McAfee vs Kaspersky - Which is best

It’s a battle of two major players in the antivirus world, McAfee vs Kaspersky. They’re both well-known brands, but which one offers the better product at the right price? Let’s jump in and find out.

For this review, I will purchase, download, and run both programs on my own PC. To get some impartial statistics on the performance of both products, I have turned to independent test labs that run their own virus tests on all major antivirus software.

I am comparing similar products from both companies’ product tiers and I’ve chosen to install McAfee Total Protection and Kaspersky Total Security.

Don’t have time to read the full article?

If you don’t have enough time to read the full comparison [spoiler alert!] I can tell you that McAfee is my choice in this comparison because of its excellent malware detection rates, huge discounts on first-year pricing, and useful additional features, including network attack prevention and a file shredder. Keep reading to find out exactly why I arrived at this conclusion.

Best McAfee deal: Save up to 72 percent

Best Kaspersky deal: Save 70 percent

About the companies

McAfee is an American company founded in 1987, 10 years before Kaspersky. During the past 30 years, McAfee has grown to more than 7,000 employees in 189 countries. Today, the company protects over 525 million consumer endpoint devices.

McAfee also has seen some controversy in its past, although this is more to do with its founder, John McAfee, than the company itself.

Kaspersky operates in 200 countries and employs 3,800 highly qualified specialists. According to the company website, Kaspersky protects over 400 million users.

Kaspersky was founded in Russia in 1997 and the company has built a strong reputation in the online security space. It must be noted that some privacy enthusiasts are wary of Kaspersky due to alleged links with the Russian government.

Summary: McAfee vs Kaspersky

McAfee

  • File shredder
  • Very low number of false alarms
  • ID protection
  • VPN & Parental controls
  • Website: mcafee.com

Kaspersky

  • Strong malware defense
  • Password manager
  • 2FA for online account
  • Website: kaspersky.com

No valueMcAfeeKaspersky
Websitewww.mcafee.comwww.kaspersky.com
Antivirus and Antispyware
Firewall
Web protection/anti phishing
Password Manager
Webcam protection
Parental controls
VPN
PC Cloud Backup
Ransomware protection
Banking and Payment Protection
Network Attack Protection
Secure data encryption
Automatically update apps
File Shredder
Identity Theft Protection
Performance Optimization
Best deal (per month)$3.33
SAVE $80 on a 2 year plan - 5 devices
$2.49
GET 70% OFF

McAfee vs Kaspersky pricing

At the time of writing, McAfee has three different options for its main antivirus product, McAfee Total Protection. The only difference between the three options is the number of devices protected with each plan – one, five, and ten. McAfee has recently included a VPN as standard in all McAfee total protection plans.

Kaspersky offer a free antivirus product, three paid antivirus products, plus a new Security Cloud subscription that adds extra tools.

The entry-level option is Kaspersky Anti-Virus, which is the basic antivirus software. Next up, Kaspersky Internet Security adds features like an encrypted browser for banking and webcam protection. Kaspersky Total Protection adds parental controls, a password manager and file backup. Security Cloud Includes antivirus, anti-ransomware, mobile security, password management, VPN and parental controls. Plus privacy tools, data leak detection, Home wi-fi security and payment protection.

Comparing the prices of Kaspersky Total Security and McAfee Total Protection shows Kaspersky is $30 (GBP £22) more expensive for 10 devices.

Both Kaspersky and McAfee offer discounts regularly, especially for the first year, so it is worth looking out for deals.

Kaspersky and McAfee offer 30-day money-back guarantees. Should you encounter any issues after buying the program, you can ask for a full refund via customer support.

As you would expect, both software products are fully compatible with a range of devices and operating systems, including Windows PCs, iOS, Android, and macOS.

Effectiveness against malware

The big question is which product will give the best protection against online threats, such as malware, viruses, trojans, and worms?

To find out how each performed, I ran some tests. The idea was to gauge how each product fared using both real-time detection and a full system scan. I also ran quick scans to see how these performed and if they could detect the malware samples. I used test samples that are made available from EICAR (the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research) which simulate viruses coming in different forms over both secure and insecure connections. Finally, I also looked at some independent test lab results for both McAfee and Kaspersky to see if they matched my own results. The results are below.

