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McAfee Total Protection Review 2022 - Why 5.4 Stars?
McAfee Total Protection is predominantly an antivirus product, with a VPN included as an additional feature. Although the VPN isn’t McAfee’s main priority, I wanted to see how it compares to the best VPNs on the market.
I only tested the VPN so this review doesn’t cover the antivirus or any of McAfee’s other services. My tests looked at speed, streaming abilities, and security, along with ease of use and customer support.
Because of the VPN being a secondary software to the antivirus, I wasn’t expecting great things. In many areas, my suspicions were proven to be right. It’s certainly not ready to compete with the best VPNs just yet.
Streaming with McAfee wasn't a satisfying experience. It unblocked a couple of the big streaming sites but failed to access most other platforms I tested. Plus, my speeds were sometimes too slow to stream in UHD.
Unblocked: Netflix, HBO Max
McAfee Total Protection VPN only managed to unblock Netflix and HBO Max. I did manage to get straight into Netflix on every server I tried, including those far across the globe including its US, European, and Australian servers. The US server also bypassed HBO Max’s blocks, but failed to access most other platforms.
Its US server gave me good streaming speeds
I further tested its US servers by signing into HBO Max. The VPN wasn’t detected by HBO’s geoblocks and I watched for hours without any lag.
There was no buffering while I used the VPN
Blocked by: Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+
On all of the servers I tried, McAfee Total Protection VPN failed to unblock most other streaming platforms. During my tests, I put the US, UK, France, Germany, and Australian servers through a series of streaming trials, and all of them failed to bypass most blocks other than Netflix.
The UK server couldn’t access BBC iPlayer. I was able to get into the platform, however, a warning banner came up at the top of the screen and I couldn’t get any shows to play.
BBC iPlayer could tell I was using a VPN
Because McAfee’s US server managed to unblock Netflix and HBO Max, I was surprised to find I couldn’t get access to Hulu either. The streaming service blocked my attempts at the login screen and told me it knew I was using a VPN.
I couldn’t get access to Hulu with McAfee’s US servers
Amazon Prime video also knew that I was using a VPN every time I tested it using servers in a number of different countries. This platform does not allow the use of a VPN to watch its content, so there was no way to access any of the shows and movies I wanted to see. Good quality VPNs (like ExpressVPN) manage to get past its blocks, but McAfee Total Protection isn’t one of them.
There was no way for me to get past APV’s geoblocks
Even though it was impressive to see its servers getting straight into Netflix every time, I can’t recommend McAfee for streaming. Most of the platforms I tried knew that I was using a VPN and stopped me from watching content.
McAfee Total Protection VPN’s speeds were generally good on local servers. During my speed tests, I looked at:
Download speed — this measures the amount of data you can download per second. Faster speeds mean you’ll have less buffering or lag during streaming.
Upload speed — indicates how much data you can send data through your connection at any given time.
Ping — refers to how long it takes for your device’s data to reach its intended location. Unlike speed readings, the higher your ping, the more lag you have.
I started my tests with a base reading of 37.06 Mbps, an upload speed of 9.33 Mbps, and ping of 17 ms. A base reading means the speeds I had on my own home connection without a VPN in use. When you connect a VPN, you can usually expect a 10-20% drop in your download speed. You tend to have better results on servers close to your real location too (as your traffic has less distance to travel).
My download speed dropped by 28% on the local UK server I tested, which was quite a bad result. I tried another UK connection later in my tests, but had the same poor results.
It was unfortunate that the UK servers struggled, as all of the other European countries I tried performed well. McAfee’s French server only gave me a speed drop of 18%, while Germany performed even better, giving me a 5% speed decrease.
The results of my first test were mixed, with UK servers failing my tests
Long Distance Speeds
When I tested McAfee’s US server, my download speed fell by 37%. Although 23 Mbps would still be enough to stream movies successfully, if my baseline speed had been any lower this would have made a significant impact. My ping rate rose to 84 ms, which wasn’t too bad considering I am 7,000km away from the US. With fast download speeds and a ping rate of under 100ms, it’s usually possible to game online and download large files without issues.
