McAfee Review: Why I Love (& Hate) This Antivirus [2020]

Sophie Anderson
Sophie Anderson
Published on: 14/07/2020

Detailed Expert Review

McAfee is a familiar name in the antivirus community, but it’s mostly known for being a mid-range, average antivirus. Over the last couple of years, however, the company separated from Intel, redesigned its interface, and has become one of the most powerful antiviruses available, on par with other industry giants like Norton and Kaspersky.

I’ve spent many hours testing the latest version of McAfee Total Protection. Initially, I was drawn to the sleek interface in addition to the additional features like Web Boost and the safe browsing extension, WebAdvisor. After trying out all of Total Protection’s security and performance features, my overall conclusion is that:

  • McAfee is good, but it’s not perfect.

It’s packed with many security features and extra add-ons. It’s effective at blocking most zero-day attacks and widespread malware. Plus, purchasing the 10 device Household plan (called Family plan in the US) is a great value for the price.

You get all the necessary features of an antivirus — like real-time protection and a secure firewall — and a few extras — like performance optimization and a password manager. But the user-friendliness definitely needs a tune-up, and I think that the WebAdvisor tool and the performance boost features were pretty underwhelming and disappointing.

McAfee Security Features

McAfee Total Protection protects against viruses, malware, spyware, and ransomware attacks, and it also keeps you safe from suspicious or vulnerable websites.

Against zero-day malware attacks, Total Protection was 99% successful at detecting and preventing attacks. This is on par with other top-notch brands like Avast and Bitdefender. When I tested Total Protection against a sample set of other kinds of malware, it scored a perfect 100%.

And while McAfee’s scores are much better now than in previous years, Norton 360 still scores better overall.

Still, Total Protection gives users a wide range of features, from safe browsing to permanent file deletion and more, including:

  • PC performance optimization.
  • Encrypted storage (128-bit encryption).
  • Home Network Security (firewall).
  • Password manager.
  • Multi-device compatibility.

Many of these features, like the password manager, safe browsing extension, and PC performance optimization, aren’t that special. You can find these same features in most other antivirus software like TotalAV.

But if you’re looking for a well-rounded antivirus at an affordable price — cheaper than a lot of premium antiviruses like BullGuard and AVGMcAfee is a solid choice.

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Virus Scan

McAfee Total Protection offers two types of virus scans:

  • Quick Scan
  • Full Scan

Running the Quick Scan on my old computer took 20 minutes and scanned through over 12,000 of my files. Honestly, 20 minutes is quite long for a “quick scan”. I tried it with my newer computer, and a little under 6,000 files were scanned in 5 mins. That’s a much better result, albeit with half of the files.

McAfee Security Features

Like the Quick Scan, I ran the Full Scan on two separate computers. My old computer took almost 20 hours to scan through, which is a really long time. But my new computer’s Full Scan took only one hour. While that’s a much more reasonable amount of time, that’s still longer than some other antivirus scanners like Bitdefender and Avira.

McAfee Security Features

Something I quickly learned while using McAfee — it provides all the useful information in pop-ups. For instance, if you want to know which files are being scanned or see which files were flagged as suspicious, you’ll get all that information in a pop-up. This isn’t a huge problem, but I did find it a little annoying.

You can also see a little information in the small notifications window in the McAfee dashboard. I’d personally rather have this information displayed in the dashboard rather than in pop-ups or tiny boxes, but it’s not a major problem.

McAfee Security Features

Once your scan is complete, you can see how many files were scanned, any issues found, and what infected files were removed. I wasn’t given the option to quarantine or check which files were infected — Total Protection simply removed them. If you have no intention to investigate suspicious files, this will be fine for you. But if you want more control, other programs like Malwarebytes let you quarantine, delete, or ignore files.

You can also see the full report of your scans via the Security Report feature.

Overall, Quick Scan and Full Scan both work as intended, though I feel like the scanning engine is pretty slow compared to other antiviruses like TotalAV and Norton. I’d also personally rather have the details of the scan built into the dashboard while the scan is happening, but again, most people probably won’t care. I’d also like the choice to quarantine or delete problematic files after the scan, instead of just automatically deleting them. But again, for most people, that’s probably not really a problem.

