(Last updated on February 26th, 2021)
McAfee or ESET, which antivirus software is a better option in 2021?
Read this in-depth, data-driven comparison to make a smart decision.
In this detailed guide, you’ll see what’s included in different antivirus suites both McAfee and ESET offer, as well as how both software, compare against one another in terms of malware protection, system performance, user interface, cost, and more.
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.
Do you know you’re exposed to over 350,000 new malware threats every day? Malware attacks are happening at an alarming frequency these days, and it has become almost impossible to imagine a secure digital life without a reliable antivirus program.
The bad guys (a.k.a. hackers) are constantly in search of new (and sneaky) ways to steal your data, breach your privacy, drain your bank account, corrupt your system, and so on.
So if you don’t take proactive measures to protect your data and privacy, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself in a lot of trouble down the road.
First, let’s see the security suites McAfee and ESET offer.
|McAfee Antivirus Suites|
|McAfee Total Protection (Windows & Mac)|
|McAfee LiveSafe (Windows and Mac)|
|ESET Security Suites|
|ESET Nod32 Antivirus (Windows only)|
|ESET Internet Security (Windows only)|
|ESET Smart Security Premium (Windows only)|
|ESET Multi-device Security (Windows & Mac)|
|ESET Cyber Security (Mac only)|
|ESET Cyber Security Pro (Mac only)|
If you are in a rush and want the answer right away, look at the graphic below and also read our short verdict.
McAfee is the overall winner as it offers more security-related features and extra utilities in its products than ESET. Also, independent tests prove that both software put a minimal impact on system performance, but McAfee provides better anti-malware security than ESET.
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 dive into the details…
What’s Included in McAfee’s Antivirus Suites?
Most antivirus companies offer a range of security suites at different price points to attract a diverse customer base. Back in the day, McAfee used to follow the same scheme but these days, it only offers two specialized antivirus suites, namely McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe.
McAfee Total Protection is the company’s top-drawer and most popular antivirus package. Along with providing excellent protection against all kinds of malware threats (as you’ll see later in this guide), it offers advanced ransomware protection, a useful two-way firewall (blocks malicious traffic and thwarts malware attacks), a Vulnerability Scanner (checks for exploitable vulnerabilities in your system), and a file shredding utility (helps securely remove your important files).
A parental control module (helps protect your kids online and blocks inappropriate content), the Network Manager (safeguards your Wi-Fi network against intruders and hackers) and an encryption utility (lets you lock your sensitive files from ransomware-like threats).
With McAfee Total Protection, you’ll also get five licenses of the True Key Identity Manager. It stores all your passwords and other sensitive details in a secure, digital vault.
Protection against webcam spying, spam/phishing emails, and data theft is also there in the package.
A single subscription of the package means you can protect up to 10 devices (PCs, Macs, and smartphones) in any combination with a single license of the suite.
McAfee also offers the “Virus Protection Guarantee” if you sign up for its auto-renewal service. The pledge states that, in the event of malware infection, a McAfee expert will either remotely access your computer to remove it or give you a full refund.
Another security suite that McAfee offers is McAfee LiveSafe. It comes at a higher price point and adds on 1GB of cloud space to the “Total Protection” suite.
What’s Included in ESET’s Antivirus Suites?
Unlike other companies, ESET offers separate products for different platforms.
First, let’s see what ESET offers for the Windows platform.
ESET NOD32 Antivirus is the company’s entry-level offering for the Windows users. Other than the useful Silent Mode feature (suspends notifications for uninterrupted experience), you won’t find a lot of advanced features or utilities jammed into this suite. But the product covers all the bases when it comes to protecting against different types of malware threats, including ransomware, viruses, worms, Trojans, and rootkits.
Another level up is ESET Internet Security, which is another Windows-only product. It includes everything found in the entry-level offering, plus a hardened browser (protects your financial data while you shop/bank online), the Network Monitor utility (protects your network against hackers and intruders), a two-way firewall, and an anti-theft module (helps locate stolen or missing devices).
Protection against webcam spying and junk/phishing emails is also integrated into the package.
Next up is ESET Smart Security Premium — the company’s full-blown security suite for the Windows platform. In that, you’ll get everything that comes as part of the “Internet Security” plan, along with an advanced password management tool and the Secure Data utility (creates password-protected virtual drives to make your sensitive data inaccessible for hackers).
ESET Multi-device Security is the company’s multi-platform compatible security package. A single license of this suite means you can use every ESET product in the self, including those specifically built for Mac and Linux. But, unlike Bitdefender, ESET imposes a limit on the number of devices you can protect with this suite. So, if you have many devices in your household, it would cost you much less if you go with Bitdefender Family Pack 2020.
Now, let’s see what ESET offers for Mac platform.
ESET offers two specialized security suites for macOS, namely ESET Cyber Security and ESET Cyber Security Pro. The former provides comprehensive protection against a range of malware threats, such as viruses, ransomware, worms, Trojans, along with web browsing protection and free customer support. The latter includes everything found in its younger sibling, plus a two-way firewall and parental controls.
McAfee vs. ESET: Which Software Offers Better Malware Protection?
It’s imperative for a security product to provide comprehensive protection against all kinds of malware threats.
All malware can be classified into two types: known malware and unknown malware (also called zero-day malware).
Usually, most security programs offer three levels of protection: a traditional file scanner that matches suspect files to known malware database, a heuristics scanner that takes behavioral attributes into account to detect zero-day malware, and a cloud server (that’s where suspicious files are sent for in-depth examination).
To find out which of the two software is better in terms of malware protection, I will look at the most recent lab examinations conducted by AV-Test and AV-Comparatives – two popular and widely respected independent security laboratories.
