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McAfee Total Protection review: A good antivirus solution with room for improvement

McAfee is a longtime name in the world of PC security, and these days it offers three security products to consumers: McAfee Total Protection, Gamer Security (a suite specific to gamers), and LiveSafe—the latter provides protection for unlimited devices. This review is looking at Total Protection.

Total Protection comes at a variety of price points depending on how many devices you want to license. For a single device, you’ll pay $30; add another $5 and you get Total Protection for five devices; and for $40 you’ll get coverage for 10 devices. Those are first-year prices, however. McAfee’s MSRPs after the first year are $80, $100, and $120, respectively.

Note: This review is part of our best antivirus roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.

Total Protection’s interface is well designed, but it takes some getting used to. Status information is stored in the left rail instead of menu items, while most actions sit in the main panel.

At the top of the window you get five tabs: Home, PC Security, Identity, Privacy, and Account. There are also icons for alerts, news, tips, and settings in the top-right corner.

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McAfee Total Protection’s Home tab.

Home is your basic dashboard with a green check mark or red alert to let you know whether your PC is protected. The primary section of the window sports a carousel to quickly carry out some of the feature-filled operations that Total Protection offers, such as performance boosts for third-party apps, deleting browser cookies and trackers, permanently deleting sensitive files, updating Total Protection, and setting up the password manager. Below that is a summary of everything McAfee is monitoring on your system and links to the app’s security report.  

PC Security shows whether the key components of Total Protection—such as the firewall and real-time scanning—are running, as well as tiles to initiate a scan, and some of the other operations we saw on the Home screen. From this tab you can run a security scan, check for desktop application updates, check for virus definition updates, and run browser protection. The carousel, meanwhile, prompts you to carry out some of those same features.

Next up we have the PC Performance tab. There isn’t much here except links to download the App Boost feature that improves performance of third-party desktop apps, and McAfee Web Boost. The latter is supposed to improve your browsing speed. It only works with Google Chrome, and McAfee Total Protection isn’t smart enough to identify browsers that are in the Chromium family such as the new Edge or Opera. That’s not a huge problem as all of these browsers can install Web Boost from the Chrome Web Store if you want it.

Web Boost is supposed to improve browsing performance, but the only thing it seems to do is stop auto-playing videos. To really improve performance you need to block ads, trackers, and stop those annoying pop-ups asking to enable site notifications.

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