Is McAfee a good antivirus program? Yes. McAfee is a good antivirus and worth the investment. It offers an extensive security suite that will keep your computer safe from malware and other online threats.
What is McAfee?
McAfee is considered to be one of the best antivirus software by security experts and users alike. It boasts excellent malware detection rates, lots of extra features like a password manager and a VPN, and helpful customer support. Also, it's really easy to set up and use.
- Unlimited VPN service, identity-theft protection
- New protection against tech-support scams
- Tight, clean interface
- Heavy system impact during scans
- No webcam protection or hardened browser
- Some features don't work if you turn off auto-renewal
|Malware protection: Good||Parental controls: Yes|
|System impact, background: Light||Password manager: Yes|
|System impact scans: Heavy||Performance scanner: Yes|
|Windows compatibility: 7 through 10||Ransomware rollback: Yes|
|Anti-theft: No||System optimizer: Yes|
|Backup software: No||Webcam protection: No|
|File encryption: Yes||Virtual keyboard: No|
|File shredder: Yes||VPN: Yes|
|Firewall: Yes||Wi-Fi scanner: Yes|
|Game mode: No||Support options: 24/7 phone, chat|
|Hardened/secure browser: No|
With an emphasis on protecting multiple machines on multiple platforms, McAfee's antivirus programs do much more than the minimum.
They offer good, if not perfect, malware detection, and recently added features such as unlimited virtual private network (VPN) service and identity-theft protection complement the newly streamlined interface.
On the other hand, McAfee uses a lot of system resources during scans and lacks some security features found with other brands, including dedicated webcam protection and a hardened browser for online shopping and banking.
McAfee's VPN and identity-theft protection, plus its money-back guarantee, are available only if you let your McAfee subscription automatically renew. In other words, you won't get everything you pay for unless you commit ahead of time to paying for it again.
Costs and what is covered
McAfee has no free antivirus program, but you can try out McAfee Total Protection for 30 days for free.
The product range starts with McAfee AntiVirus, which covers a single Windows PC for $40 per year. It's got dedicated ransomware protection, a file shredder, a system optimizer, and a two-way firewall, plus browser extensions for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox that warn of unsafe websites, tech-support scams, and risky social-media links.
McAfee AntiVirus Plus has the same features but covers up to 10 devices (in our experience, an unlimited number) for $60 per year and includes Mac, iOS, and Android software.
McAfee Internet Security adds the True Key password manager and an email spam filter. The program costs $60 per year for one device, $80 per year for three, and $90 per year to protect 10 systems.
Both include Safe Family parental controls, identity-theft protection (for U.S. customers only), and unlimited access to McAfee's virtual private network (VPN), but you've got to keep the McAfee subscription auto-renewal activated for the last two features. Neither the VPN nor the parental controls work with McAfee's Mac software.
All five McAfee antivirus products scan for known malware and use cloud computing and machine learning to spot brand-new malware and other dangerous items. Updates for the McAfee malware scanner go out several times daily to the company's 500 million consumer and business users.
To keep McAfee's database current, the malware scanner on your machine will send new potential threats to McAfee servers. The scanner collects data only on threats you encounter and ignores your browsing history, passwords, and other personal information, according to McAfee. Some antivirus brands let you opt-out of this, but not McAfee.
McAfee's Ransom Guard looks for suspicious file changes and quickly makes copies of targeted files if it suspects a ransomware attack. Advanced Malware Detection can speed the detection and distribution of a defense to the company's subscribers.
Security and privacy features
Each of McAfee's products does the protection basics well but lack features many competitors have. The Identity tab in the McAfee software interface consolidates the program's privacy features, including the file shredder, password manager, and Tracker Remover, plus a data shredder with three levels of erasure for getting rid of inconvenient or embarrassing files.
Vulnerability Management looks for old firmware, weak passwords, and other potential flaws in your apps and system software. There's also anti-phishing protection and a two-way firewall that replaces the Microsoft one.
McAfee's Home Network Management shows you devices that are connected to your Wi-Fi, identified by IP address. It also can block outsiders trying to burrow into your home LAN. McAfee's App Boost makes programs run faster by reprioritizing system resources, while the Web Boost browser extension for Edge, Chrome, and Firefox blocks unrequested downloads.
McAfee Internet Security adds an email filter to stop spam and phishing attempts, while LiveSafe and Total Protection add file encryption.
McAfee's True Key password manager comes with Internet Security and all Total Protection and LiveSafe packages. The Safe Connect VPN comes with LiveSafe and the 5-device (or more) versions of Total Protection.
The VPN client software works across all platforms and uses the infrastructure of TunnelBear, a Toronto-based stand-alone VPN service that McAfee owns. It's a good deal considering that a TunnelBear subscription costs $60 a year on its own.
You can connect to servers in two dozen countries. It took 5 seconds for me to connect to a local server in the New York area, although my data speed dropped from 188Mbps to 90Mbps.
Safe Family parental controls come with LiveSafe and the 10-user version of Total Protection. It filters websites based on a child's age and a personal profile, and also limits screen time, locates children's phones, and schedules app blocking. On its own, Safe Family costs $50 a year.
McAfee's Identity Theft Protection Essentials (ITPE) monitors the Dark Web for your personal information. It comes with LiveSafe and the 5- and 10-device Total Protection packs; the top Ultimate Total Protection plan includes Identity Theft Protection Plus, which will reimburse you up to $1,000,000 for the costs of restoring your identity.
McAfee's latest interface is more efficient than previous versions, consolidating defenses for PC (Antivirus, Firewall, Secure Apps and App Boost), Web (Browser Security, Web Boost, Tracker Remover, and Secure VPN), and Identity (Password Manager, File Shredder and File Lock encryption).
There's no overall appraisal of your security status, as you might see with other antivirus brands, but each major section has useful information. The Settings section has so many options that only one-third of them at a time fit on an HD screen.
McAfee's taskbar icon can update the software, use the VPN, change settings for real-time scanning and the firewall and even connect you to the company's online support website.
Installation and support
Installing McAfee Total Protection starts with a trip to the company website or a third-party retailer. You've got to enter credit card information or an activation code, then create a McAfee account.
McAfee's auto-renewal policy sets you up to pay for another subscription when the current one expires. It's easy to change this after the software is installed but leaving it on is required to use McAfee's VPN and identity-theft protection features.
The beachhead installer is only 41.2MB, but it downloads the rest of the files needed for the installation process. When the circular progress gauge is finished, the program puts you on the dashboard page, ready to run a scan.
McAfee's tech support crew works with Twitter and Facebook but won't reply to emails. They do offer 24/7 chat and telephone access 24/7, and there's a deep FAQ library. McAfee guarantees your money back if its software can't clean up your system — but, again, only if you don't turn off the subscription auto-renewal.
From its basic Antivirus through Internet Security to Total Protection and LiveSafe, McAfee's software and services hit most of the hot buttons for the security-conscious, often at a bargain rate considering how many devices can be covered by a single license.
The only major chinks in McAfee's online armor are the lack of a dedicated defense against webcam hijacking or a hardened browser for online commerce, plus the fact that some other brands detect more malware. It's also a bit stinky that the VPN and identity-theft protection won't work if you turn off subscription auto-renewal.
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