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McAfee 2017 Review: Virus Protection Across Unlimited Devices and Operating Systems

By: Danielle P
McAfee Review

In terms of reliability, and value, McAfee’s AntiVirus Plus software provides a complete package with a very interesting licensing model.

Known for its ease of use, McAfee is an excellent choice for those who are looking for a hands-off, integrated approach to internet security with an excellent user interface and easy to understand features.

New for the 2017 release of McAfee:

The yearly subscription to the software allows you to install McAfee virus protection on every device you own, truly redefining what it means to be completely protected from viruses and other malicious attacks.

The truly versatile system can be installed across multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.

OUR PICK

McAfee Antivirus Plus 2017

Our review of McAfee’s antivirus programs takes an in-depth look at McAfee’s suite of four virus protection options, helping you pick the best antivirus software for your needs.

McAfee Antivirus Plus

McAfee Antivirus Plus

Pros and Cons

Pros:
  • Integrated Two-Way Firewall
  • Excellent hands-on performance test
  • Almost no influence on computer speed
  • Unlimited number of devices per license
Cons:
  • Scan speed
  • False Positive alerts levels
  • Average independent test scores
  • No active ransomware protection
  • User interface should be updated

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Article Index

Background of McAfee

McAfee is known as the world's biggest dedicated security technology company, and as of today, it has almost 7000 employees with its headquarters in Santa Clara, California.

McAfee serves a worldwide clientele with offices in Singapore as well.

Founded in 1987 by John McAfee, the company was originally owned by Intel as a subsidiary from February 2011, and then in April 2017, Intel returned McAfee to a standalone company status.

McAfee Headquarters Office Space

McAfee Headquarters Office Space
McAfee Offices
McAfee Offices

McAfee Office Space Design

McAfee Office Space Design

Comparison: Which McAfee Product Is Right For You?

McAfee offers four packages with the basic product offering lots of antivirus functionalities rendering it a sufficient antivirus protection suite.

Let's review the features each of McAfee's antivirus products offers:

Comparison Table of McAfee Home Products

McAfee Comparison Table of Home Products

OUR PICK

McAfee Antivirus Plus 2017

My Recommendation

I recommend the Antivirus Plus unless you need the backup option that is enabled on the LiveSafe.

8.9 / 10

Aggregated Lab Results, Certifications and Awards

Our proprietary lab test results calculator displays all the independent lab tests related to McAfee over the years in an easy-to-navigate graph.

The unique aggregator tool's abilities speak for themselves, and I recommend you use this tool for all your antivirus and internet security research and while reading this McAfee review and the others on our site.

Disclaimer: The calculator is designed to find more tests on a daily basis as they become available to the public by using an automated web crawler.

Data changes over time; the score and ranking we refer to apply to the published date of this McAfee review.

Occasionally, McAfee has scored remarkably well on several third party lab testing, with scores ranging from good to excellent, but different labs and testing over time paints the complete picture of an antivirus software which isn't bad but also not that good.

The protection scores are below average and there are too many false alerts.

One can see a deterioration in the aggregated score over the last two years, which is something to take into consideration when choosing an antivirus product.

9.0 / 10

Hands-On Performance Impact Test

All our tests in this McAfee review are performed with the same hardware. We also use a lower-end setup to amplify the impact of the tested software on the results. If we were to use top-of-the-line hardware with the latest CPU and a very fast SSD, it would be very difficult to measure the difference in performance impact.

I tested on an open bench PC comprised of the following components:

On this hardware platform, I installed Windows 10 Pro 64-bit and applied all critical update patches effective on January 2, 2017.

I ran McAfee Antivirus Plus 2017 (Ver. LiveSafe 14.0 R13 - build 15.4.4031) on a totally clean windows configuration and then disabled UAC (User Account Control); Windows updates; screen saver and power management settings; Windows system restore; all task and scheduler events; windows notifications and error reporting; and taskbar notifications.

All browsers – Firefox, Chrome, and Edge – were configured to show a blank page on startup / home page.

Finally, I copied 100,000 randomly generated files into a sample data folder for the scan duration test. This made up our "clean" image.

Windows only used a single account with no password to ensure automatic login after rebooting.

No unknown devices were present or unrecognized in the Device Manager, and I rebooted Windows before doing the tests.

10 / 10

Boot Time Benchmark

I used a dedicated script (boottimer.exe) to measure time elapse across five looping boot cycles. Our score shows the average time of the five cycles.

