McAfee is one of the oldest and most famous names in the world of virus scanners. After its founding in 1987, it is still a forerunner within the cybersecurity industry.
So, we thought it was high time to put McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe to the test with our McAfee Antivirus review. Below, you can read all about what this software offers regarding security and privacy.
To get started, let’s take a look at our overall score for McAfee’s antivirus software:
McAfee Antivirus Review: A Brief Overview
|McAfee Total Protection scores high in AV-Comparatives and tests from AV-TEST||McAfee VPN doesn’t support split tunneling or manual port selection|
|With both antivirus packages, you get helpful extra features, such as a firewall and a password manager||Privacy Protection is not available in some countries, such as the Netherlands|
|The installation process is intuitive||Safe Family doesn’t seem to be working|
|The McAfee Total Protection app works well||McAfee collects a lot of personal data and shares it with other parties|
|Customer service is slow to respond|
|Scans with McAfee LiveSafe cost a lot of CPU and ram|
McAfee’s antivirus packages offer excellent protection against viruses and other malware. There are also use some useful extra features tucked inside. However, if you care about the best possible privacy you can get, this probably isn’t your antivirus provider.
We’ll get into the minute details, but it’s also worth mentioning that the customer service and website leave something to be desired.
Still interested in finding out more about McAfee’s antivirus offering? Below, you’ll find our detailed McAfee Antivirus review, including a breakdown of how this antivirus scored in numerous areas.
McAfee Specifications and Subscriptions
McAfee has two antivirus packages: McAfee LiveSafe and McAfee Total Protection. The difference between the two is that with McAfee LiveSafe, you also get parental control features.
If you want to use these features with McAfee Total Protection, you must choose Total Protection Family. However, there are four options to choose from, which cost as follows:
First, just a quick note: Mac users should be wary of what they’re paying. When we examined the pricing for McAfee’s products, we were surprised that Mac users are charged more.
We were offered the first year for the Premium subscription on Windows at $29.99. For Mac users, McAfee appeared to be charging $59.99. This was checked in private browsing too, which suggests it was not simply an offer.
As you’ll read later in this review, the parental control feature, known as McAfee Safe Family does not seem to work. This eliminates the difference between McAfee LiveSafe and Total Protection. The only big difference is just the price and the number of devices that you can protect with one subscription.
On Windows, for McAfee LiveSafe, you’ve got protection for an unlimited number of devices for around $34.99 per year.
With Total Protection, you pay about $24.99 to protect one device, $29.99 for five devices, or $69.99 for an unlimited number of devices.
In case you’re still confused, here’s a more detailed breakdown of features:
|Feature||McAfee LiveSafe||Total Protection||Total Protection Family|
|Pricing||From $39.99 per year||From $39.99 per year||From $74.99 per year|
|Number of Devices||Unlimited||1 device||5 devices|
|Adult Content Blocker||✔||✖||✔|
|GPS Child Locator||✔||✖||✔|
|Download Link||Get McAfee Livesafe||Get Total Protection with McAfee||Get Privacy Protection with McAfee|
Security: Can McAfee be Trusted?
At the time of writing, McAfee Total Security is the only McAfee product to have been reviewed by leading cybersecurity organizations AV-Comparatives and AV-TEST.
There’s more on that below, but our own tests suggest that there’s not much difference between the packages. Here are our main findings:
- McAfee Total Protection scored highly with AV-Comparatives (99.97% safety) and AV-TEST (100% safety).
- Both virus scanners give you three scanning options.
- Both virus scanners have a built-in firewall.
- McAfee LiveSafe and McAfee Total Protection both use McAfee True Key, WebAdvisor, and Shredder.
Security testing: How well is McAfee doing?
For Windows, we see that McAfee Total Protection has an AV-Comparatives score of 99.8%, recorded in February and March 2022. This means that 99.97% of the risky URLs and files were blocked.
Three safe files were identified as high-risk during the test. The user could indicate whether they accepted the risk or not, so it was not immediately deleted.
McAfee also gives fewer false positives than the industry average. Thus, it makes fewer mistakes and marks less legitimate files as malicious when they are in fact safe.
If you compare McAfee Total Protection’s security with other top antivirus programs, you’ll only see minor differences. Clearly, it’s better than Avira’s service in this area, which allowed six malicious files to pass through.
