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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
Expensive for single-device use
Somewhat confusing interface
Difficult to locate advance scanning options
McAfee Total Protection is a powerful antivirus software with some nice additional features, including protection against spyware, phishing, ransomware, and other threats. After the first year, it can get pretty pricey, but it's regarded as one of the best names in the antivirus business, so you know you'll be keeping you and your devices safe at all times.
McAfee 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Priced at just $44.99, 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 $109.99. 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.
McAfee Total Protection is close to the top in its core competency of dealing with viruses, but there are options that provide better malware protection, better interfaces, and more attractive multi-year pricing.
ESET is a close competitor that beats McAfee in terms of system impact, malware detection, and false positives, but it’s a fairly thin line. They both provide excellent protection, and McAfee has the stronger suite of additional tools, with a better password manager, more versatile parental controls, and a file shredder to destroy files after encryption. Neither suite offers the ability to remotely lock files, which is a feature that you get from some competitors like Trend Micro.
We found ESET to have the more user-friendly interface, with most options opening in the same window instead of generating a cluttered mess of multiple windows. ESET also offers superior control over scans, including a custom scan option.
McAfee wins out in terms of price, but just for the first year. After the first year, ESET has lower prices across the board.
Decent all-around antivirus suite, but it’s expensive past the first year.
McAfee Total Protection is a powerful antivirus suite, and the first-year subscription pricing is very attractive. It’s absolutely worth the first-year price, 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.