Clean Windows Install - Post Windows Boot Time

Post Windows Boot Time - Clean Windows Install

Post McAfee Install Boot Time

Post McAfee Install Boot Time

  Before McAfee 2017 After McAfee 2017 Difference
Boot 1 36.39 35.95  
Boot 2 34.89 35.68  
Boot 3 34.23 39.67  
Boot 4 35.18 32.12  
Boot 5 33.95 35.03  
Average 34.92 35.69 0.762
Boot Time Summary (In Seconds)

A 0.762 second boot time increase is an excellent result.

When I compare this to other antivirus vendor tests, McAfee boasts a perfect score of 100% in this category.

9.7 / 10

CPU, Memory, and Hard Disk Benchmark

This test is part and parcel of all performance tests. I included this parameter because some readers think it's important to evaluate the quality, QA level, and stability of each anti-virus product.

However, don't take these results as the "be all and end all" because in the CPU intensive environment of today, the modern CPU and SSD disk will not discern the difference between one antivirus and another.

I monitor 3 parameters for a duration of 15 minutes with a windows performance monitor. The first parameter is CPU usage, the second one is memory usage, and the last one is disk transfers per second.

I conduct the same test twice: first on a clean Windows 10 installation, and second after I install McAfee Antivirus Plus 2017 (Ver. LiveSafe 14.0 R13 - build 15.4.4031). I ensure that I apply all software updates and reboot the system before each test.

Idle - Windows 10 without McAfee

Windows 10 without McAfee- Idle

McAfee idle installation CPU and memory usage

CPU and memory usage by an idle McAfee installation

McAfee's System Performance Impact

System performance impact by McAfee

McAfee Antivirus Plus 2017 (Ver. LiveSafe 14.0 R13 - build 15.4.4031) had a noticeable increase in memory consumption compared to other software.

Again, nothing dramatic that a modern PC cannot handle.

9.0 / 10

Browser Execution Speed Benchmark

In this benchmark test I measure the execution time of 3 major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, and Edge).

Once again, I conduct the test on a clean Windows 10 installation and repeat the test after I install McAfee Antivirus Plus 2017 (Ver. LiveSafe 14.0 R13 - build 15.4.4031).

This test is important because most antivirus software monitors the browser internet connection in order to block phishing attempts and scans file downloads.

Post Windows Browser Execution Time

Post Windows Browser Execution Time

Post McAfee Install Browser Execution Time

Post McAfee Install Browser Execution Time

McAfee Browser Execution Time Graph

McAfee Browser Execution Time Graph

Each browser was executed 3 times, so I used the average value to represent the increase in execution time in the graph above.

When I work out an average value for all browser tests together, there is an increase of 0.16 Seconds for opening a browser window. This result is good for this industry although most users will not feel any difference on day-to-day use.

The Firefox integration is the slowest and creates the highest lag.

From 0.70 Seconds you can see an increase to 0.99 Seconds (almost 0.3 Seconds).

You should also take into account that Firefox is the slowest executed browser.

10 / 10

Web Page Load Time Benchmark

I used Chrome development tools to measure two key parameters.

  1. Page load time (how much time the browser needs to wait for the page to load).
  2. TTFB (Time to First Byte) - Measures the duration in milliseconds from pressing enter after typing a fresh URL name, which in turn makes a DNS request followed by an HTTP request from the browser to the first byte of data received from the web server.

I repeated this test several times on three commonly-used, legitimate websites to measure the impact of McAfee installation.

Note: A lot of variables can influence the test (network latency and load on the web server, or even the time of day), so it is important to consider all three test result sets together.

Clean Windows - Site Download Time

Clean Windows - Site Download Time

Post McAfee Antivirus Plus 2017 (Ver. LiveSafe 14.0 R13 - build 15.4.4031) Install Site Download Time

Post McAfee Antivirus Plus 2017 (Ver. LiveSafe 14.0 R13 - build 15.4.4031) Install Site Download Time

  Before McAfee 2017 After McAfee 2017 Difference
fatsecurity.com 1.73 sec / 235ms TTFB 1.59 sec / 223ms TTFB -0.14 sec / -12ms TTFB
google.com 0.78 sec / 167ms TTFB 0.97 sec / 168ms TTFB 0.19 sec / 1.33ms TTFB
facebook.com 0.91 sec / 152ms TTFB 1.04 sec / 162ms TTFB 0.13 sec / 9ms TTFB
Average 1.14 sec / 185ms TTFB 1.20 sec / 185ms TTFB -0.44 sec / 0ms TTFB
Webpage Load Time Summary

 

McAfee gets a perfect score because there is even a decrease in page load time even if it is a negligible difference, statistically speaking.