My speeds decreased by around 40% on faraway server locations
Speeds on the Australian server were quite poor, with a 43% decrease in download speed. My ping shot up to 257 ms, which would have made activities such as online gaming pretty much impossible due to lag and buffering. If you enjoy streaming movies in 4K, speeds of less than 25 Mbps can make streaming in HDR or 4K impossible. All of the distance servers I tested would have likely interrupted any movies as well.
In all of my tests, the upload speeds were fairly consistent — apart from a 32% decrease on the Australian server.
Here is a rundown of my server tests:
23.13 Mbps (37% decrease)
8.21 Mbps (12% decrease)
26.38 Mbps (28% decrease)
8.65 Mbps (7% decrease)
35.19 Mbps (5% decrease)
8.74 Mbps (6% decrease)
30.34 Mbps (18% decrease)
8.73 Mbps (6% decrease)
20.87 Mbps (43% decrease)
6.29 Mbps (32% decrease)
Because of the poor outcome of its distant servers, I can’t recommend McAfee Total Protection VPN for its speeds. Even though I had good results on most of the European servers, I experienced significant drops on its farthest locations. However, the most disappointing outcome came when I tried the server in my home country. The servers closest to your location should give the best performance, but this VPN failed. I can’t trust McAfee to give me fast speeds for my everyday internet usage, such as internet banking, which must be conducted on a local server.
Server Network — Very Small, but Nicely Distributed
McAfee Total Protection has a small network of servers in 50 countries. This isn’t too surprising as McAfee’s main focus is generally security, rather than its VPN brand. When a VPN has fewer servers in a small number of countries, slowdowns caused by overcrowding are likely to occur. You may also find you are limited in what you can access, as there may not be a server in your desired region.
The server locations are:
Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, UK
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru
Canada, Mexico, The US
India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, S. Korea, Taiwan, UAE
Australia, New Zealand
Although the server list is relatively limited, the distribution is interesting. McAfee has servers in countries that aren’t always represented, such as Nigeria, Taiwan, and Chile.
There are no optimized servers for specific functions, such as streaming or torrenting. Again, this wasn’t too surprising as McAfee is not predominantly a VPN provider, and is offering the service as a small part of its overall security package.
There is no option to choose a dedicated IP address either. A dedicated IP means it is not shared with anyone else, and can only be used by you. Many premium VPNs offer this as part of their service, but it is unavailable with McAfee.
McAfee Total Protection is very secretive about its VPN security. When I tried to ask the support team about its encryption and protocol, I was told that the information can’t be disclosed to the public. This is a red flag for me, as I can’t be sure that McAfee keeps me protected.
Encryption and Protocols
Trying to find information about McAfee’s encryption and protocols was difficult. In fact, I was stone-walled when it came to learning exactly which protocol the company uses.
It is not possible to get details about the VPN tunnel you are using
It was also difficult to learn which encryption McAfee utilizes. The website says it uses “banking level encryption”, but in reality that could mean a number of things (banks can use either 256-bit AES encryption or 128-bit, which is less secure). When I asked the customer support rep which level of encryption is used, he went quiet for a couple of minutes, then came back and said exactly what the website says. I asked him for further details, and he did then agree that it was 256-bit. However, I am not 100% convinced.
This is highly unusual for a VPN — most I've tested advertise encryption level and security protocols as some of their main selling points. Since McAfee is primarily an online security company, I found the lack of clarity very surprising.
IP, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Leaks
All of the McAfee servers I tested kept my IP address and identity hidden. I ran each one through an online leak detector tool and no IP, WebRTC, or DNS leaks were found on any of the servers I tried.
A DNS leak is a breach of your security that allows your ISP to see your internet activity. If there was a cyberattack while your IP and WebRTC was leaking, your real IP address would be revealed. That means you would lose all the protection your VPN should provide.
There were no leaks in McAfee Total Protection VPN’s servers, meaning that your data is protected.
Each of the servers I tried passed my leak test
Because McAfee’s VPN is an extra feature of the antivirus package, it doesn’t offer any of the additional protections that I have come to expect with premium VPNs. There is no port forwarding, split tunneling, kill switch, or dedicated IP address available.