The experts at AV-Test regularly conduct different tests to evaluate how well a security product performs against different types of malware.
The most recent tests were conducted in September and October 2018. All participating products were tested against 311 samples of zero-day malware and 21,257 samples of widespread malware.
McAfee’s detection rate against widespread malware was flawless during both months, but it didn’t perform as well against zero-day malware, which means it received a slightly lower 5.5/6 rating from the AV-Test experts in the “Protection” category.
ESET, on the other hand, didn’t participate in the recent AV-Test evaluations.
The experts at Austrian lab AV-Comparatives regularly perform a range of exhaustive tests to evaluate the performance of various antivirus brands. The two comprehensive tests that deserve a look are the Real-World Protection Test and Malware Protection Test. The latter test evaluates the effectiveness of a security product against malware injected via network drives and USB, while the former test comprehensively looks at how well a product defends against malware found on the web.
The recent Real-World Protection Test report released by AV-Comparatives includes summarized results of five monthly tests which were held between July and November 2018.
McAfee received the highest “ADVANCED+” award in this test, as it registered an impressive protection rate of 99.4% with 16 false positives.
***False positive is when a security product falsely flags a clean file/URL as malware.
ESET could only get the second-best “ADVANCED” title in the “real-world” study, mainly because of its slightly lower protection rate of 98.9%. It also returned 4 false positives during the tests.
In the latest version of the Malware Protection Test, which was held in September 2018, ESET managed to get the highest “ADVANCED+” award, due to its near-perfect 99.94% protection rate with just one false detection.
McAfee’s protection rate was even better, at 100%, but a high number of false detections (35) overshadowed its results. It had to settle for the second-best “ADVANCED” title in this test.
Overall, both McAfee and ESET are neck and neck when it comes to malware protection.
Winner: It’s a tie
McAfee vs. ESET: Which Software Puts Less Impact on System?
Antivirus software – like other computer programs – need (or consume) some percentage of your system resources to do their job. Luckily, most modern computer security programs don’t put a significant burden on system performance.
Let’s look at the recent performance tests to see how McAfee and ESET compare in this regard.
In the “Performance” section of the AV-Test evaluations, the experts measure the impact a security product puts on system performance (or system speed) while executing common computer operations. The impact (or influence) of a security product is measured in terms of system slowdown experienced on test computers.
McAfee got a full 6/6 rating from the experts in the “Performance” category.
ESET, as mentioned earlier, didn’t participate in the recent AV-Test evaluations.
The experts at AV-Comparatives lab conduct a similar examination, called Performance Test. The most recent edition of the test involved 17 antivirus products and was held in September 2018.
Both McAfee and ESET were awarded the highest “ADVANCED+” award in the test, courtesy impressive impact scores of 6.4 and 1.7, respectively.
Overall, McAfee comes out as the winner in this category as it got exceptional scores in all the tests we considered.
McAfee vs. ESET: Which Product Offers Better User Experience?
Back in the day, McAfee’s user interface used to be complicated and overwhelming but it’s no longer the case – thanks to a major product update that took place in 2018. It’s now bright and straightforward, in shades of white, blue, and dark gray.
At the top is a horizontal menu which contains five modules, namely Home, PC Security, Identity, Privacy, and Account, along with icons for Settings, Help, Alerts, and Tips.
Home is where you land on when you open the interface. If everything is safe and sound, you’ll see a green checkmark in the left rail. In the main view, you’ll find buttons for running different types of scans and square-shaped titles for setting up different advanced modules, like the True Key identity manager.
PC Security, Identity, and Privacy tabs contain relevant features/tools. Account window has information regarding your subscription plan.
Now, let’s delve into the ESET interface.
ESET’s interface is simple, bright and functional, in colors of black, dark green, and light gray.
Along the left side is a horizontal menu with the following categories: Home, Computer Scan, Update, Tools, Setup, and Help & Support.
When you start up the software, you’ll land on the default Home window which shows your protection status next to a creepy robot (okay, it’s not so scary). When everything is okay, you’ll be greeted with a reassuring “You’re Protected” message with a green checkmark. Links to access different advanced modules are also available on the main window.
The other categories are pretty much self-explanatory.
The name of the suite you’re subscribed to is shown in the title bar. At the bottom, you’ll see the number of days remaining in your subscription.
Overall, both McAfee and ESET offer a simple, easy-to-use user interface.
Winner: It’s a tie
McAfee vs. ESET: Which Software is Less Expensive?
|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|
|ESET Products||Regular Price||Discounted Price|
|ESET NOD32 Antivirus||$39.99/year||Check here|
|ESET Internet Security||$49.99/year||Check here|
|ESET Smart Security Premium||$59.99/year||Check here|
|ESET Multi-device Security||$69.99/year||Check here|
|ESET Cyber Security for Mac||$49.99/year||Check here|
|ESET Business Products||Varies||Check here|
Overall, McAfee’s security suites are cheaper than ESET’s. Also, you can protect multiple devices with a single license of McAfee.
McAfee vs. ESET: Which Software is More Popular Among Users?
Now, let’s see which of the two software is more popular among the antivirus community.
OPSWAT, which is a well-known security company, releases monthly reports on the market share of leading anti-malware (or antivirus) products. The most recent report was published in November 2018 and includes data collected in the last 6 months from “tens of millions of data points and over 30,000 live endpoints.”
According to the report, Avast is currently the biggest player in the market with an impressive 18.44% market share, followed by McAfee (12.58%) and Malwarebytes (12.23%). ESET is fifth on the list with 9.09% share. Overall, McAfee’s security suites are cheaper than ESET’s. Also, you can protect multiple devices with a single license of McAfee.
Overall, it is evident that McAfee currently captures more market share than ESET.
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.