Unlike Google and Facebook, not all sites are fast and distributed globally over a large content delivery network, so if you consider the results of browsing to fatsecurity.com as well as to those sites, you get a more realistic set of results.

If you look at the average loading time of all three sites, you get the gist of it.

7.0 / 10

Scan Speed Benchmark

I'll begin this section by saying this:

This is a very popular benchmark performed by most labs on antivirus products.

But:

Seeing that this scan is performed once a day at 02:00 a.m., or at a time that no one is on the computer, why should bother about whether it takes 20 minutes or 25 minutes?

Several antivirus software use a snapshot mechanism that will ensure it scans a file only once; only if this file was changed, the software re-scans it, which means this scan should only be performed on new files or files that were edited.

McAfee uses this snapshot technology, and therefore our first lab scan shows a duration of 235 Seconds, while the second scan duration was only 46 Seconds!!!

The test benchmark is performed on a folder with 100,000 randomly generated files that contain random characters.

Randomly Generated File

Randomly Generated File

100,000 Files in Scan Folder

100,000 Files in Scan Folder

The test scan is performed on the test folder after a definition update and a system reboot.

McAfee Scan in Progress

McAfee Scan in Progress

McAfee Scan Finished

McAfee Scan Finished

McAfee during a full scan - CPU and memory usage

CPU and memory usage by McAfee during a full scan

The full scan duration was 235 Seconds (3:55 min), an average speed of 426 files per second.

During the full scan, the CPU utilization averages on 90%.

If you take the low performance toll and the relatively slow scan speed of files per second into consideration, and you add the snapshot optimization to that (which changed it to 46 seconds on the second scan), you get a good balance of performance and speed.

The high CPU usage and the slow scan speed is something McAfee can improve on by optimizing its scan engine.

Like I mentioned above, why would someone care about the time it takes for a full scan to finish?

A person might want to know that during the full scan he probably can’t do anything intensive with his PC.

He will just have to wait patiently while the process finishes, or just schedule a scan when no one is on the computer.

Customer Support Test

All of McAfee’s antivirus programs come with free 24/7 support for the duration of the subscription.

Included in the support are an online help center which includes:

Should users require or prefer a human support technician, you can easily contact a McAfee employee by telephone or online chat.

McAfee Antivirus Key Features

This part of my McAfee review covers all the important details about the McAfee's features. 

User Interface and Scan Options

McAfee’s antivirus software is well-known for being one of the most user-friendly available, however, I think it's time McAfee updated it.

The simplicity of the dashboard makes operation of the anti-virus intuitive!

It ensures that all users can easily inform themselves about the security statuses of all their devices, whether at home or on the go.

McAfee Control Panel - Antivirus Plus

McAfee Control Panel - Antivirus Plus

The McAfee dashboard also makes it easy to perform on-demand quick scans or full scans at the touch of a button.

For users who don’t want to manually configure each setting, all the McAfee antivirus programs come with all features enabled and pre-configured, making set-up easy.

Those who would like to manually configure individual settings can do so, but this is by no means necessary.

McAfee Scan Selection

McAfee Scan Selection

McAfee has 3 scan selections:

Quick Scan: This scans the areas of a PC that are the most susceptible to malware attacks.

Full Scan: For a full and comprehensive sweep of a system, this scan checks every nook and cranny for all kinds of malware threats.

Custom Scan: The user can activate this scanner to check specific folders, files, and locations on the PC.

Signature Based Malware Protection

This type of protection is the basis of malware protection.

Old school signature-based malware detection usually detects and blocks malware, which is why all antivirus software uses it.

We will add a video of our hands-on test detection score very soon, so you can get an indication of where McAfee stands and fares against top malware protection software mechanisms.

You might be wondering how an antivirus signature engine works? Each time you update your antivirus definition the signature database, which includes aggregated MD5 signatures, updates.

I go to an online service that can take a file and generate an MD5 hash.

McAfee collects a large database of MD5 codes and other hashes against which the antivirus software can compare the malware files I want to test.

Anti-Phishing

Phishing sites, which try to steal sensitive information such as passwords and credit card numbers, are one of the challenges McAfee tries to defeat.

The antivirus program’s WebAdvisor component doesn’t just rely on a blacklist of bad URLs, but rather actively checks pages for signs and signals of phishing.

