A comprehensive antivirus suite with a hefty price tag after the first year – McAfee total protection
McAfee Total Protection is one of the biggest names in the antivirus business, and it’s been around so long that you might wonder if it can really still hold its own against newer, more agile anti-malware products. Independent lab tests show that McAfee is still a leader in terms of antivirus protection, and their Total Protection security suite packs in a lot of added value. We put this time-tested software under the microscope to how it holds up in real-world conditions, paying special attention to things like performance, usability, and how well the additional features work, so continue reading to see how McAfee Total Protection stacks up against the modern field of antivirus products.
What We Like
- Good multi-device pricing
- Independent lab verification
- No noticeable performance impact
- Loaded with extras, including a password manager, a file encryption utility, identity protection, and more
- 24/7 live chat and phone support
What We Don’t Like
- Expensive for single-device use
- Somewhat confusing interface
- Difficult to locate advance scanning options
Type of Protection: Primarily Based on Signature Detection
McAfee relies primarily on signature detection, which compares files with signatures based on known viruses. If it detects any signs of infection, it’s able to isolate the infected file and either remove the malicious code, quarantine the file, or remove the file, depending on the details of the situation.
Total Protection also includes heuristic analysis, which looks at the behavior of suspicious files to see if they might be malware. When a suspicious file is identified, it’s sent back to McAfee for analysis and then included in a signature update if it turns out to be a new type of malware.
Scan Locations: Quick and Full Scan Options
McAfee allows you to run two basic types of scans: a quick scan that checks the most vulnerable areas on your computer, and a full scan that goes over everything, on every drive, with a fine-toothed comb.
Notably absent is any type of custom scan, which McAfee no longer provides as an option. That means you can’t specify a drive or drives to scan from within the app, and advanced options like opting to scan more slowly while using fewer system resources are gone.
You can still run a custom scan, after a fashion, by right-clicking any drive, folder, or file on your computer, and selecting the McAfee scan option from the context menu.
Our main complaint here is that McAfee maintains outdated support content on their website that still shows the custom scan option, so we wasted quite a bit of time tracking down the fact that it has been totally removed and not just shuffled off to another location within the app.
Types of Malware: Virus, Spyware, Phishing, Ransomware
McAfee Total Protection specializes in traditional viruses, but it also includes protection against spyware, phishing, ransomware, and other threats. It isn’t as good at detecting cutting edge malware as some antivirus suites due to its heavy reliance on signature-based detection, but it is able to pick up some unknown threats and then send the specifics back to McAfee for analysis.
Ease of Use: Confusing and Disorganized Interface
McAfee Total Protection is a highly competent antivirus, but the user interface (UI) could use a lot of work. The main screen of the Total Protection app gives over most of its real estate to a series of messages about various features of the software, and displays nothing but a message that your PC is protected once you have clicked through each message.
Instead of providing a large scan button like some antivirus programs, McAfee provides two redundant ways to launch a scan. Neither of these options is that difficult, but users who are used to clicking a single scan button that’s prominently featured on the main screen of their antivirus may be a bit confused at first.
Notably absent is any type of custom scan, which McAfee no longer provides as an option.
As we mentioned in the previous section, users looking for a custom scan option won’t find one, and instructions on McAfee’s site provide outdated directions that refer to an old version of the software.
Beyond that, the user interface is cluttered and somewhat difficult to navigate. Instead of loading everything in the same window, many menu options pop up additional windows, adding to the clutter.
Update Frequency: Daily Updates Available
McAfee Total Protection checks for updates every four hours, but updates to the virus signature database are typically released about once per day. Additional updates are made available as necessary, especially during new virus outbreaks, so leaving the update frequency at the default setting is a good idea despite the typical release schedule.
Performance: No Noticeable Performance Hit
We didn’t notice any performance impact when running McAfee in the background, which lines up with independent testing results. We were able to use word processing software, watch video content online, and even play games with Total Protection running and experienced no performance issues. It does take up more system resources during an active scan, but not enough to cause any problems.
Independent antivirus testing organization AV-Comparatives gave McAfee top marks in categories like file copying, archiving, and even installing applications with McAfee running. They did notice a slight slowdown when launching applications, but McAfee still placed within the top five antivirus applications in terms of having a low impact on system performance.
