7 all-in-one security suites: Anti-malware for all your devices

We examine how the major security suites compare in terms of features, ease of use and which devices they actually protect.

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McAfee LiveSafe 2014

McAfee

Price: $79.99/yr.

Number of devices: Unlimited

McAfee offers a solid set of tools for protecting your Windows, OS X and Android devices, although it offers only minimal iOS protection. If you have a lot of gear to protect, you'll welcome the fact that it lets you protect an unlimited number of devices for one price.

Windows

McAfee offers all the protection you need for your Windows system and does it so easily that, once you install the program, you really never need open it. However, if you want to do things such as schedule scans, turn the firewall on or off, or use additional tools such as a file shredder, its primary interface is simple and straightforward to use.

McAfee
McAfee LiveSafe 2014 (Windows version)

One of the more unusual tools is its Traffic Monitor feature, which analyzes traffic between your PC and the Internet. The overall analysis shows your incoming and outgoing traffic levels over time, as well as current traffic and the current bandwidth use. You can also see all the currently active programs on your PC.

More useful is the Traffic Use view; it shows you which programs used the most bandwidth over the past 24 hours. It's not an easy tool to find, though, because it's not available from the main menu. Instead, you'll have to click the small Navigation button on the upper right corner of the main screen, then scroll down to the Traffic Monitor link and click it.

The tune-up tools are somewhat basic compared to Norton, consisting of a QuickClean feature that, as the name implies, deletes unnecessary files. There's also a defragmenter and a file shredder, but not much beyond that.

There is also a Windows 8 app called McAfee Central that is supposed to work in concert with McAfee LiveSafe. I tried it two times with separate LiveSafe installations.

The first time I found it confusing to use, because when I'd click it to perform a task, such as to customize my firewall, I was often switched over to the desktop app to actually do the work. The second time I installed it, the app incorrectly reported that I didn't have the McAfee desktop app installed, even though I did.

OS X

The Mac security software offers the usual anti-malware, firewall and protection against malicious Web sites. But as with other software in this roundup, you don't get the full range of tools offered for Windows PCs, such as the Traffic Monitor feature or the tune-up tools.

That being said, it does offer parental controls via its Family Protection module. That offers more than the usual protection, because it also can filter TV shows watched on the Mac, as well as YouTube and iTunes filtering.

The interface is simple and compact, with the main panel on the right reporting on the security state of your Mac, and a smaller navigational panel on the left letting you use its features, such as performing or customizing scans, looking at the application's logs and seeing any software it has quarantined.

iOS

LiveSafe doesn't offer true iOS protection -- there's no malware scanning or protection. Instead, there are two separate apps (both available for free even if you don't buy the entire multi-device LifeSafe package): A password manager called McAfee SafeKey and a privacy vault that protects files on your phone, including photos and videos, backs up your contacts and lets you locate your phone if it gets lost.

The interfaces for both are simple and straightforward, although the file protection can be awkward to use. Rather than browsing through your files and folders, and marking those you want to protect, you have to manually add them to the McAfee vault, and then delete them from their original locations. Even worse is that new videos and photos aren't automatically added to your vault if you use the iPhone's camera app or another camera app. Instead, you need to first go to the vault, and then take a photo or video from there.

Android

McAfee's Android app offers comprehensive protection. In addition to guarding against malware, it locates, locks and wipes lost or stolen devices; checks apps to see whether they invade your privacy; and lets you block unwanted phone calls and text messages.

McAfee
McAfee (Android version)

It's straightforward and simple to use. The left-hand side of the screen provides navigation for the actions you can take (such as find a device or do a security scan) and the right-hand side lets you perform the actions and shows you their results.

Noteworthy is the privacy scanner, which checks apps for potential privacy invasions. Other Android apps do that, but where McAfee stands out is providing two other privacy control features: locking apps so that only certain people can use them and creating profiles to hide or display apps, depending on the person using the device.

Dashboard

McAfee has a reasonably useful Web-based dashboard that offers more than the basics of just installing software. You'll see the current status of the protection of each of your devices -- whether protection is up to date, when the security software on it was last updated, when the last scan was done and when the next one will be done.

You can also install software on your current device or send a link to another device that, when clicked on, will go to a download link. It's not nearly as comprehensive as Webroot, but it's better than most reviewed here.

Bottom Line

If you've got an iOS device you want protected, McAfee isn't for you, because it won't protect the operating system in any realistic way. Its Windows component doesn't offer all the bells and whistles as Norton's, although parents will be pleased by its ability to filter out questionable content on TV, YouTube and iTunes.

If you have many Windows, OS X, and Android devices, though, this suite may well be your best bet, because for the price of one, it protects an unlimited number of devices -- as many as you want.

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