US$44.99 / AU$84.95 (12 months) at McAfee
McAfee is no longer the same company it was a few months ago. The longtime antivirus maker sold its enterprise business in early 2021 to focus on the consumer market, including individuals and families. To that end, the current suite focuses on identity and privacy. According to the company, these are the issues people are most concerned about. Virus and malware protection is still important, of course, but from McAfee’s perspective, new features currently focus on identity and privacy, of which device security is an inevitable part. This philosophy is a continuation of the direction McAfee had already taken the last time we reviewed Total Protection.
For 2022, Total Protection has again adopted a new app design on Windows that builds on what we’ve seen before. The company also launched new features, including an Identity Protection service that assesses your online security, protects against weak spots and makes it easier to improve protection.
The antivirus maker also just picked up a win from AV-Comparatives after the testing firm named McAfee its Product of the Year for 2021.
McAfee Total Protection Dashboard. Image: IDG.
Similar to its previous iteration, Total Protection offers a series of cleanly designed tiles with descriptive labels, as shown above. As before, there is a banner at the top that can provide notifications, information about suite features, and current PC status.
Total Protection has six main tiles: anti-virus, Secure VPN, Identity Protection, Tracking Remover, Protect more devicesand Browser Security.
These should be the main sections of the app, but they actually seem to be a mix of feature access and largely informative tiles. The weird thing is that you access a lot of features by clicking on the four-square grid in the left rail. This reveals key protection features like real-time scanning, scheduled scans, firewall, password manager, file shredder, and more. Most of them I couldn’t find by clicking on the tiles. It’s not great when you have multiple but disparate ways to navigate an application, it adds complexity and confusion.
Diving into the antivirus section, the options are quite limited. There is a Run a scan button that launches a quick scan. If you want to select a scan type, the options are quick and comprehensive. To scan a specific file or folder, you need to use the Windows right-click context menu. This is a common feature in other suites, but many also offer the ability to drag and drop a file into the suite window for analysis. It is missing here. There is also a slider button which, when activated, will send suspicious files to McAfee for analysis. This feature is disabled by default, which is great because it lets you decide if you want to send potentially sensitive files to McAfee.
the Identity Protection tile takes you to the McAfee website where you need to log in with your account. Here we have the Dark Web Scan feature, as well as McAfee’s Protection Score feature which assesses your current privacy and security settings, using a variety of factors. The main feature, however, is dark web scanning, which McAfee says it does in partnership with a third party. The company says this allows McAfee to alert you to threats much earlier than other security suites. We’ll keep an eye on that.
As of this writing, McAfee offers a wide variety of options to monitor, including email address, phone number, social security number, passport, driver’s license, date of birth , tax ID, credit card, usernames, etc. For my tests, I checked my SSN and email address. McAfee didn’t report any issues with the SSN, but my email address was found in nine breaches.
McAfee lists each violation associated with the found data. Clicking on an item lets you know who discovered the breach, the nature of the breach, and what was caught. Everything is very informative and simple. McAfee then offers options to change your password for an online account if needed.
All in all it was interesting to see. Most of the breaches in my case were of the data broker/advertiser type, and I did not knowingly pass my information on to any of the companies that had it. If nothing else, this feature will show you how freely your data is shared with online advertisers and other companies you have no association with.
McAfee Identity Protection web interface. Image: IDG.
Still, it’s annoying that McAfee makes you click through multiple extra screens for each violation. These included congratulations, you checked out this problem type message, followed by an animation showing how your protection score has increased. Then, after each breach check, McAfee offered a feature that texted me whenever it discovered my data in a breach. I didn’t want to do this because email notifications and in-app alerts are enough. Not one to take no for an answer, however, McAfee offered me the option to text after I clicked Each item in the list of offences. I had nine to go, and that monotonous click got boring very quickly. It would be best if McAfee asked once and then advised where you can enable this feature if you change your mind.
Switching to VPN, McAfee made an interesting/annoying choice for Total Protection subscribers. If you buy Total Protection all at once without signing up for auto-renewal, you only get 500 megabytes of data bandwidth per month. Sign up for auto-renewal, though, and you get unlimited VPN coverage. In my opinion, this is unfair. Ultimately, people who sign up and don’t sign up for auto-renewal still pay the same amount to use the suite. Balkanizing paying users into two tiers based on whether they intend to renew or not is very cumbersome in my opinion.
McAfee Total Protection VPN. Image: IDG.
The VPN itself is quite easy to use. It is integrated with the suite as before and offers around 49 country locations. By default, it will choose the fastest location, but you can change it to specify a country. There are also some basic settings such as automatically activating the VPN when certain conditions are met, such as a network with weak security, or to only activate it manually. You can also list trusted networks if you want to use auto-connect features.
File shredding feature of McAfee Total Protection. Image: IDG.
In its latest tests at the time of this writing, McAfee passed AV-Test’s 0-day test with scores of 99.5% and 100% in November and December 2021. The Prevalent Malware Test and widespread received scores of 100% for both months.
For AV-Comparatives, McAfee scored 99.8% in the real-world protection test between July and October 2021, with no false positives on 743 samples. For the September 2021 Malware Protection Test, McAfee again scored 100%, with four false positives.
Overall, it’s pretty clear that McAfee’s protection is top-notch, and security shouldn’t be an issue. One thing to note is that, as with most antivirus suites these days, Total Protection is designed to work while your PC is online, and the protection drops significantly when offline. The good news is that most threats these days reach your PC when it’s connected to the Internet. That is, unless you have a habit of inserting unreliable USB drives into your PC when traveling to a remote area with no connectivity.
In our internal tests, there were noticeable drops in performance. Nothing dramatic, but installing McAfee can have an impact on budget mid-tier machines. In the PCMark 10 Extended test, our test PC dropped 37 points with McAfee installed and after a full system scan. This drop was largely due to the first run after analysis. The following tracks were closer to what we had seen before. This initial run is, however, telling.
There was also a drop in transfer time, of about a minute, after installing McAfee. The decompression test was also a bit slower at 45 seconds. The File Compression test and the Handbrake test saw no significant drop in performance.
McAfee Total Protection is available in several tiers. Total Protection Basic covers a single device for one year with an introductory price of US$35 (AU$64.95) and a non-launch price of US$85 (AU$99.95). Total Protection Plus covers up to five devices for US$40 (AU$74.95) for a single year for new customers, while the official non-launch price is US$110 (AU$149.95). Total Protection Premium is $50 (AU$159.95) for the introductory year, then $130 (AU$194.95) thereafter to cover up to 10 devices.
Non-launch prices may change, as antivirus companies usually offer all sorts of sales and other incentives to keep you subscribed. Overall the prices are in line with what the industry currently charges.
McAfee is an excellent security suite. It offers high quality protection, the price is right, the performance is good and there are some nice additional features such as a VPN, file shredder, app update checker and network scanner domesticated. I have a few issues, like with the VPN bandwidth limit and app design, but overall McAfee is still a great choice.
Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and improving their performance over time, this review is subject to change to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to the text or our final verdict will be noted at the top of this article.