For an informed decision, we have created this comprehensive guide, based on the research of our seasoned experts and the top independent labs in the world.

We follow the work of four labs that regularly release detailed reports: AV-Test Institute based in Germany, MRG-Effitas, and SE Labs based in the UK as well as AV-Comparatives based in Austria.

Every day, the AV-TEST Institute registers over 350 000 new malicious programs. The total of malicious programs has increased from 597 million to 1.05 billion in the last five years.

In May 2019, news broke about the Baltimore City government’s major ransomware infection. It took 36 days to loosen hackers’ grip on its data, and even longer to fully recover all of the systems that were locked down. The city spent over $18 million recovering from the attack.

So you can see that the stakes are high even more so for commercial users.

In this comparison, you’ll see the security products, features, and tools both companies offer, as well as how they stack up against each other regarding malware protection, system performance, user interface, cost, and more.

Here are the most important factors that we’ve compared:

  • Protection
  • Performance
  • Usability
  • Features
  • Pricing

That way, you can protect yourself against any digital threats and never have to deal with anything similar to Baltimore ever in your life.

So let’s dive in.

A quick overview of results

If you’re in a bit of a hurry or just not too interested in all the nerdy stats, we have done a small summary of the results.

  • Protection

    In the last tests, Avast has detected and protected against all the malware attacks and threats, with an outstanding 100% result. McAfee let 0,9% of sample attacks through.

  • Performance

    McAfee offers incredible performance figures both on standard and high-end PCs, showing results much better than the industry average. Meanwhile, Avast causes your computer to slow down in some instances. McAfee is also AV-Test lab's best performer of the year award winner.

  • Usability

    Both McAfee and Avast offer simple, straightforward user interfaces. Neither also showed any false warnings or detections in the last tests.

  • Features

    Both software offers all the advanced security-related features you may ever need, but McAfee provides a lot more with its entry-level products. Advanced features are only available for extra fee with Avast products.

  • Pricing

    You can get a lot more for one price with McAfee. Using Avast, you have to be ready to pay extra for many features you'll need.

A short verdict

Both McAfee and Avast are good software options. Avast offers greater protection and detects viruses a bit better. McAfee on the other hand showed superior all-around results, including performance and pricing options. This is why we consider McAfee the preferred option.

  1. Overall winner
    McAfee Antivirus logo

    McAfee

    Though McAfee had a bit of trouble with few samples, its virus definition database is updated frequently, at least once a day. But more importantly, McAfee offers all-around protection, minimal impact on system performance, and great features for a good price.

    Starting at $19,99 from McAfee
  2. A good alternative
    Avast Antivirus Logo

    Avast

    Avast offers excellent protection though it may put a dent into your computer's ability to perform. As all the features are not included in the entry-level product, be ready to pay extra for them.

    Starting at $55,99 from Avast

Detailed results

If you need some more information for a decision, get ready for some in-depth analysis. We put McAfee and Avast head-to-head in all the categories using data gathered by our experts and test results of top independent testing facilities.

So let’s see what’s what.

Protection

Protection against malware is one of the most important aspects of any antivirus software. In the last tests, McAfee and Avast both offered an above industry average result regarding the protection of a computer against threats.

Let’s compare the test results of two labs, AV-Test and SE Labs, so that you can see for yourself.

AV-Test put both softwares up against 402 samples of 0-day malware attacks and 20606 samples of malwares in a 4 week period.

McAfee tested a high 99.1% result in protection and a clean 100% in detection. Avast showed an even more impressive outcome, getting a full 100% result in both tests.

Industry average McAfee Avast
Protection against 0-day malware attacks, inclusive of web and email threats

402 samples used

Detection of widespread and prevalent malware discovered in the last 4 weeks

20 606 samples used

Source: av-test.org

SE Labs use a bit of a different testing method. It conducts tests and gives each product a protection score based on the overall level of protection, making no distinction between neutralized and blocked incidents. For each product, they add blocked and neutralized cases together to create a straightforward tally. Avast scored 98 out of a 100, and McAfee scored 96 out of a 100.

Avast McAfee
Protection score

Source: selabs.uk

As you can see, both facilities found that Avast protected the computer a bit better. It’s a close call, but the winner is Avast with higher test scores.

Winner: Avast

Performance

There is nothing more infuriating than trying to get some work done with a computer that has problems performing. Mainly when doing mundane tasks like loading websites or opening applications.

Let’s see how the two competitors hold up against each other in that regard.

AV-Test independent research shows that McAfee performs better than the industry average in almost every test. The tests also show good results for Avast, but some slow-down can be detected when launching websites and applications.

