scans. However, you can schedule scans for times you won’t use your PC, unlike some competitors like TotalAV.
Overall, McAfee offers reliable protection, fast scanning, and simple scheduling.
McAfee’s firewall is powerful, user-friendly, and customizable. It detects various threats and is more accurate than built-in Windows and macOS firewalls. Users can decide which programs access the web, open/close ports, and choose protection levels, among other options.
It’s suitable for both tech-savvy and novice users. McAfee’s firewall provides excellent network protection and advanced settings, making it one of the best firewalls in 2023.
McAfee Safe Connect VPN uses TunnelBear technology, offering easy use, fast connection, and basic online activities. A VPN secures and hides your data and IP address, making it seem like you’re in a different place. McAfee’s VPN has 1,900+ servers in 45+ countries, not as many as ExpressVPN. It uses strong 256-bit AES encryption and has a kill switch.
McAfee’s VPN follows TunnelBear’s no-logs policy, not tracking your online activities. It’s audited yearly. It can access Netflix and Amazon Prime but not Disney+ or Hulu. CyberGhost and NordVPN works better with streaming services. McAfee’s VPN lacks extra features like split-tunneling and obfuscated servers.
Despite limitations, McAfee Safe Connect VPN has fast speeds and decent performance. It’s suitable for browsing and streaming but lacks some features compared to standalone VPN providers.
McAfee WebAdvisor is a free tool that protects against phishing, exploits, and cryptojackers. It offers additional browser security for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Explorer, and Safari. It checks websites for threats, outperforming Chrome and Firefox in tests.
Secure Search mode offers color-coded safety ratings for search results. It also rates social media links with high accuracy. To install, find it on McAfee’s website. Overall, WebAdvisor is an excellent online protection tool, particularly for inexperienced users.
McAfee Total Protection has two performance tools: Tracker Remover and Web Boost. Tracker Remover cleans browser cookies, trackers, browsing history, Windows active history, recycle bin items, and temporary files. It quickly frees up space, and it’s easy to view scan details.
Web Boost, a Chrome extension, stops videos from auto-playing, but may be less useful. McAfee’s performance tools are generally helpful and user-friendly.
McAfee’s password manager, called True Key, offers decent password protection but lacks some features found in top password managers in 2023. It uses 256-bit AES encryption and zero-knowledge architecture for secure storage and syncing.
Compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Firefox, Chrome, Edge, and Safari, it provides unlimited password storage, credit card/document storage, secure notes, a password generator, and auto-fill.
However, it doesn’t have secure 2FA, password sharing, vault auditing, or breach monitoring. True Key is user-friendly and good for basic password management but not as feature-rich as competitors like 1Password and Dashlane.
McAfee Safe Family is a good app for parental control on Windows, Android, and iOS devices. It doesn’t come with antivirus bundles, but can be bought separately or with family Premium and Advanced plans.
The app lets you filter web content, limit device use, block apps, and track device location accurately. It’s easy to use and allows children to request access to blocked content.
Safe Family effectively blocks unwanted web content, such as adult sites, violent games, and hate speech. It also prevents downloading new apps or making in-app purchases without permission. The app can’t be easily uninstalled from a child’s device. A useful feature is location tracking, which is more accurate than Apple or Google’s tools.
However, Safe Family lacks some important features like YouTube monitoring, phone call and text message monitoring, and an emergency contact option. Some features don’t work with iOS devices.
Despite these limitations, McAfee Safe Family is a great app for parental control, and improvements like YouTube monitoring would make it even better.
McAfee offers an Identity Monitoring service that keeps an eye on personal information (PII) using dark web tracking and Experian’s credit network. It’s available in 30+ countries, unlike TotalAV, which is only for US customers. This tool monitors various PII types, like social security numbers, birth dates, driver’s licenses, and more.
If your data is breached, McAfee guides you on protecting your PII. For instance, it helps change compromised passwords quickly. With McAfee Advanced, you receive Personal Data Cleanup, $1 million Identity Theft Coverage, Lost Wallet Protection, and Security Freeze. The Cleanup tool scans data broker directories and stops them from profiting off your PII.
McAfee’s Privacy Protection tool helps remove your info from data broker directories. Upgrading to premium means McAfee does this automatically. Norton provides a similar service. The Lost Wallet service assists in organizing cancellations and re-issues if you lose your wallet, credit card, or IDs. Security Freeze prevents unauthorized individuals from opening accounts in your name.
McAfee has different identity theft protection levels. Total Protection Plus without auto-renewal includes dark web monitoring and dedicated support. Auto-renewal plans add more PII monitoring. The Premium plan has Personal Data Cleanup (manual removal only), while Advanced users receive full-service removal, $1 million insurance, Lost Wallet Protection, and Security Freeze.
In conclusion, McAfee Identity Monitoring is a great, budget-friendly choice for users in many countries who want to protect their identity.
Total Protection includes a home network analyzer, vulnerability scanner and secure file shredder. The network analyzer displays an easy-to-read map of connected devices, helping users identify and troubleshoot issues.
The vulnerability scanner checks for outdated programs, crucial for avoiding zero-day attacks and software exploits. The secure file shredder permanently removes sensitive files. These additional features make McAfee’s premium antivirus offering valuable.
Note: McAfee Total protection is the same as McAfee LiveSafe. Only McAfee Total Protection is sold on the website, and McAfee LifeSafe comes pre-installed on laptops.
