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McAfee Total Protection Review | PCMag



How many desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones are in your home? Can you even count them? They all need virus protection, especially PC and Android devices. Even the inherently more secure macOS and iOS devices can’t protect data in transit – they definitely need a VPN. McAfee Total Protection allows you to install security on every device in your home. With so many suite-level features built into McAfee’s cross-platform antivirus, Total Protection needs to add a lot to impress, and it is. Cross-platform password management, borderless VPN protection, identity monitoring, and identity theft security – this suite has a lot to offer. Its components aren’t all perfect, but with protection for every device, it’s truly comprehensive.

How much does McAfee comprehensive protection cost?

McAfee has long been known for its unlimited licensing practices, but you can also opt for smaller packages. I don’t know why you’d buy this, but for $84.99 a year you can get one license, protecting one modest device. This also gives you one VPN license. At the basic level, $104.99 per year gives you licenses to protect five devices, along with five VPN licenses. Things are starting to look good at the Pro level, where a $124.99 subscription lets you protect “10+” devices (i.e. all the devices in your home) and adds Safe Kids parental control. Finally, the $159.99 Ultimate Edition goes beyond identity control, adding identity theft insurance. Since an Ultimate license costs less than twice the price of a single license, it’s clearly the best deal – if you have a lot of hardware to protect.

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McAfee’s pricing looks good compared to the competition, too. It’s true that a basic subscription of five licenses costs five dollars more than five Avast, ESET, or Kaspersky licenses, but none of these companies let you choose unlimited licenses. To get unlimited Norton 360 with LifeLock licenses, you should choose the Ultimate Plus tier at $349.99 per year. Admittedly, this also gives you top-tier LifeLock support, 500GB storage for online backups, and unlimited VPN licenses. Even at the ultimate level, McAfee only grants five VPN licenses.

Panda is one of the few other companies that offer a borderless solution. At $334.99, you can install Panda Dome Premium on all your Windows, macOS, and Android devices. However, this does not include VPN or identity monitoring. Obviously, McAfee remains a bargain. Provided, again, that your home contains a lot of appliances that need protection.

You don’t want your antivirus protection to end abruptly, so opting for automatic renewal is smart. McAfee contacts you before auto-renewal begins, giving you the opportunity to opt out. Automatic renewal also comes with great benefits. First, it activates McAfee’s Virus Protection Pledge. If the malware bypasses your antivirus, the brave McAfee virus researchers will take control and eliminate your computer manually, a service that typically costs $89.95. In the rare event that they fail in their efforts, McAfee will refund the price of the product. Auto-renew also removes the VPN’s strict bandwidth restrictions, which is a big deal. With Bitdefender Total Security, Kaspersky, and others, you pay a separate monthly fee for borderless VPN protection. Finally, registration for automatic renewal unlocks the full power of McAfee Personal Information Monitoring.

simple installation

As with McAfee Antivirus, you need to start by activating your registration code online. At this point, you can either install it immediately on the device you are using or send links for installation on other devices. When you download the product, you get a different serial number than your activation code. Hold on to this number, you may need to reinstall the product.

At the time of my last review, McAfee completely redesigned the suite’s interface to reflect a new focus on helping you do what you want easily and seamlessly, without security concerns. This new interface has made its way to McAfee AntiVirus Plus on Windows, and it’s due to roll out to mobile devices in a month or so. For the Mac, well, there’s a change of plans, but it’s not a priority.

The ventilated main window refers to three types of protection, PC, Web and Identity, each of which is represented by a large panel. At the top, you get tips and suggestions for improving security, like Bitdefender’s Autopilot recommendations. The quick action button at the bottom allows you to scan for malware, run a VPN, or quickly erase personal data from your system.

To complete setup, follow the prompts to install McAfee’s WebAdvisor in Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. The last time I evaluated this product, the spam filter and encryption system were not installed until first use; Now they are completely integrated. Safe Family’s parental control feature remains a separate download, which makes sense since many people don’t want or need parental controls.

Organized user interface

McAfee’s interface is very organized. Each of the three category buttons opens a new page, and each page displays four features associated with that category. Click on Computer and you will get panels for antivirus, firewall, secure apps and boost apps. On the web page are Browser Security, Web Boost, Tracker remover and Secure VPN. And for identity, you see ID Protection, Password Manager, File Shredder, and File lock. If you notice some inconsistency in the use of capitalization in feature names, it is in the product, not a misspelling.

Not all features fit into this well-ordered grid. You can access plugins by clicking on the settings gear at the top left. Here you will find a home network analyzer, spam filter, parental control system, and more.