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Vulnerability Scanner — Keep Programs Updated

Out-of-date software is a major security risk, so the Vulnerability Scanner is a really nice addition to the Total Protection package. It searched for all out-of-date programs and software on my computer. McAfee will automatically run the Vulnerability Scanner on a specific date or you can create a schedule and choose to run the scan every week, every other week, or monthly.

For me, the Vulnerability Scanner took less than 10 minutes to complete. It showed how many updates were found, followed by a rating of how important it is to keep that program updated. In my case, my Adobe Reader needed a “critical” update because, based on McAfee’s scoring system, the chances of vulnerabilities were rated “high”.

McAfee Security Features

My one problem is that it’s not called “Vulnerability Scanner” in the Total Protection dashboard. It’s labeled “Update my apps”. It’s not a big deal, but it can lead to confusion. If you’re looking for “Vulnerability Scanner”, you won’t find it.

McAfee Security Features

Overall, it’s a handy little feature. If you ever forget to update old apps, the Vulnerability Scanner will find them and keep them updated for you.

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QuickClean — Delete Unnecessary Files

The QuickClean feature removed all the unwanted cookies and temporary files from my browser.

Before clicking Clean, I chose which system files to check or uncheck. This included cookies and files in the browsers I have installed as well as files in my email.

While scanning, I was able to “Hide” the scan and have it ask for permission before removing any files. I also had the option to tell it to delete any items immediately, but I didn’t want to do that.

There isn’t much to say about this tool. It works as intended. In less than a minute, it freed up 4.4 GB from my computer. I did get a nice amount of detail here — McAfee told me where files were removed from, how many were removed, and which files were chosen to not be removed.

McAfee Security Features

Just like the Vulnerability Scanner, QuickClean can also be pre-scheduled. And again, annoyingly, it’s not labeled “QuickClean” in the Total Protection dashboard — it’s under “Remove cookies and trackers”.

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App Boost and McAfee Web Boost — Keep Apps and Browsers Running Fast

In the PC Performance tab, McAfee offers two tools to improve computer’s performance:

  • App Boost
  • McAfee Web Boost

Once turned on, App Boost identifies apps that may require boosting and gives it some extra power. It’s supposed to help apps load quicker or work faster.

McAfee’s Web Boost will stop auto-playing videos from running in your browser, which can speed up your browsing and save your battery. Obviously, neither of these features improves security, and your mileage will vary depending on how impactful it is on your apps and battery life.

I didn’t notice much of a difference on my computer from the App Boost or Web Boost. For example, despite Firefox getting “99 boosts” over 48 hours, I didn’t notice any significant change in browsing.

Also, the App Boost feature only works on Windows 10, but as I said, older versions of Windows aren’t missing out on too much.

McAfee Security Features

It doesn’t hurt to turn the PC Performance features on (they are off by default) but don’t expect a crazy change in performance.

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Password Manager (True Key)

McAfee has partnered up with True Key to give us a password manager with each Total Protection subscription. True Key works on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.

To activate your included True Key subscription, go to the My Privacy tab and click on “Manage passwords”.

McAfee Security Features

Then, you’ll be taken to a True Key information page where you can set up your account and create your Master Password — the password that lets you access your True Key account.

You can sign in via Master Password and a multi-factor authentication option like authentication app or fingerprint scanning (on iOS and Android devices only). The True Key browser extension works on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Internet Explorer.

It comes with several features, including:

  • Auto-fill
  • Password generator
  • Digital Wallet
  • Safe Notes

It has multi-device sync, stores your passwords locally, and uses the “strongest encryption available” — which is the standard AES 256-bit encryption. That’s definitely strong and is standard on most password managers including Dashlane, Keeper, and 1Password.

True Key is simple and easy to use. You can easily see which site logins you’ve added on the dashboard.

McAfee Security Features

Unlike a lot of password managers, True Key lets you change your Master Password as many times as you want. If you don’t like your Master Password, you can change it to a new one when you’re logged in.

And you can add another email address and another device to keep your account safe.

One particularly irritating thing about McAfee’s True Key password manager is that it’s limited to 15 logins before you have to pay for an upgrade. Even though it’s “included” in the Total Protection plan, you can’t use more than 15 logins. That’s outrageous! Even Dashlane Free gives you 50 logins. And NordPass gives you unlimited logins on its free plan (on only one device). This is a pretty poor offering from McAfee and True Key.

McAfee Security Features

Overall, It’s a simple password manager, and it doesn’t have any particular standout features, but since it’s included with McAfee’s Total Protection subscription, it’s worthwhile to use if you don’t already have a password manager set up.

