McAfee Safe Connect VPN Review
McAfee Safe Connect VPN is a U.S-based company, not ideal for privacy reasons. But can it redeem itself?
If you’ve heard of one company in the digital security field, there’s a very strong chance it’s McAfee. Based in the U.S and founded in 1987, McAfee is mostly known for its antivirus software, but when we found out that they had a VPN as well, we couldn’t help but test it out. Here’s what we thought.
Quick Pros and Cons
If you just want the quick facts, these are the things we liked and disliked the most about the McAfee Safe Connect VPN.
- Highly-rated iOS and Android apps: Although their names are somewhat confusing, actually connecting to McAfee on mobile is as easy as one tap.
- Free trial: We had a week to try out McAfee without paying, making it one of the VPNs with free trials.
- AES-256 encryption: Perhaps the most important thing, the McAfee Safe Connect VPN hid our web activity and IP addresses using the current industry standard for encryption, AES-256.
- Dynamic IP addresses: Since McAfee Safe Connect VPN changed our IP address every time we connected, we were truly browsing privately, effectively changing disguises to elude our Internet Service Provider (ISP).
- Based in the U.S: That means that the U.S government could legally force McAfee Safe Connect VPN to give over customer information under Five Eyes jurisdiction.
- Logs IP addresses and web activity: Not to be a Negative Nancy, but McAfee Safe Connect VPN has one of the worst data-logging policies we’ve ever seen.
- Kill switch on Windows only: If McAfee Safe Connect VPN disconnected on our iOS or Android phones, our ISP would have been able to clearly see what we were doing online.
- Split tunneling on Android only: This wasn’t a huge deal, but if you want split tunneling on Windows or iOS, McAfee isn’t your best bet.
Privacy is a huge reason why people want VPNs, to keep what they do online to their eyes only. Unfortunately, privacy is an area where the McAfee Safe Connect VPN is undeniably shaky. Here’s why.
Headquarters in the U.S
Quick history lesson. The U.S is a member of Five Eyes, an international alliance of countries that can legally force companies to give their governments customers’ data. This applies to any company headquartered in the U.S, which includes McAfee.1 Now, this wouldn’t be a huge problem if they barely kept any of our data but, as you’ll read below, this is far from the case.
We prefer VPNs that only log the most essential information needed to uphold our accounts only, typically things like our names, email addresses, and payment information. However, McAfee logs all that and more, including:
- Mailing address
- Phone number
- Timestamps of connections
- IP addresses of devices
- Browser type
- Geo-location information
- The pages you visit before and after using the VPN
- The URLs and domain names of the websites you visit while on the VPN
- Information from third parties
It’s no exaggeration to say that this VPN has more red flags than a NASA race. If privacy is your main reason for using a VPN, steer very clear of McAfee Safe Connect VPN. However, if you want it for something like streaming or bypassing government restrictions, this may not matter as much.
Privacy aside, McAfee Safe Connect VPN takes a decent amount of effort to encrypt our data and hide it from our ISP, at the very least. So although they keep a ton of our data (and could potentially share it with the U.S government), at the very least their encryption methods are sound.
McAfee Safe Connect VPN encrypts our device IP address and web activity using AES-256,2 which is what we’ve come to expect from top digital security products. There’s no doubt that if you’re connected to the McAfee Safe Connect VPN, then your ISP will have no idea what you’re doing on the web.
A kill switch is a failsafe that shuts down all web browsers in case a VPN fails, and while the Windows McAfee Safe Connect VPN has one, the iOS and Android apps do not. This definitely makes the McAfee Safe Connect VPN a better VPN for Windows users rather than iOS or Android users.
Taking encryption to the next level, VPNs with multi-hop technology encrypt our activity more than once through multiple servers, but McAfee Safe Connect VPN is not one of them.
Dynamic IP Addresses
On a more positive note, we loved the fact that every time we connected to McAfee Safe Connect VPN, our device’s private IP address was replaced with a totally new and unique one. For a hacker trying to trace our online activity, essentially changing our disguises frequently made that an impossibility, or near.
Sure, McAfee claims that with their VPN turned on, our ISP can’t see our domain names, the names of the websites we visit. But we decided to test that out for sure using a website called, plainly, DNSLeakTest.com. The verdict? No leaks, making McAfee Safe Connect VPN pass the bare minimum that we expect from these Virtual Private Networks.