Port forwarding is useful if you want to access devices on your network remotely, while split tunneling is important if you want to route some of your web activity through the VPN while keeping other apps on your home network.
I was especially disappointed that McAfee Total Privacy doesn’t have a kill switch. In case the VPN disconnects, the kill switch shuts down your internet connection in order to prevent your ISP and websites you access from identifying you. However, this VPN may leave you exposed to cyber threats, as it doesn’t employ this feature.
There isn’t really any need for McAfee to hide the protocols it uses, which makes me suspicious of how up to date it may be. This does call its security into question. Although it passed my DNS leak test, I recommend you use a proven VPN that has an open-book policy, especially when it comes to customer’s privacy and security.
Privacy — Doesn’t Keep Your Data Protected
Because it’s an antivirus package that offers the VPN as a small part of its service, McAfee stores an awful lot of data that premium VPN-only providers do not keep.
In short, this VPN stores almost everything: IP addresses, MAC addresses, IMEI (for mobile devices), geo-location data, OS, ISP, internet, app, and network usage (including URLs and domains), traffic data, etc. This is an immediate red flag since many people use VPNs to maintain their privacy online.
It’s also based in the US, right in the middle of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance. This means that, if the government makes a request to see your internet use or data, McAfee will have no choice but to hand it over. Judging by the amount of information the VPN keeps on every user, this puts your online privacy at huge risk.
This VPN has no interest in maintaining user privacy
You are allowed to torrent using McAfee Total Protection VPN’s servers, and it does offer unlimited bandwidth and decent speeds. However, since it’s located in the 5-Eyes Alliance and stores pretty much all of your data, I highly recommend you do not use it to torrent.
Keep in mind that downloading copyrighted content is illegal in most parts of the world. Remember to read your country’s rules and regulations and check every file you access, so you don’t end up downloading copyrighted material.
Does McAfee Total Protection VPN Work in China? No
McAfee Total Protection VPN doesn’t work in China. When I asked the customer support rep if the VPN would work, he first stated that he would check where the servers were located. I then pressed that the issue was whether the VPN could bypass China’s firewall. A few minutes later, he responded that all VPNs are banned in China and therefore should not be used at all.
Device connections vary depending on which plan you choose. You can have 1 or Unlimited devices connected at any one time. You only get cover for 1 device on both of the individual plans, which is pretty poor considering the price jumps to $80 after the first year.
Ease of Use
Device Compatibility — Not Available on macOS
McAfee Total Protection VPN’s device compatibility is more limited than many other services. It covers the major platforms — Windows, ChromeOS, Android, and iOS. This is because the main product is antivirus technology, so it isn’t compatible with macOS, Linux, etc. There’s no router compatibility either.
Because it is mainly antivirus technology, it is limited to 4 operating systems
Set-Up & Installation — Straightforward
Installation wasn’t difficult, but since McAfee Total Protection is an antivirus package, it did take a while. First, the service scans your device to check compatibility with the applications, device, and software installed on your system. It stops the scan whenever it identifies a conflicting app already on your device (such as existing VPNs or antivirus software). You can click to remove the problem apps, and once they are removed the installation continues. This is a little annoying — most other VPNs don’t require you to delete apps in order to work.
The software identifies conflicting apps and asks you to uninstall them
One unusual feature of this VPN is that you have to activate auto-renewal with McAfee in order to use it with your subscription package. If you don’t activate auto-renewal, you don’t have access to the VPN in your dashboard.
You can find the VPN in your dashboard
The VPN interface is extremely basic. The window shows as a page within your antivirus dashboard, and you can select location from the “Virtual Location” dropdown. Once you’ve picked your chosen location, you turn the VPN on with the toggle button. To change location, you need to toggle the VPN back to the “off” position prior to changing server. Whenever I tried to use the VPN with the “Fastest Connection” option, I failed to connect successfully to a local server, and had to manually select a country to connect to each time.