Norton Life Lock, on the other hand, was more secure, with a 100% score for security. However, this software experienced more false positives.
Unfortunately, McAfee LiveSafe has not been tested by any of these leading auditors. However, our own, less extensive tests yielded the same results with McAfee LiveSafe as with McAfee Total Protection.
Real-time security: McAfee Total Protection
The virus scanner gives you three scanning options:
- Full scan scans your entire computer for viruses, malware, spyware, and other threats.
- Quick scan checks the most important files and programs on your device.
- Custom scan can be enabled by right-clicking on a specific file and choosing the option with the McAfee logo and “Scan.” Essentially, you’re spot-scanning specific files, just in case you have doubts about the legitimacy of a download or file transfer.
In addition, the virus scanner constantly scans every program you open for threats. So, even if you don’t manually perform an (extensive) scan, McAfee will still try to keep you safe. If the program misses a virus, you’re even entitled to a refund.
However, this only applies if you have opted for automatic renewal with your subscription. Essentially, McAfee has a Virus Protection Pledge: a promise to protect you against any virus.
So, what happens if a virus is detected? If McAfee’s virus scanner finds a suspicious file, it quarantines it. Here you can decide for yourself whether to delete the file or manually mark it as safe.
Real-time security: McAfee LiveSafe
McAfee LiveSafe also constantly scans every program you open for any threats, and the Virus Protection Pledge applies to this antivirus software too. When you fire up LiveSafe, you have the same three scan types available to you:
- Quick scan
- Full scan
- Custom scan
In addition to scanning specific files, you can also choose “Delete” to remove files directly. We’ll expand on this under the heading “McAfee Shredder.”
The Total Protection and LiveSafe virus scanners also offer a robust firewall of their own that’s capable of scanning all incoming files and protecting your network.
This prevents hackers from gaining access to your computer. It doesn’t just scan files but also inspects all incoming data traffic.
However, a big downside of the firewall is that it doesn’t seem to work on macOS at all. Although we followed all the instructions, we didn’t manage to finish the firewall set up on macOS.
We updated the software and gave the antivirus program full access to our device, but we kept seeing the same message:
We have, of course, investigated what the cause could be, and we reached out to customer service too. The employee confirmed our suspicion: this feature is simply not available on Apple products. The same goes for other features such as:
- Quick clean
- Parental controls
- Password manager
At this point, McAfee’s software clearly doesn’t seem to be shaping up to be the best antivirus for Mac. However, for the sake of Windows and other users, we expand further on these features below.
True Key: McAfee’s Password Manager
True Key is McAfee’s password manager. This is a service that you can use regardless of the subscription you buy. Moreover, you can use this password manager as a browser extension in Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari.
It’s definitely not one of the top-tier password managers, but it’s still fairly good. If you do decide to use True Key, you can securely store the following details:
- Login details, including the option to have True Key generate unique, strong passwords
- Credit cards, IDs, passport numbers, and other personally identifiable information (PII)
- Confidential notes
All information you store in the password manager is stored locally. If you log in via another device, the data is encrypted with AES-256 encryption to enable secure sharing between devices. You can also log in with a master password (on the first device and browser you use).
Any other device will also require two-factor authentication in the form of an email or approval on the first device. You can also set up Windows Hello, a fingerprint, or an alternative device for multi-factor authentication.
McAfee WebAdvisor is a browser extension that you get with every McAfee subscription. However, there are several other browser extensions for privacy and security that you may want to consider. The extension offers several features:
- Misclick protection: This blocks fake or malicious extensions and websites if you accidentally click on a phishing link.
- Typo protection: If there’s a typo in your URL, for example, “Gogle” rather than “Google,” McAfee redirects you to the correct website.
- Secure downloads: The browser extension scans all your downloads and warns you of any risks.
- Security check: This checks whether your firewall and antivirus are on when you go online.
- Safe browsing: This is a color system that allows you to see if a link is safe to click on or not.
Shredder, also called McAfee Shredder, is a feature included with all subscriptions. It lets you destroy files in a safe way. The folders that are preset to delete are your trash and the temporary internet files. You can also choose folders yourself, and even delete files from USBs or other removable drives.
In addition, you can specify how rigorous you want to be in destroying unwanted files. You can choose from Simple, Safe, and Completed, with the first option being the fastest and the third option the safest.