Lastly, we also want to make sure that our private IP address isn’t being leaked as well. We found that out by testing for WebRTC leaks, a technology that lets browsers save bandwidth by communicating directly with each other, which requires knowing the other’s private IP address. WebRTC is the default on browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, FYI (we happen to be huge Chrome-users and aficionados). Using a tool from the ExpressVPN website, we found no WebRTC leaks with McAfee Safe Connect VPN connected. Woohoo!
FYI: WebRTC is the default on Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, so if you transfer files, video chat or stream using any of these browsers, your private IP address could be leaked. Learn how to change your IP address.
Privacy and security aside, there are a few extra features we like to see in VPNs, but they’re not dealbreakers by any means.
When we tested out the McAfee Safe Connect VPN on Android, we could route some of our traffic directly to the public Wi-Fi network to save on bandwidth, a process called split tunneling. However, this feature wasn’t available for Windows or iOS-users, unfortunately (and by the way, there’s no macOS app for the McAfee Safe Connect VPN).
Depending on what server we connected to, we were able to watch Netflix with McAfee Safe Connect VPN sometimes. The truth is that Netflix hates VPNs, as they can get past their country-by-country licensing agreements, so one day an IP address can work, and the next day it won’t. However, if streaming Netflix on a VPN is your biggest goal, we recommend one of the best VPNs for Netflix as the most surefire option.
Torrenting, on the other hand, worked with the McAfee Safe Connect VPN much more consistently in our testing. While its privacy issues preclude it from being one of the best VPNs for torrenting, if those aren’t a concern for you, then McAfee Safe Connect VPN can definitely get the job done when it comes to torrenting.
McAfee’s pricing is pretty straightforward, as long as you’re looking at the VPN only (it’s also available in a ton of other packages, which you can read about on our McAfee VPN pricing page). After a free, one-week trial, we chose from either a monthly or yearly plan. Once we put down a card, we could use the VPN on five devices instead of one device, and there was no limit on our data usage, whereas the free version capped our daily data at 250 GB. We went with the monthly plan for $7.99, but if we had signed up for a year, we could’ve said a ton. The annual plan starts at $34.99 for the first year, or $2.92 a month, and even though the price increases the second year, it’s still cheaper than the monthly option at $47.99 or $4 a month. In terms of pricing, McAfee Safe Connect VPN is exactly average.
VPNs are notorious for slowing down devices, which is not okay with us when we’re in the middle of a Hallmark movie. While there wasn’t a macOS app to test out (which is pretty odd to begin with), we tested out McAfee Safe Connect VPN’s speeds on our iPhone and Windows computer.
iPhone 11 Pro Max
Testing out McAfee Safe Connect VPN on our iPhone, we only saw our upload speed increase by 16 percent and our download speed increase by 23 percent. That would be great, except for the fact that we had 660 percent more latency. Yikes!
Windows 10 Aspire 5
Strangely, we also had a ton of latency on our Windows 10 Aspire 5, 600 percent more, if you can believe it. But when it came to download and upload speed differences, we only had increases of nine and twelve percent, respectively.
In sum? If you’re a gamer and latency is your enemy, stay far away from the McAfee Safe Connect VPN (but also, we recommend doing your own speed tests in the free trial period).
Although they’re based in the U.S, the McAfee Safe Connect VPN has 2,000 servers in 23 countries. Sure, it’s not the largest VPN network we’ve ever seen, but if you want to connect to a server in any of the following countries, you’re in luck:
- New Zealand
Note: The McAfee Safe Connect VPN no longer has servers in Hong Kong.
Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about McAfee Safe Connect VPN’s mobile applications.
Called the Safe VPN Connect— VPN Proxy, the iOS app has a four-star rating, and we found it really easy to navigate.
Also user-friendly, the Android Safe Connect VPN: Proxy Wi-Fi Hotspot, Secure VPN, is a great choice for Android-users (despite its long name).
While McAfee Safe Connect VPN lacks a macOS app, iPhone and Android-users should have no issues getting it up and running on their phones and tablets.
Clearly, the McAfee Safe Connect VPN is not without its issues, so it’s not for everyone. However, some people may be looking for different things from their VPN, so we broke down who we think it would be good for below.
Get McAfee Safe Connect VPN if you want:
- Easy to use apps for iOS, Android, and Windows
- Torrenting access
- Free week-long trial
- Dynamic IP addresses
But avoid McAfee Safe Connect VPN if you want:
- App for macOS
- No logging of IP addresses and web activity
- Non Five Eyes-member
- Low latency on iOS and Windows