McAfee vs Avast: Which Antivirus Takes the Crown in 2022?

McAfee and Avast logo on a tipping scale
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Summary: McAfee vs Avast

We tested McAfee vs Avast to help you discover which option offers the most utility for you. We rated them across five essential categories, including security features, system load, value for money, user-friendliness, and the quality of customer support.

Here are the final results:

  • Security: McAfee wins
  • Privacy: McAfee wins
  • User-friendliness: Tie
  • System performance: Avast wins
  • Pricing and Value: McAfee wins

McAfee offers a better anti-malware product at the moment, but only just. While Avast has more advanced features, marginally better malware protection, and a free limited version of its software, it has suffered major privacy breaches recently. Avast also charges a hefty premium for any decent customer support. If you want to test McAfee right now, just click the button below to visit their official website.

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Learn all about these two virus removal tools as well as our testing process in the full article below.

Comparing McAfee vs. Avast means confronting two programs at the top of the antimalware game. Between them, we tested plenty of high-end security features and dove deep into what made these antivirus programs mainstays in the game. In the end, picking a winner means delving into the features that cater to specific needs and preferences. And that’s exactly what we did for this in-depth comparison.

To write this guide, we inspected McAfee and Avast’s security arsenals, system impact, ease of use, customer support, and value for money. After several rounds of testing, McAfee just about managed to triumph over Avast. Keep reading to find out why this decision was a tough call.

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McAfee vs Avast: Features

McAfee Corp. is a US-based company founded way back in 1987. It boasts around 500 million users worldwide, as well as plenty of security packages to choose from. McAfee Total Protection is their most popular offering. However, a software vulnerability was reported in September 2021. It affected their graphical user interface (GUI) component called McAfee McAgent, which is included in their cybersecurity programs. A patch that resolved this issue was quickly released, though.

Avast, on the other hand, is headquartered in the Czech Republic. It was founded in 1988 and is also the owner of AVG. Its products currently attract more than 400 million active users. In 2019, Avast extensions were removed from Chrome, Firefox, and Opera due to excessive data logging and reselling.

In other words, both McAfee antivirus and Avast antivirus have had their share of privacy and security missteps. With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the respective features of the programs we tested: McAfee Total Protection and Avast Ultimate.

FeaturesMcAfee Total ProtectionAvast Ultimate
Real-time malware protection
Wi-Fi protection
Advanced firewall
Sandbox mode for suspicious apps
Parental controls
Remote management
Ransomware Security
Protection against phishing
Banking security
VPN service✔ 
Disc cleanup
Digital fingerprint removal
Webcam protection
Identity theft protection
CompatibilityWindows, macOS, iOS, AndroidWindows, macOS, iOS, Android
Number of protected devicesUp to 10Up to 10
Free trial30 days
Money-back guarantee30 days30 days
Price$64.99/year$99.99/year
Link to websiteVisit McAfee Visit Avast

Free versions of McAfee and Avast

McAfee doesn’t have a free desktop antivirus. There’s a free mobile app, McAfee Mobile Security, but you’ll have to pay if you want premium features, which include the VPN. Unfortunately, there are a lot of customer reviews criticizing the app for its incompatibility with the latest iPhones.

On the other hand, Avast offers a free antivirus. You’ll have to put up with advertising, which you can get rid of if you purchase the premium version. Still, you’ll have an antivirus, antispyware, and real-time protection for free.


McAfee vs Avast: Which Antivirus is Safer?

A good antivirus program has to protect you against all types of malware. Without that, the rest of its features don’t really matter. Typically, both McAfee and Avast perform admirably against malicious programs. This includes ransomware, spyware, viruses, and other security threats. We looked into each of these features, as well as dived deep into the security capabilities of each program.

Performance and testing

We usually rely on test results by AV-Comparatives when gauging the security levels of antimalware tools. In our last review of their scores, McAfee blocked an impressive 99.8% of threats according to AV-Comparatives’ charts. However, more recent results have been a little worse for McAfee. Here’s McAfee’s performance chart between February and June 2022:

  • Threats blocked: 97.4%
  • Compromised: 0.7%
  • User dependent: 1.9%
  • False positives: 5

This drop in performance means that McAfee lost its perfect score, its “Advanced+” title, dropping to “Standard.” McAfee also had the highest number of “User Dependent” hits in these tests out of all antivirus software reviewed.

