McAfee Antivirus Review

We tested McAfee's antivirus software to see how it holds up to top competitors.
Best for unlimited devices
McAfee
McAfee Antivirus
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
  • pro
    Basic plan works on any OS
  • pro
    Unlimited-device plans available
  • con
    Steep renewal costs
Plan
First-year price
Renewal price
Number of devices
Device protection
Privacy protection
Identity protection
McAfee Antivirus Basic$84.99/yr.1
bulletYes
VPN onlyMonitoring only
McAfee Antivirus Plus$109.99/yr.5
bulletYes
Info scans, VPN Monitoring only
McAfee+ Premium$149.99/yr.Unlimited
bulletYes
Info cleanup, VPNMonitoring only
McAfee+ Advanced$179.99/yr.Unlimited
bulletYes
Info cleanup, VPNLimited protection
McAfee+ Ultimate$279.99/yr.Unlimited
bulletYes
Info cleanup, VPNFull protection

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
McAfee+ prices are for individual plans only—family plans add parental controls at a slightly higher price.

John Carlsen
Feb 07, 2023
bullet9 min read

SafeWise experts have years of firsthand experience testing the products we recommend. Learn how we test and review. We may earn money when you buy through our links.

Few antivirus software brands are as recognizable as McAfee, which helped popularize malware protection apps in the early days of the internet. While it's not our favorite antivirus program, McAfee offers a lot to its users. We love how affordable it is for protecting unlimited devices, and its identity theft protection features are competitive.

Based on independent testing results, McAfee antivirus is an effective way to protect your computer but can sometimes slow your device. Check out our full review to see how it compares to the competition.

pro
Pros
pro Antivirus, file shredder, and password manager
pro Basic plan works on any operating system
pro All plans include VPN and basic identity monitoring
pro Unlimited devices with McAfee+ plans
pro Cheaper than Norton's unlimited-device plan
pro Excellent third-party test scores
con
Cons
con Steep costs upon renewal
con No parental controls in Basic and Plus plans
con ID theft protection only in pricier plans
con 5-device limit on VPN connections
con Some benefits require auto-renewal of your plan

How McAfee compares the best antivirus software

Product
Best for
First-year price
Renewal price
Max number of devices
OS compatibility
Learn More
Read review
Best for unlimited devicesStarts at $84.99/yr.Unlimited (McAfee+) Windows,
macOS,
iOS,
Android,
Chrome OS
Best overallStarts at $59.99/yr.15 (Family Pack) Windows,
macOS,
iOS,
Android
Expert recommendedStarts at $44.99/yr.5 (Premium) Windows,
macOS,
iOS,
Android,
Chrome OS
Best for familiesStarts at $59.99/yr.Unlimited (Ultimate Plus) Windows,
macOS,
iOS,
Android
Best for computer speedStarts at $39.99/yr.10 (Advanced Security) Windows,
macOS,
Android
Best quick scanStarts at $39.99/yr.10 (Family Pack) Windows,
macOS,
iOS,
Android,
Chrome OS

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

McAfee antivirus pricing and plans

Individual plans

McAfee Antivirus Basic: $29.99 first year ($84.99 upon renewal)

This entry-tier plan comes with all McAfee's tools for antivirus and internet security: a firewall, file shredder, password manager, and malware scanning and removal. It covers a single device and works on every operating system that McAfee supports.

McAfee Antivirus Basic's main limitations are fewer privacy and identity protection features than other plan options. You can use McAfee's built-in VPN for privacy protection, but there's no personal data scanning like you'll find in McAfee+. Likewise, you'll find some identity monitoring tools, but no ID theft protection coverage.

The first-year price isn't as low as entry-level products from Webroot, Bitdefender, and Norton, but better than ESET and Malwarebytes. Upon renewal, you'll pay the most of any entry-level antivirus software—about $25 to $45 more than the competition.

McAfee Antivirus Plus: $39.99 first year ($109.99 upon renewal)

The McAfee Antivirus Plus plan is identical to the Basic plan but supports five devices. For the first year, you can expect to pay as much as you would for Bitdefender Total Security and Norton 360 Standard—but the renewal price is about $15 to $20 higher. It's an excellent way to scale up McAfee for smaller homes, but we think McAfee+ Premium is more appealing.

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McAfee Total Protection is now McAfee+

McAfee introduced McAfee+ in October 2022 as a rebranded version of McAfee Total Protection with new features.

McAfee+ Premium: $49.99 first year ($149.99 upon renewal)

McAfee+ Premium is the best McAfee plan for folks wanting comprehensive antivirus protection. It's also the cheapest plan that removes the device limit. Considering Norton 360's unlimited-device option costs at least $300 a year, this plan from McAfee is impressive. It's less than half the cost—though Norton's plan is closer to McAfee+ Ultimate in features.

Most folks won't need antivirus software on more than 10 or 15 devices. Still, the option to download McAfee on unlimited devices means you don't need to prioritize protecting newer computers and smartphones in your home.

