The number of choices you have when it comes to antivirus software is almost limitless. When selecting which program to use on our PCs, many of us are confused by the range of options available. This article will help you distill the advantages and disadvantages of two of the best antivirus packages available: McAfee and AVG.
Both have their pros and cons, and offer features that will have varying benefits to each individual user. I have analyzed the performance, pricing, and features of both programs to help you make the all-important choice.
If you want the short answer of which is the better of the two, McAfee’s protection is unbeatable and takes the crown in this contest. If you want a more detailed explanation of how I reached this conclusion, read on.
Summary: McAfee vs AVG
- Multi-faceted privacy protection
- Comprehensive security
- McAfee Shredder
- Enhanced firewall
- Password protection
- Data shredder
|Feature||McAfee Total Protection||AVG Internet Security|
|Antivirus and Antispyware||✔||✔|
|Banking and Payment Protection||✖||✖|
|Network Attack Protection||✔||✔|
|Automatically update apps||✖||✔|
|PC Cloud backup||✖||✖|
|Identity theft protection||✔ (Included when you are enrolled in auto renewal)||✔|
|Run suspicious apps in sandbox||✖||✖|
McAfee is a United States based company founded in 1987 by John McAfee. In 2020 it offers protection to over 525 million devices worldwide and is one of the most recognized brand names in the antivirus market.
McAfee’s Eastern European rival, AVG Technologies was founded in 1990 in post-communist Czechoslovakia. Since its founding, it has expanded rapidly and now offers an array of different protection levels to users worldwide.
Pricing and compatibility
Protection comes at a cost. Antivirus software prices can vary a lot, from relatively cheap (or at times free) entry-level options to more expensive, comprehensive levels of protection. Both AVG and McAfee offer a range of different pricing options.
I have outlined the options below to help you decide which option is best for you.
|McAfee Total Protection -1 Device||McAfee Total Protection - 5 Devices||McAfee Total Protection -10 Devices||McAfee Total Protection Plus VPN - 5 devices||McAfee LiveSafe - Unlimited Devices|
|$79.99 per year||$99.99 per year||$119.99 per year||$99.99 per year||$119.99 per year|
McAfee’s pricing options are more varied with a total of five different choices available, ranging from $79.99 per annum up to $119.99. With AVG there is slightly less choice. There is a free basic protection package and just two paid options: $69.99 or $119.99 for the year.
McAfee’s protection begins at $79.99 per year and allows you to protect just one device. Its pricing incrementally increases, enabling you to protect five, 10, or an unlimited number of devices depending on the price you want to pay. There is also the option to add a VPN to ensure private online browsing.
At the time of writing McAfee is offering generous discounts for the first year of use. For example, there is an $80 discount on its Total Protection 10-device package, reducing the price to just $39.99 for the first year.
AVG on the other hand offers a free entry-level option. This is okay for those who need just a basic level of protection on one device. The free coverage includes AVG TuneUp which should increase the speed of your device, as well as protection against ransomware, phishing attacks, and other online threats.
The more comprehensive coverage of AVG Internet Security costs $69.99 per year but only allows for the protection of one device. This includes improvements such as webcam protection and a data shredder.
To protect your whole household, you have to splash out on the AVG Ultimate package which covers up to 10 devices.
Like McAfee, AVG offers first-year discounts, reducing the initial price of its mid-tier AVG Internet Security option by 44 percent, to just $39.48 for the first year.
Both AVG and McAfee are compatible with Windows, Android, and MacOS devices.
Effectiveness against malware
Malware (malicious software) can come in a variety of forms, including ransomware, spyware, and more. These threats can infiltrate and compromise our devices, often without us realizing anything is amiss. Some antivirus software is more effective at defending our electronic devices against these threats than others.
To gauge which out of McAfee and AVG is the most effective, I carried out some tests. I used samples from the European Institute for Computer Anti-Virus Research (EICAR), along with some of my own samples, to see how these programs would stand up.
