McAfee Internet Security 2012 Review: Safeguard Your PC for Less

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  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 8
      • Total Score:
      • 7.50
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Nice user interface (UI)
    • Easy-to-use parental controls
    • Good value
  • Cons

    • Not as proactive as some competing products
    • Parental controls could be more robust


With the new 2012 edition of its long-standing Internet security suite, McAfee continues to duke it out with both other well established industry leaders and lesser known hopefuls. We’ve already looked at counterparts from Kaspersky and Symantec. How well does McAfee Internet Security 2012 compare?

Product Overview

In the latest edition of its suite, McAfee claims to have boosted performance levels through faster start-up and shutdown times.

Priced at $39.99 for a three-user license, the new version also provides some new security safeguards. These include extra checks for USB-connected storage devices, plus a bot net protector aimed at thwarting infected PCs from connecting to your system.

Download and Installation

To install the product, you need a live Internet connection. The McAfee installer then downloads required files from the company’s servers. In my tests, the total size of the downloaded software ended up being over 200MB, which is huge in comparison to some other suites.

The download took about 10 minutes over my cable Internet connection. The install isn’t as quick or easy as Symantec’s, but it’s still straightforward and hard to get wrong.

User Interface (UI)

McAfee has kept the UI quite close to that of last year’s version. That’s a good thing in my book, because the UI is a nice one, displaying just the right amount of information.

The green status bar along the top shows overall protection status, with green meaning OK. Listed below is the status of individual components, including McAfee’s two-way firewall.

You can click on any of the categories in the Features section to expand them and view more detail. I didn’t need to change any of the default settings to ensure that the product worked as anticipated.

Parental Controls

For many people, parental controls are the top reason to spend extra money for an Internet Security suite versus a standard antivirus suite such as McAfee AntiVirus Plus.

McAfee Internet Security 2012 includes a decent if not an exceptional set of controls. Parents planning to use this feature should make sure their children have individual accounts on the computer. The parental controls are set on a per account basis.

It’s easy to set up permissions for users. You start by selecting the age range. You can then optionally define a schedule for when the child can go online. Other settings are available, too. For example, you can block specific Web sites.

On the whole, the parental controls are simple to use. They’re not nearly as robust as those included with Symantec’s Norton Internet Security (NIS) 2012. However, Norton’s Online Family service is tough to top.

Real-World Security Testing

We perform an extra series of tests on Internet Security suites beyond the tests we do on standard antivirus suites.


We use PCFlank’s Exploits test to test the firewall component. The tests essentially bombard your system and test its reaction to various types of attacks and unexpected packets.

With McAfee Security 2012 installed, our test system successfully defended itself from simulated attacks.


To test the effectiveness of McAfee’s suite, I used several test virus files from

McAfee wasn’t as proactive as I hoped on the antivirus testing. It blocked merely two of the files from downloading and it let the second pair through, only detecting these files when I performed a manual scan.


We use  to test the antispyware module. mimics spyware behavior on a computer, detecting whether the antispyware component can block or detect this behavior. We run all available tests.

McAfee worked as expected, successfully blocking all of the attempted downloads and changes.


McAfee Internet Security 2012 offers a simple UI and a low price. McAfee’s suite proved its competence in our testing process, although at the end of the day, it doesn’t offer any significant protection advantages over major competitors.

McAfee’s proactiveness at blocking threats turned out to be just average; Kaspersky Internet Security (KIS) 2012 showed itself to be much better in this regard. Also, McAfee’s parental controls, while quite functional, are not on the same level as Symantec’s. On the other hand, McAfee Internet Security 2012 is well priced and a good value. Overall, the product is recommendable.


  • Nice user interface (UI)
  • Easy-to-use parental controls
  • Good value


  • Not as proactive as some competing products
  • Parental controls could be more robust



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