The first step in getting protected by McAfee is to pop over to the website and register an account. This is a simple process and there are step-by-step instructions on how to complete it. Once registered, most McAfee antivirus software will install automatically using an installation and setup wizard.
However, if you’re installing onto a Windows device, there are a few prerequisites you need to make sure are in place. Firstly, your device must meet the minimum system requirements and must also be free of other antivirus software and incompatible applications. You also need to make sure your Windows package is current with the latest updates installed.
Once you’ve got this set of ducks in a row, you need to perform the following actions:
- Save any open files
- Close all applications
- Restart your PC
- Ensure you have a reliable internet connection
Again, if you’re using a Windows operating system, you may need to download McAfee’s preinstall tool as well. If you’re thinking that this is a bit more hassle than you really wanted, you’d be right, but if you’re using a Mac or iOS operating system, you’ll find the entire install and setup process is a lot more straightforward. Quite why McAfee’s Windows app requires such a complex procedure before you can enjoy its benefits is unclear but, if you’re prepared to stick it out, you’ll appreciate the end result and the robust security you’ll enjoy for the rest of the year.
Those who are really battling to get a McAfee product installed and operational can get live remote assistance from McAfee. This is a great service and the McAfee technical expert who assists you will ensure the download and installation process is done smoothly and the app is customized according to your specifications. On the downside, this support service is, in many cases, more expensive than the actual antivirus software itself which makes us wonder if McAfee hasn’t ignored some of its software installation issues simply so it can make a little profit.
If you’re not interested in having real-time antivirus protection and simply want to make sure your device is free of malicious software and other vulnerabilities, you can download McAfee’s free virus scan without registering or handing over any identifying information. This, however, along with a 30-day free trial on most McAfee products is the full extent of the free service available, but more about that later on.
There is certainly nothing lightweight about McAfee and the company recommends you have at least 20 MB of disk space available when installing! Compared to the truly featherweight requirements of Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus which only needs 2MB to install and takes a matter of seconds, McAfee is a rather unwieldy beast but it is extremely powerful so we decided to cut it a little slack. Nevertheless, installing onto a Windows PC is arduous and time-consuming which lets McAfee down rather given how easy the process is for its iOS and Android apps.
Virus, Spyware & Malware Protection
Even the most basic package from McAfee gives users comprehensive protection against viruses and ransomware. McAfee’s Antivirus Plus software is compatible with iOS, Windows, Android, and most other common operating systems. Features include a safe browsing option and the new Ransom Guard tool which monitors and defuses ransomware threats before they impact on your device.
McAfee has produced consistently impressive scores in lab tests aimed at assessing its competency in detecting and defusing malware and other threats while producing a minimal amount of false positives. These occur when an antivirus program falsely identifies legitimate apps and programs as being potentially dangerous and can potentially be as disruptive to your device and user experience as a real, malicious infection. According to AV-Comparatives, McAfee produced very few false positives, scoring just 9, while Trend Micro and Panda threw up nearly 100 each.
As you go up the pricing tiers to the premium packages, so the level of protection increases accordingly and McAfee’s Total Protection internet security suite includes a password manager, parental controls, and additional identity theft protection.
Threat analysis takes place in a cloud so won’t impact too severely on your device’s performance or speed. McAfee’s products use a combination of sandboxing technology, heuristic analysis, and artificial intelligence to detect, identify and neutralize threats. This advanced analysis procedure is known as “human-machine teaming” and is the reason, McAfee says, for its high lab scores in false positives and malware detection.
Underlining all McAfee’s powers of protection is its promise to refund any user whose device becomes infected while it is being protected by a McAfee product. This doesn’t apply to users in the Netherlands for reasons known only to McAfee, but everyone else in the world gets guaranteed virus protection. That protection is reinforced by McAfee’s machine learning techniques which are capable of combating even the most recent and emerging threats. Another layer of protection is provided by McAfee’s Advanced Threat Defense which uses static code analysis and sandboxing capabilities for better detection.
McAfee’s lab scores speak for themselves and there are certainly no obvious holes or vulnerabilities in the protection it provides. Just as a good suit of armor tends to be rather cumbersome, so this antivirus behemoth makes up for its memory-hungry apps by providing an impressive level of multilayered protection aimed at preventing every imaginable threat, from the most common to the most recent.