No valueMcAfeeKaspersky
Websitewww.mcafee.comwww.kaspersky.com
Eicar Sample 1BlockedBlocked
Eicar Sample 2BlockedBlocked
Eicar Sample 3BlockedBlocked
Eicar Sample 4BlockedBlocked
Live Sample 1 (Adware)BlockedBlocked
Live Sample 2 (Trojan)BlockedBlocked
Live Sample 3 (Trojan)BlockedBlocked
Best deal (per month)$3.33
SAVE $80 on a 2 year plan - 5 devices
$2.49
GET 70% OFF

Kaspersky successfully identified everything and blocked all samples in real time. All Eicar samples were disallowed, while the live samples were immediately deleted after being unlocked and unzipped.

McAfee also performed well and blocked all attempts to download Eicar samples, while also blocking the installation of live malware samples from password-protected files.

McAfee Virus stopped

I also ran a quick scan to see how this performed. The quick scan is a mini version of the full antivirus scanner. It does not check all the files on a machine but looks at the most likely places to find malware. McAfee detected none of the samples in quick scan mode. The quick scan mode on Kaspersky also failed to detect any of the samples.

After my own tests, I looked at the latest available benchmarks in which antivirus malware engines are tested for effectiveness by independent test labs.

The latest available Malware Protection Test from AV-Comparatives was published in September 2021. In the Malware Protection Test, viruses are on network drives and USB sticks and the malware scanner searches these drives for viruses. Another benchmark called Real-World Protection incorporates online threats to evaluate how well the entire suite works, not just the malware engine. I will look also look at the AV-Comparatives Real-World test from July-October 2021.

McAfee recorded a success rate of 100 percent, making it joint first alongside Norton.

In the malware test, Kaspersky recorded a 99.90 percent success rate at protecting a PC from malware. This score ranks Kaspersky in the middle tier of all antivirus brands analyzed in this test.

In the Real World Protection test, McAfee also came out on top, protecting against 99.8 percent of online threats. The remaining 0.2 percent were user-dependent, meaning the user was given a choice to allow or block the threat. Kaspersky blocked 99.9 percent of online threats, with the remaining 0.1 percent resulting in the machine being compromised.

Both antiviruses produced zero false alarms, also known as false positives, where an antivirus incorrectly flags a safe file as malicious.

I also looked at the most recent tests available from AV-Test, a well-respected and independent test lab.

The lab’s September and October 2021 test was set up to find out the effectiveness of major antivirus brands for home users over a period of time.

AV-Test has given a rating to each provider, with a top score of six available in each category.

Both Kaspersky and McAfee scored a perfect 6.0 out of 6.0. The results show both McAfee and Kaspersky earned a 100 percent success rate at detecting established and known viruses discovered in the last four weeks before testing.

Similarly, the 0-day tests for real online threats give both of them with a 100 percent success rate in both September and October, which is very impressive.

Overall McAfee performs slightly better in the most recently available lab tests, however both products were very impressive with zero false alarms and they were in the top bands of every test. McAfee achieved 100 percent in all but one test where it let the user decide to block or allow the threat for 0.2 percent of the threats.

Impact on PC performance

To test out the impact of each antivirus on PC speed, I timed both full and quick scans on my PC and also measured the impact on the system. Besides this, I also looked at performance benchmarking tests from independent test labs.

No valueMcAfeeKaspersky
Websitewww.mcafee.comwww.kaspersky.com
Full Scan Time (minutes)223227
Full Scan # Items Scanned7850002100000
Full Scan CPU Utilization %100100
Full Scan Memory Utilization %7576
Full Scan Disk Utilization (seconds)253316
Control CPU Utilization % (no scan)1246
Control Memory Utilization % (no scan)1070
Control Disk Utilization (seconds) (no scan)6612
Quick Scan Time (seconds)633273
Quick Scan CPU Utilization %3971
Quick Scan Memory Utilization %7773
Quick Scan Disk Utilization %912531
Best deal (per month)$3.33
SAVE $80 on a 2 year plan - 5 devices
$2.49
GET 70% OFF

So first up, my own findings. I ran Kaspersky on a full scan first and was quite surprised at the time to complete the entire process. I timed the first run at just over 227 minutes and felt a slight negative impact on PC performance during the scan.

McAfee ran the full first scan on my PC at a similar time of 223 minutes, but scanned fewer items. The scan did not noticeably affect my PC speed.

I also ran quick scans with both suites and both were completed relatively quickly, with Kaspersky taking 273 seconds and McAfee taking 633 seconds. During both scans, I could minimize the antivirus program and continue my work.

