The firewall module included by McAfee Total Protection can automatically adjust its protection level according to the network profile you set in Windows. That means that, if you set your network to be public in Windows, so will McAfee's firewall, and if you set it to private, the firewall does that too. It is an excellent approach that requires less intervention from the user.
To see if the firewall module is also efficient, we ran a few tests with two well-known network vulnerability scanners: Nmap and Nessus. At first, we set our test laptop to use a public network profile. In this case, neither Nmap nor Nessus managed to find any open ports or any other significant information.
Then we changed the network profile to private and reran the tests. This time Nmap found 10 open ports and Nessus discovered 5 open ports and one vulnerability to "man-in-the-middle" attacks. The only other information the scanners managed to find was the MAC address of our test computer. However, this is not a critical security information.
The firewall module you get from McAfee Total Protection excels when you connect to public networks. However, when you use a private network profile, the security you get is of average effectiveness.
Antivirus and antispyware
The first thing we checked regarding antimalware security, was how McAfee Total Protection protects you against online threats. The security suite uses its Net Guard engine to scan the internet traffic and block malicious websites when you try to visit them. This engine protects you regardless of the web browser you prefer using. Additionally, the security suite also offers an optional browser add-on called WebAdvisor, which is also designed to stop you from visiting malicious websites before you load them. This add-on is available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer and, when a dangerous website is detected, shows a stop message in your web browser. It would have been nice if Webadvisor had also worked in Microsoft Edge or Opera. We tested both the Net Guard engine and the Web Advisor add-on by trying to visit a series of dangerous websites, and both features worked great. As far as online protection is involved, you can rest assured that McAfee's antivirus solution protects you efficiently.
Next, we checked how McAfee Total Protection handles removable drives. We took a USB memory stick, we copied some viruses and some PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs) on it, and then we plugged it into our test computer. Unfortunately, McAfee Total Protection did not react. It did not automatically scan the memory stick, and it did not ask if we wanted to scan it either. It did not say anything, not even when we opened the contents of the memory stick in File Explorer. McAfee Total Protection reacted only when we tried to run an infected file. When we did that, it deleted the virus, but it did not check if the other files found in the same folder were infected. Seeing that, we ran a contextual scan on the memory stick and, unfortunately, the antivirus only detected eight out of the 12 malware samples on it. Four samples remained untouched. So, the memory stick was still a malware bomb waiting to explode. In our opinion, this is a not a good result.
For the final and most comprehensive test, we installed Windows 10 on our test computer, and then we infected it with a series of nasty viruses, including some ransomware. Then we asked McAfee Total Protection to install itself and clean the computer. The security suite managed to download and install itself, but it only detected two viruses on its own, using its real-time engine. To get the others out of our system, we had to run a full system scan. This time, the antivirus solution removed another batch of infected files, but the test laptop still had four malware samples remaining, stored right where we had placed them, on the desktop. This is not what we expect from a good antivirus product.
We also measured the time needed by McAfee Total Protection to perform a full system scan: it was about 11 minutes on our 126GB partition with 35GB of data on it. This is a good result.
For a second opinion, we also looked at what independent security organizations had to say about McAfee Total Protection:
AV-TEST gave McAfee a score of 5.5 points out of 6 for protection and the maximum score of 6 points out of 6 for performance and usability.
AV-Comparatives awarded McAfee's antivirus with their top Advanced+ badge in their "Malware Protection Test" and "Performance Test," and with their worst badge, Standard, in the "Real World Protection Test." We tend to agree with these ratings.
Virus Bulletin has not tested McAfee's security products in a long time.
The antivirus engine offered by McAfee Total Protection can clean some of the viruses on your computer and your removable drives. However, to do that, you have to ask the antivirus to run manual scans. Unfortunately, it looks like McAfee does not react as it should when it encounters very new malware samples. On the other hand, the web protection it offers is excellent, and that should help in preventing malware from reaching your computer in the first place.
McAfee Total Protection provides a series of extra features that might make it more attractive to some users:
Vulnerability Scanner - checks for and installs software updates for Windows and other programs installed on your computer.
Anti-Spam -checks your email messages and marks those that are unsolicited or that contain phishing messages, by moving them into a separate Anti-Spam folder. It works with email desktop clients such as Outlook and Thunderbird.
TrueKey - a password manager that you can use to store your passwords, create safely encrypted notes and other information, and which can automatically fill your login details into the various websites you connect to. If you are not already using a similar service like LastPass, this tool could be useful for you. TrueKey works on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android systems, and supports Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge.
Shredder - a tool that lets you permanently delete the files which you do not want to be recovered easily.
Parental Controls - lets you set how much time your children are allowed to use the internet and also what kind of websites they can access. We checked if the internet restrictions work well, by trying to load a few websites that are not suitable for children. McAfee did a good job at blocking them.
QuickClean - removes unwanted and unnecessary files from your computer, such as temporary files used by websites to track your activity, Windows history or lost file fragments from your drives.
My Home Network - shows you a view of what your local network looks like and what devices are connected to it.
File Lock - allows you to create a personal vault, which is a fancy name for an encrypted folder, in which you can store valuable personal files.
QuickClean - sweeps your computer of unnecessary system files.
Threat Map - displays a World map on which you can see the active threats worldwide.
Some of the features bundled by McAfee Total Protection, such as Quick Clean, are duplicates of what Windows offers, while others, like the TrueKey or Shredder, are genuinely useful. We like the fact that they work reasonably well and they do exactly what you expect them to do. Unfortunately, there is no VPN service included in this Total Protection suite.
Default settings you might want to adjust
McAfee Total Protection does not have many advanced settings, so it is not much you can change about the way it works. Our only recommendation for you is to enable Intrusion Detection. By default, it is disabled, but enabling it will protect you from hackers trying to exploit the weaknesses found in Windows or the programs that you have installed, to take control of your computer. You can find this setting in the Firewall settings, in the Intrusion Detection section.
What is your opinion about McAfee Total Protection or McAfee LiveSafe?
Now you know what we think about McAfee Total Protection, and you have also seen how it fared in our tests. Before closing this review, share your opinions about McAfee's products, in the comments section below. Do you like what they have to offer? How do you enjoy the improved user interface?