McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2013 Review
McAfee sits alongside Norton as one of the two most recognised Internet security brands amongst consumers. As with anything so widely known, McAfee’s software tends to have as many detractors as fans.
After a detailed review, we (unfortunately) find ourselves on the detractors’ side of the fence. The product gets some things spot on, but in other ways it’s beginning to look dated. Think very carefully before committing.
McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2013 is the entry level product in McAfee’s current range. There are also three more comprehensive products, known as “Internet Security,” “Total Protection,” and “All Access.” The plain Antivirus Plus product is the one we concentrate on here.
The pricing model for Antivirus Plus is slightly different to that used by most other vendors, and varies a little from country to country.
In the UK, a one-PC, one-year package costs £44.99, which is significantly above average for an entry-level product. If you are in the US, however, there is an offer on the first year’s subscription (at the time of writing) that makes the price $34.99. This seems more than a little unfair on UK users.
It’s possible to add on additional PCs, at a cost of £10/$15 each. As far as we could see, UK buyers can choose a two-year subscription, but we couldn’t locate this option on the US site.
One thing we did notice is that McAfee attempt plenty of “upselling” when you purchase the product, including trying to charge $12.95 for a reinstall CD. We weren’t a fan of this, as we can imagine novices purchasing extras because they’re not sure if they need them or not.
On a brighter note, McAfee, like most vendors, offer 30-day free trials of their products, although we did have to look around the website for several minutes before we found them! A 30-day guarantee is also on offer.
It took us a little while to ascertain the key features of AntiVirus Plus 2013 when visiting the McAfee website. Clicking the “Learn More” link underneath the product told us very little, with the website seemingly more keen to “upsell” us onto the flagship “Total Protection” product.
We eventually found a “Features” tab, which led us to a list including the following key functions:
Vulnerability Scanner: This checks for missing updates that make your system vulnerable, both within the operating system and within third-party programs.
Antimalware: Antivirus Plus looks for spyware, adware and other threats, as well as traditional viruses.
Two-way Firewall: A firewall isn’t usually included in entry-level products, but there is one included with McAfee Antivirus Plus.
Data Shredder: This is a tool that allows you to securely erase system data such as Web cookies and cache files.
PC Tune-Up: This feature helps to speed up PCs by removing “junk.”
Anti-bot Protection: This claims to use the “latest research” to prevent contact with criminals’ computers.
Safe Surfing: This integrates with the browser to inform you whether sites may be malicious.
The features list for McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2013 seems to take into account the “Plus” in the name of the product, with a couple of extra features and utilities.
Installation and Configuration
We made use of McAfee’s 30-day trial to review the product. Our machine for this review was running a clean installation of Windows 7 Professional, 32 bit.
Irritatingly, McAfee treat a trial download as a free “order,” and as such you must create a McAfee account to access the software. This is a minor pain, but doesn’t take too long.
Once the registration was complete, we were able to access the download, a smallish file of just under 5MB. We downloaded and opened the file.
After a quick check for existing threats, we had to enter our McAfee account details.
The installer then offered us the choice of a complete or custom installation. We chose the former option. Then, the installer proceeded to download the rest of our program data – some 128MB in total.
The install then completed automatically.
Next, we double-clicked the McAfee icon so that we could begin to look around the software’s interface.
We liked the clean GUI, and also the fact that the definitions were fully up to date the first time we accessed the program.
We really liked the way the settings were laid out within the McAfee interface. The vendor has managed to provide easy access to functionality without flooding novice users with too much information. The descriptions of the features are also concise and clear.
After exploring the options available, we decided to proceed with our real world virus tests.
As usual, we made use of an infected USB key to test out the product. This key contains a selection of test threats of varying complexity.
McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2013 got off to a great start by immediately suggesting that we scanned the key for threats. It also provided a good description of why we might like to pre-scan the device, which we thought was great for novice users.
We took the advice provided, and clicked the “scan” button.
After the scan was complete, McAfee had identified and deleted two of our test infections. However it left our trickiest threat, a fake Google Chrome installer containing a selection of spyware, untouched and accessible on the key.
Keen to see if the software coped with the final virus upon running it, we double-clicked the file.
Unfortunately, McAfee AntiVirus Plus allowed the installer to run, and no alerts were triggered during the process. By the time the install was complete, our machine had various spyware issues and a hijacked Web browser.
Next we ran a full system scan, both to see if McAfee would remove any of the infections and to check out CPU and memory usage.
System utilisation was distinctly “old school” during the scan. McAfee used over 160MB of RAM for the duration, alongside at least 55% of CPU time. It’s fair to say that other antivirus products have far overtaken McAfee in this respect.
The scan took around over 40 minutes to complete, and once it was finished it hadn’t found any of our malware threats, which were “undesirable applications” at best. This was all rather disappointing.
McAfee provide exactly the kind of support you would expect from a large company: They clearly have a large team behind them, but would rather you solve your problem in a “self service” way before you take up any staff time.
As such, they advise using a “Virtual Technician” feature, and checking FAQs, before contacting anyone.
Once you’ve jumped through the necessary hoops, McAfee do offer live chat, phone and remote support – but you shouldn’t expect to get access to these support methods until you’ve followed what may turn out to be a rather rigid process!
- Well-designed user interface
- Suggests scanning of USB devices by default
- Firewall included
We weren’t so sure about
- Company website is rather hard to navigate
- Not easy to access a “real person” for support
- Slow to complete full scan
- Too much upselling during product purchase
- Failed to detect one of our test threats
- Very high RAM and CPU use during scans
- Far more expensive in UK than US (at time of writing)
McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2013 is a product that seems rather “stuck in its ways,” and old fashioned. This is especially noticeable during scans, as most vendors have now taken steps to prioritise fast scanning and low resource usage.
We would have felt inclined to overlook some of this if McAfee had walked successfully though all of our real-world tests, but sadly the product failed to detect a threat that cheaper and less established products have coped with.
So despite the prestigious name, we hesitate to recommend McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2013 – McAfee really need to innovate to catch up with the new “pretenders to the throne.”