McAfee Antivirus Review

By Aliza Vigderman, Senior Editor, Industry Analyst & Gabe Turner, Chief Editor
McAfee Web Protection Menu
Editors Rating:
8.8 /10

What We Like

What We Don't Like

  • Long scan durations
  • Features such as real-time scanning affect your device's performance
  • McAfee collects a substantial amount of data about you

Bottom Line

McAfee's Total Protect antivirus software can detect 99.9 percent of all widespread malware, which warrants its high rating.

Did you know that McAfee was one of the first companies to release antivirus software in the U.S. and that that same software is still being used today? Granted, we’re now using a much more evolved version of it, but the fact that it remained reputable for over 30 years speaks volumes. For this review, we tested the McAfee Total Protection software. We found it to be a good buy with strong digital security features encapsulated in an easy-to-use interface. What exactly do we mean by that? Keep on reading to find out.

McAfee Antivirus Features

Scan type On-demand and on-access
Firewall Yes
Blocks ransomware Yes
Blocks spyware Yes
Annual price $24.99 – $64.99
McAfee Full Scan In Progress
McAfee Full Scan In Progress
Editor's Rating
Overall Rating
  • Antivirus software starts at $24.99 a year
  • VPN, password manager, identity theft protection, and bundle options
  • 30-day Total Protection trial for Windows PCs

McAfee Total Protection: Is The Protection Really Total?

Total Protection is one of McAfee’s most popular digital security suites. It includes three types of protection:

  • PC: It defends the user’s devices from threats like viruses, malware, spyware, and ransomware through the use of antivirus and a firewall.
  • Web: It shields users from cyber threats while surfing the internet. It does so by removing cookies and other trackers that websites may use and warning users when entering risky websites. Higher-tier plans also include a VPN.
  • Identity: It aims to prevent and detect identity theft using an array of built-in tools. For instance, it has a password manager. It also searches the internet and dark web for any signs of identity theft, with the highest tier offering identity theft insurance, as well.

We focused on PC protection, as we wanted to see how well McAfee’s antivirus worked. For our tests, we used an Acer Aspire 5 laptop running the latest Windows 10 version and an Android smartphone. Here’s how our tests went down.

Real-Time Scanning: The Antivirus That Never Sleeps

McAfee Total Protection did its job as an antivirus, which was to ensure that our computer remained virus-free. Most of the credit goes to real-time scanning. As the name suggests, it scanned our computer in real-time and stopped viruses before they even had a chance to execute. But how exactly did it work? Well, whenever we accessed a file, including downloads and email attachments, McAfee Total Protection ran a quick scan of it to check for viruses and malware. It prevented suspicious files from opening and kept them in quarantine where they couldn’t do any harm.

Naturally, we wanted to see the feature in action, so we downloaded an anti-malware test file from Upon opening the file, a notification popped up telling us that McAfee stopped a virus with the reassuring “no action is required.” So, real-time scanning? It works! However, we noticed that all the constant checking for viruses put a heavier burden on our computer, delaying our access to our files by a few seconds.

Scan On-Demand

Total Protection also offered the options to do full, quick, custom, or scheduled scans. These options were readily accessible through the desktop client.

  • Full Scan: It checked every folder and file in our computer’s drive. As expected, each scan took several hours. Our initial scan lasted five hours and 22 minutes, checking over 460,000 items and removing four threats in the process. Subsequent full scans lasted less than two hours on average.
  • Quick Scan: Quick scans were, you guessed it, shorter, averaging only eight minutes during our tests. That’s because they checked only the areas that viruses tend to infest, like system files and registries. McAfee didn’t specify how it chose the files it checked, nor did it have the option to customize the scope of the scan, but the reports showed that it scanned over 12,000 items. That’s not bad for eight minutes!
  • Custom Scan: Custom scans checked the files, folders, or drives we specified. It was pretty convenient to use. All we had to do was right-click on the items we wanted to scan and select the Scan option. It worked on single or multiple files, folders, and even entire drives.
  • Scheduled Scan: This was a full scan that ran automatically based on the schedule we defined. There were preset schedules, like every second Monday of the month, but there was also an option to create a custom schedule by setting the frequency, day, and time of each scan.

Pro Tip: For best results, run a full scan once a month and a quick scan every time you use your computer. Quick scans can easily run in the background without affecting your device’s performance.

Virus Detection Test: Is It Up To The Challenge?

We performed a controlled experiment to determine how well the McAfee antivirus detected different types of threats. We hid five viruses in our computer and then performed a full scan to see how many of them could antivirus software detect. We performed this experiment on 40 different software, and here’s how McAfee fared.

Virus File Type Did McAfee Total Protection Detect It? How Many Antivirus Software Detected It?
.xlsx Yes 34 percent
.exe Yes 66 percent
.doc Yes 36 percent
.xlsm No 35 percent
.xls No 51 percent

Out of the five viruses, McAfee detected three. That’s fairly average, but on the brighter side, McAfee detected viruses number one and three. Only about one-thirds of the antiviruses detected those files, so that’s a win for McAfee. Overall, though, McAfee is in the middle of the pack when it comes to virus detection.


Total Protection also shielded us from network-based threats using a firewall. It monitored incoming and outgoing network traffic, prevented potentially risky programs from gaining access, and helped us manage the Wi-Fi networks we connected to our laptop.

One of our favorite firewall features was NetGuard, which monitored all our network activity and prevented us from connecting to suspicious URLs or IP addresses. It also monitored the programs running in the background. For instance, when a security camera companion software tried to connect to a server that appeared to be in Russia, the firewall immediately stopped it. If it had been a spyware, then McAfee just saved us from a potential identity theft. Fortunately, the software was only trying to connect to its cloud server in Russia, so we manually allowed it in the firewall settings.

