If your PC is connected to the Web, it's automatically at risk of infection from all sorts of viruses, malware and spyware. To protect it, you'll need a seriously strong shield. Enter McAfee LiveSafe. A full-featured security suite meant for use across multiple PCs and mobile devices, LiveSafe does everything from providing information on programs that access the Web to performing virus scans and imposing parental controls.
And at $79.99 for a 1-year subscription for an unlimited number of devices, LiveSafe is a good deal, especially because it can protect your phone, too.
Setup and Interface
McAfee LiveSafe's installation and setup process is straightforward — and fast. Open the executable file, follow the setup steps, and the software will be up and running in less than 5 minutes. Bitdefender Total Security, on the other hand, took around 10 minutes to install.
As with Kaspersky's Internet Security 2014, McAfee doesn't require a system restart to begin working. (Symantec's Norton 360 is one of the few anti-virus suites that still requires a system restart to install.) We also like that the software performs a system scan as part of the installation process to ensure you're putting McAfee on a clean PC.
LiveSafe's interface makes navigating the software's various features as simple as possible. At the top of the home screen is a large notification banner that turns green when your computer is secure, and red when the system is at risk of infection. Below that are four boxes that link to the software's menus for Virus and Spyware Protection, Web and Email Protection, McAfee Updates and Your Subscription.
To the right of those options are three additional boxes for LiveSafe's Data Protection and Backup, PC and Home Network Tools and Parental Controls features. On the right edge of the interface are omnipresent links to McAfee's home screen, navigation panel and Help page. Below that is a box indicating when your next scheduled system scan will take place.
One of the best parts about LiveSafe is that McAfee provides users with definitions for each of the software's components. Don't know what a firewall does? Click the Learn More link at the bottom of the page to find out. Similar links are scattered throughout the page. The inclusion of such a thorough dictionary of terms and processes proves that McAfee wants its users to understand exactly what is happening with their PCs.
Features and Tools
LiveSafe's Virus and Software Protection tool offers users the ability to perform quick, full and custom system scans, as well as enable real-time scanning, or schedule a scan for a later time. You can also choose which folders and files the software scans for threats, when it scans removable media drives and how thoroughly it scans your PC. We appreciated the latter feature, as it lets you determine how much the scan will affect your PC's performance. Deeper scans traditionally slow your computer, while cursory scans don't.
The Web and Email Protection tool lets you adjust settings for LiveSafe's built-in Firewall, the Anti-Spam filter and the SiteAdvisor browser plugin. Firewall settings include options for tracking your Web traffic, checking your Internet connections and deciding when to allow unknown sources to connect to your PC.
The McAfee Updates Page lets you choose if the software should automatically update itself, while Your Subscription lets you easily renew your subscription to LiveSafe, edit your user profile and billing information, or download the software to another device.
Under the Data Protection and Backup tab, you can choose to permanently delete, or shred, files or folders in your PC's Recycle Bin, or you can do the same to temporary Internet files. You can also select the folder item you want to delete.
LiveSafe's PC and Home Network Tools provides a look at all of the devices connected to your home network and adjust security settings for those running McAfee LiveSafe as necessary. The QuickClean option lets you, er, quickly clean your PC's registry and temporary Internet files as well as old Active X programs.
To gauge how well McAfee LiveSafe will protect your PC, we turned to independent security research lab AV-TEST, which performs rigorous tests on all major pieces of anti-virus software. Though the company hasn't yet reviewed LiveSafe, it has tested McAfee's Internet Security, which uses the same protection engine.
In its most recent report, AV-TEST said McAfee picked up 98 percent of 110 zero-day email threats and malware attacks, compared to the industry average of 94 percent. That’s good, but not as good as the 100 percent registered by Kaspersky Internet Security, Bitdefender Total Security and Norton 360. Still, it's better than Avast! Premier’s 89 percent detection rate.
The software performed even better when searching for widespread and prevalent malware found in the last four weeks, recognizing 100 percent of the 19,604 samples used. The industry average recognized just 94 percent. Kaspersky Internet Security, Bitdefender Total Security and Note 360 also detected 100 percent of AV-TEST’s sample threats. Avast! Premier, however, found only 98 percent of the threats.
