Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

Summary: Over the years, when I’ve had to deal with McAfee products, I have been known to unleash torrents of invective that would make a pirate blush.Over the past month I tried the latest McAfee release. Here's why it's still on my Not Recommended list.

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TOPICS: Dell, Hardware
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Over the years, when I’ve had to deal with McAfee products, I have been known to unleash torrents of invective that would make a pirate blush.

But I also know from experience that companies and products can change, and it’s important that I take a fresh look every so often to ensure that my conclusions are based on current evidence.

So I've been using McAfee software for the past month or so. What do I think?

Here’s the tl;dr version: Yeah, McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list.

Here’s the long read.

Last month I took delivery of a new Dell PC. That machine—a Dell XPS 8300 with an Intel i5, 6GB of RAM, and a 1TB drive—is now serving as my backup Media Center box. Before the end of the year, Sinofsky willing, I expect it to be running Windows 8. It’s one of the quietest PCs I’ve ever owned, impressively fast, and at $440 from the Dell Outlet it was an unbeatable bargain.

That PC came with a trial version of McAfee Security Center installed. Rather than wipe and replace that security software, I elected to leave it running and have been using it for the past 27 days.

Earlier this month I also helped my Mom pick out a Dell laptop, which arrived at her house last week, also with a trial copy of McAfee installed. She lives 1000 miles away, but I promised her I would help her get things set up using Remote Assistance.

Two Dells. Two McAfee installations. Two splitting McAfee headaches in the past 24 hours. Two uninstalls. Here are the gory details:

The Case of the Overprotective Firewall

It should have been so easy to set up a Remote Assistance connection to my Mom’s new PC. She and I both have Windows Live Messenger installed. All she has to do is send an invitation from a chat window to get the remote-support ball rolling. I got her invitation just fine, clicked Accept, and then … nothing. On her end, Windows 7 helpfully suggested that a firewall might be causing the issue and offered to fix the problem automatically. Nope.

On a hunch, I showed Mom how to uncover the hidden tray icons on the Windows taskbar. Sure enough, a trial copy of McAfee Internet Security was running. I walked Mom through the uninstaller, and after a reboot we were able to make the Remote Assistance connection without any problems.

Once McAfee was out of the picture, it was all smooth sailing. I am very proud of the fact I did not use a single cuss word during that session.

The Case of the Dead Cable Tuner

My backup Media Center PC has three TV tuners: a pair of over-the-air ATSC tuners connected to a rooftop antenna for excellent high-definition broadcast coverage and an external ATI CableCard tuner connected to my Comcast account. That tuner has worked great since I first set it up four years and three PCs ago. But shortly after I moved it to this new PC it stopped recording. I tinkered with the connections, removed and reseated the CableCard, and power-cycled several times. Nothing.

So I reran Media Center setup, detecting all three tuners and configuring them from scratch. That worked, but it’s a brute-force solution that has some side effects (lost program guide settings) and should be necessary only in exceptional circumstances.

This morning, when I tried to switched to CNN, I was greeted with a familiar and very unwelcome message: “No tuner is available.”

And then I remembered the McAfee Security Center trial version installed on this PC. It’s due to expire in three days anyway, and in my testing I haven’t seen it do anything to justify a $40-a-year (discounted) price tag.

So instead of troubleshooting, I visited Control Panel and removed the McAfee software. After a reboot, I opened Media Center and had no trouble tuning in to every available channel. With McAfee out of the way, it was easy.

Both of these PCs were Dell consumer PCs, and in both cases what should have been a pleasant out-of-box experience was made needlessly difficult because of McAfee’s intrusive software. The Remote Assistance issue in particular is one that just should not have happened. This is not a new feature. A Windows security program should know how to deal with it right out of the box, not block it silently.

On the Inspiron 15R desktop, there was also a small mountain of shovelware, including a giant Dell Stage program that kept annoying us. I couldn’t get rid of it fast enough.