If you choose Completed, the file is “shredded” ten times, meaning the disk cluster on which it was originally stored is scrambled over ten times, so the actual file is impossible to recover through undeletion software.
Privacy: How Does McAfee Handle Your Data?
McAfee did not come out of the tests as a privacy-friendly company. If you care about your online anonymity, you’re better off choosing something like Bitdefender, which also offers a premium VPN.
Overall, though, we weren’t that impressed with McAfee’s privacy. Here’s what we think:
- McAfee offers a VPN service, but it’s not very good compared to other premium providers.
- Privacy protection is not available worldwide.
- McAfee Safe Family doesn’t seem to be working, and the tracker remover is also disappointing.
- McAfee collects a lot of personal data and shares it with third parties.
McAfee Safe Connect VPN
McAfee offers a virtual private network (VPN) with both LiveSafe and Total Protection. These can be found in the antivirus console under Safe VPN.
Unlike large, reliable VPN providers, McAfee does not disclose which VPN protocol the service uses. Also, the VPN does not have an automatic kill switch or other functionalities commonly seen in premium VPNs (for example, split tunneling).
What’s more, you can only whitelist certain networks and connect to a location, so you don’t know how many servers there are. In general, most other providers commonly provide a world map showing all their server locations.
The locations you can connect to are:
|Africa and Middle East||Kenya, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, South Africa|
|Asia and Oceania||Australia, Philippines, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea|
|Europe||Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom|
|North America||Canada, United States of America|
|South and Central America||Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru|
Identity Monitoring is a feature that McAfee provides with every subscription you buy. It’s really just an email monitoring service. It checks whether your email address is being shared somewhere on the dark web.
If you go to the Identity Protection website from the McAfee console, you’ll see “Privacy Protection.” McAfee searches more than 40 person lookup sites for any matching information related to your identity.
If information about you is found, you can choose to have McAfee send a deletion request, but you have to pay for this. However, privacy protection is only available to people from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Unfortunately, it still lets you fill out the request even if you’re from an unsupported country. It only tells you at the last screen that you can’t send the request.
McAfee Safe Family
Safe Family is McAfee’s parental control app, and it faces stiff competition since there are several excellent parental control apps out there already. You can use it if you have a subscription to McAfee LiveSafe or McAfee Total Protection Family.
For this review, we tried to test the app; however, we couldn’t get it to work. Even though we downloaded Safe Family, the software never worked (it wouldn’t execute). McAfee customer service could not help us any further with this matter.
McAfee has a tracker remover as part of its antivirus software. Periodically, the program removes cookies and other trackers to limit those who can view your browsing data. It also cleans folders on your computer, and you can set schedule your Outlook trash folder to be routinely emptied.
If you don’t change any of the software’s settings, the cleanup happens once a month. Bear in mind that it doesn’t go through all folders, but only those shown below in the photo.
Also, it’s important to note that McAfee doesn’t have a tracker blocker, it only removes trackers periodically. If you’re looking for a tool to block trackers and cookies altogether, McAfee isn’t the right choice for you.
It would appear that McAfee captures quite a lot of your personal data. This includes not only information that you have willingly provided yourself but also information that McAfee retrieves by following your use of its software.
The information you need to disclose to use the antivirus software includes:
- Your contact information, such as your name, email address, mailing address, and phone number
- Payment information, including your credit card information and bank information
- Your account credentials
- The devices on which you use the software
- The products you buy and what you’re looking for
- Your interests, or what you look at online
- Your personal data, such as your name, address, and gender or sexuality
- Biometric data, like your fingerprints or voice
- Photos and videos stored on your device
In addition, McAfee can track your internet, app, and network usage. The provider then knows which websites you visit, which apps you have installed, how good your internet connection is, and much more.
McAfee states that the company may share this data with third parties. This includes both the government and other (commercial) parties, as can be seen in this overview document. For instance, they may sell your data to marketing agencies after establishing your interests.
Merger with FireEye
In July 2021, FireEye was acquired by Symphony Technology Group (STG). In October of that year, STG also acquired McAfee.
CEO Bryan Palma says the McAfee Enterprise and FireEye teams are able to develop an integrated security platform supported by artificial intelligence and automation. The company is now called Trellix.
Trellix says that in the future it will mainly focus on “Extended Detection and Response (XDR)” ecosystems. This is a principle that uses multiple tools and technologies that are set up mainly for a specific company. It remains to be seen how that might impact McAfee.
