McAfee Review

by Christo Petrov

McAfee is a name you’re most probably familiar with. You may have never tried the software, but surely you’ve heard about its inventor.

As of the time of writing, John McAfee is hiding from the IRS for tax evasion as a murder suspect.

All this while running for the 2020 presidential election. How crazy is that?

Well, my McAfee review will be nowhere near that crazy. However, I will point out the main strengths and weaknesses of the McAfee security suite.

Price 

A 1-year license for up to 10 devices will cost you $44.99 for the first year. After that, you’ll have to pay an annual fee of $119.99.

There is one detail that you might consider a perk. When the makers of this virus protection software say “up to 10 devices,” they mean you can use your license for an unlimited number of devices. So if you have 14 devices, the license you buy won’t cover just 10 of them; you can use it on all 14.

Free Version

Total Protection has no free version. The vendor does offer a free tool called McAfee Security Scan Plus, but it won’t be of much use if you want to keep your device safe from cyber threats.

However, there is a McAfee free trial version. You can download and test it for 30 days before deciding whether it’s worth the money.

Requirements

The software will run on a machine with a minimum of Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 (McAfee is a multi-platform product, so you can use it on Macs, Android, and iOS devices), a 1 GHz processor, at least 2GB of RAM, and around 500 MB of free disk space.

Installation

Bringing the McAfee logo on your desktop is straightforward and doesn’t take much time. You start by downloading a small file. After you open it, you’ll need to wait a bit (in my case, it was just over 7 minutes) until the software is installed.

The last thing you need to do is enter your email address. Then you’re all set.

User Interface

McAfee’s main screen has 5 sections.

The Home tab is where the dashboard is, showing you some statistics about protected apps, detected threats, etc. From here, you can add more devices to the license you purchased.

The PC Security tab holds the basic scanning functions, including real-time scanning, which checks files as you access them (manual scanning checks files only when you run a scan). Other features like app updating, a firewall, and cookie deletion are also available in this tab.

The Performance tab is an interesting way of isolating McAfee’s speed-boosting features. It may not have a direct impact on computer protection, but it enhances performance.

To use the tab, you’ll have to install App Boost, which boosts (or so McAfee claims) loading times and speeds up apps that are already loaded.

In the same tab, you’ll find Web Boost, which is supposed to speed up your browser by blocking auto-playing videos. You’ll need to download it separately from the suite.

McAfee claims to be one of the best computer security solutions around. To justify this claim, it puts some serious effort into data protection. The result can be seen in the My Privacy tab. From there, you can manage your passwords, encrypt files, check what devices are connected to your network, set parental controls, and much more.

The last tab is My Info. It shows standard security information like product information, a log of suspicious activities on your device, and help and support information.

Features

Although McAfee has a nice set of features, they come short when compared to similar products. For example, you won’t find a VPN service in Total Protection.

But let’s see what McAfee does have.

Scanning

A McAfee review is useless without describing the scanning abilities of the suite. McAfee offers both quick and full scans as well as scheduled scans.

Scheduled scans are quite customizable. You can choose which days of the week (and at what time) a scan should be performed.

With that said, further customization is not available. You can choose to perform scheduled scans every week, every second week, or each first week of the month. That’s it.

Data Protection

McAfee Total Protection comes with a file shredder. It’s a handy tool to permanently delete files you don’t want anybody else to see.

Here’s how this can happen:

You can lend your laptop to someone or sell it. The person who lays his hands on it will be able to retrieve the files even if you have deleted them from the disk.

Total Protection includes File Lock, which encrypts your files and makes them unreadable to others. Like any other data encryption product, it will create vaults of protected files and lock them for your eyes only.

Before you create a password for your vault, McAfee will prompt you to choose security questions and provide answers. While security questions are clearly vulnerable to social engineering, it is a nice additional layer of security.