Industry average McAfee Avast
Slowing-down when launcing popular websites

50 websites visited

Slower download of frequently-used applications

20 downloaded files

Slower launch of standard software

12 test cases applied

Slower installation of frequently-used applications

19 installed applications

Slower copying of files (locally and in a network)

7388 files copied

Source: av-test.org

Even though both software did good in the tests, there is still a clear winner thanks to the loading times.

Winner: McAfee

Usability

There are two essential factors to usability with antivirus software. The first being the interface and how easy it is to use. False reporting can also be a critical factor. If false reports keep popping up every time you try to open a file, it prevents you from being productive.

First, let’s compare the interfaces.

McAfee offers a sleek, simple, and easy-to-use client that is intuitive for anyone who has used computers before.

Everything is well laid out, and you can easily find anything you’re trying to find.

At the top of the window, you get five tabs: Home, PC Security, PC Performance, My Privacy, and My Info. There are also icons for alerts, tips, and settings in the top-right corner.

Home is your basic dashboard for the application.

PC Security is a deeper dive into the status of your computer. At any time, it shows you if your computer is secure or if it has identified any threats. It also keeps you in the loop of how many apps, web connections, and background processes it is protecting.

On the bottom of the window, you can start a scan for viruses, update apps, use safe browsing, and remove cookies and trackers there. In the center of the window, you can also start a scan by choosing between a full scan and a quick scan.

Left part of the window shows which parts of the security engine are running as needed – R

real-time scanning, firewall, automatic updates, and scheduled scans.

Mcafee User Interface

Avast has a modern and simple design, a bit darker than the other contender, though. The interface is intuitive and lets you find the most important functions with ease.

The default layout is configured to suit most users. However, you can manually set your preferences in the Settings.

The most critical information is always there and lets you know if your computer is protected or not. There is a big circle with a tick to indicate that. You can also start a smart scan with just one click.

In addition to the status, you’ll find the information about protection, privacy and performance, on the left bar of the window.

Notifications and preferences can be found on the top right corner.

Avast User Interface

Now let’s dive into false reporting.

AV-Test also conducts usability tests that show if any false reports show up. Results show that both software show some false reporting. But to be honest, for an everyday user, such a small number of false reports doesn’t impact the usability at all.

Industry average McAfee Avast
False warnings or blockages when visiting websites

500 samples used

False detections of legimate software as malware during a system scan

964 585 samples used

False warnings concerning certain actions carried out whilst installing and using legitimate software

87 samples used

False blockages of certain actions carried out whilst installing and using legitimate software

87 samples used

Source: av-test.org

As McAfee and Avast both have great user interfaces and show little to none false reporting, the result can be nothing else than a tie for this category.

Winner: It’s a tie

Features

Both McAfee and Avast have some great features. The main thing that sets these two apart is the way the features are made available. It means how many of these are included in entry-level products and for which you have to pay extra.

Let’s dig into the features of McAfee first.

McAfee’s antivirus is called McAfee Total Protection, and it works on Windows, macOS, Android, as well as on iOS. It is the company’s flagship product and also the most popular option available.

It offers three distinct options depending on how many devices you want to use it for.

There is a Single Device option that you get to use for only 1 device. With this option you’ll get its antivirus capabilities that let you protect your computer and personal information from hackers and criminals.

The Secure VPN is also available when you’re enrolled in auto-renewal to keep your personal information and online habits private with their bank-grade encryption. Performance Optimization features block auto-play videos on websites and minimize bandwidth usage while Home Network Security secures your firewall and blocks hackers from accessing your home network.

You’ll also get the Password Manager to store and manage all your online passwords in a single location and Safe Web Browsing lets you browse confidently knowing risky sites will be blocked. The Encrypted Storage keeps sensitive files private by storing them on your PC with 256-bit AES encryption.

All Total Protection options offer security experts online support to get technical assistance and peace of mind from their team and support knowledge-base.

When you go for the Individual & Couples option, you get to use the software on up to 5 devices. An extra layer of online protection is made available as well, called Identity Theft Protection.

The Family package adds support for up to 10 devices and the Safe Family feature so you can get peace of mind knowing your kids are protected online.

McAfee also offers another antivirus option called McAfee LiveSafe. This software is only available as one bundle and offers cross-device protection. You’ll get the same protection. The main difference is that thanks to the next-gen scanning engine that offers real-time malware protection, it provides all-around security for your identity and data across all your devices. The Secure Cloud Storage feature that safeguards your cloud-based folders, is also included.