Here’s how AV-Comparatives defines this metric: “If a user interaction is required and it is up to the user to decide if something is malicious, and in the case of the worst user decision the system gets compromised, we rate this as user-dependent.” In other words, if you click “Allow” or “Run” on any security prompt and your system gets infected as a result, it means your antivirus app didn’t do its job.

Screenshot of AV comparatives, McAfee vs Avast, McAfee results

On the other hand, Avast performed slightly better, with the following results during the same testing circuit:

  • Threats blocked: 99.6%
  • Compromised: 0.3%
  • User dependent: 0.1%
  • False positives: 3

Avast had very few user-dependent results, but it did show three false positives and missed 0.3% of the threats.

Screenshot of AV comparatives, McAfee vs Avast, Avast results

Security features

Avast performed better than McAfee during the same testing period, holding onto its “Advanced+” title. In our opinion, it beats McAfee in terms of advanced security features, as well. For example, Avast offers a “sandbox” mode, which lets you test suspicious programs safely. It also comes with advanced anti-tracking tools.

McAfee doesn’t lag too far behind, however. It offers a decent password manager and several browser extensions that keep you safe when you’re browsing. Just one example is Misclick Protection, which blocks fake or malicious extensions if you accidentally click on a link that directs to a phishing website. McAfee also comes with Shredder, which lets you safely destroy unwanted files, making them unrecoverable by any means.

Privacy considerations

Our security testing doesn’t end with performance tests and features, however. We also looked at how McAfee and Avast’s privacy practices affect their security features. Google removed Avast’s browser extensions from the Chrome Store in 2019 for logging too much user data. Two of the three extensions were allowed back after a few months after Avast changed its privacy policy.

Partner this problem with the fact that it indirectly sold user data to third parties, and Avast loses some of the points it earned.

Which ranks higher in security?

This was a tough call to make. Although Avast performed better in terms of testing and features, we don’t encourage its use until it tightens up its privacy practices. You may be protecting your data from hackers, but that doesn’t matter when your own antivirus could be selling you out.

With this in mind, we declare McAfee the winner of this round — with the caveat that we hope it improves its performance.

Banner showing McAfee as a winner for Security category


McAfee vs Avast: Which Antivirus Offers Better Privacy?

Antivirus programs have long expanded their purpose from simply scanning and deleting malicious software on your devices. Given the importance of personal data in today’s time, antivirus software have also offered features to safeguard your data and information. As such, privacy is an important consideration when choosing an antivirus.

We looked into the privacy features built into McAfee Total Protection and Avast Ultimate, as well as their privacy policies — a.k.a. what data these companies collect from you and how they handle them. And finally, we reviewed their privacy breaches to see if either company has done a sufficient job of responding to the incidents and preventing them from happening again.

Privacy features

Privacy is a glaring weakness for both Avast and McAfee. They both have several privacy-oriented features, as well as a virtual private network (VPN). However, the performance of these features is another matter altogether.

Avast has SecureLine VPN, a decent enough offering (scoring a 6.0 out of 10 in our reviews) with its competitive speeds, although its score is weighed down by its few servers and its collection of user data. Avast also offers AntiTrack, which disguises your online identity by blocking trackers from collecting and sharing your data. It also lets you schedule the deletion of your browsing data and cookies.

Meanwhile, McAfee offers Safe Connect VPN, which we’re even less enthusiastic about. It doesn’t disclose which VPN protocols it uses and doesn’t offer a kill switch, split tunneling, or other features offered by premium VPNs. You’re better off finding a separate VPN provider. McAfee also offers Identity Monitoring, which checks if your email address is being shared on the dark web. You also get the Safe Family, a parental control app, and a Tracker Remover, which regularly removes cookies and other trackers from your browser.

Privacy policies

Unfortunately, Avast falls short of protecting user data as well as it should. In our Avast review, we scored the software just 3 out of 10 for privacy. Its privacy policy allows the company to collect a large amount of personal data, including your IP address and location. Its VPN also collects the timestamps of your connection.

McAfee didn’t fare much better in terms of privacy, achieving just 4 out of 10 in our McAfee review. Like Avast, McAfee collects a large amount of personal data, such as the devices on which you use the software, the products you buy, your personal data (name, address, gender), and biometric data (fingerprints or voice). Its policy also states that they may share this data with third parties.

Known breaches and privacy scandals

So, what happens to your user data once it has been collected?

Let’s look at Avast first. In 2020, a subsidiary of Avast sold search histories, GPS coordinates, and browsing history data to Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, and other major companies. This was the second breach in a short space of time, not long after Avast was found to be gathering large swathes of data with a browser extension. The company defended itself by saying it has always complied with the California Consumer Privacy Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

McAfee, meanwhile, recently had a software vulnerability revealed, affected their graphical user interface (GUI), called McAfee McAgent, a component included in all their cybersecurity programs. A patch was made available to users quickly afterward.

Which offers better user privacy?

Although both programs offer decent privacy features and have less-than-stellar privacy policies, we think Avast’s breach history makes us far less confident using it. Overall, McAfee has the better track record, even if we think its privacy collection can put users at risk.

Banner showing McAfee as a winner for Privacy category


McAfee vs Avast: Which Software is More User-Friendly?

When rating user-friendliness, we’re looking at various things: the installation process, mobile application support, the program’s ease of use, and customer service. We want the experience to be as straightforward as possible, with the company offering support in case users get confused. Let’s see if McAfee and Avast can hit those marks properly.

Installation process

Avast’s website is straightforward and easy enough to navigate. The installation process has a few steps, but it’s mostly easy to follow. You’ll need to find the Store button on the homepage and then select the package you want to get. Afterward, you need to fill in the required personal and payment information. From there, the installation software will be downloaded to your device, and you can open the file to complete the installation.

McAfee’s website is similarly streamlined and straightforward. If you scroll down, you’ll see a comparison table of its different offers and a button that lets you buy the package of your choice. After choosing your preferred package, you need to provide your personal and payment information.

One thing to note is that after you’ve downloaded the setup file, you need to keep track of the so-called “serial number.” This is different from your activation code. And yes, it’s just as confusing as it sounds. Firstly, you can’t copy and paste the serial number into the field. Worst still, if you’re using a computer whose default language isn’t English, you’ll be unable to go any further. The installation wizard forces your keyboard to type in the system’s default language. It can’t be changed. But get past this step, and the installation itself is pretty straightforward.

Layout and ease of use

Both McAfee and Avast offer clean and sleek clients. Finding some advanced options, though, could pose a challenge, although starting a scan and inspecting the results is simple enough.

For Avast users, the client is easy to navigate, and you can find the option to run a scan as soon as the program runs. You’ll also know when your last scan was. There are also shortcuts to some features, such as Wi-Fi Inspector and Ransomware Shield. However, we didn’t like that you need to download the VPN and anti-tracking programs separately.

Screenshot of Avast Antivirus, Home

McAfee users get an overview of several settings on the homepage, namely the antivirus, VPN, ID protection, and tracker remover. However, one thing to note is that McAfee has a lot of daily pop-ups, including ads for its packages and services.

Screenshot of McAfee app, Dashboard

Customer support

When it comes to on-site FAQs and setup guides, McAfee and Avast have veritable treasure troves of useful information. However, live customer support is something both companies have to work on.

Avast does offer high-quality tech support, but it comes as a separate service with a separate fee ($199/year or $79 for a “simple fix”). Granted, the support is not limited to Avast products, so you can use it for all tech-related problems. But if you don’t feel like paying extra for customer support, you’re stuck with basic emails that usually get a response in a couple of days.

Getting a hold of an actual human being with McAfee feels like an impossible task. Even if you manage to get through, your problems will most likely go unsolved. For all important issues, they might refer you to their phone number. For example, you can only request a refund via phone call. This is unforgivable for such a large company.

Which is more user-friendly?

McAfee’s installation process can be confusing for beginners, and its pop-ups can be annoying instead of helpful. Avast’s customer service isn’t going to make many people happy with that price tag. In short, both McAfee and Avast need to up the quality of their customer support and new user onboarding process. We’re not overly happy with either, so we’ll declare a tie for ease of use and support.

Banner showing tie result for Ease of Use category


McAfee vs Avast: System Performance and Speed

System load is another essential aspect of antimalware tools. How will these programs affect your devices once they start scanning your files and folders? For this review, we directly compared McAfee vs Avast in terms of their respective CPU loads.

A quick scan with Avast took only just a couple of minutes, while its full virus scan took over 15 minutes. Meanwhile, McAfee took 4:30 minutes to perform a quick scan, and its full scan took more than two hours. Therefore, our tests revealed Avast as a considerably faster scanner than McAfee.