In this manner, it is able to actively determine if a site could be dangerous – even if the site is new and previously unknown to the system.

McAfee Anti-Phishing Protection

McAfee Anti-Phishing Protection

Behavioral Malware Blocking

This is the crux of malware protection, and in our internal lab tests we found a good protection with heuristic and behavior detection patterns.

In the past year, there have been many security products that boast a “Next Gen” antivirus and malware protection and claim that this is the best way to protect yourself from zero-day security hazards.

The biggest advantage of behavioral blocking is that, theoretically-speaking, it can stop zero-day malware which is still not documented and filed in a traditional signature database.

For example, if malware tries to delete a crucial system file, the anti-malware software should red-flag and terminate this process.

Although the behavioral approach to detect new malware is very powerful and promising, the downside is that it can create a high rate of false positive alerts which is something we can see in McAfee.

Ransomware Protection

Ransomware has become an epidemic in the cyber world that leaves every user vulnerable.

Ransomware attacks are infections that either lock a computer and deny access to the user or encrypt your stored PC data, rendering it useless unless the user gets the decryption key.

In order to unlock the PC or get the decryption code, hackers will demand a ransom payment usually in Bitcoin.

If you don't have your data backed-up, then you will be faced with a serious issue. All your files, documents, photos, and videos will be gone!

This is why it is very important to have a good backup and an endpoint security product that blocks malware from reaching your computer in the first place.

To learn more about ransomware, read our comprehensive article that details the history, types, and targets or ransomware; protection and prevention tips; defenses and types; and much more.

The software can detect ransomware files, but it won't detect zero-day ransomware.

McAfee does not have active ransomware protection, and therefore does not use one of the five methods for active ransomware protection such as: monitoring high risk folders, checking for higher entropy values, creating honeypot files, creating sacrificial disk/network paths, or creating infinitely-recursive directories.

Two-Way Firewall

McAfee is one of only several antivirus software providers that includes firewall protection in the basic antivirus package.

Given that Windows and Mac operating systems include an effective firewall, many of the other best antivirus software programs no longer include this feature.

In line with McAfee’s emphasis on a user-friendly interface, the firewall runs seamlessly while in “Smart Access” mode.

This means that the firewall makes its own decisions about application permissions without interrupting the user.

Users who would like a greater degree of control over the firewall can set it to “Monitored Access” or taking advantage of the many options for the firewall’s configuration.

For example, one firewall feature called “Net Guard” allows internet access to questionable programs but then denies them “risky” connections.

McAfee Two-Way Firewall

McAfee Two-Way Firewall

Vulnerability Scan

This feature alerts the user to potential security threats created by not installing available operating system patches or because of outdated programs.

Users can schedule scans so that any vulnerable areas receive actionable reporting.

Many users have complained about it getting stuck at 50% during the scan or stalling the system causing the user to have to restart the system.

McAfee Vulnerability Scan

McAfee Vulnerability Scan

Additional Features of McAfee

While the anti-virus protection afforded by McAfee AntiVirus Plus suffices for most users, some of us require additional features to provide additional security for our online activity.

Parental Control

For each child’s account on either Internet Security or Total Protection, you can configure it to block access to inappropriate websites.

You can even control the times that the child is allowed to access the internet!

McAfee Parental Control

McAfee Parental Control

Spam Blocker

This software provides comprehensive spam filtering.

By default, the filter is set to a balanced level, aiming to keep spam out of your inbox but also to avoid marking safe emails as spam.

McAfee Spam Blocker

McAfee Spam Blocker

Shredder

Ever tried to delete a file from your hard drive completely?

Usually, when you delete something, it moves to the recycle bin, and then it needs to be deleted again...

But the deleted file’s data never is really wiped from your disk.

McAfee’s shredder lets you easily delete files completely and securely, ensuring that all the file’s data is completely erased and untraceable.

McAfee File Shredder

McAfee File Shredder

System Requirements

You will require the following if you wish to use McAfee as your antivirus provider:

PC users need Windows 7-10, and Intel Pentium processor at 1 GHz or faster, 2 GB of RAM, and 500 MB of hard disk space.

Android users will need version 4.1 or higher.

Mac users need Mac OS X 10.10 or later.

iOS users need iOS version 9 or later.

What We Would Like To See from McAfee in The Future

I need to consider the whole package when I evaluate an antivirus or anti-malware endpoint solution in order to see if it can act as a standalone protection suite for all internet security needs.

