Code-named Falcon, McAfee Total Protection is the penultimate security product from this longtime security vendor, offering a complete suite of security and system-maintenance tools, including various wireless security tools absent from Microsoft's Windows Live OneCare and Symantec Norton 360. Certainly McAfee Total Protection provides the most security and performance features, however it is hobbled by some design and program flaws. It feels like a grab bag of security and performance tools without any clear focus, which will likely frustrate the average user. While it bests Windows Live OneCare, McAfee Total Protection could learn a few things from Norton 360.
Setup and Interface
We downloaded and installed McAfee Total Protection without a problem, although we thought the process was needlessly confusing. From the McAfee.com site, we entered our ID and password, then downloaded the Download Manager onto our desktop. Despite choosing McAfee Total Protection from the McAfee.com site, we were again presented with a list of options and ended up downloading the McAfee VirusScan Plus application instead of the McAfee Total Protection application. If you are not paying attention, you might download the wrong application. Once we downloaded the correct application, however, the installation process was smooth.
McAfee Total Protection requires a mere 175MB, almost half of what Norton 360 requires, and nearly one quarter the size of Windows Live OneCare. Like the others, McAfee Total Protection requires 256MB of RAM. Only McAfee Total Protection works on Windows 2000 through Windows Vista, while both Norton 360 and Windows Live OneCare work on only Windows XP and Windows Vista. Like the other super security suites, the price for McAfee Total Protection includes installation on up to three different PCs (for example, two desktops and a laptop).
The interface for McAfee Total Protection is shared among all the 2007 product offerings. It features a gray border with a left navigation for various tools, and a right main window to display the current security status of your PC. We take issue with the left navigation panel, which displays by default what McAfee calls the "basic" options with a button to display the more-advanced settings. There are duplicated between the two menus, and it gets easy to confuse them.
Should you ever decide to remove McAfee Total Protection, you'll need to use the Microsoft Windows Add/Remove Programs; there was no uninstall icon provided in the All Programs listing. However, you will need to check which of the eight applications you want to remove. Fortunately, this did the trick. After uninstalling the application and rebooting, we were impressed to find a relatively clean uninstall, with only one empty McAfee folder in the Program Files directory, which we manually deleted, and no traces remaining within our test PC system registry.
McAfee Total Protection represents all the consumer security and performance tools available for Windows XP and Windows Vista users. But rather than redesign the interface to make access user friendly and intuitive, as Norton 360 did, McAfee simply added more options to its already crowded left navigation panel. Thus it's possible to overlook some useful features among the less-useful eye candy offered along the way, such as the Virus Map feature.
The Maintain Computer feature is another good idea that could stand to have more McAfee-specific tools in the future. McAfee QuickClean clears cookies and junk from your Internet browsers and removes deleted applications from the system registry. It is no longer available as a standalone application and finds a new home here. However, the other two items on the computer maintenance page are Windows utilities that are already available within Windows XP, Disk Defragmenter and Task Scheduler, both of which you can run for free from the Start menu in Windows. On a separate page, under Advanced, is the McAfee Shredder, a valuable security feature for writing over deleted files with 1s and 0s to ensure that no one can read what you've deleted. Here, too, there are free options are available, including Eraser, but it's nice to see the feature included within the suite. In the future, we'd like to see the Maintain Computer feature dispense with the free Windows applicationss and combine the McAfee-specific QuickClean and Shredder onto one page.
The traffic monitor, a visual interpretation of your firewall activity, is valuable, as are the virus information library and HackerWatch, McAfee's site that logs recent Internet attacks. However, some of the other features are of questionable security value. The Virus Map is superfluous. It's a real-time map showing where virus outbreaks are occurring, according to McAfee. And McAfee Visual Tracer is a Traceroute-like application with a map of the world so that you can see who it is that's attacking you (although the end point isn't necessarily the origin of the attack, just the last hop that's traceable through McAfee's servers).
Operating behind the scenes are some useful new tools: McAfee SystemGuards and McAfee X-ray for Windows. McAfee SystemGuards are behavioral monitors that check for unusual system activity and enlist the appropriate protection when necessary. McAfee X-ray for Windows detects and removes rootkits, malicious code that hides deep within the Windows system kernel. McAfee's current approach to both the behavioral analysis and rootkit prevention is conventional, and perhaps future releases of McAfee Total Protection will include more advanced enterprise technology from Citadel, a recent McAfee acquisition.