Each one of McAfee’s packages, from the most basic Antivirus Plus to the more advanced Total Protection internet security suite, include standard protection features such as spyware detection and removal tools and a personal firewall designed to keep hackers at bay. The Web Advisor tool also forms part of the Antivirus Plus package, providing solid online protection against malicious sites and phishing attacks. The Web Advisor also keeps you protected while sharing on social media sites and will flag your friends’ posts so you can choose to click only on those McAfee deems as safe.
Although McAfee’s products have the standard features one would expect from such a reputable cybersecurity company, there are some surprising omissions. For example, I couldn’t locate any rescue kit within McAfee’s product line-up which is unusual. Although McAfee has a couple of free tools available, like GetSusp and Stinger, which are designed to scan, identify and remove suspicious software, there was nothing that would enable me to create an emergency backup in the event of infection. While McAfee guarantees that you won’t get an infection while under its protection, this is something of a fantasy, rather than a reality, and failing to offer users the capacity to prepare for the unexpected is something of an oversight.
McAfee is definitely feature-rich, especially if you opt for Total Protection, but doesn’t necessarily offer the basic tools one really needs. It’s a little like having a toolbox with supersaws and power chisels but no hammers or screwdrivers. In the past, McAfee has been criticized for failing to provide a keylogger and webcam protection but its latest upgrades have tackled these omissions, providing features to deal with both those problem areas.
McAfee’s latest versions also include advanced ransomware protection in the form of its Ransomware Interceptor tool, which is also available as a free stand-alone feature. This tool uses both machine learning and heuristic analysis to detect potential threats and neutralize them before they impact on your device.
Total Protection and LiveSafe are McAfee’s front runners and both packages include additional features including:
- Safe Family – offers both predefined age-related rules and fully adaptable real-time protection
- Anti-Spam Security – blocks unwanted emails and protects against phishing threats
- McAfee File Lock – enables the creation of secure digital vault storage for sensitive files
- True Key identity manager – provides encrypted protection and password management
The only difference between McAfee’s Total Protection and LiveSafe packages is that the latter offers the additional benefit of secure cloud storage but, as a result, you lose the File Lock feature.
McAfee clearly prides itself on offering a wide range of tools and features, but adding bells and whistles doesn’t necessarily mean enhanced security and there are other areas McAfee would benefit from focussing on rather than developing yet more additional features.
Ease of Use
Over the years, McAfee has struggled to provide robust protection without impacting on device performance. As we already noted, McAfee simply doesn’t produce lightweight products and, unfortunately, this means they tend to hungrily consume your system’s resources. With its 2019 releases, however, McAfee has done its utmost to rectify this situation and its App Boost feature is a welcome one, although only available as part of its premium packages. Nevertheless, users are still likely to experience some lag while playing games online, for example, as well as long scan times.
In addition to slicker operation, McAfee has also revamped its user interface which has made it considerably easier to navigate. Although the main window isn’t anything to write home about, it does give you a clear idea of where you stand in terms of security. Menu options along the top of the screen mean you can access vital tools and statistics without navigating away from the central interface. Additional modules give quick and easy access to tools such as your True Key password manager and parental controls.
McAfee’s new look has resolved some of the confusions present in its previous versions and has made navigating to tools such as a full virus scan or checking for software updates much more streamlined. While there is some duplication between the main interface and the settings menu, this is negligible given the sophisticated customization you can access via that menu. Although the new interface is definitely an improvement on McAfee’s previous attempts, it could be improved further with more linear navigation facilities and less empty space.
Although McAfee has always been respected when it comes to providing comprehensive PC protection, recent patches from Microsoft are playing havoc with antivirus software performance. Security updates released in April 2019 appear to have compatibility issues with a number of antivirus products, including Avast and McAfee. Although these problems are clearly Microsoft’s doing and should be resolved within a few days, the disruption is affecting the usability and efficacy of McAfee’s PC products which have always been some of its most robust.
Getting to grips with McAfee might be quite challenging to begin with, but once familiar with the product, most users will find accessing advanced features and customizing protection relatively straightforward. This is a definite plus and means most users won’t have to seek assistance from customer support in order to get up and running.
McAfee has kept its pricing structure as simple as possible and yet remains at the top end of cost in comparison to its main rivals. Finding the most recent prices and product comparisons also proved rather more complicated than one might anticipate and I found myself inundated with information about the Total Protection package but struggling to obtain prices for McAfee’s other products.
When I did finally navigate to McAfee’s official store, I was confronted with a page advertising McAfee’s 2017 product range which left me confused once again. However, if I clicked on a product to purchase, I was promptly redirected to an online shopping cart and asked to input my payment preference, suggesting that this was, in fact, an up-to-date page with the latest offerings and prices on display.
There is actually little sense to be made of this page, with the Total Protection package discounted price being more than its standard price and, therefore, apparently cheaper than the Internet Security package. Sadly, although McAfee tries hard to simplify its pricing structure, conflicting information makes establishing the exact cost of a McAfee product time-consuming and frustrating.
McAfee has also omitted a free version within its latest collection which is a little disappointing, although it does have some handy free tools available as well as a 30-day money-back guarantee on all its subscriptions. A visit to McAfee’s downloads page will give you access to free security scan tools, mobile protection, ransomware interception, and rootkit removal features. While you can kind of cobble together some basic level of protection by utilizing these free tools, it won’t give you quite the same level of security as the best free antivirus programs, like that available from Avast.
With entry-level protection costing $39.99, McAfee certainly isn’t cheap, but for that price, you can install the software onto an unlimited number of devices so it’s not complete extortion. Furthermore, finding McAfee’s basic Antivirus package is quite challenging as it’s not included on the Products page which is dominated by its premium Total Protection package. This entry-level software is compatible only with Windows so, if you’re looking for iOS protection, you’ll need to opt for the Antivirus Plus package priced at $49.99 per year.
Although McAfee is one of the pricier options for antivirus protection, current discounts make it more competitive and cost-effective, with 50% off all its packages, except LiveSafe which offers little more than the Total Protection suite plus secure cloud storage and is therefore seemingly less cost-effective than McAfee’s heavily touted Total Protection alternative.
McAfee remains a comparatively expensive option for internet security and would benefit from removing all products and prices to prevent confusions. While the protection offered by its premium products is impressive, McAfee still struggles to provide comprehensive security at a competitive price.
McAfee’s products are easy enough to both install and operate but, if you do require some level of support, there is a wide range of options available, although finding the best one can be challenging. As with the pricing information, navigating to the correct place to access McAfee’s online live chat support is extraordinarily complicated. Even once you finally get there, you first have to complete a form that looks much like a ticket system before being redirected to the live chat option.
Once there, however, the response time is excellent and even on public holidays, a support representative will usually respond within a couple of minutes. While you will need to give your account details and a clear description of the problem you’re experiencing, the live chat support is nonetheless informative and instructive. As few other antivirus software developers offer this type of online support, it’s clear that McAfee has taken previous criticism onboard and is now taking customer support seriously.
The live chat support is reinforced by McAfee’s online knowledge center and extensive community forums as well as a strong social media presence, all of which bolster its service considerably. Other assistance is also available with McAfee’s virtual technicians and TechMaster services. Although the latter of these comes with an additional charge, if they can’t fix the problem, you don’t have to pay for it. You also have the option of signing up for year-round TechMaster support but only if you’re willing to spend more on assistance than you are on internet security itself.
Certainly, McAfee has made some impressive improvements to its customer support service but it remains disparate and difficult to navigate. It is also easy to get confused by the different options available, especially when it comes to virtual assistance vs virtual technical support. Nevertheless, McAfee does have more free support available to its users than some of the other leading antivirus companies. Having said that, any company that feels it needs to provide so many different support functions appears to lack faith in its products and their degree of usability.
If you’re looking for affordable, reliable protection against malware and other cyber threats, you could do a lot worse than installing McAfee. However, this is not a lightweight solution so you need to ensure your device has plenty of memory available if McAfee is to install and work effectively. While prices are higher than some, current discounts make McAfee more competitive, especially when it comes to its feature-rich premium products.
The recent overhaul of the main user interface is welcome and has streamlined day-to-day operations although navigating McAfee’s website in search of available products, current prices, and customer support services remains far more complicated than it really needs to be. We would love to see McAfee apply some of the fixes it made to its app interfaces to its online presence. McAfee has clearly put a lot of effort into bolstering its customer support services and its live chat option is a welcome addition that its rivals would be foolish to disregard.
McAfee’s premium packages include useful tools such as parental controls, password management, and secure digital storage options, while consistently impressive performances in the lab make it tough to beat in terms of malware protection. Performance has also been enhanced so users will experience a lot less lag and operational interruptions than with previous versions of McAfee’s antivirus protection software.
McAfee definitely provides some robust protection against common cyber threats but would benefit from creating a more linear online experience and smoothing out the installation process for its Windows apps.