McAfee antivirus review: An old player in the antivirus industry. But, can it lead?

Last updated by   Aliu Isa
Disclosure
McAfee Total Protection offers security against most cyber threats. Yet, it has some lacking too. Find all about it in this McAfee antivirus review.
Highly user-friendly
Extended range of features
Affordable multi-user plans
Android
iOS
Windows
Mac

McAfee is no stranger to the world of cybersecurity. In fact, it is one of the first antivirus software developed in the United States and has continued to remain relevant even after more than 30 years of its existence.

The company has been through a lot of changes. Yet, it remains a strong contender. Not only did it get separated from Intel, but the developers also redesigned its interface and made it better. Today, it has become as good as Kaspersky, Norton, and other giant brands.

But with these new changes, many have been asking if McAfee Total Protection is as good as it claims. Maybe, you may also ask what its features are? Is it very good or just average at fighting against viruses? How does it compare against other antivirus brands?

To answer all these questions, here is an unbiased McAfee antivirus review.

McAfee security program: The overview

The firm McAfee Corp. has been around for several decades, albeit with different names. Today, the company hasn’t limited itself to antivirus solutions only. Rather it has grown to become more of a technology giant with various product lines. Yet, their main focus remains on consumer security – both individual users and enterprise customers.

Some notable McAfee products include the McAfee Safe Connect VPN, McAfee Safe Family – parental control solution, and McAfee Security Scan Plus – a basic scan tool. The parent company has also made multiple noteworthy acquisitions, such as TunnelBear VPN and NanoSec container security firm.

Nonetheless, their main strength lies within antimalware technology.

Therefore, this McAfee review aims to assess McAfee Total Protection – the main Mcafee antivirus offering efficient malware defense capabilities. The tool not only claims to provide basic malware protection. Rather it also offers real-time security against online threats and ransomware attacks along with cloud protection and offline scans.

While this sounds cool, does McAfee really fulfils all that it claims? That’s what you’ll find out through this review.

Summary of McAfee antivirus software review

Upon testing this product, I was first drawn to its sleek interface. Besides, it has other additional perks such as Web Boost, WebAdvisor, and safe browsing extension.

The product offers many impressive security features while also providing additional add-ons. One of these security features is its ability to block malware and zero-day attacks. Also, with its Family/Household subscription plan, you can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously while paying a fair price.

However, it could be more user-friendly, as its WebAdvisor and performance improvement tools didn’t impress much.

Nonetheless, McAfee Total Protection has a low price point and covers several devices while providing all the essential antivirus features (such as a secure firewall and real-time protection). It gets better with some extras, including a password manager, VPN, and performance optimizer. Still, all its plan offers a 30-day money-back guarantee to refund if it fails to meet your expectations.

Scan typeOn-demand
Presence of firewallYes
Blocks malwareYes
Block spyware and ransomwareYes
Pricing$19.99 to $39.99 per year
Money-back guarantee30 days
Free planNo
VPNYes (unlimited data)
Operating systemsAndroid, Windows, iOS, Mac

Curious to know more? Let’s proceed with this unbiased review of McAfee antivirus.

Total Protection: Does McAfee offer complete protection?

McAfee lists Total Protection as one of its security suites. The solution offers complete protection against malware, ransomware, viruses, and spyware attacks alongside protecting against unsafe websites.

I tested its ability to prevent zero-day malware attacks, and the tool scored 99%. This result is no different from what other top-rated brands such as Bitdefender and Avast obtain. I also tested McAfee antivirus against other kinds of malware, and it got a 100% score.

However, despite that McAfee has significantly improved on these scores over time, other brands already perform better in this regard. Still, the tool deserves appreciation for the marked improvements in its overall security features. Currently, it offers a wide range of solutions, including:

  • Multiple device compatibility
  • Robust firewall
  • Encrypted storage
  • System performance optimization

Some of these security features (such as system performance optimization, password manager, etc.) aren’t unique to McAfee as other brands offer them too. Yet, it’s good to see McAfee climbing up the market trends.

Virus scan review: How effective is McAfee antivirus in detecting and preventing malware?

Like every other antivirus solution, McAfee also offers different types of scans for the users.

For this McAfee antivirus service review, I first tested its quick virus scan on an old computer. It took about 20 minutes to scan through 13,000 files. While it was effective, spending 20 minutes is a bit long for a “quick scan.” Yet, performing a quick scan on a newer PC with about 7,000 files took only seven minutes.

McAfee quick scan

Likewise, running a complete scan took 21 hours on the old system and only an hour on the newer PC. This variation shows that the duration for a scan depends on the number of files being scanned and the system hardware specs.

Full scan

While running the scans, the antivirus software displays all essential information as pop-ups. You will also get some information in the scanner’s dashboard as small notifications.

Virus scan

Upon completing a scan, you can access the details, such as the number of files scanned, issues discovered, and details of the infected files the McAfee antivirus removed. You can’t check or isolate the infected files, though, as Total Protection deletes them. It is great only if you have no intention of investigating the infected files. In this regard, other antivirus solutions, such as Windows Defender, perform better as they contain the threat and leave it to you to either delete, isolate or ignore the threat.

Also, this tool has a security report feature where you can view the details of the scan after it completes. Yet, it would have been great to view those details in the dashboard during scanning.

Asides from its quick and full scan, McAfee also does a custom scan. It checks specified folders, files, and drives for threats and generates alerts.

Vulnerability scanner: Does McAfee keep programs updated?

Outdated software is known to pose a security risk. Nonetheless, McAfee ensures protection against this risk by offering a vulnerability scanner. It surfs through the computer to detect outdated software and programs. You can pre-set the date for it to run the scan. Or, you can schedule weekly, monthly, or daily scans. Once the scan is over, it shows you the number of updates found and rates how important updating the program is.

To achieve an honest review of McAfee antivirus, I tested the vulnerability scanner on my PC. It took about ten minutes to complete and displayed a critical alert for GoogleChrome as my browser required an update.

Vulnerability scanner

While this is an attractive feature, it isn’t communicated well. When you check the McAfee Total Protection dashboard, you won’t see a vulnerability scanner. Instead, you will find an “Update my apps” option. This may confuse some customers, especially first-time users.

Update my apps option

In summary, the vulnerability scanner feature is a handy, functional, and effective feature that keeps all your apps updated even when you forget about it.

McAfee antivirus key features

Until this point, you have learned how this antivirus performs in protecting your devices against viruses and similar threats. But that’s not all you get with Total Protection. Proceeding further with this McAfee antivirus review, let’s look at the other features that truly ensure inclusive security.

Firewall

McAfee Total Protection comes with a robust firewall that secures your devices from all existing and potential threats. This features monitors all incoming and outgoing traffic from your device. That’s how it promptly detects any suspicious attempt to gain access to your system.

Despite being restrictive, McAfee’s firewall features lets you manage the threats by displaying alerts. So, if you trust something has generated a false alert, you can simply allow it in the firewall.

QuickClean feature

McAfee antivirus program also has a QuickClean feature. This tool lightens your device as it identifies and removes unwanted cookies from your browser and deletes temporary files

To use it, select the files you wish to check. This may include email files, cookies, and data stored in web browsers. After that, click on the “Clean” option to free up space.

While running the QuickClean, you can choose to keep it out of view. You can also have it seek your permission before deleting any file.

Overall, there is nothing much to say about this feature; it works as it should. In my tests, it freed up 4.5 GB on my PC in less than one minute.

QuickClean

On the downside, it doesn’t give a detail of the actions performed. For instance, it won’t show where it removed the files from, the files that it removed, or the number of files extracted.

Besides, while it allows prescheduling (just like its vulnerability scanner feature), it doesn’t have the correct label on its dashboard. Rather than the name QuickClean, it’s labeled “remove cookies and trackers.” Again, it may not be clear to many users.

Total Protection web boost and app boost

Continuing with the key features, another interesting option worth mentioning in this McAfee review is system performance boost. The software basically offers two separate tools for it, that include:

  • App boost
  • McAfee web boost

Once launched, the app boost feature detects the apps in need of a boost and goes ahead to add extra power. It enables apps to load faster and work quicker.