McAfee LiveSafe doesn't put as much emphasis on preventing system slowdown during full scans as competing solutions do. That's not to say the software doesn't do anything. In fact, LiveSafe specifically lets you choose how much its real-time scans affect your PC's performance. You can choose from a basic scan that is less effective but doesn't slow your computer, a deep scan that roots out most threats while cutting your PC's speed, or a balanced scan that operates somewhere in the middle.
You can also schedule a system scan and choose which files and folders it searches. If you want to scan your PC on a whim, you can also select a quick scan, full scan or custom scan. Quick and custom scans generally use fewer system resources, while a full scan will hog them all for itself.
To determine how much a full scan affects a computer's performance, we installed LiveSafe on an Acer E1-470P notebook with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. We then ran a series of benchmarks without a scan running, and then a second set with the scan running.
It initially took 8 minutes and 27 seconds to run our OpenOffice macro test, which tests a PC's CPU by matching 20,000 names to their respective addresses. That time increased to 13:16 with the full scan running. That's slower than the12:47 it took to run the test with a full scan in Kaspersky Internet Security.
It took the same laptop just 9:19 to complete the OpenOffice test while running a full scan in Avast! Premier. The system completed the test even faster with a full scan running in Bitdefender, wrapping things up in just 8:48.
We saw similar results while running our LAPTOP Transfer Test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed media files. Without the scan running, it took our test machine just 3:18 to complete the transfer. With the scan running, however, that time jumped to 3:46. When we ran a scheduled scan, however, the Acer completed the test in 3:07.
LiveSafe's Shredder feature makes it easy for you to quickly delete any and all trace of files you don't want on your PC. The feature lets you choose from your Recycle Bin, Temporary Internet Files or a specific folder. The process works by first deleting your files, then writing over them with random data so they can't be recovered.
There are four "shredding" options: Basic, Safe, Comprehensive and Complete. Basic deletes files and writes over them once, while Basic writes over them twice. The Safe setting overwrites them 5 times, and Comprehensive and Complete modes write over them 7 and 10 times, respectively.
Parents concerned about how much time their children spend on the Web — and what sites they visit — will be happy to know that LiveSafe offers a comprehensive parental-control menu. Locked behind a password, the Parental Controls function lets you to set up an age-specific profile.
After you select your child's age, the software automatically populates a list of Web content you might want your kids to avoid — adult sites, dating networks, chat services, games and more. (You can later adjust this list.) Parents can also block specific sites by entering URLs in the Parental Controls console. Meanwhile, the time-restrictions setting lets you set up schedules for when your kids can go online, and when they can't.
The one thing missing from the parental controls is an age filter for video games, like the one found in Kaspersky's Internet Security 2014. That software bases a game's appropriateness for children on its ESRB rating. McAfee instead filters all Web-based games.
LiveSafe users get access to not only a PC-based security suite, but a full version of the McAfee Mobile Security app, as well. Mobile security offers such features as Security Scan, Privacy, Web Security, Find Device and Backup, and restore and wipe your data. Privacy allows you to lock apps behind a password so guests can't access them without your permission, as well as scan apps to determine if they have access to your private data.
Web Security automatically informs you when you visit a website with malicious links while using your handset's default browser, as well as notifying you when you are connected to an unsafe Wi-Fi hotspot. Find Device lets you locate, lock or wipe your phone from the McAfee Web console if your phone goes missing. The software can also secretly capture a photo of whoever is using your phone if it's stolen.
McAfee LiveSafe offers users a host of impressive, easy-to-understand tools and a large dictionary that helps explain the software's various functions. The protection engine is top-notch, outpacing the competition in detecting recent malware, while its firewall function and privacy options are easy to use and comprehensive.
Those looking to make the most of their security suite will appreciate that the $79.99 price includes free protection on your Android device. We were a bit taken aback by how much the software's full scan slowed down our test notebook, however, and would have liked to see more parental-control options. Overall, though, LiveSafe is an exceptional security suite that is worth your investment.
Strong anti-virus protection
Full scan impacts system performance
Full mobile security app included
Limited privacy protection
Straightforward setup process
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