During the scans, I recorded data to look at the impact on PC performances and how the antivirus was using system resources.

Overall, Kaspersky had a slightly heavier impact on PC resources and performance compared to McAfee, especially when not running a full scan. During the full scans, the utilization of CPU, Memory utilization, and disk utilization were in a comparable range.

To check if my experience was similar to that of others, I looked at the performance test results from both AV-Comparatives and AV-Test.

In AV-Test’s results, both Kaspersky and McAfee performed above industry standard times. Both Kaspersky and McAfee were rated 6.0 out of 6.0 for performance by AV-Test.

AV-Comparatives performance results gave full marks for speed to both Kaspersky and McAfee on all but one test, which was still rated fast, while running several standard PC tasks.

McAfee vs Kaspersky features

The antivirus engine is the main product, but all AV brands bundle in extras to enhance PC security. Which provides the best added features: Kaspersky or McAfee Total Protection?

McAfee

  • Antivirus
  • VPN
  • 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

Kaspersky  

  • Defends against viruses, ransomware and more
  • Reinforced browser for banking
  • Webcam protection
  • Password manager
  • Compatible on PC, Mac, and mobile
  • Blocks phishing
  • Safe kids parental controls
  • File backup protection

I have already looked at how well the antivirus engine performs from each provider, so now I will look at some of the extra security features included with each suite. Both suites share a common feature—a password manager, but most of their other bundled tools are quite different. I have listed the most valuable tools for the average user from each provider below, with a brief description of what the tool can do.

McAfee

  • Home network security – Secure your firewall and block hackers from accessing your home network.
  • File Shredder – Lets you permanently delete items on your PC you no longer need, to safely dispose of your private files.
  • Encrypted Storage – Keep sensitive files private by storing them on your PC with 256-bit AES encryption.
  • Identity Theft Protection – An additional feature that helps you stay ahead of identity thieves. This offer is available when you’re enrolled in auto-renewal.

Kaspersky 

  • File protection – Backs up your precious photos, music, and files on PC only.
  • Safe Kids Parental Controls Includes ‘bad content’ blocker, GPS tracker, and more on PC, Mac, and mobile.
  • Safe banking – Launches an encrypted browser to protect online transactions on PC and Mac.
  • Privacy – Stops webcam hijacks and hides browsing activity on PC and Mac.

Overall, both suites have a couple of excellent features. From McAfee, I like the ID protection, but it’s annoying that you have to be enrolled in auto-renewal to benefit from it. I also think the file shredder can be useful for some users.

Most everyday users would find the tools from Kaspersky such as webcam protection, parental controls, photo backup and safe banking more appealing features than those offered by McAfee.

Sign up and Installation

First, I signed up and installed Kaspersky. It took just three clicks from the homepage to select my product and get to the checkout page. To complete my order and download the installation file, I was required to add my personal details and card payment information. Kaspersky automatically selects auto-renewal, but you can uncheck this box at the point of selection.

Kaspersky also try to push a couple of their add-on products at the checkout but I skipped these and test the standard Total Security suite.

Kaspersky computer protected

The download and setup was a quick process, and all in all, I was done and ready to run my first scan about ten minutes after visiting the website to start my purchase. One thing to note is that you have to set up a ‘My Kaspersky’ online account and enter your activation code.

McAfee’s home page is straightforward and directs you towards home or enterprise versions of Total Protection. It took just two clicks for me to reach the checkout page with my chosen product in the basket. The checkout confirmed a first-year discount on the price and highlighted that ID Theft Protection was included for free.

After the purchase went through, I was given a link to download the installer to my PC in about two minutes. The installer runs a five-minute application check, device check and a software check. After this step, it takes a few more minutes to set up the software and for McAfee to check for updates to ensure you have the latest version available.

How easy is the interface to use?

Kaspersky’s home screen shows a system status symbol; a green check if everything is okay. Below is a panel with eight icons and links to most of the tools you will need. This includes Scan, Safe Money, Database Update, Privacy Protection, Password Manager, Backup and Restore, and Parental Control.

McAfee total protection 1 device

I found it was really easy to access settings and schedule daily, weekly or monthly scans. Kaspersky adds an icon to the Windows system tray, which includes a handy shortcut to launch the Safe Money browser or parental controls.