FYI: McAfee’s firewall allows for dozens of customizations, so check out each setting to find the setup that works best for you.

The User Experience

Of course, our review wouldn’t be complete without testing the user experience, starting from the installation all the way to using the features.

McAfee Pre-Installation System Check
McAfee Pre-Installation System Check

Upon launching the installation wizard, it checked our system to see if it met the requirements and if there were other programs that might interfere with the installation. It flagged down Bitdefender VPN, which we were testing at the time, so we turned off the VPN and proceeded. The rest of the process went smoothly and McAfee Total Protection was up and running in no time.

When we launched the program, we were greeted by a neat and simple home screen. There was a brief status report at the top. Below it were the shortcuts to the PC, Web, and Identity protection features. There’s also a button that leads directly to the scan interface at the bottom. We liked how neatly arranged the features were, but if you’re in a hurry, the gear icon at the top right corner of the window opens the settings to all the features. We also liked that the features were color-coded— there’s a green “on” icon next to features that are turned on and a red “off” icon next to the ones that are off. Just like reading traffic lights, it was easy to see which features needed attention.

McAfee Scan Options
McAfee Scan Options

As for ads and pop-ups, there weren’t any, which is good because we don’t want to see annoying ads from software we already purchased. The closest thing to “annoying” that we experienced was related to the Web protection feature. It changed our default search engine to McAfee’s Secure Search which is powered by Yahoo. We weren’t very fond of it, so we reverted back to our original search engine, Google, and in the process, found a cool trick. Even though Secure Search was no longer our default search engine, if we typed “McAfee” into the search bar and hit space, we’d be able to use Secure Search. That’s what we did whenever we wanted to be extra secure while browsing.

Tip for safe browsing: You can use McAfee’s Secure Search anytime even if it’s not your default search engine. Just key in “McAfee” into the search bar, hit space, and then type your search query.

Mobile Apps: Total Protection On-The-Go

Aside from the Windows version of the McAfee antivirus, we tested the mobile app version as well. The iOS app is called McAfee Mobile Security. On Android, it’s called Mobile Security: VPN Proxy & Anti Theft Safe WiFi. Both apps featured McAfee’s trademark simplicity while providing a high level of digital protection from viruses, malware, and other threats. Because of that, both apps have high customer ratings—4.7 stars on iOS and 4.6 stars on Android.

The apps’ high ratings were further backed by lab test results from AV-Test, an independent IT security institute. They concluded that the Android version of the McAfee antivirus detected 99.9 percent of malware attacks in real-time and 100 percent of the widespread Android malware discovered in the last four weeks at the time of the test. Those results are as good as it gets for Android antiviruses, so good job, McAfee!

Customer Support

After our five-hour long initial full scan, we decided to contact McAfee and ask if that was normal or if there’s anything we could do to speed things up. Both their email and chat support were available 24/7, so we opted to chat with an agent to get a quicker response. After filling up the required forms, the agent explained that initial scans really take longer and that the next scans will be shorter. He also gave us tips on how to optimize our computer for the scan, like defragmenting the hard drive and closing unused and background apps. Overall, the agent seemed knowledgeable, and the fact that support was available 24/7 made us really happy.

McAfee Finished Full Scan
McAfee Finished Full Scan

Privacy Policy

We went ahead and read McAfee’s privacy policy, and here’s the takeaway: McAfee collects a ton of data that users provide, including the following:

  • Contact information (name, email, phone number, etc.)
  • Payment information (credit card numbers, bank account numbers, etc.)
  • Login information (McAfee account login, social media accounts protected by Identity protection features)
  • Device identifiers (IP address, MAC address, IMEI)
  • Usage data (URLs of websites visited, installed applications or software, data traffic, etc.)
  • Location information.

Another thing to note is that they share some of the data collected to third parties, particularly to advertisers. According to them, they share the data with their partner advertisers in order to deliver relevant ads to users while on their website or while using their services. While there were no pop-ups during our tests, the Secure Search search engine did display ads along with our search results.

The amount of data McAfee collected is concerning, to say the least. But believe it or not, many antiviruses collect just as much data from their users. So while we’re not very thrilled with McAfee’s data collection policies, it’s an industry norm that we can’t control.

The Cost of Total Protection

No matter how good its features are and how easy it was to use, the fact remains that McAfee is not a free software. So what’s the cost of getting total protection from McAfee Total Protection? Well, that will depend on how many devices you want to protect.

Plan details Basic Plus Premium Ultimate
Price Per Year $29.99 $39.99 $44.99 $64.99
Number of Devices 1 5 10 Unlimited
Length of Subscription 1 year 1 year 1 year 1 year

Considering that McAfee Total Protection includes antivirus, firewall, web protection, identity protection, and a VPN, it offers a pretty good value for its price. Check out our McAfee antivirus pricing page to learn more about McAfee’s subscriptions.

McAfee Web Protection Menu
McAfee Web Protection Menu


McAfee Total Protection is undoubtedly a smart choice for an antivirus. It’s affordable, it did a good job of detecting threats, it’s easy to use, and it has multi-platform support for Windows, Macs, iOS, and Android. However, what works for us might not work as well for you, so to recap, here are McAfee’s strongest points and areas where it could still improve.

If you’re looking for other alternatives to McAfee Total Protection, we suggest reading our review of the best antivirus software. Picking an antivirus is not an easy task, but with the help of our research and hands-on experience, you will find the right antivirus software for you in no time.

Editors Rating:
8.8 /10
  1. Eicar. (2020). Anti Malware Testfile.