McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2011, the fourth and last of four products to be considered in our series of 2011 antivirus software reviews, brings a slick user interface (UI) and some cool features -- including a shredder and dedicated two-way firewall -- to the table. Yet rival AV software programs from Norton, Microsoft and Kaspersky compare favorably along some other lines.
Priced at $49.99 for a one-year license covering one PC, McAfee AntiVirus (AV) Plus isn't free like Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). It’s $10 more expensive than Norton AntiVirus 2011. Unlike other AV suites, McAfee comes with a dedicated two-way firewall. On the other hand, McAfee isn't as proactive as its rivals around warning users about downloads of potentially malicious software.
Download and Installation
McAfee requires only a small software download for installation, since the install simply retrieves the latest content from the Internet. While I like the idea of a small download, I wish the software were simply a standalone package. Those looking to do offline installs will hit a roadblock with this setup.
The installation process isn't as quick as with Norton AntiVirus 2011, although it's nothing that would give someone -- even the less computer-literate-- a headache. The installation defaults are taken for all software we review.
The small size of the window is one thing I've always liked about McAfee's user interface (UI). The 2011 iteration is the slickest to date, although a 2012 version is now on the way. The main screen shows you just about everything you need to know. Adhering to the same philosophy as other security software makers, McAfee uses green to signify "safe."
The Shredder is a nice little extra included with McAfee. This feature securely deletes files from your computer. When you try to delete a file from Windows, Windows simply marks the part of the hard drive the file was on as writeable, typically. The file itself is not actually deleted. With its shredder feature, on the other hand, McAfee takes additional steps to make sure the file is unrecoverable.
Use and Effectiveness
McAfee operated quietly in the background, which is exactly what we want to see. Gone are the days when it's acceptable for an AV suite to create a noticeable performance drain. Moreover, installation of the software caused system startup and and shutdown times to increase by no more than a few seconds.
To test the effectiveness of Norton AntiVirus 2011, I used several test virus files from Eicar.org, an IT security website. The four files provided for download have different extensions --- including .com, .zip, and .txt -- all containing viruses. Please see the test description for extensive information on the tests. Antivirus software should detect the files as threats.
McAfee wasn’t as proactive as other security suites I tested. I was able to download the files. McAfee didn’t detect them until I performed a manual scan. While McAfee did detect the threat, it should have been more proactive in issuing warnings of potentially damaging software downloads.
We use Futuremark's PCMark05 system benchmark suite to determine the performance difference after installing security software. We use this outdated suite since it's easy for modern computers to run; therefore, any performance differences stand out. Performance differences for McAfee AV Plus 2011 are imperceptible, which is excellent.
Time it Took to Perform a Full System Scan
McAfee took 53 minutes to scan the 128GB of data on our test computer. This is considered rather quick; anything over an hour and a half is too long. On this score, though McAfee can't compete with Norton AntiVirus 2011 which came in at 39 minutes or Kaspersky 2011, which took only 27 minutes. However, McAfee easily beats out MSE, a free antivirus suite, which clocked one hour, 38 minutes.
McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2011 is a recommendable security suite for home users. It’s pricier than Norton AV 2011, however, and it might not be worth the extra money, depending on your preferences. McAfee does include a two-way firewall and several small extras that competitors don’t. McAfee AV Plus also offers a slick UI, along with no perceptible performance impact to installation. However, it isn't as proactive as its rivals at cautioning about possible threats.
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* Ratings averaged to produce final score
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