We were able to use word processing software, watch video content online, and even play games with Total Protection running and experienced no performance issues.
Additional Tools: Loaded With Extras
In addition to excellent virus protection, McAfee Total Protection comes packed with a lot of additional features like their True Key password manager, a file encryption utility, a license for McAfee Safe Family, identity protection, and more.
True Key is an excellent password manager, and Total Protection comes with five licenses that you can assign to members of your family. This effectively gives up to five people in your household a secure password manager that they don’t have to share with anyone.
McAfee Total Protection comes packed with a lot of additional features, including a password manager, a file encryption utility, a license for McAfee Safe Family, identity protection, and more.
The McAfee File Lock encryption utility allows you to create encrypted vaults where you can store files that you want to keep safe. Instead of encrypting individual files, this utility allows you to create a vault, specify the amount of space it should occupy, and set a password. After you copy files into the vault, you can use the built-in file shredder to destroy the originals. This is a nice system overall, though it lacks the ability to lock the vault remotely in case of theft that some security suites provide.
McAfee Total Protection also includes a license for McAfee Safe Family, which is a cross-platform product you can use to add parental controls to a variety of devices. It works by installing it on one computer or mobile device, and then installing it in child mode on laptops, phones, and tablets owned by your children. You then have the ability to block websites and apps on any number of child devices.
As with McAfee’s antivirus, you start by activating your registration code online. At that point, you can either immediately install it on the device you’re using or send links to install on other devices. When you download the product, you get a serial number, distinct from your activation code. Hang onto that number, as you might need it to reinstall the product.
At the time of my last review, McAfee had completely redesigned the suite’s interface to reflect a new emphasis on helping you do what you want easily and smoothly, without security worries. This new interface has made its way to McAfee AntiVirus Plus on Windows, and it’s scheduled to roll out for mobile devices in a month or so. As for the Mac, well, a makeover is in the plans, but it’s not a priority.
The airy main window points out three types of protection, PC, Web, and Identity, each represented by a large panel. Across the top you get advice and suggestions for improving security, much like the AutoPilot recommendations from Bitdefender. A Quick Action button at the bottom lets you scan for malware, turn on the VPN, or quickly scrub personal data from your system.
To complete your setup, follow the prompts to install McAfee’s WebAdvisor in Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. When I last evaluated this product the spam filter and encryption system weren’t installed until first use; now they’re fully integrated. Safe Family parental control remains a separate download, which makes sense given that many people don’t want or need parental control.
Type of Support: Live Chat and Phone Support 24/7
McAfee offers a very high level of customer support, with an online chat system and a toll-free phone number that are both available around the clock. This is a marked improvement over competitors that only offer support during normal business hours.
There is no online ticketing system, and customer support is not available via email, so there is no way to request assistance and then come back later for the reply.
Price: Great Multi-Device Pricing
Priced at just $34.99, the 10-device McAfee Total Protection plan is a tremendous deal. The catch is that you only enjoy that attractive pricing for one year. When your subscription runs out, the price jumps up to $119.99. That’s still worth it if you’re able to take advantage of all the special features, like the Safe Family license that would otherwise cost $49.99 on its own, but it is a sharp price increase. However, if you commit to a two-year plan, the cost is $59.99 ($29.99 per year).
Decent all-around antivirus suite, but it’s expensive past the first year.
McAfee Total Protection is an excellent security suite. It offers high-quality protection, the price is right, performance is good, and there are a few nice extra features such as a VPN, file shredder, app update checker, and a home network scanner. I have a few quibbles, such as with the VPN bandwidth limit and the design of the app, but overall McAfee is still an excellent choice.
McAfee Total Protection is a powerful antivirus suite, and the first-year subscription pricing is very attractive. It’s absolutely worth it for the first-year price or the two-year prepaid plan, but you may want to look elsewhere when your renewal date rolls around. However, if you can stomach the hike, McAfee does offer the full suite of protection, including antivirus, malware, ransomware, parental controls, password managers, file encryption, and more.
- Product NameMcAfee Antivirus
- Price: $34.99
- Platform(s): Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
- Type of License: Total Protection 1 Device
- Number of Devices Protected: 1-10
- Cost: $34.99 (one device), $39.99 (five devices) $44.99 (10 devices)