If you need an IP for a particular state, you can’t select it in the dropdown
Connections were fairly fast, but there wasn’t much choice when I wanted to jump from server to server. If you fail to connect on the available server in the country you need, you can’t then select an alternative option in the same country. For example, if I fail to connect to a server in New York with my usual VPN, I switch to a server in LA or Newark, etc. With McAfee’s VPN, the options are reduced to the country alone.
Again, since the main product under the subscription is the antivirus, the VPN is not McAfee’s main priority and the limited features of the VPN reflect this. There is no way to change your VPN settings — what you see on the main dashboard is all you get.
McAfee accepts payments through major credit cards, but nothing else. I was disappointed that I didn’t have the possibility to pay using PayPal or even cryptocurrencies.
It gives you the choice of an individual or a family option with 3 plan types in each. The Family Plus plan includes Unlimited devices under a year-long subscription. The individual plan starts at $29.99, but you only have cover on 1 device.
Both plan types offer an Ultimate package for the same price
Obviously, the main product that is being sold by McAfee is the antivirus protection software. The VPN is a secondary addition, so it’s difficult to compare the prices to other VPNs.
There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can technically test it for free. However, McAfee makes it pretty difficult to initiate a refund. When you click into the refund tab on the support page, you’re added to a chat line that warns you that you may have to wait up to 45 minutes. A representative answered after about 25 minutes, only to inform me that the cancellation can only be done by telephoning an 0800 number. This was frustrating, so I asked if they would call me. I never received the callback.
There is no way to cancel without having to call them, which is annoying
McAfee’s customer support is not great. You can submit a ticket with your questions, but all you get back is an email telling you to use the Support Area live chat. This chat connection isn’t instant; you will likely be waiting 45 minutes. If you can’t talk at the specific time McAfee gives you, your chat is dissolved and you have to start over again.
You are tied to your computer while you wait, which isn’t suited to busy customers
I eventually managed to connect to a customer support representative, but getting any information about the VPN from them was difficult. When I asked specific questions, I was given very vague answers that were already on the website. This made me wonder if the representative actually knows about the VPN, or if their technical knowledge is based on the main McAfee products. Even if McAfee doesn't primarily focus on its VPN, I still think the support staff should at least be able to answer basic questions about it.
Frustratingly, the chat request also kept bringing up a new screen that asked me to sign in again for additional verification — but my McAfee username and password didn’t work on that screen. This was one of the most annoying customer service systems I’ve ever encountered.
When I came to cancel my subscription, the process became even more difficult. Considering most premium VPNs have a 24/7 chat function available, I was irritated to have to wait up to 45 minutes (with the chat window open) in order to cancel my product and get a refund.
Even worse, when the chat was eventually picked up 20 minutes later, the rep informed me that he was tech support and that I had to phone a different number to cancel. This was after I clicked on the “Cancelation and Refund” tab and was put through to the chat, so this was extra irritating.
Because of the dated and non-user-friendly system, and the apparent lack of VPN knowledge demonstrated when I spoke to a rep, I cannot recommend McAfee’s customer support.
Compare McAfee Total Protection With The Top Alternative VPNs
McAfee Total Protection focuses on its antivirus services rather than its VPN. However, as the VPN is still a feature that will be used by paying subscribers, I expected a little more.
The VPN servers unblock Netflix and a couple of other streaming platforms, and some gave me excellent speeds for watching without buffering. But the network is very small, meaning that you might experience congestion or a lack of servers in the locations you need.
In theory, McAfee Total Protection VPN is safe, but I can’t say for sure.Its servers passed my DNS and IP leak tests, which is reassuring. However, I could not get a definite answer about which protocol it uses, and the representative was hesitant when confirming the level of encryption in effect.
Most concerning, McAfee stores your user data. It’s also based in the US, which is in the 5 Eyes Alliance (a group of countries known for spying on citizens and sharing their info). If a VPN is located in the States, it needs a strong no-logs policy so you know it won’t hand over your info to authorities.
Does McAfee Total Protection offer dedicated IP addresses?
No, McAfee Total Protection VPN doesn’t offer dedicated IP addresses.The VPN has basic features, and does not offer optimized servers, split tunneling, port forwarding, or dedicated IP addresses to its subscribers.
Can I use McAfee Total Protection on my FireTV Stick?