Here are my findings.
|Test File||EICAR Sample 1||EICAR Sample 2||EICAR Sample 3||EICAR Sample 4||Live Sample 1 (Adware)||Live Sample 2 (Trojan)||Live Sample 3|
It doesn’t require an expert to see that McAfee is winning so far. It managed to block every attack I threw its way, scoring perfectly during this round.
AVG was a little less consistent, allowing in two of the EICAR samples. Although still strong, this is a little worrying as these threats could lead to serious problems if they compromised my device and stole my personal information.
It wouldn’t be fair, however, to rely on just my tests alone. To corroborate my results, I looked to industry-leading testing websites AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, which use more comprehensive data sets to give a better idea of the effectiveness of AVG and McAfee when confronted with cyberattacks.
First, what did AV-Test have to say? It analyzed antivirus programs’ robustness when confronted with online attacks in the months of May and June 2020. In May, McAfee scored 98.9 percent. It beat this the following month, scoring a perfect score of 100 percent.
Despite stumbling during my own round of tests, AVG managed to fight back, scoring 100 percent in both months.
Both performed impressively, but how would they hold up in additional tests.
AV-Comparatives analyzed over 700 antivirus threats from February to May 2020. During this period, McAfee scored 98.9 percent whilst AVG improved on that with a near-perfect score of 99.7 percent.
Despite having some difficulties blocking my own samples, AVG recovered impressively in the more wide-ranging research, so it just takes the crown in this round. But it’s important to note that McAfee’s scores were near perfect, so these initial results shouldn’t discourage you from McAfee’s efficacy.
A quick note: false positives are false alerts that identify perfectly safe files as threats. AV-Comparatives found that McAfee flagged up 25 false alarms in the period studied, whilst AVG totaled just eight. Although these can be annoying, it may be better to be safe than sorry.
Impact on PC performance
With so much software installed on our devices nowadays, we want to ensure our antivirus tool doesn’t slow down our computers and devices. Just how taxing are McAfee and AVG on computing power?
I ran some tests on my own system to provide you with the answers. I tested both programs’ impact on CPU, memory, and disk utilization during quick and full scans, as well as when the software was running in the background.
|Test Type||Full Scan Time (minutes)||Full Scan Items Scanned||Quick Scan CPU Utilization %||Quick Scan Memory Utilization %||Quick Scan Disk Utilization (MB/s)||Quick Scan Time (seconds)|
When carrying out a full scan, AVG was the quicker choice, taking just over half an hour. However, McAfee scanned almost double the number of items AVG covered. McAfee’s extra time lag isn’t very important when considering how comprehensive the scan is.
When carrying out a quick scan, both had a similar degree of impact on CPU and memory utilization. AVG utilized a lot more of my computer’s disk, but took far less time to complete this rapid scan.
The table below shows the effect of AVG and McAfee on my PC when carrying out a full scan compared to when the programs are running in the background.
|Test Type||Control CPU Utilization % (no scan)||Control Memory Utilization % (no scan)||Control Disk Utilization (MB/s) (no scan)||Full Scan CPU Utilization %||Full Scan Memory Utilization %||Full Scan Disk Utilization (MB/s)|
During a full scan, McAfee was more taxing, especially on my PC’s CPU, utilizing 100 percent of its power. Both programs were similarly taxing on memory utilization. However, a full scan is something you don’t carry out on a day-to-day basis, so the results didn’t affect my decision massively.
The more important category is what both AVG and McAfee do to my PC whilst running in the background. I need to rest assured it won’t slow down my computer when I’m using it for everyday functions such as general work tasks.
McAfee barely slowed down my device at all, utilizing just 12 percent of the CPU and 10 percent of memory when running in the background. AVG on the other hand was much more taxing, using 51 percent of CPU and a worrying 86 percent of memory.
We used AV-Comparatives earlier to compare both programs’ effectiveness against malware threats. The website also provides data on the performance of antivirus software during various everyday tasks.
