A name like "Total Protection" should inspire confidence -- it's the main hook for a number of toothpaste manufacturers, not to mention condom companies. McAfee's Total Protection suite essentially bundles all of the company's consumer PC offerings into one big box -- or one file download -- with options for either single or three PC install bundles.
Like most Internet security suites, installation of McAfee Total Protection is a somewhat drawn-out process. We tested the boxed version of the product -- and by boxed, we're talking the typical large cardboard box with a paper-cased CD inside and not much else -- and on our test system it took around 30 minutes to get all of the aspects of Total Protection up and running. One useful factor here is that Total Security performs a simple virus scan prior to installing any components at all. Naturally, that won't pick any new viruses since the disc was pressed (although there's presumably scope for the download version to incorporate this), but it's good to know that your system is at least partially clean before you give any security suite access to the inner workings of your PC.
Total Security isn't a program that plays well with other children -- our test system had a copy of LavaSoft Ad-Aware SE running on it, and the installer gave us the option of either removing it (which we did) or skipping the entire McAfee Anti-Virus install completely. That seems a little harsh to us, although it does point to how closely the spyware and antivirus components are integrated within the Total Protection package. One nice factor that's changed from McAfee products of recent years is that Internet Explorer is no longer a vital web component for upgrades; previous tested editions have tended to have problems with Firefox, but Total Protection updated with no problems for us.
McAfee boasts that Total Protection features 10-in-1 protection -- in order, AntiVirus, AntiHacker, AntiSpyware, PC Performance Increase, File Backups, Online Identity Protection, Spam Filtering, Online Content Filtering, Home Network Monitoring and Wireless Network protection. If you're a user of older McAfee products, it's essentially a mix of the company's AntiVirus, AntiSpyware, Wireless Security and Personal Firewall products, or if you're a newer McAfee user, it's basically Internet Security Suite 2007 with Wireless Protection bolted onto the side.
In a similar fashion to suites of the type from Norton or Kaspersky, all of these are handled from a central security console -- the McAfee SecurityCenter -- which is also where updates are performed. Depending on your needs you may need to spend a lot of time in the SecurityCenter, as it's also where you tweak settings for the additional components of Total Protection, such as content filtering and wireless security.
Total Security incorporates the same protection engine found in McAfee VirusScan Plus 2007. Testing in our US Labs showed it to be something of a resource hog on newer systems -- you can view our comparative analysis of AntiVirus performance test scores here -- so we took a different tack with Total Protection, installing it on an older system in order to assess how much of an impact it would have on overall system performance. Any AntiVirus package is likely to affect system performance, but as PC power has progressed in recent years there's arguably been more headroom for such applications, and we were interested to see how an older system with less room to move would fare.
Our test system was a Toshiba laptop with a 2.0GHz Pentium 4 processor and 256MB of memory, running Windows XP Service Pack 2. For reference purposes, McAfee lists the minimum specification for Total Security 2007 as Windows 2000/XP, a 500MHz processor, 256MB of memory and 175MB of hard disk space. As noted, the install procedure, which involves downloading updates from McAfee's Web site, took around 30 minutes and a reboot, after which the system slowly creaked to life; by far the biggest impact that the suite had on our test machine was in booting time, which took upwards of five minutes to come to life. This was closely followed by updates. By default, Total Security will update itself once a day, which is sensible security, but when updating we noticed a definite hit in system performance irrespective of which applications we were running at the time.
McAfee sells Total Security 2007 as either a single-user ($129.95) or three-PC ($159.95) install pack with a one year subscription. It's worth keeping in mind that the networking and wireless functionality of the Total Security package requires installation on every PC in the network, which could necessitate purchase of the multi-licence pack. You'll also need a compatible router -- McAfee's list of tested models can be found here. The one year subscription is also a relevant point of concern, if only because the suite isn't Vista-compatible as yet, and it's unclear whether an upgrade path will include any kind of shift towards Vista.