(Last updated on January 7th, 2021)
McAfee or Avast, which antivirus software is a better pick in 2021?
Read this data-driven McAfee versus Avast comparison to make a smart decision.
Do you know that a cyberattack takes place every 39 seconds on average? The most common methods include SQL injection attacks, rootkit, DDoS attacks, phishing/spear-phishing and malware attacks like spyware, adware and Trojan horse.
You may not know, but a hacker may be trying to get into your computer as this very moment. And you are particularly vulnerable if you use passwords like “123456”, “qwerty” or, worst of all, “password”.
Apart from passwords, a data breach might expose your bank account details, emails, Social Security number, personal health information, etc.
In the United States alone, more than 3.2 million records were exposed in the 10 biggest data breaches in the first half of 2020.
Even big companies get hacked, leaving protected information of millions of customers in the open. Multinational ride-hailing company Uber reported a few years ago that the information of more than 57 million riders and drivers was compromised.
In yet another breach, all 3 billion Yahoo accounts were hacked in one of the biggest data breaches in history.
So, sometimes your confidential information gets leaked even though you are not the direct target for hackers.
But how can you minimize the risk?
While companies need to go the extra mile to prevent data breaches, on a personal level your best bet is to install a reliable antivirus program on your device.
Modern antivirus suites provide more than just malware protection and come with advanced features like a password manager, AI threat detection, identity theft protection, microphone and webcam protection, credit card monitoring, VPN and many more tools.
Keep in mind that we are talking about premium security suites here. There are free antivirus programs galore, but they lack almost all the features mentioned above and only provide basic antivirus protection.
If you want to protect data and privacy of yourself and your family, spending a little amount of money can give you complete peace of mind.
Best Antivirus Suite for 2020
Overall Score: 9.9/10
60-day money-back guarantee
Right now, we think that Norton is the best antivirus software your money can buy. It regularly earns perfect or near-perfect scores from independent labs and has the least impact on system performance compared to rival products. Its products combine top-notch security with an array of excellent security features and, best of all, offer exceptional value for money.
Overall, Norton 360 Deluxe (currently at 70% off) is our pick for the best antivirus suite in 2020. It is competitively priced and comes with almost everything you could possibly ask for, such as a firewall, a fully integrated VPN, dark web monitoring, cloud backup storage (50GB), a password manager, and parental controls. You can cover up to 5 PCs, Macs, smartphones or tablets with this suite.
If you want full-on identity protection and don’t mind paying more, Norton 360 with LifeLock Select (currently at 35% off) gives those in the US a full range of identity protection features, more backup space (100GB), as well as all the above.
In this in-depth comparison, we are going to pit two of the most popular antivirus brands – McAfee and Avast – against each other.
We will take a look at the feature sets offered by the two products, their malware protection and system performance capabilities, their user interface, pricing structure and customer satisfaction, and see which product is bested by the other in each category.
In a rush? Look at the breakdown below. It’ll give you a quick summary of the winners in each category.
A Quick Rundown of Winners in Each Category
Winner: McAfee. McAfee offers all the advanced security-related features and utilities with its flagship premium product, while Avast reserves its important features and tools for its high-end products.
2. Malware Protection
Winner: Avast. Avast performed better than McAfee in independent lab tests.
3. System Performance
Winner: McAfee. Independent tests confirm that McAfee is far ahead of Avast in terms of putting an impact on system performance.
Winner: Tie. Both McAfee and Avast offer a simple, easy-to-use user interface.
Winner: McAfee. McAfee gives you more bang for your buck; you can get more licenses for less money through McAfee.
6. Customer Satisfaction
Winner: Tie. Both McAfee and Avast enjoy excellent customer satisfaction ratings.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that both McAfee and Avast are excellent antivirus software, but when you consider price, interface, performance, and protection we have to put McAfee ahead of Avast. The latter is great for extra features, and protection is equal to McAfee, but the price makes it less of a value.
Best Antivirus for 2021
- Robust feature-set
- Excellent anti-malware security
- Minimal system impact
- Easy-to-use interface
- Automatic updates
- Trusted by 50 million users
- 100% virus protection promise
- 60-day money-back guarantee
#2 (Very Good)
- Exceptional malware protection
- Little impact on performance
- Trusted by millions of users
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- User-friendly interface
#3 (Very Good)
- Good malware protection
- Trusted by big corporations
- Minimal impact on performance
- Good value for money
- 30-day risk-free guarantee
Now, let’s delve into the details.
These days, almost all cybersecurity companies offer a slew of advanced security-enhancing features and tools as part of their security packages.
First, let’s see what McAfee brings to the table in terms of features.
McAfee Total Protection (works on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS) is the company’s flagship and most popular security offering. It has a unique purchasing model in that it can be bought in bundles of 1, 5, or 10 devices depending on your preferences. No matter which bundle you select, you will get top-drawer malware protection along with a full set of advanced features and utilities.
