There’s something in McAfee’s 2020 Windows antivirus lineup for everyone. From the basic McAfee Antivirus Plus to the superpremium McAfee Total Protection + VPN, each of McAfee’s five products uses the same core malware-detection technology. They differ in price and in how many features they have, such as a password manager, parental-control software, unlimited VPN service or identity protection.
McAfee’s generous installation policy makes its antivirus products attractive to individuals or families with many devices to protect. Still, McAfee’s malware protection is a rung below those of the best antivirus software makers, and its security suites do without dedicated webcam and microphone protections, or a hardened browser for online banking and shopping.
Kaspersky’s security software has those features while providing better protection. Bitdefender’s protection is a hair short of Kaspersky’s, but its security suites are feature-rich and have a small performance impact. Norton’s packages are pricey but combine excellent malware detection, unlimited VPN service and LifeLock identity protection.
McAfee 2020 costs, and what’s covered
The entry-level McAfee Antivirus Plus protects PCs, Macs and Android devices. It has a two-way firewall, a system optimizer, dedicated ransomware protection, McAfee’s WebAdvisor browser extensions, file shredding and a new cryptojacking defense. At $60 for up to 10 devices, it’s one of the best bargains among entry-level security suites.
McAfee Internet Security adds a license for the True Key password manager and protection against spam. But it doesn’t include built-in parental controls, which most other brands offer in this midrange product category. A 10-device subscription costs $90, although McAfee tells us it won’t enforce that limit for home users.
The premium McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe share many features, including Identity Theft Protection Essentials and, finally, Safe Family parental controls. Total Protection is sold through retail channels while LiveSafe comes preloaded on new computers. (If you want file encryption, Total Protection is the way to go.)
LiveSafe and Total Protection each cost $70 for one computer, $90 for five and $110 for 10 devices, but the one-packs lack ID protection, while the 10-license subscriptions include five user licenses for the True Key password manager.
At the high end is the superpremium Total Protection + VPN, which adds unlimited access to the company’s Safe Connect VPN service. The $120 package can be installed on up to 10 devices but allows only five simultaneous VPN sessions.
Each of these McAfee security products is compatible with Windows 7 (with SP1) through Windows 10, macOS 10.12, Android 4.1 and iOS 10.0. They also support Android Wear smartwatches and Apple Watch.
The recently added McAfee Gamer Security program offers low-overhead protection for $60 for a single Windows 10 PC. We plan to review that product separately.
In addition to stopping viruses, worms, trojans and rootkits, McAfee defends against cryptojacking software that uses your computer to mine cryptocurrencies. All the McAfee packages in the U.S. and Australia also include Ransom Guard, which races to copy files under ransomware attack before they can be encrypted. (A new version will be rolled out worldwide in 2020.)
You can start a full or quick scan in two clicks from the home screen; you can also right-click on any file in Windows Explorer to scan it alone. McAfee’s 2020 products have a gaming mode to silence alerts and stop updates while you’re otherwise engaged.