McAfee Antivirus Review 2020: Great protection comes at a price

McAfee Total Protection on Windows 10 PC
(Image: © Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

Bottom line: McAfee Total Protection offers excellent protection against known and zero-day threats without slowing down your computer. Advanced tools include a vulnerability scanner, home network protection, password manager, and safe browsing. McAfee includes a virus-free guarantee and options for VPN and identity theft monitoring services.


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    Recognizes most malware

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    Doesn't slow down your device

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    Includes password management

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    Protects all devices connected to your home's internet


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    All tools are not available to all users

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    Renewal costs are expensive

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    Some services and tools require auto-renewal subscription

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McAfee used to have a basic antivirus program, called McAfee Antivirus Plus. McAfee dropped the support and development of this basic program and instead focused on its flagship program, McAfee Total Protection, which it offers today as the best solution regardless of your security needs. McAfee Total Protection is offered in three different packages with a varying number of tools. Each one offers the same excellent malware protection against a variety of threats including viruses, rootkits, Trojans, and ransomware. Here is a breakdown of what makes McAfee Total Protection one of the best antivirus programs, what to be aware of before purchasing it, and what is included with each package.

McAfee Total Protection What works

For the last several years I've looked forward to testing and evaluating McAfee. McAfee Total Protection consistently scores perfectly in my own and in other testing lab tests for protection, which looks at how well antivirus programs recognize and block malware, including new threats that haven't been identified and categorized in any malware database, and performance, which looks at how much resources a program uses and the amount of lag it causes while both installed and running.

Once upon a time ago, McAfee wasn't very good. It was heavy on computer resources, very expensive, and didn't protect against threats very well. But now McAfee is one of the most secure and user-friendly programs out there.

McAfee consistently scores high for malware protection.

On top of great protection, McAfee includes a ton of features and functions not found in basic antivirus programs. It has a password manager that keeps login credentials secure and shields your keystrokes as you log into online accounts. There is also a vulnerability scanner that looks for weak points in your system that may be vulnerable to hackers or some ransomware programs. These including outdated software programs and weak passwords. McAfee will also look for ways to clean up old cache files and delete unused programs to keep your computer running fast.

McAfee has great safe browsing features via browser extension. When activated, safe browsing will highlight search results so you know if a website is safe to visit or if it's a bit sketchy. If you type in a URL or follow a link embedded in content, like an email message, McAfee will display a warning message before you reach the site and warns of possible malicious links or downloads on the website.

Mcafee Total Protection Web Advisor

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The McAfee home network monitoring tool watches all information coming in and going out through your internet connection. Every device with a browser that is connected to your network will be monitored for any hackers and will block any suspicious attempts to sneak in. This includes smart TVs and gaming consoles, in addition to computers, desktops, and mobile devices.

If you, or a child, accidentally clicks on a malicious link, McAfee is really quick at recognizing corrupted files and will stop malicious files before they have a chance to fully download. Threats are placed in the quarantine folder and you're given detailed information about the type of threat that was blocked and why.

Robust parental controls make McAfee a great choice for families.

I personally love McAfee's parental controls. It has several preset category filters that when selected will block your child from viewing websites that fall under that category. These filters include drugs and alcohol, pornography, online gaming, and social media pages. You can also add specific website URLs to either a blacklist or a whitelist.

One great feature of McAfee's Safe Family program is the ability to allow your child to visit websites for school-related research or homework while still blocking out other websites of the same topic. For example, you can allow your child limited access to websites about the dangers of smoking while still blocking those designed to entice minors to light up. McAfee's parental controls also give you the tools to determine what hours of the day your child can be online and set time limits for how long they can be there.

McAfee Total Protection What to watch out for

With all the advantages that McAfee gives you, there are two excellent services that come with a catch. McAfee does have a VPN available. This gives you a secure browser that doesn't allow cookies and other tracers to track your online history. It gives your computer a different IP address each time you connect to it, so it is impossible to point activities back to you and your device. Another great advantage of using a VPN while online is that adware isn't able to keep tabs on what you are searching for, viewing online or the websites you're visiting, so you won't get the annoying ads about products you're interested in.

The other great tool is McAfee's identity theft protection. This service watches both your physical and digital identities for any fraudulent, illegal, or suspicious activities, including selling your identity on the dark web. If your identity is stolen while McAfee is keeping tabs on it, an agent will help you restore it. This includes contacting credit reporting bureaus and helping you fill out any forms properly.

Mcafee Total Protection

Source: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central)

The big caveat of these two services is McAfee doesn't automatically include them with most of its McAfee Total Protection packages. Most users have to sign up for automatic renewal of their yearly subscription in order to take advantage of McAfee's VPN and ID protection services. While the first year for new subscribers doesn't cost too much, subsequent years will see a dramatic increase, in some cases up to 400% more, which may be a bit expensive for some users, especially since other internet security programs offer these services for much less.

McAfee Total Protection Pricing and packages

McAfee's entire toolbox isn't available to everyone. Each of its three packages - Single Device, Individual/Couples, and Family - has its own available tools. For individuals and families that choose a package with more than one user license, you can use McAfee Total Protection to protect mobile devices, including Android cell phones.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Single DeviceIndividual/CoupleFamily
First year cost$30$35$40
Safe browsing
Password manager
Home network security
Performance optimization
File shredder
Encrypted storage
Multi-device protection
Parental Controls

McAfee has two family plans that include all tools of the other packages, plus Safe Family, McAfee's parental controls. McAfee's two-year subscription family plan includes five licenses for McAfee's VPN service. However, auto-renewal is required for McAfee's identity theft protection.

McAfee Total Protection Should you buy it?

McAfee Total Protection is a solid program that will stop malicious files before they have a chance to download to your device. Its extra security tools, like home network monitoring, file encryption, and safe browsing features add additional layers of protection against keyloggers, hackers and ransomware. It is unfortunate that in order to take advantage of McAfee's identity theft protections and its VPN services that you are required to commit to more than one year with the program through its auto-renewal subscription plan. Even if you do not choose auto-renewal, though, McAfee will still provide excellent protection for all your devices.

4.5 out of 5

McAfee Total Protection is one of the best antivirus software solutions for both computers and mobile devices. The number of tools included with your subscription depends on the package you choose, but all will give you excellent malware protection, vulnerability and performance optimization scans, and safe browsing tools. You are required to commit to automatically renewing your subscription in order to access McAfee's VPN and identity theft monitoring services.

Nikki Johnston
Commissioned editor

Nikki is a commissioned editor for Future Plc covering internet security including antivirus and VPN. With over 18 years of research and writing experience, and 11 years of testing and reviewing internet security solutions, Nikki knows how to dive deep to get the information consumers need to make better buying decisions. She is also a mom to 10 children, and personally uses many of the products she reviews to ensure the safety of her own family.