Parental Control

Moving on with my McAfee review. Safe Family is useful if you want to have a closer look at what your kids are doing online. It has a decent (albeit not perfect) content filter. To use Safe Family, you will have to create a profile for your child. After that, you can remotely monitor websites browsed, apps opened, and time spent online.

One interesting feature I found in Safe Family was the option to ask for permission. If you are a kid, you can ask for permission to visit a website that the content filter blocked.

Password management

No true computer security software is complete without a password manager. With McAfee, it’s TrueKey. It’s a browser extension that keeps all your passwords safe, so you don’t have to remember them and type them every time you want to log in.

You have to download TrueKey separately from the suite (but of course). Once you do, you get a good password management solution with multi-factor authentication.

Scanning for viruses

Scanning is a must-have for every computer security software. Let’s see what McAfee has in store.

A quick scan lasted about 4 minutes – substantially longer than some of McAfee’s competitors –  but that’s not even the bad news.

The bad news is that the scan never finished. The software canceled it at about 99%. I tried it another 4 times, and every time it showed the same alert: “Quick Scan canceled. No issues found”.

It turns out there is a well-known similar issue with McAfee’s VirusScan.

I also had some trouble running a full scan with McAfee Total Protection. The first couple of times, my device simply turned itself off due to overheating before the scan was complete.

I had to use additional cooling, which solved the problem for me. I was then able to run a complete full scan, which took just under 46 minutes.

This is a decent result. However, considering all the troubleshooting I had, scanning with McAfee was considerably time-consuming.

Real-Time Protection

With McAfee dubbed one of the best-rated antivirus solutions out there, it’s time to see what it’s capable of in terms of real-time threat detection.

Phishing protection: 9/10

McAfee scored a near-perfect result in terms of identifying phishing pages. It flashed a red screen in my browser every time it sensed a threat.

It’s not all great news, though.

The software did have some detection flaws. It failed to recognize a fake tax refund page.

Parental Control Protection: 8/10

No computer protection product can detect every single piece of content that’s inappropriate for kids. However, the guys from McAfee could have done better when it comes to parental control.

Even with the default content filter turned on, I was able to access websites with disturbing content such as gory images and videos. The software did a pretty good job of blocking pornographic content and gun websites.

Downloading the EICAR test file

McAfee detected the test file flawlessly. No surprises here.

Independent Lab test scores

In its April 2019 report, independent antivirus lab AV-Test assigned a 6.0/6.0 score to McAfee Internet Security. Total protection includes Internet Security, File Lock, Mcafee’s data encryption feature, and Safe Family.

In April, McAfee scored a perfect 100% against zero-day malware attacks, based on 277 samples. It is a considerable improvement compared to the March results (99.2%).

The software was assigned a 100% success rate for discovering widespread malware based on more than 6,500 malware samples.

Customer Support

One thing the best pc security software can’t go without is great customer support. And what McAfee lacks in terms of features and performance, it makes up for with customer care.

Users can choose between chat and phone support, a knowledge base, and a virtual assistant. While the knowledge base and the chatbot weren’t particularly useful for solving my queries, chat support was decent and timely.

It took about a minute before an agent appeared every time I asked for one. Every time, they were polite and assisted me with the appropriate information.

For one of my queries, the customer care agent asked me to install a tool and took over my laptop remotely. The agent then showed me how to solve my problem.

Remote help is not unheard of in the realm of customer support. Still, it’s nice to put that personal touch in helping your customers.

Conclusion

McAfee Total Protection is a good cybersecurity solution for individual users, even though it lags features that could make it more competitive.

You may know McAfee for its Virus Pledge. It is supposed to give you confidence that, even if the software product is unable to protect your device, a company representative will try to fix it remotely or you will get your money back.

That pledge is a nice marketing move indeed. However, a few small improvements can make the product even better, and that is always the best marketing strategy.

Well, that’s all for this McAfee review. Until next time!

Pros: 

  • Fast scanning
  • Good customer support

Cons: 

  • Lacks features like VPN
  • Too many features need to be downloaded separately, and that might confuse some users

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