McAfee Total Protection full review

Let's get the bad news out of the way first. Gone are the unlimited installs of McAfee Total Protection enjoyed in previous years. But, even with an increase to £89.99/$109.99 for 10 installs you'll still get good value for money.

As with many other antivirus vendors, it pays to check the website for deals. At the time of writing it is more than half price. You can take a look and sign up here.

Continue reading to find out more about the value offered by this product, but if you're concerned that the price tag is out of your budget we'd recommend visiting our round-up of the best antivirus here. You may also enjoy our round-up of the best antivirus deals.

McAfee Total Protection features

As in previous years, McAfee makes its Virus Protection Pledge. If your PC gets infected in such a way that the product can't clean it up, a McAfee engineer will remotely access your machine and remove it. If this proves impossible, you will receive a full refund. This deal does however require you to enrol in the auto-renewal service to automatically pay for subsequent years' cover.

The interface has been tweaked slightly for 2019, with a couple of changes to shift focus from security to speed and privacy, but the underlying tools remain the same.

We say underlying for good reason. The main interface shows very little. However, if you click the settings cog icon, the pull down menu gives you access not only to the settings for a long list of tools, but also the tools themselves.

The Vulnerability Scanner is still there, for example. This regularly searches out vulnerable software and downloads the latest versions for installation, including Windows updates.

This leads us neatly into our first issue. Even though we disabled automatic driver updates because newer versions break the mouse pointer's momentum function, McAfee silently installed the latest driver without asking. Cue much cursing, rolling back of the driver, and installation of the old one.

Another issue is that the default vulnerability scan time of 5am every Sunday virtually guarantees the computer will be switched off. The otherwise Quick Clean tool, which clears cookies and clears space used by temporary internet files, is also scheduled to run at 5am Sunday mornings.

The main components of Total Protection are still the antivirus scanner and web/email protection. The scanner is billed as award-winning and is certainly up there with the best of the signature-based scanners.

Nowadays however, more protection is required. Most major threats come not from hackers directly infiltrating your network, but from unwise web surfing leading to drive-by infections, and from opening malicious email attachments.

Because of this shift in attack vectors, the WebAdvisor tool scans downloads for malicious payloads, and identifies any suspicious URLs as you click them. Backing this is the associated anti-spam module, designed to keep your inbox free of scams, and adverts.

The File Lock module is a data vault. It will password-protect your valuable information against stealthy Trojans, ransomware, and prying eyes. Allied to this is the Shredder, which will ensure that the files you delete stay deleted with no hope of resurrection.

There are also options here to shred the recycle bin and your temporary internet files. You can also set the shredding level from Basic, which is fast, to Complete, which is slower but far more secure.

Also included is the TrueKey password manager. This allows you to use the multi-factor authentication, including fingerprint recognition if your phone supports it, and even facial recognition.

PC performance is covered by two modules. The first is App Boost. This boosts the priority of certain processes, such as web browsers, games and so on. Basically, whatever you use a lot gets a boost.

The other module is Web Boost. Once installed, this stops videos from auto-playing, thereby cutting mobile data use and saving your laptop's battery when on the move.

There's also a browser plugin that will advise and protect you while surfing. The current list of supported browsers includes Internet Explorer 10 upwards, Firefox, Chrome and Safari (on Mac and iPhone). The good news for users of Microsoft's Edge browser is that their favourite browser is also now supported.

The Mobile Security app is fully functioned and features all the usual toys, including a Thief Cam, which allows you to take pictures of whoever steals your mobile device. There are also some nice touches, such as a battery optimiser. This shortens the screen timeout, lowers the screen brightness, and empties areas of memory (such as the cache) that are not used.

There's also a little green tab at the right hand side of the home screen, which when clicked gives you immediate access to a scan, and also shows you any battery-draining apps, and current resource use. Versions exist for Android, and Apple iOS 9 or later.

An issue for us was that McAfee stops a lot of incoming connections as suspicious and gives a daily alarm on the interface to inform you of that fact. This raises an important point: finding the details of a connection is frustrating.

Trying to scroll back through the log is difficult because the window is so small and cannot be resized, and only 25 alerts are shown per page anyway. Such alerts come in all the time, so finding the correct one after a few hours is difficult. Also, you cannot copy and past suspect IP addresses to load into other programs or online services to check them out.

There are other slight niggles. For example, after a few weeks of living with McAfee we clicked the weekly security report and were surprised to see that there was no data in the report.

Verdict

A few niggles don't really detract from what is a professional product with some useful functions, such as the file vault and the TrueKey password manager.