(Last updated on January 8th, 2021)
McAfee or Malwarebytes, which antivirus software is a better option in 2021?
Read this comprehensive McAfee versus Malwarebytes comparison to make a smart decision.
In this detailed guide, you’ll see what’s included in different antivirus suites both McAfee and Malwarebytes offer, as well as how both software compare in terms of malware protection, impact on system performance, user interface, cost, and more.
These days, it is almost impossible to imagine a safe and secure digital life without reliable antivirus software.
Do you know the AV-Test Institute — which is an independent security software testing laboratory — catches over 350,000 new malware samples every day? Yes, that’s every single day!
The bad guys (a.k.a. hackers) are regularly surfacing hundreds of thousands of new malware every day that can steal your sensitive data, breach your privacy, drain your bank account, spy on your activities, and so on.
It’s never a good idea to rely on free or low-cost antivirus programs — especially when your security and privacy are at stake.
Best Antivirus Suite for 2021
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 2021. 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.
First, let’s see the security suites both McAfee and Malwarebytes offer.
|McAfee Antivirus Suites|
|McAfee Total Protection (Windows & Mac)|
|McAfee LiveSafe (Windows and Mac)|
|Malwarebytes Antivirus Suites|
|Malwarebytes Free (Windows only)|
|Malwarebytes Premium (for Windows & Mac)|
If you’re in a hurry and want the answer straight away, take a look at the graphic below and also read our short verdict to make your mind.
McAfee offers more security-related features and extra utilities in its security suites than Malwarebytes. Also, independent lab tests prove that McAfee is far better than Malwarebytes in terms of both malware protection and the impact on system performance (or system speed).
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
What’s Included in McAfee’s Antivirus Suites?
McAfee – like other antivirus companies — used to offer a range of security products but these days, it only offers two specialized products, McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe.
McAfee Total Protection is the company’s full-blown security suite. Besides providing excellent protection against different types of malware threats (such as viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, rootkits), it offers a plethora of advanced protection-related features and utilities that have now become commonplace tools in most high-end security packages.
A two-way firewall (filters malicious traffic and prevent malware attacks), a file shredding utility (lets you securely delete your sensitive files), a vulnerability scanner (checks for outdated software and other flaws in your operating system), a parental control module (blocks inappropriate content for kids and lets you keep an eye on their digital activity), and the Network Manager (protects your Wi-Fi network from intruders and blocks hijacking attempts) are some of the tool you’ll find in the package.
An email spam filter (blocks malicious/phishing emails), an encryption utility (helps shield your important files from ransomware-like threats), and the True Key Identity Manager (stores all your passwords and other details in a safe digital vault) are also jammed into the suite.
You can protect up to 10 PCs, Macs, and smartphones in any combination with a single license of McAfee Total Protection.
McAfee also offers the “Virus Protection Guarantee” if you sign up for its auto-renewal service. According to the pledge, a McAfee expert will help keep your device(s) virus-free or give you a full refund.
Another plan that the company offers is McAfee LiveSafe. It includes everything part of the “Total Protection” suite, plus 1 GB of secure cloud storage where you can store your personal files. The additional feature is of little use, and the plan is relatively expensive when compared to its younger sibling. (I will cover the prices later in this guide.)
Note: Both McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe are compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
What’s Included in Malwarebytes’ Antivirus Suites?
Malwarebytes offers two security products: Malwarebytes Free and Malwarebytes Premium.
Malwarebytes Free is the company’s limited free antivirus product for the Windows platform. It’s just a mere disinfection tool with no real-time (or on-access) scanning feature, which means it’s only useful if you want to remove malware that has already infected your system.
Also — as expected — you won’t find any advanced protection-related features/tools jammed into the freeware.
Malwarebytes Premium is the company’s paid-for security offering. Besides providing protection against different kinds of malware threats, it offers advanced ransomware protection and complete data/identity protection.
Advanced protection-related features and utilities, like VPN, automatic backup tool, encryption utility, etc., are not part of this suite either.
Malwarebytes Premium is compatible with PCs, Macs, and smartphones and comes at different price points depending on the number of devices you have in your household.
McAfee vs. Malwarebytes: Which Software Offers Better Malware Protection?
Malware protection component (also called detection engine) is the most important part of security product.
Most antivirus programs offer three levels of protection: a signature-based scanner that matches suspect code to existing malware definitions, a heuristic scanner that keeps an eye on behavioral activities of files, and a cloud server to examine files flagged as malicious by a security product.
To see how good the defenses of McAfee and Malwarebytes are against malware, I will look at how both products fared in the recent lab tests conducted by AV-Test and AV-Comparatives – two independent and most respected security software testing institute that are well-known in the antivirus realm.
In two rounds of exhaustive evaluations conducted by AV-Test during September and October in 2018, all participating antivirus products were evaluated against 311 samples of zero-day malware and 21,257 samples of widespread (or prevalent) malware.
McAfee blocked all samples of widespread malware during both months, but it proved to be slightly less effective against zero-day malware, getting a lower 5.5/6 rating from the AV-Test experts in the “Protection” category.
Malwarebytes could only get 4/6 rating in these examinations, because of its mediocre performance against both zero-day and widespread malware during both months.