I found McAfee easy to use with a very clear layout. The home screen shows tabs for main sections, giving quick shortcuts to PC Security, PC Performance, My Privacy, and My Info.

mcafee dashboard

The home screen displays a green check mark in the upper left-hand corner after a scan has been completed to confirm that your PC is protected, and I found this reassuring every time I opened up the app.

Most of what the average user will need is on the home screen, but there’s also a gear icon in the top right that pulls out a long list of settings.

McAfee antivirus can also be accessed via an icon in the system tray, from which you can start a scan.

Customer Support

Kaspersky technicians are on call to help. For North American customers, telephone support is available seven days a week, between the hours of 7am to 1am Eastern Time.

Alternatively, you can reach support by email or chat and expect a reply by the following day.

If you are looking for support out of hours, you can try the company website’s how-to videos, FAQs, and useful articles.

McAfee offers phone and live chat support. Technicians are available via these contact methods 24/7 so you can get support around the clock.

There is also a knowledge base, forum, and support hub. McAfee also gives contact details for their social channels on Twitter and Facebook.

One thing I liked about McAfee’s support is that they guarantee to keep your system malware-free and provide technicians to access and fix your device if needed.

McAfee vs Kaspersky conclusion

If you missed the big reveal of the winner at the beginning of my comparison, here’s a reminder: McAfee stole the top spot as the better antivirus than Kaspersky. While both providers blocked each malware sample I put them up against, the world-leading test labs I referenced scored McAfee as the better performer overall, with a 100% real-world protection rate. McAfee also backs their protection with a prestigious malware guarantee.

In terms of performance, McAfee puts less strain on system resources versus Kaspersky, and it also gets my vote for its heavily discounted prices for new subscribers. Mcafee has a clean, user-friendly interface with many customizable settings for advanced users, and for entry-level users, customer support is top-notch. 

Throw in the fact that Kaspersky’s privacy policy is rather demanding when you first install the product with regards to the data it collects, and it’s a no-brainer to opt for McAfee as the better choice.

methodology: how we select the best antivirus providers

When we compile a head-to-head antivirus article, we select two of the most popular providers and break down the pros and cons to help you decide on the best fit for your requirements. Before adding antiviruses to our comparisons, we run through several tests and considerations to ensure they meet our expectations. You can see some of our tests below:

  1. Pricing: We ensure our readers get a great deal with the AVs we recommend. Most of them include a money-back guarantee and significant discounts for the first year of signing up.
  2. Usability: The products we pick often include several options for advanced users, but at their core, they’re simple enough for entry-level users to get their heads around.
  3. Malware removal: We run each antivirus through lab testing to check their ability to find and remove live and inert malware samples.
  4. Customer support: Email, live chat, or ticketing support is a must for each of the AVs we list.
  5. System impact: Our recommended antiviruses are tested to measure their effect on system performance to ensure they don’t slow down your device.
  6. Device compatibility: Windows and macOS apps are what we look for in the products we select and may include support for other platforms like iOS and Android.

Read our antivirus testing methodology to learn more about our testing criteria.

Is there a difference between free antivirus and paid antivirus software?

The answer to this question depends on what you are looking for in an antivirus product. Of course, free virus protection is better than no protection at all, but most worthwhile free products are designed to entice you to upgrade to the premium version. This usually means that you can only access the core antivirus engine, with all the heavyweight functions and features are reserved for premium products.

Premium versions also generally include extra layers of protection, such as web protection or anti-phishing technologies. Using free software, you are also likely to get bombarded with adverts for the premium version, which gets annoying after a while.

How do I unisntall Kaspersky?

Kaspersky makes it super easy to uninstall its application if you are not impressed. All you need to do is:

  1. Open Kaspersky Internet Security.
  2. Tap Settings > Settings > Uninstall the app.
  3. On the Uninstall Kaspersky Internet Security screen, tap Next.
  4. If prompted, enter the app secret code (the app requests the secret code if the Uninstallation protection checkbox is selected in the Anti-Theft settings).
  5. Confirm uninstallation of Kaspersky.
  6. Done!

How do I uninstall McAfee?

McAfee can be uninstalled from the Windows Add/Remove programs area or you can download McAfee's custom tool to ensure a complete uninstall. Simply: 

  • Download the MCPR tool.
  • Double-click MCPR.exe.
  • If you see a security warning: Click Yes, Continue, or Run
  • Follow the online prompts

McAfee includes an uninstaller for Mac, which can be found in your applications folder.

See also: