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McAfee vs. Avast: which antivirus is better?

Comparing McAfee vs. Avast is like asking someone whether they prefer Windows or Linux.

That’s because these are two solid pieces of antimalware software – and both have their own fan bases (and die-hard fans). You see, both Avast and McAfee boast millions of users – 435 million and 500 million respectively. And these numbers are constantly growing.

However, even though this might seem like a controversial topic, I’ll try to tackle it. I will compare the two programs in terms of features, security, performance, pricing, usability, and customer experience. Let’s see how it goes.

McAfee vs. Avast

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McAfee AntivirusAvast Antivirus
⭐ Rating:
🥇 Overall rank:#7 out of #25#16 out of #25
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💵 Price:From $39.99/yearFrom $29.99/year
✂️ Free version:Yes (Android, iOS)Yes
🖥️ Platforms:Windows, Mac, Android, iOSWindows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS

Features overview

When you compare McAfee vs. Avast in terms of features, it is difficult to declare a winner.

Of course, the very first thing to consider when choosing an antivirus solution is your device. McAfee supports Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. On the other hand, Avast also supports all these operating systems.

In terms of functionality, both antivirus applications offer virus scans, a file shredder, a firewall, and lots of features to boost the performance of your device.

However, McAfee also offers a password manager and the Parental Control feature, which are both quite useful. On the other hand, Avast gives you the Sandbox feature for virtual file testing and a webcam shield, which eliminates the need to cover your laptop camera with a sticker.

Taking all of this into consideration, I declare Avast and McAfee equals in this category.

Winner: Draw

McAfee features

If you want to try out all the features of McAfee Total Protection (McAfee’s paid version), you can simply download its 30-day trial edition.

It includes the Real-Time scanning function, which continually protects your device from viruses and spyware. It does this by checking the files you or your computer access at the time. In other words, you won’t need to worry about accidentally opening an infected file. Aside from that, McAfee offers scheduled scans that automatically check the security of your PC.

McAfee antivirus main screen

Moreover, you get a McAfee firewall that adds an extra layer of protection while browsing the web. And if you are tech-savvy, you can modify the settings of your new firewall so that they fit your needs.

In addition to this, McAfee Total Protection lets you use a file shredder (that permanently deletes the files you select) and a file locker (that lets you put your sensitive files in a vault with a password). Also, there’s a feature that checks whether your email has been exposed on the Dark Web. In addition, McAfee’s App Boost will update all the out-of-date apps that slow down your PC.

McAfee also includes a couple of web extensions. One of them is the True Key password manager, which remembers and auto-fills your passwords online. Its free version stores up to 15 passwords. However, the paid one has no cap on the number of passwords you want to save. Then, there’s the Web Boost extension that automatically pauses auto-play videos to make websites load faster.

Finally, you have the Safe Family feature. It is a parental control app that lets you monitor your children’s phone activity, track their location, and limit their screen time. However, you can use this feature only if you buy McAfee’s Family plan.

Avast Antivirus features

The first thing you should know about Avast is that its free version omits a great deal of features. To unlock them all, you have to buy Avast Premium.

So, what does Avast offer for its free users? First of all, we have virus scans, real-time protection, ransomware protection, and wi-fi protection. All these features keep your device safe while you browse or interact with various files or applications. Avast will even block dangerous email attachments.

Avast antivirus features desktop screen

Now, if you decide to pay for Avast Premium, you get an impressive bundle of additional features. In terms of safety, Avast gives you Remote Access Shield (which blocks unwanted remote connections), Sandbox (where you can virtually test files), and the Real Site feature (that helps you avoid fake websites). In addition to all this, Avast Premium users get a firewall that helps protect their network.

Here’s something else you need to know – when you buy Avast Premium, you unlock the whole Privacy tab. For example, it includes Password Protection that manages the apps that can access your passwords saved on a browser. Also, this Avast plan has a data shredder, a webcam shield, a sensitive data shield, and the Anti-Track feature.

The full package of Avast will also let you speed up your device. It gives you a driver updater that will automatically update old drivers and a battery saver that will prolong the life of your computer battery.

However, there’s one unnecessary application that comes with Avast during its installation, and it’s called Avast Secure Browser. Even though it’s not a bad browser in itself, the fact that you may accidentally install it (if you fail to uncheck a tiny checkbox) makes it appear sneaky and intrusive.

McAfee vs. Avast: which offers better protection?

Protection against malware and viruses is the main reason why we look for the best antivirus software in the first place. So, let’s look at how McAfee and Avast cope with the newest cyber threats – and which program does it better.

For this, I will show you the results of the most recent test by the AV-TEST Institute.

AVAST vs. McAfee antivirus test

As you can see, both programs got great results in terms of protection, performance, and usability. In addition, both Avast and McAfee managed to avoid false positives and detect 100% of 0-day malware attacks, which is higher than the industry average.

However, McAfee is the leader when it comes to performance. That’s because Avast performs worse than the industry average when it comes to system slowdowns when launching websites and applications on both standard and high-end computers.

Real-time protection

When it comes to the whole Avast vs. McAfee debate, malware protection makes it hard to choose one over the other.

McAfee’s developers did a lot of work to make this antivirus software detect and eliminate such threats as ransomware, Trojans, and spyware. You see, McAfee has been a test subject to AV-Comparatives since 2004. Throughout the years, McAfee has seen a lot of improvement, and that’s why it’s still one of the most popular antivirus programs of all time.

Avast has a long history at AV-Comparatives too. However, it has produced more stable results throughout the years, including the latest one: it blocked 99.7% of threats, while McAfee prevented 98.5% of threats.

On the contrary, McAfee is prone to giving less false positives. However, I’d choose having more false positives than a missed virus.


Whether you like to take full control of your antivirus scans or you prefer the scans to take place automatically, you will like McAfee Total Protection.

That’s because it allows you both – you can either perform a full or quick scan yourself, or you can simply set up automatic scans that will take place every day, week, month, etc.

Avast free antivirus scan options

However, Avast offers a broader spectrum of scans than McAfee. You can run a smart scan, a full scan, a targeted scan (selecting specific folders), a boot-time scan (scanning your device before Windows start-up), as well as a custom scan.

Firewall protection

Not every antivirus program has its own firewall. Luckily, McAfee Total Protection gives you this feature – and it’s a good one. Especially because you can fully customize it according to your needs.

Regarding the features, McAfee’s firewall offers Traffic Controller (which controls the programs that can connect to the internet), Intrusion Detection (that protects you from hackers taking over your computer), and Net Guard (which helps you avoid risky connections).

There are even more firewall features for advanced users, such as Ports and System Services that lets you open a port on your PC. You can also take control of such things as enabling UDP tracking and blocking internet access at startup.

Avast’s firewall is a bit less intuitive than McAfee’s. Even though it’s a powerful firewall, the customization options are a bit more difficult to manage. Sure, you can easily choose your network profile (private or public), but going deeper is a bit more confusing than in the case of McAfee, especially if you try to dig into the Network Connections table.

Impact on PC performance

When it comes to the impact on PC performance, both McAfee and Avast can be expected to slow down your device. However, while testing both anti-malware applications, Avast surprised me.

The quick scan took only about a minute using almost no system resources, while the full scan lasted only 11 minutes, using from 0% to 10% CPU. That’s quite unusual for full system scans, especially if you expect the antivirus program to dig deep into the system.

On the contrary, McAfee was a bit heavy on the system performance. Even though the quick scan took a few minutes and used between 4 and 7% CPU, the full scan took nearly 55 minutes, continuously using between 8 and 13% CPU.

McAfee full scan CPU

All of this goes against the usual claims that Avast is the antivirus program that will definitely put a load on your system resources. Maybe the developers took these complaints into consideration?

Pricing and plans

In the whole McAfee vs. Avast debate, the pricing plays an important role. That’s because there’s one major difference between these two antivirus protection tools - Avast has a completely free version, while McAfee only offers a 30-day trial.

Free plan-$0.00
Plus/Avast One39.99/year$29.99/year
Premium/Premium Security$49.99/year$29.99/year
Check PricingCheck Pricing

Of course, Avast Free doesn’t offer everything from the Avast Premium package, as it lacks some major features like a firewall and data shredder. On the other hand, McAfee’s trial version is identical to the paid one, which makes it easier to decide whether you want to pay for the full package.

McAfee antivirus plans

When your free McAfee trial expires, there comes a time to purchase a paid edition of the program.

Here, you should start considering the number of devices you wish to protect, what features are important for you, and what amount of cash you can give away.

McAfee offers 3 different plans. If you're looking for basic antivirus security up to 5 devices, then you can pick for $39.99/year. But if only essential features are not going to fulfill your security needs, and you wish to protect more than a dozen devices, then you can choose a mid-level security option for $49.99/year or the most comprehensive subscription of McAfee for $89.99/year.

Although McAfee doesn't offer a free subscription, it seems like there's a solution for nearly everyone.

Avast antivirus plans

It is even easier to keep up with Avast’s paid plans, as there are two major options to choose from. You can either get Avast One for 5 devices (which currently costs $29.99 a year) or Avast Premium Security for 10 devices (the cost of which is $29.99 a year).

There are no other differences between these two plans except for the number of devices.

However, there’s something that sets Avast apart in its fight with McAfee: the free version.

You can simply install it and use it indefinitely. Even though it lacks a lot of features (like Remote Access Shield, Sandbox, Firewall, and Webcam Shield), Avast Free offers you real-time protection from malware and viruses, as well as both quick and full scans. In addition, it will also protect you from ransomware.

So, if you’re on a tight budget but still want to protect your device, you might consider Avast over McAfee.

Apps and interface

I found it easy to install McAfee. It only took a few clicks, and I was done. The biggest inconvenience was the waiting time, as I had you wait about 10 minutes for McAfee to install itself.

McAfee welcome screen

Now, the interface of McAfee Antivirus is quite a good one. It’s pleasant to look at, and it is not cluttered with unnecessary information. If you’re an inexperienced antivirus user, you won’t find it difficult to navigate the program.

However, I have one complaint. Once you go deeper (i.e. PC Security -> Firewall), it’s impossible to go one step back. You can only go back to the main screen, which I found a bit inconvenient. In comparison, Avast is a bit easier to navigate, as there is no problem to go one step back.

On the same note, I find Avast’s user interface a bit more convenient than McAfee’s. There are fewer tabs to navigate when you’re exploring the program’s features, and the overall color scheme is more pleasant to look at.

Also, Avast took less time to install itself – which makes it my favorite in this category.

Desktop app

The look of McAfee’s desktop application is as professional as an antivirus app can get. Its user interface is quite self-explanatory, as all the features are put under four categories: PC Security, PC Performance, My Privacy, and My Info. The latter is extremely useful if you want to access the info about all the scans performed on your device.

The Avast desktop app is pretty straightforward, too – you can see all the paid and free features at once. Everything is neatly put into three major categories: Protection, Privacy, and Performance. You can clearly see which features are available and which are locked for the time being.

Mobile app

Let’s take a look if the McAfee vs. Avast debate is relevant in the mobile world.

Avast Antivirus App

Avast offers antivirus apps for both iPhone and Android, which are practically identical.

So, the mobile version of Avast looks much different than its desktop counterpart. Only a few major functions are displayed on the front page (like the system scan and the junk cleaner). You have to click on the menu icon on the top-left side of the screen to get to the more sophisticated features.

AVAST antivirus mobile app screen

These include a file scanner, the Photo Vault, Wi-Fi Security, and Wi-Fi Speed. There’s also an interesting feature called Anti-Theft. It protects your phone in case it gets stolen. For example, you can activate the PIN Security feature, which will mark your phone as lost after 8 failed attempts to unlock it.

However, in case you forget your own PIN code, there’s no way of accessing your device anymore – keep that in mind before turning this feature on. Especially when there’s the Avast Sound Siren function, which, when activated, plays a maximum volume alert.

There’s one more thing – the free mobile version of Avast displays ads. However, this is not something other free apps don’t do.

McAfee Antivirus App

Even though there is no free desktop version of McAfee, you can have one on your Android or iPhone. That’s because McAfee Antivirus offers a free mobile version that performs a few basic functions to keep your device safe.

McAfee antivirus mobile app screen

The McAfee app offers similar features to its Avast counterpart: a virus scan, an app lock, an anti-theft feature, and the possibility to increase your privacy from various apps.

What I particularly like about the McAfee app is the Guest Mode (which limits the things other people can see on your phone) and the Thief Cam feature (that sends you the photo and location of the person trying to unlock your phone).

Customer support

When you encounter questions about using McAfee Antivirus and then go to its Help and Support section, it sends you to the McAfee Support Section. Here, you can either use the Virtual Assistant, read through the McAfee Community forum, or just scroll through the FAQ section (which even includes Youtube videos).

However, if you want help from a real person, you can fill in a form with the question and your contact details, and the site will connect you with an agent via live chat that is available Mon-Fri 7 AM - 7 PM CST. You can also call them via a customer service number.

As for Avast, you can read its FAQ troubleshooting section and the community forum, too.

In case you’d like to talk to a customer support agent, you can call Avast’s toll-free number that operates 24/7. However, even though the number is toll-free, you have to purchase a paid version of Avast to be eligible to use it. In comparison, you can contact McAfee’s agent even while you’re using the 30-day trial version.

Video review

McAfee vs Avast video review

Final verdict

Malware protection
PC performance
User interface

Both Avast and McAfee are solid antivirus solutions for any device. However, McAfee gets more approval from me – mainly because it continuously shows better results in antivirus and antimalware tests. Also, unlike Avast, McAfee is not intrusive with getting you to pay for the premium version – you won’t see any annoying pop-ups while using its desktop or mobile app.

Nevertheless, no matter which antimalware software you choose, you’ll do your device a favor.

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