I generally like what Dell’s doing with hardware these days, but the plague of unnecessary software has got to go. In fact, it makes me really wish the Microsoft Store carried the laptop model she bought. (They carry some Dells, but not the 15-inch Inspiron.) The Microsoft Signature option, with “no trialware or sample software that can slow your PC” and Microsoft Security Essentials installed, would have been a real treat.

I have had little confidence in McAfee as a company since they released a defective virus update back in April 2010 that rendered target systems unable to start. And that was just the latest in a long line of screw-ups. See A pox on McAfee (2004), and the comments on this post (2007), and this post about McAfee’s sloppy response to the Conficker worm (2009). Based on this week’s personal experience, I continue to advise against using McAfee security software.

Topics: Dell, Hardware

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115 comments
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  • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

    I agree. No good can come out of running McAfee antivirus. It IS a virus.
    mattweihl
    • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

      @mattweihl
      No worry on my Linux box folks.
      Linux Geek
      • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

        @Linux Geek

        Do you know anyone who is not a geek and running Linux?
        cwallen19803@...
      • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

        I'm actually replying to cwallen. (I'm a Linux Geek even though that's not my handle.) Yes, I know someone who is not a geek and running Linux: my sister. I got tired of trying to fix her Windows box, so I gave her a Linux box. A *lot* fewer questions, and no malware I have to try to remove.
        pdf6161
      • No worry on my Mac either! :-)

        @Linux Geek
        I feel sorry for all the windows-slaves who either don't know any better or use that crap because they have to because of their jobs.<br><br>The title made me think: "Why Windows is still at the top of my Not Recommended list". It's Microsoft's fault you have to use AV at all. Any other OS (read: decent OS) can protect itself.
        Mikael_z
        • Wow

          I had to sign up here just to make this comment, if Macs were unable to get viruses, then why do they make anti-viruses? No knowledgeable hacker would waste money on a mac so they could learn how to hack it. Trust me though, in about 10 seconds I can completely wipe all data on your hard drive, or recreate the Admin Account, and delete yours. Anything can be done on any computer, as there are always loopholes. The same is true for linux however, as linux has anti-viruses, and firewalls, etc. Even though you say the OS can protect itself, you probably have something on there with it. Windows 8 has Windows Defender installed by default. Also, we use images of our hard drives that are restored every 12 hours to help ensure that no viruses can infect our machines. Good luck with your mac security issues.

          http://macviruscom.wordpress.com/
          jxrts
        • moron

          you're an idiot. Mac has twice the security flaws windows does according to security firm reports. It is actually easier to damage. It is only 10 % of the market microsoft is 80 %. They are a bigger target. If Mac ever became 80% of the market (and I hope to god they don't.) they would have the same issues. So would linux and I love IT. Apple is lazy when it comes to security. They release flash and java security patches a year or more after adobe and oracle have them ready.
          natefunk
      • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

        cwallen19803@...I had a non geek acquiantance who had Linux and she couldn't get me over to her place fast enough to remove it and install Windows!!
        bvonr@...
      • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

        @Mikael_z

        I feel sorry for the self-righteous Linux zealots who don?t have enough Windows expertise to configure an operating system image that is both stable and secure. It really isn?t that difficult for a knowledgeable IT professional.
        Run5k
      • LOL...

        @Linux Geek
        True... You don't have to worry about McAfee installed on your Linux box, but then, could Ed run all of the Media apps he mentioned on [i]"your linux box"[/i]? Doubt it. And, uh, I'm saying that as a SuSE fan, mind you.

        @Mikael_z
        Funny... you comment about Windows lack of security on Ed's blog and talk about no worry "on your Mac". Well, no, because McAfee for Windows won't install on your Mac. But you know what will? MacDefender. (however, [i]I[/i] don't have to worry about MacDefender on my Win7, SuSE, or Ubuntu machines)

        I feel sorry for all the idiots that bought into that "Macs can't get that kind of stuff" from a (LOL) [b]COMMERCIAL[/b]! What makes it funny is you opened that can of worms on Ed's blog who made such a big deal about MacDefender in the first place. Silly Rabbit.
        UrNotPayingAttention
      • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