The package has a smart two-way firewall that monitors all incoming and outgoing network connections and blocks all sorts of sophisticated attacks. The Vulnerability Scanner is also part of the software; it checks for security flaws and holes that hackers can potentially exploit and use, such as outdated software.
The TrueKey Identity Manager (lets you store all your passwords and sensitive details for in a secure vault) and a file shredder (allows you securely delete confidential files) are also jammed into the suite, along with the Network Manager tool that protects your WiFi against intruders and hackers.
The file encryption utility is also there as well; it lets you encrypt your sensitive files so no one can have access to them without authentication. The suite also offers advanced performance optimization features, which help your computer run faster and more efficiently.
Finally, the suite comes with a full suite of parental controls. These features allow you to monitor the browsing habits of your children and control which websites they can (and cannot) visit. You can also set daily time limits on their computer use, to prevent them from spending all day in front of the computer.
Another suite that the company offers is McAfee LiveSafe. There’s no difference between LiveSafe and Total Protection in terms of features offered, but the former allows you to protect unlimited devices with a single license. But the major downside of LiveSafe is that it comes at a slightly higher price point. (You’ll see prices later in this guide.)
Now, let’s see what Avast offers in terms of features.
Unlike McAfee, Avast offers separate products for Windows and macOS. We’ll cover the Windows-only products first.
Avast Free Antivirus is the company’s first antivirus software. As the name suggests, you can use it for free for as long as you want, but there aren’t any advanced features and utilities jammed into this package. However, the product does protect against different types of digital threats, including viruses, ransomware, worms, spyware.
Next up is Avast Internet Security, the company’s first premium antivirus offering. It offers top-notch protection against all sorts of malware threats, plus several useful advanced features and functions. There’s a smart firewall that protects your computer against unauthorized access and hacking attempts, an email filter that can keep junk mail from clogging up your inbox, and the WiFi Inspector tool that protects your network against hackers and intruders.
The Sandbox utility is also part of the suite; it lets you run suspicious files and software in a secured portion of your computer, so you don’t risk the rest of your computer when installing new software or opening new files. The Real Site utility is also incorporated into the suite; it protects your network and prevents fake DNS routing from taking place, which is a common tactic that hackers use these days to steal financial details and other sensitive information.
Another level up is Avast Premier. This suite includes everything that is found in the previous suites, plus a webcam protector that stops people from secretly spying on you through your webcam and an automatic software updater. The Data Shredder utility is also included; it allows you to securely erase your sensitive files so no one can recover them.
Finally, there’s Avast Ultimate – the company’s top-tier security package. This package has everything that comes with the Premier suite, plus there’s a VPN that you can use to anonymously browse the Internet and access content that is restricted in your geographic location.
The Avast Cleanup utility is also jammed into the Ultimate suite; it cleans junk files and improves the performance of your computer.
For Mac users, there’s Avast Security for Mac. This suite comes in two versions, Free and Premium. The freeware is very barebones in terms of advanced features and utilities but does offer essential malware protection. The Premium offering comes with advanced ransomware protection and the WiFi Intruder Alert feature.
If you’re interested in Avast’s business-specific solutions, click here for more information.
Winner: McAfee. Overall, McAfee is the winner in this category as it offers all the advanced features and tools with its flagship product. Avast’s best features are only found in its high-end suites.
2. Malware Protection
Protecting your device against all kinds of malware attacks is one of the most primary jobs of an antivirus product. If it fails in this category, it isn’t probably worth at all.
We can tell one antivirus offers better malware protection than the other by looking at the latest evaluations conducted by reputable independent testing labs like the AV-Test Institute and AV-Comparatives.
Let’s start with AV-Test’s findings. In its bimonthly tests, the lab evaluates three metrics (Protection, Performance, and Usability) of all the famous antivirus brands.
In its April 2020 Protection Test, AV-Test gave McAfee 5 out of 6 score, which shows that McAfee’s performance was better than most products, but it wasn’t in the top league.
By contrast, Avast performed a little better with a score of 5.5 out of 6.
Let’s take a look at the evaluations of our next source: AV-Comparatives. This organization also conducts three types of tests, namely the Real-World Protection Test (web-based), Malware Protection Test (system-based) and Performance Test.
According to the most recent Real-World Protection Test results, issued in May 2020, Avast bagged a maximum ADVANCED+ (3-star) award, while McAfee received a 2-star ADVANCED award.
In the Malware Protection test, conducted in March 2020, McAfee received a 1-star STANDARD award, whereas Avast got ADVANCED (2-star) award.
Both products received lower scores despite excellent protection rates because they produced a higher number of false positives, meaning they wrongly blocked clean files and websites.
Winner: Avast. Avast is the winner of this category as it fared better than its competitor in all three tests.
