McAfee Antivirus Review
Computer code is all around us, as are malicious actors trying to sabotage it. Unfortunately, hiring people to block these cyber-attacks would be too slow and expensive. So antivirus comes, a cheap, automated solution detecting and blocking cyber-attacks. In this McAfee antivirus review, we’ll take a look at one such solution. Envisioned in 1987 by the late entrepreneur John McAfee, this sophisticated cyber-security suite covers everything from internet surfing to safe file deletion and local drive encryption. McAfee antivirus has it all, but at what cost?
Ease of use
Value for Money
Starting from: $24.99/year
Pricing Model: Subscription
Yes, has free trial
No free version
- An array of privacy and security tools
- Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS version
- Free trial
- Sketchy Windows 7 support
- More products and offers than Pokémon
- Small business
- Medium business
- Large enterprises
- Cloud, SaaS, Web-Based
McAfee – total virus protection
McAfee Total Protection is an umbrella term for the bundle featuring the most commonly used McAfee cyber-security tools. These are:
- file remover
- file shredder
- safe browsing
- file encryption
- PC optimization
- password manager
- identity protection service
They provide layers of security, which make your device exceedingly difficult to compromise. Even if the attacker gets through, everything is locked down so tight that there’s nothing to sabotage or steal. Moreover, McAfee Total Protection goes beyond the typical virus protection of just any antivirus software. Viruses are no longer the most dangerous computer threat — now there are cryptominers, browsing trackers, and much more, jointly called “malware,” and McAfee Total Protection thwarts them all.
What is McAfee antivirus?
McAfee antivirus is a toolbox filled to the brim with security software. One-half of it is antivirus protection, which works in the background to stop malware from sabotaging the device. The other half is the McAfee security suite, which gives you tools to take charge of your data and the device’s integrity. Everything is optimized to be accessible and usable by a layman.
Total virus protection with McAfee
Once you download the McAfee antivirus and finish the installation, the antivirus slinks into the shadows to act as a bodyguard for the device. The McAfee antivirus login lets you make an account to customize the settings. In addition, online protection modules keep you safe during extended browsing sessions, where one wrong click would otherwise cause a disaster.
McAfee Antivirus Features
Let’s discover some of the features sold bundled as “McAfee Total Protection.”
Virtual private network. Routes the internet traffic from your device through one or more random devices to try and cover your tracks. It Uses AES 256-bit encryption, which is strong but may perform poorly on computationally challenged devices. Comes with five licenses. The official website wording implies you get it only after your Total Protection subscription auto-renews.
A firewall blocks unwanted incoming or outgoing internet traffic. This can stop malware from coming in or sending out personal data. It might block wanted traffic by accident, such as coming from or going to a printer. Learning firewall management helps you maximize utility while minimizing exposure to malware.
You can set the firewall to turn back on after some time, such as after 15, 30, 45, 60 minutes, or upon PC restart. Other options show a detailed breakdown of firewall activation and program connection history. A Smart Advice module helps you decide which traffic to let through. If you want, you can give the reins to Smart Advice.
I love the HackerWatch integration. In short, the firewall looks up the global hacking stats to figure out if a new connection is dangerous. For example, if hackers use a particular port for intrusions, a brand new connection on that port is most likely a cyber-attack. In addition, the firewall automatically hides notifications for gamers while a fullscreen video game is running. Once it’s turned off, the notifications resume.
Antivirus scans files and processes on your device. The scan results are compared to the known malicious files and processes database. The process is blocked if a match is found and the file is quarantined. You can set the scan range and speed (slower is more thorough). False positives are possible but only rarely. If they happen, you can exclude the file or process from scans.
McAfee antivirus provides minimal protection if the malware attacking your machine is completely new. I hope you’re regularly backing up your PC’s data on an external drive or a cloud service.
Programs running on your device leave temporary files; browsers are the worst offenders. If not cleaned on a schedule, these files can bog down the device and the programs themselves. This simple tool cleans out the default temporary file locations.
Deleted files don’t disappear from your PC. The operating system removes any reference to it, so you can’t access it normally, but the file is still present. An attacker who knows where to look can find any “deleted” files and recover them. The file shredder takes Care of these files by overwriting the place they occupy in the system with random data. Anyone looking at them will see junk. You can shred the same file several times; once is enough.