In terms of features, McAfee+ Premium is similar to McAfee Antivirus Plus but offers scanning to help you find data brokers selling your personal information online. It's useful, but you still need to opt out of these websites on your own.

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McAfee's identity protection is a great value for individuals

From this point on, McAfee's ID theft protection dramatically increases the price. Still, both McAfee+ plans for individuals are generally cheaper than equivalent coverage from standalone identity theft protection services—only Zander and Bitdefender offer lower prices.

McAfee+ Advanced: $89.99 first year ($179.99 upon renewal)

McAfee ratchets up the features when you leap to McAfee+ Advanced. In addition to scanning for your info online, the Personal Data Cleanup tool actively works to remove it from data broker websites.

This option is also where McAfee's identity theft protection kicks in with monthly credit scores and reports from a single credit bureau. You’ll also get identity restoration assistance, lost wallet protection, $1 million in ID theft coverage, and the option to freeze your accounts.

Bitdefender offers a similar plan at this price, but McAfee's unlimited devices and Personal Data Cleanup make it a toss-up.

McAfee+ Ultimate: $199.99 first year ($279.99 upon renewal)

Finally, McAfee+ Ultimate increases the ID theft monitoring to three bureaus with daily credit reports and scores. There's also an option to lock your credit and an extra $25,000 coverage for ransomware. By comparison, Bitdefender Ultimate Security includes up to $50,000 of ransomware protection at just $180 a year, that's $100 cheaper than McAfee+ Ultimate.

Family plans

Every McAfee+ plan has a family version costing about $20 to $145 more per year. Swapping to a family version adds parental controls to each plan and expands the identity theft protection to cover two adults and four kids.

  • McAfee+ Premium Family: $69.99 first year ($169.99 upon renewal)
  • McAfee+ Advanced Family: $119.99 first year ($269.99 upon renewal)
  • McAfee+ Ultimate Family: $249.99 first year ($424.99 upon renewal)
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McAfee's identity protection for families

McAfee's Family plans for identity theft protection cost as much or more than standalone services, but only Norton and IDShield offer antivirus as part of the service. Brands without antivirus might have a hard time competing with McAfee's all-in-one offering, even if it's more expensive.

McAfee antivirus protection and performance

Even though we downloaded McAfee's trial for this review, we lack the resources to put antivirus software through intensive testing. Instead, we looked at the latest results from two cybersecurity organizations specializing in testing antivirus software: AV-TEST and AV-Comparatives.

McAfee earned top marks from these organizations, but both noticed the software slowed other apps launching on a computer. While this didn't affect McAfee's scores much, it's worth looking out for.

We dig into these results below, and it's pretty technical. We understand if you want to jump to our thoughts on McAfee's features.

Windows computers

In the recent December 2022 Windows tests from AV-TEST—which cover November and December—McAfee earned perfect scores in all three categories: Protection, Performance, and Usability. These results mean it spotted every sample virus and didn't flag any false positives. Likewise, it saw a slight decrease in the computer's performance—but that's typical for antivirus software, including Bitdefender and Norton Antivirus.

The only area where McAfee didn't match or exceed the industry average was a slower launch speed for standard applications in December. This hit to launch speed was also the case for the October 2022 performance test from AV-Comparatives. Still, both tests indicate that the effect on system resources was minimal.

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No McAfee test results on Mac or iOS

While AV-Test and AV-Comparatives also cover Mac antivirus software, neither tested McAfee on this platform in many years, if at all. As for iOS, there's no trace of testing, regardless of brand.

Android devices

AV-Test is the most reliable source for Android antivirus product testing we've found. The November 2022 tests also yielded perfect scores for McAfee—and the software performed better than the industry average in every category.

There's no recent Android antivirus testing information available from AV-Comparatives—the latest McAfee test dates back to July 2019. While McAfee passed the test, the constantly changing nature of cybersecurity makes it difficult to rely on older results.

McAfee device protection features

Malware protection

McAfee antivirus constantly scans for all malware on your computer, like viruses, spyware, ransomware, worms, trojans, adware, and more. New threats always appear, so the software checks for security definition updates daily to stay on top of new viruses.

Beyond typical antivirus detection, McAfee security also monitors up to 10 email addresses for phishing attempts to steal valuable account information. Similarly, McAfee Web Protection helps you spot suspicious websites and downloads. We like how it can even help protect you if you accidentally click on an unsafe link or mistype a web address.

A built-in firewall also prevents hackers from accessing your home network by blocking specific incoming network requests.

bullet
Protection Score

Your McAfee Protection Score is a handy way to see current security at a glance in the app. The score uses your software and device settings while monitoring for data breaches online. It then offers suggestions that may help boost protection.

File shredder

Deleting a file on your computer may send it to the Trash or Recycle Bin, but you need to remember to empty these folders, or else the file lives on. McAfee's file shredder provides an instant deletion option that skips this step. It's not a flashy feature, but it is helpful for folks that regularly delete sensitive files.