3. System Performance
Another critical aspect to consider while evaluating an antivirus suite is how much influence it puts on your device while running its operations. If an antivirus product impacts your system speed in a significant way, then you should look elsewhere and find a more suitable brand.
Let’s see which among the two brands performs tasks more seamlessly. Again, we’re going to take test results from AV-Test and AV-Comparatives.
In the AV-Test’s April 2020 Performance Test, McAfee notched a perfect 6 out of 6 score, outshining many other products.
Avast was a little behind McAfee with a score of 5.5 out of 6.
Let’s now take a look at AV-Comparatives Performance Test. Once again, McAfee passed the test with flying colors and bagged the highest ADVANCED+ (3-star) award.
In comparison, Avast got a 2-star ADVANCED award.
Winner: McAfee. McAfee aced both tests and came up as a winner in this category. The evaluations showed that McAfee is very light on your device and you may not even feel its presence.
All the factors we have discussed so far are important, but if a software has a clunky, outdated user interface, it’s likely that you won’t enjoy using it.
First, let’s examine McAfee’s user interface.
McAfee’s interface is simple, bright, and sleek – in colors of blue, gray, and white. There’s a horizontal menu at the top that allows you to access all the features and functions with just a few clicks. Links to Notifications, News, Help, Settings are also there on the right side of the menu.
On the main screen, you’ll find a large green checkmark in the top left corner if everything is okay. The checkmark will change into a red warning sign when there’s an issue.
At the bottom, there are blocks for running a scan, updating apps, removing browser cookies/trackers.
Now, let’s examine Avast’s interface.
Avast uses a dark, modern-styled interface that is both simple and intuitive.
There’s a vertical menu on the left with four different tabs: Status, Protection, Privacy, and Performance. The Status window is what you see when you open the interface. You will find your protection status in the center, as well as a button to run a quick scan. The other tabs have relevant features and options.
The link to Settings is available in the bottom-left corner.
Winner: Tie. Overall, it’s a tie in this category as both products offer a simple, easy-to-use interface.
Now, let’s look at the prices of the security suites offered by both companies.
McAfee Total Protection, the flagship product from McAfee, comes at different price points; $24.99 per year for 1 device, $39.99 per year for 5 devices, and $44.99 per year for 10 devices.
McAfee LiveSafe protects unlimited devices for $99.99 per year.
|McAfee Products||Regular Price||Discounted Price|
|McAfee Total Protection (1 Device)||$79.99/year||Check here|
|McAfee Total Protection (5 Device)||$99.99/year||Check here|
|McAfee Total Protection (10 Device)||$119.99/year||Check here|
Avast Free doesn’t cost anything, but it doesn’t offer much value. Avast Internet Security, the first worthwhile software from the company, costs $59.99 per year for 1 PC. Avast Premier comes at $69.99 per year for 1 PC.
Avast Ultimate, the full-blown antivirus solution, costs $119.95 per year for 1 PC.
Avast Security for Mac, the company’s only offering for macOS users, costs $59.99 per year for a single Mac.
|Avast Products||Regular Price||Discounted Price|
|Avast Internet Security||$47.99/year||Check here|
|Avast Premium Security (1 Device)||$69.99/year||Check here|
|Avast Premium Security (Multi-Device)||$89.99/year||Check here|
|Avast Ultimate||$99.99/year||Check here|
|Avast Business Antivirus||Varies||Check here|
Winner: McAfee. McAfee offers better value for money; you can get more licenses for less money through McAfee than through Avast.
6. Customer Satisfaction
One last aspect we will consider is customer satisfaction. Let’s see what the actual customers of both McAfee and Avast think of their products.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a well-known site that collects customer reviews for all companies and averages them out into an A to F letter grade rating. Both McAfee and Avast have an excellent A+ rating from the BBB, which indicates exceptional customer service and high levels of user satisfaction.
Winner: Tie. Both antivirus products have comparable customer satisfaction ratings.
Our recommendations: If you want to get the highest level of security and performance, there's no better choice than Norton, which protects over 50 million users worldwide.
After reviewing dozens of antivirus products from some of the biggest names in the cybersecurity realm, we believe that Norton 360 Deluxe is the best antivirus suite available on the market. It provides flawless anti-malware protection without slowing you down. Plus, you get almost all the advanced features you could ever want.
If you're willing to pay more for advanced identity protection features, we recommend Norton 360 with LifeLock select (only available in the US). It's a bit pricey but worth the price.
Anas Baig is a consumer privacy advocate and cybersecurity journalist by profession. Has has more than 7 years of professional experience under his belt. Anas has been featured on numerous media publications including The Guardian, Lifehacker, The Next Web, Infosecurity Magazine, Security Boulevard, Hacker Noon, CMS Wire, IAPP, SC Magazine, and many others. His interest includes Digital Privacy Rights, Information Security, Networking, Privacy, and Data Protection.