McAfee Total Protection 2021 review

McAfee Total Protection 2021 brings some great quality of life fixes and future facing updates, while retaining that solid core that makes it a top antivirus choice.

McAfee Total Protection review
(Image: © McAfee)

Top Ten Reviews Verdict


  • +

    Great antivirus performance

  • +

    user friendly interface

  • +

    Password manager, VPN, file shredder and more.


  • -

    Price has crept up

  • -

    VPN locked behind auto-renewal

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McAfee Total Protection has always been a solid choice if you’re looking to protect your computer and mobile devices from viruses, but now it’s getting even better with the advent of McAfee Total Protection 2021. It offers stellar protection against malware, viruses, and other online threats but now comes with a refreshed user interface that feels like a breath of fresh air. It looks great and most importantly, it’s super easy to use and understand now. That’s why we think that McAfee Total Protection will be a strong contender for the top spot in our best antivirus software this year.

Calling McAfee Total Protection an antivirus program isn’t entirely accurate though, as in reality it's a fully fledged internet security software package that combines malware protection with other features like a firewall, VPN, and identity theft protection.

McAfee Total Protection does a lot, so let’s get started by covering the basics and then we’ll dive into the new additions to this year’s update to see just how well it stacks up against the competition (we’re looking at the big hitters like Norton 360 and Bitdefender here). 

McAfee review: McAfee Total Protection 2021

McAfee Total Protection 2021 comes with all the features that you’d expect from a premium security software. You get the comprehensive antivirus, malware, spyware and ransomware protection that forms the core of the whole operation. What’s more, McAfee Total Protection 2021 is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices so you should be able to cover all of your gadgets and gizmos.

Alongside the antivirus suite there is also a built-in firewall to help keep hackers and other unauthorized users out of your systems and files. There’s also a password manager to help you keep your passwords secure while keeping you from having to remember loads of different passwords. Oh, and there’s a file shredder, so you can obliterate files containing sensitive information or old high school photos that you don’t want anyone else to see.

McAfee Total Protection 2021

(Image credit: Future)

McAfee Total Protection also comes with access to a secure VPN and identity theft protection, but there’s a catch with both of these - they’re only available if you have the auto-renewal options selected. It’s a shame these features are locked behind the auto renew paywall, but savvy customers can just leave auto renewal enabled and then turn it off at the last second just before their subscription expires.

VPN services let you keep your location and identity anonymous when you're browsing online, which helps to protect you from hackers and scams, while also blocking websites from tracking your data to use in targeted ads.  We found the built-in VPN to be quick and easy to use, and it's a great addition to the whole online security package.

Identity theft protection is worth having too, as it gives you access to McAfee’s identity monitoring and recovery tools. These tools will keep an eye out for suspicious activity using your name or financial information to try and spot potential identity theft. If an issue is flagged up, McAfee will help you to resolve the issue.

McAfee 2021 review: What’s new with this year? 

So, what’s new with this year’s edition of McAfee Total Protection? One of the headline additions is Tech Scam Protection. With this new feature, McAfee WebAdvisor warns you when you’re visiting a website known to be used by scammers who may try to access or hijack your PC. This should keep you safe should you accidentally wander into the wrong neighborhood of the internet.

McAfee Total Protection 2021

(Image credit: Future)

The core antivirus engine has also had an upgrade. For one thing, security updates now happen quicker and more often. Previously, it could take a while between McAfee’s core system knowing about a virus/malware and your PC receiving the update, which meant that known viruses could slip through if you picked them up before the update.

McAfee has also put work into reducing the number of false positives that it flags up. This was a weakness of McAfee that we flagged up when we reviewed last year’s Total Protection so we’re glad to see it addressed here.

File-less threat protection is the other major addition to McAfee Total Protection 2021. While most viruses and malware work by downloading a file on your device, some new threats can work without needing to do this. These are much harder to detect, so again, it’s good to see McAfee focusing on this emerging threat, though time will tell on how effective this feature is.