The experts at AV-Comparatives do a range of different tests to evaluate the protection level of different antivirus products. The two main tests that give detailed insights into how effective a security product is against malware infections are Real-World Protection Test and Malware Protection Test.
The recent Real-World Protection Test report released by AV-Comparatives includes combined results of the five monthly tests which were conducted between July and November 2018.
Overall, McAfee’s performance was impressive; it successfully detected 99.4% of all malware with 16 false positives and was able to get the highest “ADVANCED+” title in the “real-world” study.
***False positive is when a security product wrongly identifies a clean file/URL as malware.
In the recent Malware Protection Test, which was held in September 2018, McAfee registered flawless protection rate and succcessfully detected every single piece of malware it encountered, but its results were marred by a high number of false positives (35).
The lab awarded the second-best “ADVANCED” title to McAfee in this test.
Malwarebytes, on the other hand, didn’t participate in the recent AV-Comparatives evaluations.
Overall, McAfee is the winner in this category as it offers comprehensive protection against both zero-day and widespread malware.
McAfee vs. Malwarebytes: Which Software Puts Less Impact on System?
Another important consideration is the impact a security product exerts on computer performance (or computer speed).
I will once again look at how well both McAfee and Malwarebytes fared in the recent performance tests conducted by AV-Test and AV-Comparatives.
In the “Performance” category of the AV-Test evaluations, the experts measure the impact of security products in terms of system slowdown experienced while performing common computer tasks, like visiting popular websites, downloading & installing applications, copying files, and more.
Here’s how McAfee performed in the test:
Here’s how Malwarebytes performed in the analysis:
As you can see, McAfee got a full 6/6 rating from the AV-Test experts in the “Performance” category, while Malwarebytes got a slightly lower 5/6 rating.
The experts at AV-Comparatives also conduct a similar examination, called Performance Test. The most recent version of the test involved 17 top security products and was held in September 2018.
McAfee got the highest “ADVANCED+” in the test, because of its impressive impact score (the lower, the better) of 6.4.
Malwarebytes – as stated earlier – didn’t participate in the recent AV-Comparatives’ evaluations.
So it’s evident that McAfee is better than Malwarebytes in terms of the impact on system performance.
McAfee vs. Malwarebytes: Which Product Offers Better User Experience?
Another important point of comparison between both software is the user interface.
First, let’s examine the McAfee interface.
McAfee’s product interface used to be clunky and outdated back in the day, but it’s no longer the case – thanks to a major overhaul that took place earlier in 2018.
The new interface for 2021 is light, bright and airy — in colors of white, blue, and dark gray. The horizontal menu contains five main modules (Home, PC Security, Identity, Privacy, and Account), along with links for Settings, Help, Alerts, and Tips.
Home is the default view, it shows you protection status in the left rail and buttons for running types of scans on the right. At the bottom is a large section reminding you to do different things, like set up password manager, remove browser cookies/trackers, and more.
PC Security, Identity, Privacy tabs contain relevant features and their settings. Account view has information about your subscription plan.
Now, let’s go over the Malwarebytes interface.
Malwarebytes’ user interface is modern and intuitive, in shades of white, dark blue, and gray.
In the left rail, you’ll find a vertical menu with five items, namely Dashboard, Scan, Quarantine, Reports, and Settings modules.
Dashboard is the default view you see when you open the software. If everything is alright, you’ll see a green check mark with a reassuring “Awesome! You’re Protected” message in the middle of the window. On the left, you’ll see which modules are active, when the last scan took place, your protection history, and more. A ‘Scan Now’ button is also available on this window.
The other four categories are pretty much self-explanatory.
The title bar shows the name of the product active on your computer.
Overall, McAfee’s user interface provides a better user experience than Malwarebytes’.
McAfee vs. Malwarebytes: 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|
|Malwarebytes Products||Regular Price||Discounted Price|
|Malwarebytes Premium for PCs||$39.99/year||Check here|
|Malwarebytes Premium for Mac||$39.99/year||Check here|
|Malwarebytes Business Products||Varies||Check here|
Overall, McAfee’s generous per-device pricing makes it a better options in this category.
McAfee vs. Malwarebytes: Which Software is More Popular Among Users?
Finally, let’s see which of the two software reigns in terms of popularity.
OPSWAT – a well-known security company trusted by brands like HP, Siemens, and Cisco – regularly publishes a monthly report on the market share held by leading anti-malware products and vendors. The data is collected from “tens of millions of data points and over 30,000 live endpoints.”
The most recent report was published in November 2018 and includes data collected in the last six months by OPSWAT. According to the report, Avast currently leads the market with an impressive 18% market share. McAfee is second on the list with a 12.58% share, while Malwarebytes claims the third position with 12.23% cap.
Another similar report was published by Statista in August 2018. Their findings were more or less the same as OPSWAT’s, with Avast claiming the first position with 17.04% market share. Malwarebytes claimed the second position in the report with a market share of 13.34%, while McAfee was placed third with 11.73% share.
Overall, it can be said that both McAfee and Malwarebytes are equally famous in the antivirus realm.
Winner: It’s a tie
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.