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McAfee Total Protection review: Improved, but not outstanding

This likeable suite didn’t excel in the latest tests – but it’s so cheap you might be willing to overlook that

Price
£8 exc VAT (1yr, 3 devices)
  • Very cheap
  • Simple to use
  • Lacklustre performance and protection ratings

Five years ago, McAfee had an unfortunate reputation for sub-standard protection. But since parting ways with former owner Intel, the company has been turning things around, with aggressive pricing that’s presumably aimed at persuading doubters to give it another chance. Thus we find the company’s Total Protection suite available online for one penny under a tenner.

Despite its name, Total Protection isn’t all that fully featured. It includes cross-platform parental control features, but neither backup nor VPN capabilities are included.

Moreover, not all of the stuff you do get seems necessary. For example, the Web Boost feature merely prevents videos from automatically playing in your browser, while App Boost dynamically tweaks task priorities and resource usage to help certain programs run faster. McAfee claims that a performance benefit of up to 14% can be achieved: that’s nice, but it has nothing to do with security. 

The privacy tab hosts some slightly more relevant tools, in the form of a secure file shredder, an encryption vault for your sensitive files, and – as is de rigueur these days – a password manager extension for Chrome. We’d advise against relying on this, though, as it’s only restriction-free while your Total Protection subscription remains active. Once that expires, you’ll have to pay for a separate True Key licence, or make do with 15 stored passwords. 

The real, useful meat of the program comes down to three components: an automatic software updater, McAfee’s WebAdvisor plugin (for Chrome, Edge and Firefox) and the good old virus scanner. Working together, these delivered an overall protection rating of 99.4% across both independent testing labs. That’s not stellar – it leaves McAfee near the bottom of the rankings – but in practical terms it’s not far behind the front-runners. And when it came to performance tests McAfee did very well indeed, with an overall score that’s beaten only by Eset and Kaspersky.

Clearly McAfee Total Protection isn’t the most hawk-eyed antivirus product around, nor does it stand out in terms of features. It is, however, much better than it used to be, not to mention endearingly cheap and lightweight – so if you’re on a shoestring budget, or simply find our award winners overcomplicated, you could do worse than giving McAfee a second look.

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