Common Antivirus Features

Of course, everything you get as part of McAfee AntiVirus Plus is also included in the complete package. In fact, the two products look very similar, the main difference being the addition of buttons in the entire set. Below is a summary of my findings on the antivirus, but for more details you can read my full review.

All four independent labs I follow include McAfee in their tests. Along with all but one of the products, McAfee received the highest scores from SE Labs in its most recent report. While it misses perfection by half a point on the three-part AV-Test rating, its 17.5-point total earns it the title of Best Producer. Among the AV-Comparatives tests I follow, McAfee has a Best (Advanced +) rating in two and an Advanced in third. The only real bump comes in the tough test conducted by MRG-Effitas. With this lab, you either excel in the test or fail, and McAfee fails this time.

I use an algorithm that plots the lab results on a 10-point scale and returns the total score. McAfee earns a total of 9.1 points, which isn’t a bad thing. Looking at other products tested by all four labs, Avira gets the same results as McAfee, while Norton and Kaspersky top the list with 9.6 and 9.9 points, respectively. Bitdefender, which was tested by only three of the four, scored a combined 9.8.

In my malware protection tests, I’ve noticed that McAfee doesn’t scan files just because Windows Explorer accesses them to view them. Instead, it waits until they try to launch any malware and quarantine it. Discover 100% of our samples and score 9.9 out of 10 possible points. Only Malwarebytes Premium, with 10 perfect, was better than this set of samples. McAfee 9.9 beats nearly all of the products tested with my previous set of samples.

After challenging a group of 100 active malware-hosting URLs, McAfee used two techniques to defend the test system. The WebAdvisor plugin prevented the browser from visiting 37% of URLs, and it also removed malware payloads during download for the rest, resulting in a perfect 100% protection rate. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition also blocked 100% in its latest tests, while half a dozen others came close to 99%.

WebAdvisor also directs users away from phishing sites and those fraudulent sites pretending to be banks, finance sites, and even dating sites with the purpose of stealing your login credentials. In testing with 100 very new phishing sites, McAfee achieved 100% protection, a perfect score shared with F-Secure Safe.

WebAdvisor warns you when it detects tech support scams, which are sites that try to trick you into letting them take control of your computer remotely. As always, it encodes the search results to help you avoid dangerous results. Note that if you want the results to be marked other than those in their SafeSearch Engine, you must modify the settings. WebAdvisor also codes up links in LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit.

WebAdvisor’s crypto-blocking tool takes out websites that suck the computational power on your computers to mine bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. This could be legitimate, if the site reports visitors that they are paying in CPU cycles instead of serving ads, so the blocking tool includes an option to exempt user-selected sites from being blocked.

Ransom Guard adds a layer of protection against ransomware. When it detects a whiff of illegal “file conversion”, it backs up files that might be affected. If that whiff matures and turns into evidence of a ransomware attack, it isolates the attacker and recovers the files. Since turning off normal antivirus protection also turns off Ransom Guard, I was not able to test its ability to deal with the ransomware without a day.

Other common features

McAfee Antivirus Plus has an amazing number of features that go beyond just anti-malware protection, including a variety of performance-enhancing components. Clicking on the PC panel on the main page gives you access to the antivirus, of course, but also to an integrated firewall, which is unusual for a nominally independent antivirus.

The firewall component protects against external attacks and prevents programs from misusing the network connection. By default, it handles program control internally, which is much better than assigning this task to an untrained user. Since my last review, McAfee has removed the intrusion protection system for the firewall; Anyway, I’ve never been able to get this system to work. The firewall has mostly withstood the direct attack test, although I was able to disable some of its Windows services, including WebAdvisor, using techniques available to the malware programmer.

Also on the Protect your PC page are Safe Apps and App Boost. Clicking on Safe apps brings up a vulnerability scanner that searches for missing security patches for Windows and common software and, when possible, automates the update process. App Boost speeds up the loading of common programs, shifts additional resources to the foreground program, and finds processes that can perform better if more resources are made available. The components on this page are the same as those in your antivirus software and in McAfee Total Protection.

Clicking on Web Protection in your antivirus opens a page with three panels, Browser Security, Web Boost, and Tracker Remover. The Browser Security panel takes you to the web page of the McAfee Security Report. Despite the general-purpose audio name, Web Boost has exactly one function – it stops videos from automatically playing on web pages, but only in Chrome. Tracker remover is another name for the QuickClean component, which removes files that waste disk space and items like cookies that sites may use to track you.

In standalone antivirus, the identity protection page is disappointing. It only offers one component, which is File Shredder. By safely deleting sensitive files with File Shredder, you make it impossible for anyone to recover them using forensic software or (if you opt for full shredding…

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