McAfee privacy protection features

Password manager

McAfee is one of three antivirus software apps we reviewed that includes a password manager. What we like about McAfee's approach is how the password manager comes with every plan—just like Norton's does. However, this additional feature gives McAfee an advantage over Bitdefender, which only includes a password manager with high-tier plans.

Creating and saving secure passwords with McAfee adds to the value of its plans. Sadly, there's no standalone version of the McAfee password manager. If you cancel McAfee, you'll need a plan for migrating your passwords to another service.

VPN

Every McAfee internet security plan has a built-in VPN service to protect your IP address and browsing information from online surveillance. It connects one device on McAfee Antivirus Basic and up to five on other McAfee plans—even on the plans that support unlimited devices for McAfee's other features.

Few standalone VPN providers allow for unlimited connections, so it's understandable that McAfee doesn't either.

The McAfee secure VPN has some limitations worth noting. There's a monthly data cap of 500 MB, similar to what you'll see on free VPNs like Tunnelbear, and it's easy to use this data allotment in a few hours. Fortunately, McAfee removes the data cap if you activate auto-renewal for your plan, so long-term subscribers need not worry.

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Virus Protection Pledge

Signing up for auto-renewal also includes McAfee's Virus Protection Pledge, which refunds your current subscription fees if the software can't remove a virus from your device. It doesn't cover damage or data loss caused by a virus, so it's no replacement for regular data backups.

Personal Data Cleanup

Starting with McAfee+ Premium, you'll have the option to scan for personal information online. You'll see a list of websites that sell your personal information, like email addresses, phone numbers, street addresses, and other background data. You can always opt out of the database when desired.

This scan is a handy tool for improving your privacy, but it requires legwork to opt out of everything. Some data brokers may re-collect your information, so McAfee's scans can help maintain your privacy. If you choose a McAfee+ Advanced or Ultimate, the software automatically sends opt-out requests to lighten your load.

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Parental controls

A McAfee+ family plan unlocks some basic parental controls, like content blocking, screen time limits, and location tracking, but it's less comprehensive than standalone parental control apps. Still, it's more affordable than many of our top picks, so it's an excellent option for families on a budget.

McAfee customer support

McAfee hosts an extensive collection of articles on its Customer Service page that you can filter by operating system and topic. It's relatively easy to navigate, but you can use the handy search bar to find information about specific issues.

You can also try out the user forums on McAfee Support Community for a more personal touch. The forum is a great place to ask questions about your software or see if another user already found a fix. We couldn't find any support phone numbers or email addresses on McAfee's website, but you can contact the company via Facebook, Twitter, and the support community.

McAfee also offers a premium support option: Techmaster Concierge. This service provides personalized assistance with your computer, home network, and smart home devices. It's not worth the price for most folks, but it's probably helpful if you struggle with tech.

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Installing McAfee

We had no trouble installing McAfee for our review, though you'll need an account to download McAfee Antivirus . You can find the PC and Mac apps on McAfee's website. The PC version offers the most features, and other platforms may have fewer.

Final word

McAfee has potential for greatness with a solid performance in independent testing, options for unlimited devices, and a surprisingly valuable identity theft protection service. But its cheaper, antivirus-only plans cost too much compared to brands like Bitdefender, Norton, and Webroot.

Likewise, McAfee's first-year prices are competitive, but the renewal prices are high enough to put a real dent in your budget if you forget they're coming. Check out our list of the best antivirus software to see how McAfee fares against our top picks.

FAQ

McAfee performs well in security, performance, and usability tests from independent organizations like AV-TEST and AV-Comparatives.

The first year of McAfee service is always the cheapest, costing about $30 to $220, depending on your plan. You can expect to pay between $90 and $300 annually upon renewal.

You can find a 30-day trial download on McAfee's website. Additionally, many mobile carriers and internet service providers (ISPs) offer free antivirus software through McAfee, so it may be worth checking to see if your provider offers this perk.

McAfee can sometimes slow your computer. It runs in the background, like most antivirus software, so you may experience a slight delay in other apps' launch, installation, and performance. That said, McAfee ranked fifth-fastest—out of 17 products—in the latest round of performance testing at AV-Comparatives.

How we reviewed McAfee antivirus software

We installed trial versions of McAfee on two devices for testing: a MacBook running macOS Ventura and a Google Pixel 5 running Android 13. These devices gave us a good baseline for what features to expect and how the app affected system performance. We also noted McAfee's pricing, usability, and customer support resources during our tests.

For the more technical aspects of testing, we referred to the latest results from two independent testing organizations that focus on antivirus software: AV-TEST and AV-Comparatives. You can learn more about our rating and testing practices in our full methodology.

John Carlsen
Written by
John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist specializing in smart home devices, security cameras, and home security systems. He has over a decade of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech—he was the Smart Home Editor for Top Ten Reviews and wrote for ASecureLife before joining SafeWise as a Staff Writer in 2020. John holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications, Journalism emphasis from Utah Valley University. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, photography, cooking, and starting countless DIY projects he has yet to complete.

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