McAfee Safe Connect is a basic VPN geared towards beginners who just want a simple connect-and-forget solution for hiding their IP address. Local speeds are more than quick enough for streaming on multiple devices at once, but fans of Netflix and BBC iPlayer will be disappointed to read that access to both services is currently blocked. User-friendly custom apps are available for Microsoft Windows, iOS and Android, but there are no manual workarounds to set up the VPN on any other devices, including routers.
McAfee Safe Connect isn’t transparent enough about the level of encryption used or what data it collects, which doesn’t make it a great choice for those seeking high levels of privacy. There are no advanced security features, we found the apps to be leaking DNS requests, and the company is incorporated in the privacy-unfriendly US. Customer support leaves much to be desired, with untrustworthy live chat agents, no email support and very few online resources.
Pricing & Deals
Like most providers, McAfee Safe Connect offers a couple of different price plans that include all the same features, but the longer the subscription, the lower the monthly cost.
For a single month, you pay $7.99, which is very reasonable considering many providers cost upwards of $10 per month. You can slash the monthly cost in half by committing to the 12-month plan, meaning you’ll pay just $3.99, which is one of the cheapest plans on the current market.
McAfee Safe Connect Coupon
McAfee Safe Connect
Get 50% off McAfee Safe Connect's 12-month plan
McAfee Safe Connect Pricing & Deals
McAfee offers a seven-day free trial, but unfortunately this comes with a fair few limitations. You can only connect to one server on a single device and you’re subject to a very stingy 250MB data cap, meaning you won’t be able to do much more than run a few speed tests. What’s worse is that you have to input your payment details meaning that if you forget to cancel before the seven days are up, you’ll automatically be upgraded to the $7.99 monthly plan.
McAfee also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee ‘if you are not satisfied with your product for any reason’. However, this only applies to the annual plan, so if you have opted for the monthly subscription, you’re not eligible for a refund. If you are on the 12-month plan, all you need to do is contact customer support and they will process the refund within 5-7 working days, making it a fairly risk-free process.
Payment & Refund Options
McAfee Safe Connect accepts a standard range of payment methods including all major credit/debit cards and PayPal. We were pleased to see an option to pay with UnionPay, but unfortunately no other international methods are accepted and unlike many other providers, you can’t currently pay using cryptocurrencies.
Speed & Reliability
McAfee Safe Connect offers quick speeds on local connections that are more than fast enough for general browsing and streaming on a few devices at once. However, connecting to the US is disappointingly slow and high latencies may put off avid gamers.
McAfee Safe Connect offers download speeds of up to 71Mbps on local connections, which should be more than quick enough for most. Disappointingly, speeds struggled to reach a measly 3Mbps connecting to the Western US (we test from the UK), which is barely even enough for general browsing, let alone anything else. Unsurprisingly, speeds were even slower on more distant connections, so those looking to connect internationally should steer clear.
McAfee Safe Connect takes anywhere between 10 and 30 seconds to connect, and we also experienced a few connection drops during our tests. While this can be frustrating, the real issue lies in the lack of a kill switch feature, which would usually block your web traffic in the case of a dropped VPN connection. This means that your IP address could potentially be exposed if this happens, jeopardizing your online privacy.
We experienced relatively high latencies throughout the server network, and even on same-country connections the lowest we recorded was a fairly laggy 14ms. Considering there are providers out there boasting ping times of less than 1ms, keen gamers may want to look elsewhere. That said, it’s an issue unlikely to affect the majority of users.
Surprisingly, uploads were better than downloads, averaging 90Mbps across most European servers. While these speeds are great for torrenting, the lack of clarity surrounding McAfee Safe Connect’s logging policy and minimal security features prevent us from recommending McAfee Safe Connect for this use.