But I wouldn’t download the Total Protection plan just for this. And I certainly don’t want to be bullied into paying for a premium True Key account after only 15 logins. If you want an antivirus with a good password manager included, Norton 360 gives you a way better deal. But it’s best to go with a standalone password manager anyway — like Dashlane or 1Password.

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McAfee WebAdvisor

The McAfee WebAdvisor is supposed to help you avoid malicious websites and warn you before downloading suspicious attachments. But I had some problems with it. The first problem is that it only works with Windows.

When you’re in the Total Protection dashboard, you can click on the “Protect me on the web” button. It takes you to a landing page explaining what WebAdvisor is. I’m not sure why it has to take you out of the dashboard just to explain it… but alright.

My real problem is the landing page. It doesn’t direct you to download the WebAdvisor browser extension. The download is on yet another completely different page. It’s a frustratingly non-intuitive UX.

You also don’t need a Total Protection subscription to use this extension, so while it’s included, anyone can download it.

Once I installed and enabled the extension, I did a quick search (for “hair”) to see how well the tool worked. I noticed some websites had a green lock icon and the “McAfee SECURE” badge next to the article title.

McAfee Security Features

Hovering over the badge showed me more information about the link, including what it’s about and how frequently McAfee tests it for suspicious activity.

McAfee Security Features

But, after scrolling a bit more, I realized no other website had this badge.

I tried another search (for “cat”). The Wikipedia and Petco website had the McAfee badge, but again, nothing else did. McAfee seems to have a limited amount of websites it searches and approves. This doesn’t mean the other links are dangerous, but the fact that McAfee doesn’t have a vast quantity of articles in its vault makes this extension pointless.

I also don’t like how the McAfee WebAdvisor add-on doesn’t explain its criteria for which sites get a badge and which don’t (even when the sites are safe).

All in all, I was disappointed by WebAdvisor. It seems relatively useless, especially since on most search terms, the badge only appears next to around 2 out of the first 15 sites.

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Identity Theft Protection (US Only)

US customers get the added benefit of Identity Theft Protection and dark web monitoring added onto their Multi-Device or Family plan.

McAfee’s dark web monitoring looks through the dark web to find if any of your sensitive information has been hacked or leaked. McAfee checks the dark web for:

  • Email addresses
  • Medical IDs
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Bank accounts
  • Phone numbers
  • Credit/debit cards
  • Driver’s licenses
  • Passports

I entered my email addresses into the Identity Theft Protection portal, and it said that one of my email addresses was listed in 4 separate places on the dark web!

McAfee Security Features

Luckily none of that information would cause my accounts to be hacked (there was one temporary password which got leaked), but it’s great to know that McAfee can quickly search the dark web for any leaked information.

McAfee will now continually monitor the dark web for any of my information, and if anything comes up, I’ll get an email immediately.

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McAfee Plans and Pricing

McAfee Total Protection is available on three different plans. They all share the same features, such as:

  • Real-time protection
  • Firewall
  • File encryption tool
  • WebAdvisor
  • App Boost

You can install Total Protection on PCs, Macs, iOS, and Android devices. The difference between the plans is the number of devices you can install Total Protection on:

For a single device, the Individual price isn’t too bad. It’s comparable to Norton’s most basic 360 plan for the first year, and you get a nice range of features.

When it’s time to renew, Total Protection’s “Individual” price jumps up, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth it — the price nearly doubles after the first year. It’s still cheaper than Kaspersky or TotalAV’s renewal plan price, but you do get a lot less in terms of extra features from McAfee.

However, the Household/Family plan is a great value for the price — the extra cost is minimal, and it comes with all the same features as the Multi-Device plan.

There isn’t a free plan, but there is a 30-day trial. It puts you on the 10 device plan for the month. You don’t need to hand over your credit card information to sign-up either, which is nice.

This is really the best way to go because you can see if you like the software before you commit. And if you do like it, you get a month for free!

As for refunds, you can also request a full refund within 30 days of purchasing your subscription, or within 60 days of automatic renewal when you’ve subscribed for a year or more.

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McAfee Ease of Use and Setup

Installing Total Protection was quick. It took me less than 10 minutes.

Once I had the dashboard up, it was pretty simple to use. You can easily poke around and check out the many offerings, but finding specific tools is sometimes a bit difficult.