Ease of Use: How User-Friendly is McAfee?
No matter how good an antivirus provider is, if the software is difficult to navigate, it is of no use to you. We tested McAfee Antivirus for its user-friendliness, and we realized it’s lacking in several departments.
- The website is difficult to navigate and appears to charge Windows and Mac users different prices.
- The installation process is intuitive, but foreign hardware users may struggle to enter their serial number.
- McAfee Total Protection has a handy app. The McAfee LiveSafe app could be designed more intuitively.
- Customer service could be better.
We’ve expanded on each of these points below.
The website is generally quite simple. The packages that McAfee offers are detailed on their home page, and the website uses geolocation to show prices in your local currency. However, the website often uses A/B testing, so you might see different landing pages or content.
While one person may see a page with prices for two-year subscriptions, another will see a page with prices for a one-year subscription. So, it can be a bit of a hassle to look at both options and thus make the best choice.
If you want to know more about the different subscriptions that McAfee offers and their associated features, the website layout isn’t really of much help. You can really only find Total Protection, not LiveSafe.
It’s a bit confusing to find information about specific features, such as the anti-spam and phishing function, which was removed from the software as of November 2021. The easiest way to find what you’re looking for is to type “McAfee [feature]” through a search engine.
There is another big disadvantage to the website. McAfee does not specify that there are different features available for different operating systems. As mentioned earlier, we had no idea that the following features were missing on macOS until we began testing each of these:
- Parental controls
- Password Manager
Note that we didn’t test McAfee Mobile as part of our McAfee Antivirus review.
How do I install McAfee?
Downloading and installing the McAfee Antivirus software on your computer is quick and easy. Below, we show you the steps to follow:
- You choose a package and pay. You will then be redirected to a page where you may download the software. Please note: you will also get a serial number here that you will need for installation, so copy it for later use.
- Open your download file to install the antivirus software. The installation wizard will guide you through the entire process.
- Mac users will be presented with a pop-up in which they have to grant access to the device. You should click on “Allow” or choose the option for more information if necessary.
- McAfee’s antivirus software gets to work immediately. You can now run scans on your computer.
Note: When we installed the software originally, we had issues with the process. The serial number cannot be copied and pasted into the installation window, so you’ll have to type it out.
First, we attempted installation on a Mac that was bought in an EU country but uses the built-in, virtual English keyboard. The McAfee installer forced us to use the hardware default keyboard, meaning that it was impossible to type the serial number in English. If you’re in a similar situation, there is seemingly no way to install McAfee.
McAfee’s software: Total Protection
For our McAfee Antivirus review, we took user-friendliness into account. From an ease-of-use point of view, McAfee Total Protection is a decent virus scanner for beginners: it’s not too difficult to navigate or understand.
However, as mentioned, macOS owners may run into issues. One example of this is that you cannot enable the firewall. Then, several features don’t work on macOS at all.
Another disadvantage is the sheer number of pop-ups that McAfee uses. McAfee advertises its other packages and services almost daily. For many consumers, this causes frustration, especially since the pop-ups are not easy to remove.
McAfee’s software: LiveSafe
McAfee LiveSafe is very similar to McAfee Total Protection, but the settings are a little more difficult to find. On the homepage, you can see that there is an antivirus, VPN, and tracker remover.
However, it’s not immediately obvious how you can access them. To see all the features available, you have to click on the four squares at the top left of the app.
As with McAfee Total Protection, McAfee LiveSafe constantly bombards you with advertisements. You also get a lot of marketing emails advertising McAfee’s other products and services. You could be forgiven for thinking that you were using a free, ad-supported product at this point.
How easy is it to cancel your McAfee subscription?
Canceling your subscription is very easy. To do this, go to your account page on the McAfee website and turn off auto-renewal. Your subscription will then automatically stop at the end of the subscription period.
If you use the free trial, you must make sure that you stop the subscription no later than seven days before the end.
Customer service: How helpful is McAfee?
The help desk on the website contains solutions to common problems and answers to frequently asked questions. This allows you to solve problems quickly and easily.
Another positive point is that the Windows version of McAfee Total Protection has an in-app help section. So, you don’t have to go to the website to start the process. Unfortunately, this section does not yet exist in the Mac app.
Also, in McAfee LiveSafe, you are redirected from the app to the website rather than being given the opportunity to ask for help within the app itself.