On the other hand, McAfee Web Boost prevents videos from automatically playing on your browser. This, in turn, boosts your internet speed and conserves the system battery. As evident, none of these features improves security, rather jazz up the system performance.

While that’s what the tool claims to do, during testing, both the features didn’t have much difference. For instance, although Chrome had “98 boosts in two days”, it didn’t significantly impact browsing speed. Besides, the app boost is only functional on Windows 10.

McAfee app boost

It wouldn’t hurt to turn your PC performance feature on, though (it’s always off by default). However, do not expect a significant change in your system’s performance.

McAfee antivirus security add-ons

Aside from the usual protection against malware and web threats that you expect, McAfee antivirus also offers other features that genuinely provide you a total protection online. Let’s take a look.

Password manager

In partnership with True Key, McAfee provides users with a password manager each time they subscribe to any of its Total Protection plans. This True Key is functional on iOS, Mac, Windows, and Android devices.

To activate the True Key subscription, go to the “My Privacy” tab and click on “Manage passwords” option.

Password Manager in privacy tab

It will lead you to its information page, where you will be able to create a Master Password.

Besides a Master Password, signing in to the True Key account also needs two-factor authentication such as fingerprint scanning. (Applicable to Android and iOS devices only). You can easily install the True Key browser extension on any of your browsers to manage passwords. This add-on works fine on most popular browsers, including Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, and Apple Safari.

Apart from saving passwords, this tool also offers other features such as Safe notes, Password generator, Auto-fill, and Digital wallet. Moreover, it provides multiple device synchronization and keeps your data safe with AES-256-bit encryption. While impressive, these features are also available with all the best password managers of today, such as LastPass, NordPass, and more.

Add logins for popular platforms

Overall, True Key is quite easy to use. It lets you view the site logins right on the scanner’s dashboard. Unlike other password managers, True Key enables you to change your password as many times as you wish. It also lets you add an extra device and email address to strengthen your account safety.

However, the True Key password manager only allows 15 logins, after which you will have to upgrade, which attracts a fee. That means what you get with your Total protection subscription is just the free version of True Key password manager.

McAfee Total Protection WebAdvisor

McAfee’s WebAdvisor is designed to alerts users about suspicious sites and malicious downloads. However, it has some limitations.

First, it is only functional on Windows. Upon clicking on the “Protect me on the web” button on the Total Protection dashboard, you arrive at the landing page explaining what the WebAdvisor is. (It’s unclear why it has to take you out of the dashboard to offer this explanation right at the beginning. But it’s alright for the curious souls.)

The real issue, though, is on the landing page. Here, it offers no direction to download WebAdvisor browser extension. Plus, the McAfee antivirus download feature is on another page. That’s quite an annoying and unintuitive setting.

Nevertheless, what’s great is that users do not need to subscribe to Total Protection before using the WebAdvisor extension. You can easily install it on your browser and enable the extension. It’ll then start alerting you about the sites as your browse.

You will find the tool showing a link’s security status even during regular searches by displaying a McAfee SECURE badge next to the URL. Hovering over the badge displays more information, such as its description and frequency at which McAfee searches it for suspicious activities.

Yet, you won’t see this badge necessarily with every link. It doesn’t mean that the other links are suspicious. Rather it indicates the limited archive with McAfee against which it checks the URLs.

Besides, it remains unclear how this WebAdvisor add-on labels a website as safe or not.

In brief, McAfee WebAdvisor clearly loses points here.

Identity theft protection

When you subscribe to any McAfee Total Protection multi-device or family plan, you get the added benefits of identity theft protection and dark monitoring feature that’s worth mentioning in this McAfee extensive review.

Precisely, this feature searches through the dark web to discover if your sensitive data has been leaked or hacked. The software searches the dark web for the following:

  • Passports
  • Driver’s license
  • Mobile numbers
  • Bank accounts
  • Medical ID
  • Email addresses
  • Debit/credit cards
  • Social security numbers

You can add your information to the Identity Theft Protection portal for monitoring. Upon detecting any leaked information, the tool promptly alerts you via email. This is certainly a useful feature given the increase in data breaches and password hacking incidents globally.