Let’s take a closer look at Avast’s system impact:

  • Running in the background: 0-0.5%
  • Browsing: 2-3%
  • Scanning: 20-40%

To compare, here’s how McAfee performed:

  • Running in the background: 0-9%
  • Browsing: up to 26%
  • Scanning: 40-50%

This is unsurprising, as it mirrors the results from our McAfee review. In the review, McAfee’s processor memory consumption reached 63%. Our device also became very hot and noisy. The bottom line is that whatever you do with McAfee, your system will feel it. It’s one of the most resource-heavy antivirus programs out there.

Which antivirus program has better speed and performance?

In general, Avast antivirus is considerably lighter than McAfee antivirus when it comes to CPU consumption. As long as you’re not performing full scans, you won’t even know it’s there. It’s the clear winner in this category.

Banner showing Avast as a winner for Speed and performance category


McAfee vs Avast: Which Antivirus is the Cheapest?

Top antivirus programs provide lots of value without going too far with their price tags. So, let’s see how McAfee and Avast fare in that regard.

Avast’s prices

Avast offers lower prices for your first year of subscription. Its Premium Security suite is priced as follows:

  • One device: $4.19/month or $50.28/year
  • Ten devices: $5.79/month or $69.48/year

All Avast products come with a full 30-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked.

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McAfee’s prices

McAfee offers plenty of subscription options separated into Individual and Family plans. The individual options with introductory first-year pricing include:

  • Basic (one device): $29.99/year
  • Plus (five devices): $39.99/year
  • Ultimate (unlimited devices): $64.99/year

The Family plans include:

  • Plus (five devices): $39.99/year
  • Premium (ten devices): $44.99/year
  • Ultimate (unlimited devices): $64.99/year

McAfee offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for annual subscriptions. This goes up to 60 days if your subscription has been automatically renewed. Monthly subscribers can’t request a refund.

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Which software has more value for money?

Although Avast offers a free limited version of its software, its premium version is priced significantly higher than McAfee’s. Based on this consideration alone, McAfee wins the category. And if you factor in all the previous category winners, it’s clear that you get more value for your money with McAfee.

Banner showing McAfee as a winner for Price category


Final Thoughts: McAfee vs. Avast

McAfee triumphs over Avast because of its better privacy track record and pricing, although our review of these programs showed that neither is a stellar choice. While both do have decent security features, their privacy policies are enormous red flags, and their customer service could use some work. Avast is the better choice if you’re only concerned about speed and performance, but we can’t wholeheartedly recommend it over McAfee because of privacy concerns.

Here’s a recap of McAfee vs. Avast across five essential antivirus aspects:

  • Security: McAfee
  • Privacy: McAfee
  • User-friendliness: Tie
  • System performance: Avast
  • Pricing and Value: McAfee

McAfee is the clear choice between these two options. But unless it improves its privacy policy, we wouldn’t recommend it to most users, either. If you want a top-performing antivirus with a better privacy policy, we recommend you check out Norton 360 Deluxe ($29.99 for the first year).

However, if your choice came down to McAfee vs. Avast, we currently recommend going with the former. Click on the button below to visit McAfee’s official site and test it out right now.

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You can also review our other antivirus comparison articles here:

McAfee vs Avast: Frequently Asked Questions

Have some additional questions about McAfee and Avast? Just click on one of the frequently asked questions below to expand the answer.

At the moment, McAfee offers the better antimalware product, though only by a small margin. Avast comes equipped with a few more features, and it’s slightly better at malware detection. Additionally, there’s also a free limited version of Avast. However, it’s let down by recent privacy breaches that meant it scored just three out of ten for privacy. Learn all about these two providers in our detailed McAfee vs Avast comparison.

You can, but we would advise against it. Two programs with real-time malware protection will inevitably clash and limit each other’s performance. If you’re interested in these two services, we recommend going with McAfee, which is just slightly the better choice right now. Before purchase, you can learn all about it in our exhaustive McAfee antivirus review.

Yes! Avast is one of the top antivirus programs out there. It can detect and block all sorts of malware, including, spyware, viruses, ransomware, and more. Avast also offers a free antivirus so that you can try it out without cost. Just be wary that the free version is limited compared to the premium version.

Since McAfee acquired TunnelBear, the antivirus provider began offering its own VPN service. Safe Connect VPN attracts an additional $7.99 per month subscription. However, it has lost some of the charm of TunnelBear’s software. It’s far from being the best VPN, which is why we recommend checking out the best VPN providers instead.

Cybersecurity journalist
Chris is a tech journalist with many years' experience covering the latest news in online privacy and cybersecurity. He's also a published author and works as a Product Manager for some of the most innovative software development companies.