McAfee organizes its information a bit strangely. It doesn’t title everything — the Vulnerability Scanner is called “Update my apps” under the “PC Security” tab. But I did like that once you click on it, the feature is more thoroughly explained.

It’s a little annoying that the bulk of the information is hidden within the gear icon on the top right of the dashboard.

McAfee Ease of Use and Setup

Here are all the settings for the Firewall, Scheduled scans, Anti-Spam, and more. I’d recommend going through each of these settings to adjust them.

For instance, I found out that the scheduled scans were set to start at 4am or 5am — this wouldn’t work for me because my computer is turned off at those times. If I didn’t check, I’d assume these scans were going off when they weren’t. I was also never asked to approve or change the time of your scheduled scans either, so if I didn’t look for this, I never would have known.

My main complaint is the pop-ups. The majority of McAfee’s details are given in pop-ups. For instance, when I use the scan features, I have to click “run” in a pop-up. It’s the same with the Password Manager, the File Shredder, and File Lock to lock important files.

This is just a personal preference, and I know that some people prefer these pop-ups, but it just doesn’t work for me.

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McAfee Mobile App

The mobile app works on iOS and Android devices. You can download the app from the App or Play Store, or connect to it directly through the dashboard on your computer by clicking on Protect more devices.

McAfee Mobile App

The best thing about the mobile app is that it offers real-time protection. And it works pretty well, too. It instantly caught all the malware that I tried to download.

You can also scan your phone by pressing the big shield at the top of the screen that says “Scan”. This checks to ensure your files, app, and Wi-Fi are secure. You can also clean out your device’s storage, boost memory, and see reports about your scans and data.

The scanning was quick and easy — it took about a minute to complete, and I could see what files were scanning at the top. I didn’t notice any performance problems while scanning.

McAfee Mobile App

Clicking the three lines on the top right corner (the settings) will give you access to more features, like the Battery Booster under “Performance”, “Guest Mode”, and the ability to track your data usage.

Similar to Kaspersky’s mobile app, the Anti-Theft feature allows you to remotely lock and wipe your data if your device is ever stolen. And like Kaspersky’s app, there’s also a Thief Cam” feature, which allows you to take a picture of the person who stole your phone using the front camera. This is much better than some mobile antivirus apps — like TotalAV — which doesn’t have these features.

Overall, the app works smoothly without affecting the usability of my phone. The interface does feel a bit cluttered, but it has a host of features packed in there, so I can’t complain.

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McAfee Customer Support

McAfee has all support bases covered: 

  • Phone
  • Live chat
  • FAQs
  • Community forum

The phone and live chat are available 24/7 for English speakers. Depending on your language, live chat may not be an option, and the hours of operation for the phone support will vary.

You can usually get a representative in just a few minutes, but it may be longer depending on the time a day. If this is the case, a banner is shown at the top of the McAfee support page warning users to expect longer wait times.

There’s also a detailed knowledge base which answers many typical technical support issues. Unfortunately, the organization of these articles is lacking. There are hundreds to choose from, but you have to mostly rely on the search bar and scrolling through until you find your answer. And although the support articles are detailed, they lack images or videos.

The community forum is pretty active. People ask questions and other members of the forum can answer. One great thing is that the forum is available in multiple languages including Arabic, Italian, and Spanish.

You can also use the Virtual Technician to diagnose and fix technical issues — it’s not perfect, but it’s helpful for simple questions. Or if you’re away from your computer, you can use the Techmaster — and advanced paid service — to help troubleshoot issues.

All in all, McAfee Total Protection’s support options are great — you can get everything from phone chat to a virtual assistant. I do wish the knowledge base had more pictures and videos though — it’s much easier to solve a problem with visual guides.

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Is McAfee Any Good? Is “Total Protection” Worth the Price?

McAfee Total Protection has improved its old software a lot. It scores high for malware detection and prevention, and it’s definitely going to keep your devices secure. The package also offers a wide range of extra security and performance options, some of which are great (QuickClean) and some of which are not great (like WebAdvisor). And if you’re like me, the new interface may annoy you with tons of pop-ups. But if you prefer that style, then McAfee will work really well for you.

The mobile app is a great addition to McAfee’s package. It’s quick, effective, light on resources, and comes with a lot of great extra features to help keep mobile devices safe. I also love that McAfee gives so many support options — phone, live chat, knowledgebase, forums, and AI technicians at your disposal.