Actually speaking to a person at customer service is tricky. To speak to an employee, you have to fill in a long-form full of personal details. For example, you must provide your name, telephone number, email address, email verification code, and your problem.
Also, the live chat and telephone are only available on weekdays between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm. When you are chatting with an employee, it also takes a very long time before they respond to questions.
Customer service for Total Protection
There can be further issues if you’re sharing a Total Protection subscription and don’t have all of the information needed to submit a help request. Without this info, you won’t be able to get in touch with customer service, which slows down the process a great deal.
However, this mainly applies to international customer service. When we approached the Dutch service, we did get a quick response, even without providing the necessary information ourselves.
If you do manage to send in a help request, it may still remain unanswered. In some cases, we’ve seen online helpdesk employees report that you should contact them by phone instead. For instance, if you want to process refunds, call them over the phone.
Speed and System Load: Does McAfee Slow Down my Computer?
Of course, protecting yourself from malware shouldn’t come at the expense of all the other things you do on your device. A good antivirus program shouldn’t use too much RAM in the background, nor should it overheat your computer while running scans.
From reviewing McAfee’s services, we can conclude that there is a big difference between McAfee LiveSafe and McAfee Total Protection in terms of performance. Here are the main points that we noted:
- McAfee uses 214.7 MB of memory in the background.
- A quick scan is performed much faster with McAfee Total Protection than with McAfee LiveSafe.
- A full scan using McAfee LiveSafe puts considerable strain on your CPU.
How long does a scan take?
The duration of a scan depends on several factors. This includes, among other things:
- How many files you have stored on your computer
- Your RAM
- The type of hard drive you have
- Your overall CPU performance
We tested McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe using a laptop with the following: Intel Core i5-10300H CPU, 16 GB RAM DDR4, SSD storage with Windows 11 21H2 64-bit system.
With McAfee LiveSafe, a quick scan of 36,542 files was performed in 3.5 minutes. A full scan of about 283,000 files took 13 minutes.
We had previously tested McAfee Total Protection on the same laptop, but with Windows 10. Here, a full scan took 24 minutes, and a quick scan only 30 seconds.
How does McAfee affect my CPU?
McAfee is constantly working in the background to monitor your file systems and prevent malware infections. If you’re not running an active scan, McAfee continues to run more processes in the background. In total, the software uses an average of 214.7 MB, which amounts to 3.20% of our working memory.
A quick scan used an average of 299.8 MB and 20.3% of the processor’s memory. A full scan cost McAfee an average of 285.7 MB and 63% processor memory. The computer became very hot and the fans made a lot of noise.
A full scan of McAfee Total Protection took up 4% of the processor memory, which amounted to 46 MB.
McAfee Antivirus Review Verdict: Is McAfee a Good Virus Scanner?
McAfee Total Protection is a good antivirus program for Windows, but it’s far from being the best. It offers multiple security options, but it can be heavy on your CPU and isn’t the easiest to install or use.
Thus, it is not the best choice for Mac at all. After all, some key functions are missing here. You may want to compare McAfee with other popular virus scanners, such as Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, or Kaspersky.
McAfee LiveSafe also offers good security that will help keep you safe online. Unfortunately, the performance and speed of this software fall short when compared to Total Protection.
That about rounds up our McAfee Antivirus review! You can go directly to our top 5 best antivirus programs to find out the best options in the market right now.
If you’re interested in taking out a McAfee subscription, simply click the button below to go straight to the McAfee website.
Got a question about our McAfee antivirus review or the software itself? Check out our frequently answered questions, and if you don’t find what you’re looking for here, just ask us in the comments!
McAfee Antivirus or McAfee Total Protection is a good antivirus for Windows users, boasting features such as real-time monitoring, identity theft protection, anti-spam protection, and more.
While it’s not the best antivirus out there, McAfee works efficiently. However, it’s not that great on macOS and lacks many of the features that the Windows version has such as Quick Scan Anti-Spam protection, and Shredder to delete sensitive files.
McAfee is a relatively affordable antivirus that offers three main pricing plans:
- McAfee LifeSafe offers basic security at $39.99 per year.
- Total Protection works for one device at $39.99 per year.
- Total Protection Family is for up to five devices at $74.99 per year.
The Total Protection plans include additional features that you can read about in our full McAfee antivirus review.