Overall, McAfee Safe Connect is a pretty fast VPN if you’re mainly going to be connecting to nearby servers. The fast local download speeds will allow you to stream in HD on a few devices at once, but if you’re after lightning-fast performance or want to connect to distant servers on a regular basis, there are definitely better options out there.
To find out about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
McAfee Safe Connect has one of the smallest server networks we’ve come across at just 18 countries in total. This should be enough for the majority of users as the most popular locations are covered, but if you need greater choice there are some providers out there offering up to 190 countries.
Customer support weren’t willing to reveal the number of individual servers or IP addresses that McAfee Safe Connect maintains, which leads us to believe that there aren’t many. While sharing an IP address with many other users makes it much harder to personally identify you, it’s more likely that you’ll experience server congestion and decreased performance during peak times.
Unfortunately, McAfee Safe Connect doesn’t allow you to drill down to city level in any country, which is something many top-tier providers offer. As is the case with most providers, the majority of servers are located in Europe and North America, however US users may miss being able to connect to the server closest to them for the best performance.
If you’ll mainly be connecting from the Asia-Pacific region, there are a few server locations to choose from including Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, and Singapore. However, South and Central America is covered by Brazil alone and there is no coverage whatsoever in Africa.
You can find the complete list of McAfee Safe Connect server locations by country and city on their website below.
Platforms & Devices
McAfee Safe Connect offers a very limited range of custom apps compared to top-tier providers. These are available for Microsoft Windows, iOS, and Android only and, unfortunately, there are no setup guides or manual workarounds for other devices. It’s not possible to install McAfee Safe Connect at router level, which means that you can’t protect any devices outside of the three listed above.
McAfee Safe Connect doesn’t offer any browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Safari. While this won’t affect most, heavy browser users looking for a more lightweight experience should look into other providers – many offer at least a proxy extension, with ExpressVPN boasting a range of full-featured VPN extensions.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
You can use McAfee Safe Connect on up to five devices at the same time, but you’ll struggle to install it on any devices outside of the three platforms that have custom apps. A lack of setup guides and the fact that it can’t be installed at router level means that you won’t be able to protect any games consoles or streaming devices, such as Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation, or Amazon Fire TV. Many other providers, including Windscribe, boast compatibility with a much wider range of devices should you need it.
Streaming & Torrenting
We wouldn’t recommend McAfee Safe Connect for streaming fans or torrenters, especially considering that the FAQs openly state that ‘some apps like Netflix, Hulu and Torrent don’t work over secure VPN connections like McAfee Safe Connect’ and advise to disconnect when you want to use those services.
Unfortunately, our tests confirmed that access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer is indeed blocked, which is a problem that many providers are currenting facing due recent crackdowns on VPN providers. Nevertheless, there are a few providers that continually offer reliable solutions for streaming.
Due to the lack of clarity about McAfee Safe Connect’s logging policy and its limited security features, P2P users should consider other providers.
Encryption & Security
McAfee Safe Connect offers a very basic level of security, so it’s definitely not the best option for those seeking high levels of privacy. It doesn’t openly publish any information about the encryption or security features used in the app and upon asking customer support we were told that ‘protocol is something that [it] cannot disclose to the customer’. A different agent then informed us that McAfee Safe Connect uses our preferred protocol, OpenVPN, and that encryption is via AES-128, however we’re not totally convinced by this.
The same agent also told us that McAfee Safe Connect maintains first-party DNS servers, which in theory means that your traffic won’t be routed through any third-party servers. However, our hopes we quickly quashed when we discovered it to be leaking DNS requests to our ISP.
Another disappointing aspect is the lack of VPN kill switch, which blocks all web traffic in the case of a VPN connection drop – without this feature, your true IP address is at risk of being exposed.