Another product in McAfee’s lineup is McAfee Gamer Security that makes the gaming experience even better. It has a Game Boost Engine that squeezes more performance out of your rig and ensures games stay prioritized over background applications. You’ll also get to monitor your computer’s performance in real-time thanks to a dashboard like in your car. You’ll get immediate access to and control over how your rig is performing.

The company gives you access to separate products like McAfee Safe Connect VPN, McAfee Safe Family, McAfee WebAdvisor, and McAfee Identity Theft Protection as well. But if you go for the antivirus bundles, you’ll get these features anyways.

View all McAfee products

Now let’s take a look at what Avast has to offer.

When all McAfee products work on many different platforms, Avast offers some products only for Windows. But as these are mainly extras, we’ll cover them later.

Avast product line consists of three different categories – Security, Privacy, and Performance. From the security part, you can find two options.

Avast Free Security is the most basic antivirus bundle you can get.

It offers you Anti-Malware Security that blocks viruses, spyware, Trojans, and other malware, and scans your computer for already-hidden threats.

Web & Email Shields alert you of unsafe websites, blocks insecure downloads, stops dangerous email attachments, and prevent intrusive web tracking.

Wi-Fi Security Scan checks your entire network and all connected devices for vulnerabilities to help you stop hackers from stealing your personal data.

But for the everyday user, ongoing protection is much needed. For that, you have to opt for the Avast Premium Security option.

With the premium product, real-time Wi-Fi security alerts feature is added so you can instantly be alerted to network weaknesses and intruders.

Also, one of the essential features today is ransomware detection, as this is the fastest-growing segment in malware. Ransomware attacks in the US alone cost an estimated $7.5 billion in 2019. Avast Premium Security offers a Ransomware Shield to protect your files.

The premium product comes with two purchase options. The first lets you use only one PC, and the other is for up to 10 devices, but you can use it on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS platforms.

Avast also offers Avast SecureLine VPN for some extra. This product lets you keep everything you do online totally private thanks to the bank-grade encryption. You can browse, bank, message, and shop without having to worry about hackers or anyone else seeing what you do online or stealing your data.

Another extra is its Avast AntiTrack that helps you online. It lets you know when you’re being tracked, keeps your true identity private, stops targeted advertising, and erases your browsing history automatically. For some more money, you can find a Secure Browser in Avast lineup as well. Password protection is another add-on the company offers.

On the Performance segment, Avast offers three products. Avast Cleanup Premium lets you boost your computer’s speed and performance. The last two options are available for windows only. Avast Driver Updater keeps your drivers up to date with a single click, and Avast Battery Saver maximizes your laptop’s battery life.

For the best all-round protection you must opt for Avast Ultimate. This is Avast’s all-inclusive bundle where you get everything we have mentioned before.

View all Avast products

Though the list of extra features seems long for both McAfee and Avast, remember that unlike McAfee, Avast requires that you pay extra for all of them. And all the features are available in with McAfee as well.

All these reasons are why we have only one thing to say.

Winner: McAfee

Pricing

When buying really anything at all, you must keep in mind what you are investing in. With antivirus software, you are not purchasing an application but rather an ease-of-mind that your digital life is in safe hands.

So let’s look at the small fees that this ease of mind requires. Here are the prices of both McAfee and avast products.

  1. McAfee Antivirus logo

    McAfee Total Protection

    Premium antivirus, safe web browsing and password manager with VPN & ID theft protection.

    Starting at $34,99 from McAfee
  2. McAfee Antivirus logo

    McAfee LiveSafe

    Ultimate all-round protection for all your devices – PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets.

    Get for only $39,99 from McAfee
  3. McAfee Antivirus logo

    McAfee Gamer Security

    A faster, quieter, safer gaming experience with performance-enhancing technologies and renowned security.

    Get for only $19,99 from McAfee

In our opinion, two options to consider from Avast are its Premium Security and Ultimate bundle.

  1. Avast Antivirus Logo

    Avast Premium Security

    A complete online protection for all of your computers, phones, and tablets.

    Starting at $55,99 from Avast
  2. Avast Antivirus Logo

    Avast Ultimate

    Everything you need to keep all your computers, phones, and tablets secure, private, and running at their best.

    Starting at $79,99 from Avast

Based on the fact that you can get a lot more for one price with McAfee, we have to say that they give you a better deal.

Winner: McAfee

Final Thoughts

Considering all the aspects of this comparison review on McAfee and Avast, both of the software options presented are very good. They have proved to be pretty successful in protection from online threats and malware to having a low impact on the system.

Taking into account a bit better performance figures of McAfee and price options available for its customers, we have to say that McAfee is the winner of this head to head comparison.

We hope this review has been helpful for you. Keep in mind that we give our best to get you all the facts so you can make an informed decision for what is the best option for you.