        @Linux Geek - No worries on either of my Windows boxes, my Mac boxes *or* my Linux boxes. But then again, I'm smarter than your average Linux user.
        PollyProteus
    • My brother was running McAfee and got some malware on his PC

      @mattweihl

      He called their tech support to get help removing the malware and they told him they are not responsible for removing malware that their software can't detect. They are the biggest scam going. Why pay a monthly fee when there are so many good free antimalware packages out there?
      RationalGuy
      • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

        @RationalGuy

        Yeah, I recently got a Webroot subscription on top of my McAfee because Webroot was able to find and remove malware that I didn't even know I had (although I knew something was wrong because my computer would eat up all available - 12 GB - memory as well as all available cpu resources overnight simply while idling). And I'm someone who also routinely runs Spybot S&D, CCleaner, Malwarebytes, ioBit 360, AdAware, as well as now Microsoft Security Essentials. Now my computer is running fine again without having to reboot every day.

        And the worst part is because I'm running two security suites, McAfee keeps bugging me to upgrade my service (even though I'm pretty sure I have their Total Protection package - I wasn't aware I had to get anything else) because the program detects multiple firewalls/AV soft and suggests I might run into problems because they may conflict. Odd that all my other security software play nice with each other without bugging me every day to buy more security software I don't need. I'm thinking I'll just let my McAfee subscription expire, it hasn't seemed to have helped me much so far. :P
        Krantzstone
    • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

      @mattweihl

      I totally agree with this statement. Here's another real world case. I had McAfee on my pc as of Monday. I began to see pop-ups for ads and my PC was running slow. Initially my thought was it can't be a virus since i have McAfee realtime scanner enabled. So I decided to grab the all in one scanner tool from Microsoft Security essntials. After running a full scan it finds 43 infected files. I couldn't believe it. I immediately removed the items, uninstalled McAfee and installed MS Security Essentials. After a reboot I immediately noticed a difference in performance throughout the business day. My PC was fast again and it wasn't just the infected files that caused the problem. McAfee has a big foot print on system resources when compared to MSSE. I plan to run MSSE and recommend it to everyone from here on out.
      Rob.sharp
      • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

        @rob.sharp@...

        Although I prefer AVG, I agree that MS solution is much better than McAfee's.
        HappyXWindowsUser
      • Uh... That's not saying much...

        @HappyXWindowsUser
        Pretty much ANYTHING is better than McAfee... Even the much despised Norton line is better. Not too much better, but still a half a notch up from McAfee.

        Case in point. This past Saturday, I got called to a client's as his machine had been suffering from a couple of BSODs. I got there and it was again able to boot - however, it was running like molassass in January at the North Pole. So I go through the Add/Remove programs list - and noticed the guy had McAfee foistware installed. After getting rid of it, and a few other annoyances - Google toolbar, ASK toolbar, etc... - the machine was back up and running in a more or less acceptable state.

        Given that the machine only has 1 GB of RAM with shared video, and has a ton of stuff running (utilities for various printers and scanners, iTunes bits that run in the background, etc...) that ARE needed - in addition to the Symantec Corporate AV POS (it's useless), it could use a RAM upgrade.
        Wolfie2K3
    • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

      @mattweihl
      Add Norton and a few others to that list also. Basically anti-virus software companies that were available more than ten years ago is crap and should be avoided.

      There are better anti-virus softwares than Microsoft's Security Essentials but none of them are free like MSE which never even causes a computer to even hiccup. I'm running MSE on both my desktop and laptop without a hitch nor glitch and I never have to worry about renewing it. Awesome!
      shanedr
    • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

      @mattweihl

      I have NEVER had a good experience with McAfee.
      I'd rather use nothing at all and just be careful than use that crap.
      HappyXWindowsUser
      • RE: Why McAfee is still at the top of my Not Recommended list

        @HappyXWindowsUser
        "I have NEVER had a good experience with McAfee.
        I'd rather use nothing at all and just be careful than use that crap."

        I'd rather be set on fire than to use McAfee.
        M.R. Kennedy
      • I haven't had a good experience with McAfee since about 1993...

        @HappyXWindowsUser
        Wolfie2K3