If you’re new to using an antivirus and need to protect a lot of devices, especially Windows devices, the Household/Family plan is both a good price and offers all the features you’ll need to stay protected. The Multi-device plan still offers lots of value, but the Individual plan (only 1 device) is not really worth it. If you only need to protect one device, it’s better to go with something else like Norton 360 or Avira Prime.

What I Like:

  • Quick installation and easy set up.
  • Inexpensive multi-user plans.
  • Extensive range of features.
  • Great support options.
  • Attractive dashboard and user interface.

What I Don’t Like:

  • Notifications in pop-ups.
  • Limited password manager.
  • Ineffective browser extension.

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Will McAfee remove malware?

Yes, all of McAfee’s antivirus software will remove malware from your device, including spyware and ransomware. McAfee will also protect your device in real-time, meaning it will block malware from attacking your device and stealing all of your personal data.

Does McAfee have a free version?

The only free version of McAfee is a 30-day free trial of the Total Protection package which you can use for 30 days without inputting your payment information. If you know you want to try out a powerful antivirus, this is one of the best antivirus trials out there.

Does McAfee work on Mac?

Yes, McAfee has a Mac version of the Total Protection package, but it’s not one of the best Mac antiviruses on the market.

Will McAfee protect my iPhone or Android device?

Yes, McAfee’s Mobile Security app can protect your iPhone or Android device from online threats. The app will scan Wi-Fi networks for vulnerabilities, which hackers could use to attack your device. The app also offers Anti-Theft Protection and a Media Vault, where you can securely store photos and other files behind a secure PIN code.

McAfee Products & Pricing

McAfee Total Protection - 1 Device
Free Trial
McAfee Total Protection - 5 Devices
Free Trial
McAfee Total Protection - 10 Devices
Free Trial
Bottom Line

McAfee Total Protection has all the bases covered for security, plus a few added features for privacy, too. It has a lot to offer and it’s easy to get in touch with customer support, but I feel like the user interface needs a little work. Overall, McAfee Total Protection is a great antivirus program coming at a good value for home users needing to protect multiple devices.

About the Author

Sophie Anderson
Sophie Anderson
Cybersecurity researcher and tech journalist

About the Author

Sophie Anderson has spent the last 10 years working as a software engineer for some of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley. She now works as a cybersecurity consultant and tech journalist, helping everyday netizens understand how to stay safe and protected in an online world.

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McAfee User Reviews

101 126
Based on 227 reviews in 27 languages 3.6
Language
You can trust the Community! Companies can't ask us to delete or change user reviews.
United Kingdom
5.0
McAfee
Android User
Mcafee is really easy to use. I never got hacked under their software.
Sem
Sem
Australia
3.5
Good product
Windows User
I think it's a good product, but it blocks some harmless sites and disrupts my web experience
Chester
Chester
United States
4.0
Easy to use
Windows User
Easy to use, does not affect the performance of your computer. The licensing form is not easy to understand.
Sheila
Sheila
India
3.5
Mcafee offers basic protection
Windows User
McAfee total protection has an extremely handy user interface. The firewall is adjustable, and the web advisor works properly. But newer versions of Mozilla Firefox are not supported. Appropriate enough antivirus for the average consumer.
McAfee is really great
Windows User
Great product for multiple computers and more!!! Unlike the previous version, this seems to not slow my PC down :)
Manuel
Manuel
Germany
5.0
Love McAfee for all my devices
Windows User
I have several computers and other devices I need to protect. This is one of the best tools/packages for making that happen at an affordable price.
Difficult to use
Windows User
Found this antivirus very difficult to install on multiple items devices (cell phones, multiple computers) as it did not use the Key Code for all devices but issued a new code for each device. I don’t know how to keep track of each one. Once installed, it seems to work well but I doubt I will want to go through the installation process every year, so I have to lower its score.
Michael
Michael
Switzerland
5.0
McAfee is good for me
Windows User
I am not a tech guru or a computer enthusiast. This was easy enough for me to install without calling tech support. I have been a McAfee user for years and it has never failed me. I ordered the physical version with a card inside that has an install number (a.k.a. "Key") on it. I have an account with McAfee, so I logged in, put the install number in my account and downloaded the new software. For every other computer I needed to update, I logged into McAfee and downloaded the new software. Very easy.

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