McAfee AntiVirus (AV) Plus 2014 Review

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  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 8
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Total Score:
      • 8.50
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • User-friendly interface
    • Improved scan times
    • Includes a two-way firewall
  • Cons

    • A few user interface (UI) quirks
     

McAfee AntiVirus (AV) Plus has always fared well in our security reviews versus rivals like Symantec’s Norton AntiVirus and Kaspersky’s AV offering. In this hands-on review, we’ll see how the 2014 edition of McAfee’s software introduces an enhanced scanning engine and a new behavioral analysis feature in a refreshed version of an already great product.

Overview

List priced at $49.99, but often discounted to $34.99 on McAfee’s web site, McAfee AntiVirus (AV) Plus 2014 is a security suite which is designed to protect home computers. The enhanced scanning engine in the 2014 edition results in faster virus scanning times. Unlike several competing suites, McAfee incorporates a two-way firewall. Additional features of McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2014 include a secure file eraser, a vulnerability scanner and a cleaning utility aimed at improving system performance.

McAfee’s user interface (UI) is almost completely unchanged since the 2013 edition. A color-coded strip across the top indicates overall security status; green means you’re good. A red bar will display if there are serious problems along with a recommended action. A nice aspect of this interface is that it keeps presented information to a minimum, overcoming a common problem with antivirus suites from years past.

McAfee’s UI is physically larger than that of most competing suites; it’s fully compatible with Windows 8 and touch-enabled displays. McAfee was a little ahead of time last year in updating its UI, anticipating the arrival of touch devices with Windows 8.

On another positive note, McAfee includes a two-way firewall. This is not offered by Symantec unless you spend extra for the full Norton Internet security suite. It can be argued that the firewall is unnecessary but we’ll answer that it can’t hurt.

There are some ways in which McAfee’s UI might be improved, however. For one thing, it isn’t completely obvious how to start a scan of the computer. Competing suites such as Norton AntiVirus 2014 have a section right on the main interface that says something like “Scan PC.”

To initiate a scan in McAfee AntiVirus Plus, you click into the “Virus and Spyware Protection” category first, where there’s a link to start a scan.

Also, McAfee takes a different approach to settings. Settings for a particular aspect of the program are only stored in that section. As an example, you’ll have to go into “Web and Email Protection” and then click on “Firewall” to access different categories of settings for the firewall. In an alternative approach used by some other vendors, all of the settings are stored in a dedicated screen and categorized there; I honestly prefer the latter approach, as it saves a lot of clicks in the long run (especially if you’re changing multiple settings).

Extras

Antivirus suites generally include extra security features; McAfee’s three are McAfee Vulnerability Scanner, McAfee Quick Clean, and McAfee Shredder.

McAfee Vulnerability Scanner is designed to look for security holes in common programs such as Internet Explorer. After it runs, it displays a report of issues found and recommended resolutions.

McAfee Quick Clean is a particularly useful utility which helps to clean up unused files. The end result is that it will free up disk space on a computer. It freed up 443MB of disk space on my PC, just about all of which consisted of temporary Internet files.

Something that most computer users don’t realize is that when a file is deleted, it’s still on the storage drive; the operating system simply marks that space is over-writeable. Therefore, the deleted file can be recovered.

It’s good to use McAfee Shredder when deleting files that contain sensitive information such as bank documents. The shredder deletes the file and then writes over the area where the file was stored to eliminate its ability to be recovered.

Performance

McAfee’s installer takes care of downloading the latest installation files from central servers. In total it downloaded approximately 150MB of files, about average for a modern security suite and a smaller footprint than its chief competitor Norton (which is one-third larger). The installation itself isn’t quite as simple as Norton’s, since it requires an additional click or two. Yet it’s still painless in the end. There are no surprises here.

System Impact

Overall system performance as measured by Futuremark’s PCMark 7 benchmark was exactly five percent lower after installing McAfee (as opposed to having nothing installed at all). This is within the realm of acceptability and meets our expectations for antivirus suites; a difference of five percent is unlikely to be noticed by users.

Proactiveness

We tested McAfee’s proactiveness by attempting to download files from IT security website Eicar.org. McAfee prevented two of the four files from downloading but ultimately let two through; they were picked up in a scan I ran after the fact. While McAfee still protected the computer, we were hoping it would have detected the files while trying to download them, like Norton AntiVirus 2014 had done in a previous test.

System Scan

McAfee scanned 128GB of data in our test system in 24 minutes; this an improvement over the 2013 version’s 28 minutes. The math comes out to a 15 percent difference, and as with the firewall, we’ll certainly take it. In either situation, McAfee is twice as fast as Norton for a similar scan.

A quick scan completed in less than three minutes. This kind of scan is designed to scan the most common areas of the computer where infections typically live.

Brand new this year, the scanning engine in McAfee’s 2014 edition is geared to reducing scanning time as well as to using less memory. As we’ve explained in a previous writeup, the scanning engine is part of a new antimalware engine called AM Core which also includes ActiveProtection. Instead of scanning the system for known malware, as the scanning engine does, ActiveProtection performs behavioral analysis in efforts to detect types of exploits that haven’t yet shown up in virus signature databases.

Conclusion

McAfee represents a reasonable value. It provides solid protection for home computers. It includes a two-way firewall, along with several extras. The UI is touch-friendly and performance impact in minimal. Scanning times are fast. Any qualms we have are minor. it could be a bit easier to start a scan or to get to settings, but we found no issues with the software’s performance and features. We’re happy to recommend McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2014.

Pros:

  • User-friendly interface
  • Improved scan times
  • Includes a two-way firewall

Cons:

  • A few user interface (UI) quirks


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