McAfee needs active ransomware protection, as well as a VPN, virtual desktop, otherwise known as a virtual browser with sandbox technology in order to be classified as one of the best antivirus providers.

McAfee Business

McAfee offers several business solutions 

One is to get all security products to work as one in what is known as Orchestrating Security. This includes Open Data Exchange Layer (Open DXL), Security information and event management SIEM, and cyber threat alliance.

Another solution Cloud Security which gives enterprises Network Protection, Security Management, and Threat Detection capabilities.

Other offers include: Data Center & Cloud Defense, Dynamic Endpoint Threat Defense, Pervasive Data Protection, and Intelligent Security Operations.

McAfee Mobile Security for Android and iOS

McAfee Android Virus Protection

McAfee Antivirus Plus includes full protection for your Android devices.

The software includes malware scanning, automatically scanning new apps.

McAfee Mobile Antivirus Scanner

McAfee Mobile Antivirus Scanner

You can also lock any app with a PIN – useful if you share your device and would like certain apps to be off-limits.

The unique anti-theft protection includes remote locate, lock, wipe, and alarm managed through McAfee’s online portal.

McAfee Mobile Privacy Settings and Call Blocker

McAfee Mobile Privacy Settings and Call Blocker

McAfee Mobile WiFi Security

McAfee Mobile WiFi Security

Additional features include a “Battery Optimizer”, contacts back-up, Web Protection, and a handy tab that allows you to check your security status.

 

OUR PICK

McAfee Antivirus Plus 2017

McAfee iOS Virus Protection

As a result of the lack of iOS malware, there isn’t a need for iOS antivirus software.

The McAfee iOS version instead allows the user to back up contacts, locate, wipe the device, and trigger an alarm in case of theft, and copy and store pictures inside of McAfee’s secure vault.

Mac Compatibility

On Macs, you can install the Mac version of McAfee Internet Security, a slightly less robust version than the Windows equivalent.

The essentials are included: malware quarantine and detection, download scanning, and warnings about apps that lack proper certificates.

The firewall component also enhances the existing firewall protection built into OS X.

The software blocks access to phishing sites and other dangerous links and flags potentially dangerous search results and social media links in Firefox and Chrome.

ADVANCED

McAfee Internet Security 2017

Money Back Guarantee

If for any reason you are not satisfied with the McAfee software and wish to return it, the program comes with a 30 day money-back guarantee.

You can also try it out first with a 30-day free trial, and no credit card is required.

My Conclusion

Although it is a bit pricier than some of the other antivirus software solutions available, the wide range of features that McAfee provides makes it one of the most popular and recognized antivirus programs.

In addition, its user-friendly, hands-off approach to internet security makes it particularly appealing to a wide audience.

Not only does it protect the user from the hazards of the internet, it also saves headaches and time by performing the most critical of its tasks automatically in the background, quietly recognizing dangerous files and links.

The biggest benefit of the McAfee AntiVirus Plus (and, accordingly, of the other McAfee products) is it can be installed on all your – and your family’s – devices.

If you have at least several devices to secure, it’s likely that McAfee’s antivirus software might represent the best value for you.

For not much more than some competitors charge for three licenses (or sometimes even just one!), McAfee AntiVirus Plus gives you unlimited licenses, allowing you to install on as many devices as you desire and manage them all together.

McAfee’s unique multi-device pricing and structuring represent a true game-changer, and also give this virus protection software a great value.

However, I must end with saying that McAfee does not have the highest protection scores, and I expect even more advanced features (ransomware) from this iconic antivirus solution, compared to our other top antivirus providers.

Pros:
  • Integrated Two-Way Firewall
  • Excellent hands-on performance test
  • Almost no influence on computer speed
  • Unlimited number of devices per license
Cons:
  • Scan speed
  • False Positive alerts levels
  • Average independent test scores
  • No active ransomware protection
  • User interface should be updated

OUR PICK

McAfee Antivirus Plus 2017

By Danielle P

Senior editor, professional writer & researcher

A creative and literary prodigy with an astounding ability to write about anything. While Danielle doesn’t have a vast technical background, her research capabilities are limitless and she can write about anything her heart desires.

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Recently acquired by Intel, McAfee now also goes by the name of Intel Security. McAfee provides average protection against online threats, so it's not a bad choice for virus protection. While the best antivirus companies limit the number of licenses you can purchase, McAfee offers to protect unlimited devices with one subscription. It's a great option for a large family, especially if you purchase the Internet Security plan which includes parental control.

McAfee
Date published:May 31, 2017
8.5 / 10 stars

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