This module is also called Web Advisor. You can download it as a standalone program for free. It keeps you safe on the internet by scanning the files you download, the addresses you visit, and the links you click. In addition, web Advisor color-codes search result links during web search to let you know which ones are reputable. The best use of this module is for older people who are prone to falling for scams. However, if you don’t use anything else from McAfee, Web Advisor is worth a shot.
Even if your device is stolen, nobody can’t access encrypted files without the password you set. There are security questions that reset the password.
Remember that program you downloaded two years ago and started only once? Your PC does. If the program auto-updates or runs on startup, it might be clogging your bandwidth and draining your PC’s power without providing any benefit. On the other hand, if you have a program that’s been running slow, it might be time for a tune-up. This module scans programs and the files they’ve been using. If something’s wrong, the module fixes it, cleaning up junk files and optimizing their settings. You will also get your PC settings corrected to get Windows updates.
Moreover, it provides little utility. For most programs, the default settings work best. Unfortunately, there is no recourse if the program works poorly because it’s shoddily made. If something went wrong during operation, reinstalling it from scratch is the best option.
A strong password is long, quirky, and memorable. However, if you’ve been (re)using weak passwords, you’re exposing yourself to serious trouble. Anyone who guesses one of your passwords can easily breach the rest of your connected accounts. McAfee True Key lets you have strong passwords without a photographic memory. Instead, it stores and manages your passwords in a secure but not very convenient way.
True Key is way too basic for anyone older than a high schooler compared to other keyring programs. There is no form autofill or other handy features to minimize password exposure. However, there is a free version, which stores only 15 passwords. The paid version is $19.99 a year, making it one of the cheapest keyring tools on the market.
Identity protection service
Identity theft is the most common crime. Baddies love it because it’s simple, doesn’t raise the alarm, and rarely gets them in trouble. But, unfortunately, identity theft often does enormous, irreparable damage. Wherever you go, you leave digital breadcrumbs. Anyone persistent enough to pick them up can steal your identity, access your accounts, and more. You’d marvel at the ingenuity of hackers.
Love taking online personality quizzes? They can reveal answers to your secret questions, such as the name of your first pet. But then, hackers can build your personality profile over months or years and target you specifically. Even if you don’t expose yourself online, social networks, such as Facebook, have turned to track into an art form. You see the Facebook Like button, your presence and activity are reported to the mothership. As a result, Facebook can understand, predict, and manipulate your behavior based on that.
McAfee identity protection advises you on how to leave fewer breadcrumbs but can also monitor your banking and similar accounts. When McAfee detects suspicious activity on those accounts, you are notified straight away to limit your losses. In addition, the module provides up to $1mm of data breach insurance if a data breach harms you while you’re protected by it. Unfortunately, this payout comes with so many conditions that I doubt anyone has ever gotten or will ever get it.
There is a similar marketing gimmick for virus infections. McAfee promises to pay you if your PC gets infected while running McAfee antivirus. The fine print attached to the offer makes winning the lottery seem trivial.
McAfee feature bundles
McAfee tools’ features are bundled in different ways and offer standalone products. Therefore, the following list is not exhaustive. In addition, I excluded some bundles with a distinct name but feel identical to an existing bundle.
It appears to be an alternative name for McAfee Total Protection, except it covers unlimited devices by default. Costs $39.99 for the first year and $129.99 each year after.
McAfee Small Business Security
It appears to be McAfee Total Protection for five computers and unlimited iOS/Android devices. The first-year costs $99.99, with every year after $104.99.
McAfee Safe Connect VPN
The VPN feature is described above. Costs $7.99 a month, $19.99 for the first year, and $47.99 every year after. May slow down surfing due to the internet traffic’s multiple hops. Provides security only if you know how to resist fingerprinting.
Websites collect tidbits of data about your device, such as installed fonts and browser window dimensions. They can positively identify and track you with enough data, even though your traffic is encrypted. Streaming websites, such as Hulu, can recognize VPN traffic and refuse to serve VPN users. The free version allows only 250MB of data every 30 days.
McAfee Safe Family
Parental controls dashboard. Shows the location, activities, and alerts of connected devices. In addition, it can schedule screen time and app use on connected devices. It comes with predefined rules for age ranges, with the ability to customize them and allow kids to request exceptions. It costs $7.99 a month or $49.99 a year—limited functionality on iOS devices due to their baked-in restrictions.