Installation and user experience
McAfee installs quickly and starts an antivirus scan. The dashboard looks simple but can be confusing. It has six main features:
- Tracker remover.
- Protection score.
- Secure VPN.
- ID protection.
- Protect more devices.
The Antivirus button is handy, but the protection score seems unnecessary. Other features, like the firewall, are hidden in the My Protection sidebar. Parental controls and identity theft protection are found only on the online dashboard.
The password manager and VPN are separate apps. McAfee should integrate all features into a single interface like TotalAV and Bitdefender.
Most of McAfee’s features are easy to use. Some, like the VPN and Safe Family apps, could be included in the dashboard for easier access.
McAfee Mobile Security for iOS and Android is easy to navigate, with some tools activated via on-screen buttons and the rest in a top right menu. McAfee quickly detects Android malware but lacks an antivirus scanner for iOS, offering anti-phishing protection instead.
The app no longer has anti-theft features but includes: • Wi-Fi network scanner. • Secure VPN (not as good as ExpressVPN). • ID theft protection.
While not as feature-rich as Norton’s mobile app, McAfee’s app is affordable for iOS and Android users, especially with the Premium plan.
McAfee provides customer support through live chat and phone, available 24/7. Their support forum is active and has quick response times. The online knowledge base can be frustrating, but live chat and phone support are helpful. McAfee’s support is one of the best among antivirus brands, and the 24/7 live chat is accessible to all users.
McAfee’s antivirus software offers robust security, with a 100% malware detection rating. It may slow down systems during scans, but scheduling can help. The firewall, web protections, parental controls, and mobile apps are excellent.
The VPN and password manager are decent but not the best. Overall, McAfee is a top internet security suite with affordable plans and great features. It also has strong customer support and a 30-day money-back guarantee on any McAfee subscription.
How do we test antivirus software?
The best antivirus software offer virus protection, identity theft protection, and privacy protection for Windows, macOS, and Android. Some also offer security features for iOS and Linus.
To evaluate which providers are worth your money, we run 11 tests:
> Test 1: Anti-malware protection test
We analyze antivirus software’s capability to detect and eliminate known and unknown malware, using heuristic analysis for behavior monitoring.
We conduct in-house tests and analyze those from labs like AV-Test, SE Labs, and AV-Comparatives to determine the best malware protection.
Malware includes adware, keyloggers, ransomware, rootkits, spyware, trojans, viruses, worms, and more. Other cyber threats, usually not classified as malware, are (zero-day) exploits, hacks, identity theft, phishing attacks, scams, and social engineering.
> Test 2: False positives test
False positives occur when antivirus software misidentifies legitimate software, files, or websites as malicious. We rely on AV-Test’s large-scale analysis of false positives in its usability test to guide our evaluations.
> Test 3: System performance test
We measure the CPU load during antivirus software system scans and consider AV-Test’s performance results on the slowdown caused by antivirus software when opening websites and handling software.
> Test 4: Firewall test
We evaluate two-way firewalls that filter incoming and outgoing data and allow users to set rules to regulate data streams. We use the ShieldsUP! test to determine if the antivirus software blocks all ports.
> Test 5: Password manager test
We assess password managers’ ability to create, store, and autofill secure passwords, as well as additional features like two-factor authentication and biometric login.
> Test 6: Virtual Private Network (VPN) test
We evaluate built-in VPNs on their security, privacy, speed, compatibility with streaming services, unlimited data access, and support for peer-to-peer networks and torrent clients.
> Test 7: Parental control test
We examine parental control features, such as screen time rules, website/app blocking, and real-world location tracking. We test these features on a device and attempt to circumvent them, checking if the activity is accurately reported in the parental control admin.
> Test 8: Anti-phishing protection test
We evaluate antivirus browser extensions that block phishing sites by installing them and attempting to visit dangerous URLs.
> Test 9: Ransomware protection test
We assess security suites’ ability to prevent data encryption through exploit prevention and behavioral detection during ransomware attacks.
> Test 10: Bonus features test
We test any additional cybersecurity tools such as:
- Ad Blocker
- Dark web monitoring (identity protection)
- Email protection
- File encryption
- File shredder
- Gaming mode
- Microphone protection
- PC maintenance features
- Secure browser (hardened browser to protect your online banking)
- Secure cloud storage (cloud backup)
- Spam filter
- Startup optimizer
- Tune up tools
- Virtual keyboard
- Webcam protection
> Test 11: Operating system and multiple devices test
Operating system and multiple devices: We test antivirus software on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices and award bonus points for unlimited device protection.
> Test 12: Ownership and reputation test
We analyze the trustworthiness of antivirus companies, especially concerning customer data. We read press releases, news articles, and privacy policies to determine their reputation.
Sources and tools
Below are the sources and tools we’ve used to test the antivirus software:
- Apple Platform Security
- AV-Comparatives Consumer
- AV-Test Android
- AV-Test macOS
- AV-Test Windows
- GRC Firewall Test
- Microsoft Defender
- SpeedTest VPN
- Trustpilot Security Software
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are the most frequently asked questions.
Is McAfee a good antivirus program?
How do we test antivirus software?
We analyze the protection from malware, the performance impact on a PC, and the number of false positives. On top of that, we test various security features such as the firewall, password manager, VPN, and more.
Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab
Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.
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