McAfee Privacy Policy

After reading this McAfee antivirus review until this point, you must be impressed with how the app protects your data. But, does the firm also remain fair with your data?

To answer this question, I went through the company’s privacy policy. As evident from it, the antivirus software collects quite extensive data from the users, including:

  • Personal information (such as name, email address, phone number, and so on)
  • Payment details (account number, credit card data, etc.)
  • Sign in details (account login, social media accounts)
  • Location details
  • Data usage information

While that’s already disappointing, what makes the matter worse is that McAfee shares some of its customers’ data with others. They clearly admit to sharing this information with third-party agents to provide relevant ads and to improve user experience. Nonetheless, it’s becoming more of an industry practice these days. So you can’t really accuse McAfee of doing the same.

Product setup and ease of use

When I tried installing Total Protection before coming up with this McAfee antivirus review, I found it easy and straightforward. It took only about ten minutes for the setup to complete. After that, an app with an easily navigable dashboard appeared. While it includes the details about the product plans and offers, it’s challenging to locate specific tools.

Specifically, the app exhibits a strange arrangement of information. First, it fails to title all of its contents. Also, every feature in the app had a different name than what’s popular. For instance, it doesn’t call the vulnerability scanner by its name. Instead, the tool bears the title “Update my app” and is located under the PC security icon. Though, you can know the details about every feature as you click on it.

Besides, McAfee developers have embedded most of the details behind the gear icon located at the top right of the dashboard. Though, it isn’t noticeable at first. But once you click on it, you can see all the settings for McAfee antivirus there. You can go through each of these options individually and adjust the settings to meet your preferences. For example, you can change the preset time for scheduled scans to the one that suits you.

Another annoying thing with McAfee’s antivirus layout is the increased used of pop-ups to display information. For instance, you can’t use the scan features until you click on the run icon that appears as a pop-up. This behavior isn’t limited to the scan features only. Rather you will find the same with the file shredder, password manager, and file lock features.

While it isn’t a security limitation, it may be annoying for fast users who prefer minimal clicks to use any tool.

McAfee Total Protection mobile app

McAfee antivirus protection doesn’t limit this facility to desktop users only. Rather the provider also takes care of mobile users by offering dedicated apps. Thus, you can protect your Android and iOS devices by downloading the legit antivirus app from Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

You can also connect your devices directly to the antivirus app via the dashboard on your system. For this, open your antivirus app, and click on the “Protect more devices” option appearing on the dashboard.

Protect More Devices

If you don’t have an antivirus app on your mobile device already, this is worth trying. It’s not only easy to download and connect but also offers real-time protection.

To scan your device, tap the “Scan” option on your screen. The app then proceeds to check your files, data, app, and WiFi for security. This antivirus app also cleans the storage on your device, boosts memory, and shares details about your data and scans.

Moreover, you can also access other additional features available with the app, such as battery booster, data usage tracker, and others, by tapping the menu icon (three horizontal lines) at the top-right of your screen.

Besides antivirus protection, the Mcafee antivirus app also supports theft protection by letting you lock and delete your data if you lose your device. Plus, thanks to its built-in thief cam feature, you will know about the perpetrator as the app sneakily takes a picture of the device holder via the front camera.

Overall, the McAfee mobile app functions seamlessly without disrupting the device’s usability. Though it bears an unimpressive interface, loads of security features packed in it clearly give McAfee an edge over its rivals.

McAfee Customer support

Upon reaching here in this McAfee antivirus review, you might wonder if the service truly cares about its customers.

Well, McAfee offers a 24/7 live chat and phone support feature, but only for English speakers. Its live chat feature is limited to specific languages, while the operating hours for its phone support also vary, limiting the number of users.

Usually, users can get a customer representative in a few minutes, but sometimes it may take longer—depending on the time and day. In cases where there would be a delay, McAfee puts up a banner on its support page. It informs users that they may have to wait for a more extended period.