The areas tested were:
- Downloading files
- Browsing websites
- File copying: First and subsequent run
- Installing and uninstalling applications
- Archiving and unarchiving
- Launching applications: First and subsequent run
McAfee was judged to have performed “very fast” (the highest category) on all six tasks. AVG did perform similarly well, but lagged behind slightly with a “fast” score on launching applications and downloading files. These two categories are vital everyday tasks, and not an area where I would want to sacrifice speed.
Overall, McAfee wins this round. It vastly outperformed AVG when running in the background. When carrying out a quick scan (the one I tend to use on an everyday basis) it had similar results to AVG, but when tested by professional testers AV-Comparatives, McAfee was judged to have performed perfectly. McAfee clearly offers winning protection with minimal effect on processing power.
Antivirus software offers an array of different features that do different things. I have distilled down both AVG and McAfee’s main features to help you make the choice between the two.
- Performance Optimization
- Home Network Security
- Security Experts and Online Support
- Multi-Device Compatibility
- Password Manager
- Safe Web Browsing
- File Shredder
- Encrypted Storage
- Identity Theft Protection
- Advanced antivirus
- Behavior shield
- AI detection
- Real-time updates
- Do not disturb mode
- Password protection
- Webcam protection
- Data shredder
Here are some of the standout features of both offerings.
Password Manager: McAfee ensures that your passwords are stored in a secure place, ensuring your personal information is protected.
McAfee Shredder: This allows you to truly delete files without leaving a trace, which would be especially useful for someone who stores sensitive information on their computer.
Encrypted Storage: Adds an extra layer of security to your device using industry-leading 256-bit AES encryption.
Webcam protection: Ensure no one is watching what you are doing by securing your computer’s webcam.
Data Shredder: Delete files permanently without leaving a trace for hackers.
VPN: Hide your location when browsing the web. Allows you to access geo-blocked content.
Although each feature will have differing levels of usefulness to each person, McAfee’s password manager is a standout feature. Users have so many passwords nowadays and this feature helps you manage them all in one secure location.
Signup and installation
Sometimes software is unnecessarily difficult to sign up for and install. Ideally, your antivirus software should be quick and simple to set up.
McAfee’s signup process is easy and swift, highlighting the first-year savings you’ll make at the checkout. McAfee offers a 30-day free trial, and unlike other free trials, the company sends you an email at the end of your trial to confirm you want to continue with the service.
AVG offers a free trial too, but doesn’t provide a warning before your card is charged, so you need to be sure to cancel if you decide not to continue with the service.
How easy is the interface to use?
There is nothing worse than a clunky interface that’s impossible to use. When paying for antivirus protection, we want to know we can use its features with ease.
McAfee’s interface is clean, modern, and very simple to use. You can toggle its main features on a bar on the left-hand side, and access tabs to adjust individual settings. On the homepage, there is a live update on how many apps, web connections, and background processes are being protected. This is a nice touch and allows you to see what you’re paying for.
AVG’s interface all centers on its homepage, where you can toggle the different features, and see what aspects of your online security are being protected. A “smart scan” can be carried out in just one click.
When we pay for a service we want to know we can get the help we need if something goes wrong.
McAfee offers 24/7 live chat support. This is excellent as it can be very frustrating to wait on hold on the phone for hours for a simple query. If you’d rather try to resolve an issue by yourself, you can consult the support section of the website.
AVG, on the other hand, only offers a contact form. Its online support hub allows you to browse through responses to common problems, but there is no dedicated technical support phone line.
We have carried out a number of tests looking at both programs’ effectiveness against malware, computing power, additional features, usability, and customer support.
McAfee offers the best option. It has a robust level of protection against malware threats, offering peace of mind when using the web. It runs quickly and efficiently in the background, and does not dramatically slow down my PC when carrying out a quick scan.
It also has great features such as the password manager and McAfee Shredder which let me store and dispose of personal information without having to worry about it being compromised by hackers.
All this comes with competitive pricing and generous discounts, plus the peace of mind of round-the-clock customer support.
McAfee offers unrivaled protection against online cyberthreats, and is the perfect choice to protect your devices.