McAfee Gamer Security
Free 30-day trial, after which it renews at $59.99 a year. Works on Windows 10 version 1809 and later. Features:
- Game Boost Engine — Prioritizes video games over other applications on the machine.
- Realtime Performance Monitoring — performance dashboard
- MicroAV Engine — cloud-based antivirus
Free download. The description on the official website states it detects and resolves crashes, removes disk clutter, and improves PC performance. However, upon downloading and running the file on my fresh install of Windows 10, a splash window titled “McAfee TechCheck ver: 18.104.22.168” appeared. I let it sit for 30 minutes, but nothing appeared.
McAfee TechMaster Concierge
This remote troubleshooting service is available only in Canada, the US, the UK, and only in English. The one-time service is called “TechMaster”; the year-long subscription plan is “TechMaster Concierge.” The gist is that a computer expert peeks into your device and fixes the problem. It Covers IoT (internet-of-things) devices and ancient browser versions. I am pleasantly surprised that Firefox 3.5 (released in 2009) and Google Chrome 6 (released in 2010) are covered. If you need to make them work as expected, this service is your solution for whatever reason. Concierge is available in two versions:
- Gold for $179.95 a year
- Platinum for $209.95 a year
Gold covers one main device with up to 4 connected ones, such as printers. Platinum covers 2main devices with up to 4 connected devices total. Platinum also comes with McAfee TechMate, a PC optimization tool. All TechMaster services are under a 7-day money-back guarantee. You pay before the service call. Then, if you can’t fix the problem, you get your money back.
PC tune-up is available for Windows only. The official website boasts a 90% satisfaction rate on over 500,000 customers across all categories.
McAfee extension for Google Chrome that automatically blocks autoplaying videos. Yet, it runs only on Windows 8 and 10. User reviews for the extension are largely positive. Users love how the extension goes ham, blocking even video ads. All paused videos have a play button, and there is a safelist.
Sketchy Windows 7 support
While some modules are working on Windows 7, the flagship product doesn’t support it. This is a bigger problem than you might expect. According to market share data from ZDNet, Windows 7 is still used by 20% of PCs worldwide, which is around 100 million devices. Unfortunately, owners of those PCs, who need protection, can’t get it from McAfee. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 7 less than two years ago, in January 2020. Windows 10 end-of-life date comes in 2025, so I expect McAfee will cut support for it soon after, expecting you to upgrade to Windows 11.
McAfee Antivirus Pricing
McAfee antivirus pricing for Total Protection is in four tiers, all for a 1-year subscription:
- AntiVirus Plus for $24.99
- Plus, for $99–59.99
- Ultimate for $99–59.99
- The premium for $99–59.99
- AntiVirus Plus covers up to 10 devices and renews for $59.99 a year.
- Plus covers 1 to ∞ devices and renews $84.99–159.99 a year. Comes with 5 VPN licenses and identity protection.
- Ultimate is the same as Plus, except with the $1mm identity theft insurance and Safe Family.
- Premium is a combination of Plus and Ultimate, providing identity protection from the former and Safe Family from the latter. It renews for $84.99–159.99 a year.
Can you get McAfee for free?
No, you can’t have this antivirus software for free. There is a 30-day free trial, which requires a valid payment method. A week before the trial period ends, you will be charged $39.99 for the first term and then auto-billed $124.99 for every year after.
McAfee Antivirus Alternatives
Although McAfee is a great product, there are many security solutions in the market that could be an alternative to this antivirus software. Let’s find some of its best competitors and what they can do for you.
The flagship product comes in three versions: Avast One Essential, Premium Security, and Avast One. All three include the antivirus. Avast One is the most comprehensive bundle, including the first five products listed below and priced $0–69.48 for the first year on holiday sale. Available for Windows, Mac, Android, and iPhone/iPad. There is a 30-day free trial.
There is a 7-day free trial for the VPN, with no payment method required. In addition, all products are covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee. And, the one-time call service is called Simple Fix and is only available for Windows. It costs $79 per call. Total Care covers 3 Windows devices and costs $199 a year as a subscription service.
I used Avast for a long time. Unfortunately, it has a habit of sending nagging notifications on the desktop. They can be turned off, though that also means turning off potentially important notifications. For example, Avast will attach an ad for itself as a signature in some e-mails you send, which users can turn off in its options.