It has a detailed FAQ base, which answers numerous questions (especially questions around technical support). Regrettably, it lacks proper organization. There are tons of articles to choose from, but you will have to depend on the search bar or scroll through to get an answer. Also, while the FAQs are detailed, there are no images or videos to explain better.

It has an active community forum. Here, people ask questions and receive answers from other members of the forum. The platform is available in different languages such as Spanish, Arabic, and Italian.

On top of that, there is a Virtual Technician feature. With this, users can scan, diagnose and fix technical problems. While not perfect, it comes in handy for simple issues. And if you are far from your PC, you can utilize the Techmaster tool—an advanced and paid service that aids in troubleshooting matters.

Review of McAfee antivirus pricing plans

McAfee Total Protection offers three separate subscription plans, all offering similar features. Users can install the product on Macs, Windows, Android as well as iOS devices.

While all the plans are the same, the difference lies in the number of device connections:

  • Household/family plan: allows ten simultaneous connections
  • Multi-device: enables five simultaneous connections
  • Individual plan: supports a single device connection only

McAfee offers a fair price for its plans for the first year. However, regarding its renewal, the price for the individual plan is higher, almost double after the first year. Although it’s still cheaper than products like TotalAV and Kaspersky, it offers fewer features. This gap becomes bigger when you compare McAfee with Norton.

On the other hand, the McAfee household/family plan offers excellent value for its price. The extra cost on it isn’t significant, and it also provides the same features as that of the multi-device programs.

While McAfee’s multi-device plan isn’t free, it comes with a 30-day trial. With this plan, users can connect up to ten devices. Besides, it does not require your credit card information before you sign up. Thus, you can safely proceed with the McAfee free download to test the app before paying for the subscription!

As for its refund policy, users can apply for a refund within 30 days if it’s a new purchase or within 60 days if it’s an automatic renewal.

Does McAfee provide any real value? Is it worth it?

The McAfee you used to know in the past is no longer the same as the one available now. It has improved significantly over the years and, in my tests for this McAfee review, the tool scored high in malware detection and prevention. You can certainly trust this antivirus to protect your device.

The package offers a wide range of other performance and security options. It includes some excellent (like QuickClean) and not-so-great (such as WebAdvisor) tools. While some users may find its new interface annoying (with its many pop-ups), others may also prefer it.

The McAfee antivirus mobile app is also a great add-on to the Total Protection package. It is fast, effective, and has many other fantastic additional features to keep your devices protected. Plus, the provider also offers several support options, including forums, phone, AI technicians, knowledge base, and live chat.

If you own many devices or have a large family, you should go for the household/family plan. Because it comes at a fair price, it allows a more significant number of devices to connect while offering all the standard features you will need to stay safe. The multi-device plan also provides a lot of value. However, its individual plan is clearly not worth it. If you wish to protect only one device, then you can try out other competitors. 

Pros:

  • Software is easy to use and set up
  • Affordable multi-user plans
  • Real-time malware detection and prevention
  • Excellent support options
  • Wide range of features

Cons:

  • Inadequate password manager
  • Inefficient browser extension
  • Reports in pop-ups

Final thought

Here I wrap up this extensive McAfee antivirus review. Without a doubt, McAfee security software isn’t the wrong choice for an antivirus. It is cheap and does a good job of detecting and preventing malware and other online threats. Also, the protection suit is easy to use, offering multiple platform support for operating systems such as iOS, Windows, Macs, and Androids.

It does have some downsides, though. For starters, its interface could use a little reworking. Its browser extension could also be made more effective. The provider may also limit the number of pop-ups to the barest minimum.

In short, while McAfee offers a nice antivirus, it’s not perfect.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is McAfee safe?
Is McAfee antivirus for free?
McAfee vs. Norton, which is better?
Does McAfee effectively remove malware?
Can I use McAfee on my Mac?
Will McAfee antivirus software work on my android and iPhone devices?
Why is McAfee considered bad by some users?
How do I claim a refund?