There have also been some major updates to the user experience to make McAfee Total Protection 2021 easier to use, especially for less tech savvy users. The UI has been given a complete overhaul and now looks sleeker and more modern, displaying only the relevant information. The VPN that comes with McAfee Total Protection is now built into the main program now too, instead of being a separate piece of software.

McAfee Total Protection 2021

(Image credit: Future)

The password manager has also been updated and now works with iOS (finally) and Microsoft Edge (the new Chromium version). We’re especially happy about that last one, because the new Edge might just be the best web browser on the market these days.

Finally, alerts and pop-ups have been redesigned to be less confusing. Previously they would display a lot of unnecessary technical information, whereas now they just explain what has happened and what you need to do.

McAfee 2021 review: How good is McAfee Total Protection?

When we’re analyzing the actual antivirus and malware blocking capabilities of a program like McAfee Total Protection 2021, we often turn to industry experts like the teams over at AV Test and AV Comparatives to supplement our own findings. These industry experts run long term tests using thousands of known malware and viruses, along with new threats to test an antivirus or internet security program’s capabilities to their limits.

McAfee Total Protection 2021

(Image credit: Future)

At the moment, we’re left with something of a question mark here though, as McAfee Total Protection has literally only just been released, so there isn’t any long term data available at this time. At its core though, this is built on the core of last year’s edition, so the data from the previous version of McAfee Total Protection is still relevant. As soon as we have new data from AV Test and AV Comparatives, we’ll update this review accordingly.

In the latest round of testing which covered July to August 2020, AV Test found that McAfee Total Protection blocked 100% of threats, including both zero-day (newly discovered) malware and widespread/prevalent malware. AV Test also found that McAfee Total Protection’s effect on performance was well below the industry average,so it shouldn’t cause slowdown while running on your device.

Meanwhile in AV Comparatives’ most recent real world performance tests which also covered July to August, McAfee Total Protection blocked 98.2% of online threats. It also protected against 100% of Malware threats that were tested using physical media (hard drives, USB drives etc).

McAfee 2021 review: Price

Much like last year’s edition, McAfee Total Protection offers four different pricing options depending on how many devices you want to cover. Single device coverage starts at $35.99 for the first year and then $79.99 for subsequent years. The next tier up is called Individuals and Couples - this costs $39.99 for the first year and then $99.99 after that. 

McAfee Total Protection 2021

(Image credit: Future)

The next tier up is the Family option, which gives you coverage for up to ten devices - ideal for big families who have multiple laptops, tablets and smartphones. The Family tier costs $44.99 for the first year and $119.99 for subsequent years.

Finally there is the Ultimate tier, which costs $109.99 for the first year, and then $159.99 for every year after that. Ultimate gives you coverage for unlimited devices - realistically this is going to be overkill even for most large families.

Overall pricing is very reasonable, and still lower than comparable products from competitors like Norton, but it has crept up a little across the board when compared with last year’s offerings. 

If you’re not sure whether McAfee Total Protection is for you, there is a 30-day free trial so you can give it a spin to see how it works first. The trial lets you cover ten devices too, so you can see how it works on multiple different platforms before making a decision.

McAfee Total Protection 2021

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy McAfee Total Protection?

We were big fans of the previous version of McAfee Total Protection, and things have only gotten better with this latest iteration. The new UI looks wonderful and it’s super easy to navigate, and the new pop-up notifications get straight to the point without bombarding you with tech jargon. Rolling the VPN into the main program is also a huge quality of life fix that we’re thrilled to see.

It’s also great to see McAfee addressing previous concerns around false positives without sacrificing on the areas that it excelled in like performance and system usage. In fact outside the recurring issue of features being locked behind auto-renewal, we’ve got very little to complain about here. We can highly recommend McAfee Total Protection 2021.

Ian Stokes

Ian Stokes is the Tech Editor here at Top Ten Reviews. He has extensive experience in tech and games journalism, with work published on IGN, Kotaku UK, Waypoint, GamesRadar, Trusted Reviews, and many more. You'll find him covering everything from smartphones and home computers to 3D printers and headphones. He's also our resident cocktail expert.