If you’re looking for high levels of privacy or loads of advanced features, we’d recommend looking into other provides that offer a much wider range of security extras coupled with privacy-friendly logging policies, such as PrivateVPN.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
- First-party DNS
Due to China’s recent crackdown on VPN providers, it has become difficult to recommend McAfee Safe Connect for use in the country. Support were quick to tell us that McAfee Safe Connect works well in all countries, but when we asked further questions about the obfuscation tools used to get past the Great Firewall, they went back on their words and confirmed that the service doesn’t actually work in China. If you mainly need to connect out from China, look for providers that offer a ‘stealth’ protocol as this will hide the fact you’re using a VPN. You can also look at our most recent recommendations here.
Due to a lack of obfuscation tools, it’s not guaranteed that McAfee Safe Connect will work well for users in other high-censorship countries, such as Iran and United Arab Emirates. Even despite this, the small server network would make connecting to a nearby free-speed country difficult for most, meaning that performance would take a hit.
When we reached out to customer support asking for more details about its logging policy they said that they aren’t ‘authorized to provide [this] information’. It’s hard to determine what and how much information McAfee Safe Connect collects and how long this is stored for, but a lack of transparency doesn’t reassure us that customer privacy is their top priority.
McAfee Safe Connect is based in the US, one of the most privacy-unfriendly jurisdictions in the world, with compulsory data retention and intrusive surveillance laws.
Ease of Use
McAfee Safe Connect offers user-friendly apps that are definitely geared more towards VPN newbies than experienced users. The main screen is minimal, including a connect button and server list, however we don’t like that the countries are listed in no particular order with no search feature. We also found the connect button to be unresponsive at times and on one occasion we had no option but to reinstall the software to fix the issue. The main screen displays some useful information, such as connection time, data transfer and your WiFi/network connection, however we would like to see our new IP address and chosen protocol here too.
You can find the settings menu behind the burger icon (three horizontal lines) in the top left, but the options are far too limited for our liking. You can choose your language preference and whether or not the app should run on startup, but that’s pretty much it. More experienced users may miss being able to fiddle with loads of configurable options.
The smartphone apps are much the same as the desktop: sleek, but incredibly simplistic. Overall, McAfee Safe Connect is a great choice for those looking to connect and forget, but if you want a bunch of configurable options, you may want to look elsewhere.
Installing McAfee Safe Connect onto one of the three compatible devices is pretty simple, even for complete VPN newbies, and takes a matter of minutes from start to finish. McAfee provides a very basic setup guide for Windows computers, but none for Android or iOS, which shouldn’t be too much of an issue considering all you need to do is download the app from the relevant app store.
The installation process for Windows comprises of downloading the software from the McAfee Safe Connect homepage and following a short series of prompts. Our only gripe is that you can only create an account once you’ve installed the app, so after downloading the app you have the option of signing up for the seven-day trial or the premium plan. Once you’ve created an account and chosen a plan all that’s left to do is sign in and connect to your chosen server.
McAfee Safe Connect offers a very basic level of customer support compared to rival VPN providers. While live chat support is advertised as being available 24/7, we occasionally had to wait over 30 minutes to be connected with a ‘technician’, who often copied and pasted answers from marketing material, making it seem more like a sales pitch than technical advice. On other occasions agents told us information that conflicted with what was on the website or they would go back on their words when we asked more detailed questions, leaving us unable to trust any of the information provided on live chat. There is also no email support, which we missed for more complicated issues.
Unfortunately, the online resources don’t go any way to make up for this and are limited to a few incredibly basic FAQs. There are no detailed setup guides for any devices and we were disappointed about the lack of information surrounding the app’s protocol, encryption and security features. All in all, the customer support is not up to scratch and needs significant improvement to compete with the many providers that already offer helpful 24/7 live chat and comprehensive online resources.
The Bottom Line
- Peak download speeds of 71Mbps
- Easy setup for Windows, Android & iOS
- Allows up to five simultaneous connections
- Connect securely to 18 countries
- Very limited server network
- Can’t be used on many popular devices
- No security extras and unclear logging policy
- Incorporated in privacy-unfriendly USA
- Poor level of customer service