Kaspersky flagship bundles include Anti-Virus, Internet Security, and Total Security. The price is $27.99–55.99, covering up to 5 devices for up to 2 years. The latter two also contain an adblocker, which is a must-have for web surfing these days. Kaspersky antivirus products across all platforms are:
- Security Cloud Personal
- VPN Secure Connection
- Password Manager
- Safe Kids
- Battery Life
- QR Scanner
- Virus Removal Tool
- Rescue Disk
The prices range from $14.95–62.99 a year, except for the last four, which are free. The Rescue Disk tool caught my attention. It is a free 615MB. ISO file. After download, you store it on a USB or burn it to a CD/DVD. If malware takes over your PC, it might lock you out, in which case you scan the PC using the Rescue Disk. Enter your PC’s BIOS, boot the device using Rescue Disk, update the definitions, and start cleaning your machine.
There are four flagship product plans: AntiVirus Plus, Deluxe, Select, and Ultimate Plus. Prices are in the range of $14.99–299.88 for the first year. The plans include 2–500GB cloud storage for backup. The high-end price seems ludicrous until you see the feature package, focused on preventing and undoing identity theft.
Home Title Monitoring checks at the county clerk for unauthorized loans and liens on your home and other real estate where you have ownership. Dark Web Monitoring watches hacker markets for your info, such as gamer tags, mother’s maiden name, and so on. If your data pops up, you are notified. Identity Restoration Specialists are US-based legal and paralegal experts who will guide you through the post-identity theft period. Stolen Wallet Protection helps you cancel your stolen documents and get new ones straight away.
Court Records Scanning checks the court records for signs you’ve been falsely tied to criminal activity. 401(k) & Investment Activity Alerts alerts you of money transfers related to your investment and retirement accounts. SSN & Credit Alerts keeps track of your social security number regarding new cell phone plans, car loans, and so on.
It’s a decidedly US-oriented service that comes with a truckload of fine print, but the idea is phenomenal. In this regard, there is nothing quite like Norton, essentially serving as your legal/cyber-security team focused on preventing and undoing identity theft. I’m impressed.
Other products in the plans are standard fare, such as parental controls, gamer tune-up tools, etc. One-time service calls are $49.99 per; a subscription covers three devices for $19.99 a month.
ESET offers customized plans, scaling up the price according to device count. For example, home users can protect up to 10 devices for three years at $49.99–279.98. For businesses, protecting 5–100 devices for up to 3 years is $248.40–7,560. The forte of ESET is cyber-security compliance for enterprises dealing with sensitive data. Various groups get a 25% discount on ESET products — students, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. Unfortunately, ESET has no iOS support.
30-day free trial for all home products, no payment method required. There are free tools as well. For example, ESET Online Scanner allows cloud-based antivirus without installation, using only the browser.
What’s better — McAfee or Norton?
Norton provides the same anti-malware features as McAfee. But, it has kick-ass identity protection. In my opinion, Norton is much better — it is the high-end cyber-security a layman needs.
Which is better — Kaspersky or McAfee?
Kaspersky’s feature set is on par with McAfee’s. However, Kaspersky has done a great job on localization. I found a Kaspersky version in my language, and you can likely find one in yours too, which helps with live support. This gives it a slight edge over McAfee.
McAfee Antivirus Review Conclusions
John McAfee lived like a character from spy thriller novels. His antivirus was designed in the late 1980s to keep him safe wherever he went and whatever he did. There is a mystical aura attached to it that I believe is both the main selling and sticking point. In 2021, it feels like we’re all living in a spy thriller novel. The internet has become the stage for constant, global cyber-warfare. We can’t avoid it, though we can limit our exposure. Unfortunately, that’s where McAfee antivirus falls short.
Social media and ads are now the two main cyber-attack vectors. Instead of sabotage, they erode your privacy by spying on you and compromise your sanity by long-term manipulation. Everyone from Microsoft to Facebook, Amazon, Google, and some random dude in the Malaysian jungle wants to keep tabs on you and serve you ads 24/7. Against that, McAfee antivirus is of little help. McAfee antivirus gives you a false sense of online protection and doesn’t do enough to shield you from modern threats. For example, posting fake personal info on social media thwarts spying and ad algorithms. John McAfee was fond of it, regularly posting absurd Twitter updates about his Belize stronghold.
If you want antivirus software that makes you feel like you’re John McAfee taking on the world, go for McAfee antivirus. For everyone else, common sense, regular backups, and cautious use of social media will do just fine.