McAfee Safe Connect Review (2023)

TechRadar verdict

Safe Connect is an inferior version of TunnelBear with fewer features, no Mac app, and some troubling privacy risks. It may work as a basic add-on for existing McAfee users, but most people prefer to buy TunnelBear right away if you like its simplicity.


  • +

    Beginner friendly

  • +

    TunnelBear technology underneath

  • +

    Cheaper than most

  • +

    Very limited free plan


  • -

    Briefly about functions

  • -

    Speeds are average at best

  • -

    Does not unblock Netflix, iPlayer or many others

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    No kill switch with Windows app

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(Video) McAfee Safe Connect VPN Review - Which Tier is It?

McAfee Safe Connect(opens in new tab)it's a simpleVPNwhich aims to provide secure internet access to even the greenest of net novices.

Of course, McAfee is better known for its antivirus and security software than VPNs, but luckily the company bought industry giant TunnelBear in 2018, and Safe Connect uses the underlying TunnelBear technology.

  • Interested in trying McAfee Safe Connect?Check the website here(opens in new tab)

The Safe Connect network is small, with only 23 country selections and no city-level selections. However, the network is well distributed, with servers in the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and many other locations in Europe.

McAfee Safe Connect Review (1)

There are apps for Windows, iOS, and Android (but not Mac), and you can connect up to five devices at once.

The feature list is so short that we've already skimmed it. For example, there's no split tunneling, no anti-phishing, no DNS control, no kill switch, no router support and no browser extensions, and you can use any protocol you want as long as it's OpenVPN.

McAfee Safe Connect Review (2)

plans and prices

Prices are at least relatively low$8 per month(opens in new tab)billed monthly, dropping to $2.92 per monthannual planning(opens in new tab)for the first year $4 on renewal.

That's a decent amount — many companies charge upwards of $10 for the monthly bill, $5 to $6 for the annual plan — but if you're willing to sign up for a longer subscription, you can save some money. Safe Connect costs $35 upfront for the first year, for example. B. $48 on renovation; Surfshark's two-year plan is just $48, or $1.99 per month.

Sign up and McAfee will receive your payment details (card or PayPal) but won't charge you for the first 7 days, giving you a one week trial. Cancel before the trial expires and you won't be charged.

There's more protection with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Unsurprisingly, this only applies to annual subscriptions, but we didn't find any other notable exclusions or catches in the fine print.

Safe Connect also has a free plan, but with a data transfer limited to 250MB per month - yes, a month - it's only suitable for the least frequent users.

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McAfee Safe Connect Review (3)

privacy and registration

Concerned about privacy and logging issues? You won't find a lot of information on the McAfee Safe Connect website, which isn't a huge surprise. The consumer public is probably not interested in detailed discussions of ciphers, authentication, and session logging.

General von McAfeePrivacy Policy(opens in new tab)has many details about the data it may collect across all of its services: “internet protocol (IP) address, cookie identifiers, wireless service provider, Bluetooth device IDs, mobile device ID, mobile advertising identifiers, MAC address… geographic location information, type of hardware, operating system, Internet service provider, pages visited before and after using the Services, date and time of visit, time spent on each page, information about the links where you clicks and pages you browse the Services and other actions taken through your use of the Services, such as B. Settings.'

However, there is no information on what the company can collect through Safe Connect alone.

Looking at TunnelBear gives us a better idea of ​​how the service handles user data, and that's much more reassuring. Not only is TunnelBear's own privacy policy one of the clearest and most detailed, but they now undergo an annual security and privacy audit that covers their apps, backend systems, and website. (See ourTunnelBear reviewfor more.)

Of course, this does not prove that Safe Connect is secure. For example, although McAfee uses the TunnelBear service, underlying APIs and software libraries, their applications are different and not fully covered by the TunnelBear exam. We would like McAfee to start clarifying this and a good first step would be to create a clear privacy policy for Safe Connect explaining exactly what data is being collected.

McAfee doesn't provide many technical details about its connections, but we analyzed the Windows client and found that it uses OpenVPN to connect with strong AES-256-GCM encryption and TLS 1.2 on the control channel, using the ECDHE cipher -RSA-CHACHA20- POLY1305 (This is key exchange authentication with Diffie-Hellman and Perfect Forward Secrecy using an RSA key with a key size of 4096 bits). Or if you prefer non-technical translation: that will do just fine too.

Safe Connect's real privacy problem is its lack of features. For example, without a kill switch, you lose your encryption if your VPN connection drops and your real IP is exposed to the world. This might not matter as much if you're just watching Netflix, but if you're looking for real anonymity, it could be bad news.

McAfee Safe Connect Review (4)


The McAfee Safe Connect app for Windows is compact and extremely simple. A splash screen displays your favorite country and a world map; Tapping a Start Protection button connects and displays a pulse point at your virtual location. If you tap on the country name, you can select a new location from the list.

The settings panel lets you decide when the VPN will connect. It can start automatically when you connect to Wi-Fi and regular wired networks (with the option to set trusted networks you don't need a VPN for), or you can disable automation and just connect manually.

McAfee Safe Connect Review (5)

There is no way to optimize your connection. TunnelBear's apps themselves are very basic, but still include the GhostBear option to try to get you online in VPN-hostile countries like China, and a TCP option to improve connection reliability. Safe Connect doesn't either.

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The only other major feature we noticed was a help window that allowed us to navigate through some basic Safe Connect FAQs within the client interface. It's a sensible idea, but there's very little content and you'll probably visit the Safe Connect support site anyway.

McAfee Safe Connect Review (6)

Examined interface, we proceed to look under the hood. Safe Connect doesn't claim to have a kill switch, so what happens if the connection is lost, we wonder?

Unfortunately, the answer may be nothing. We tried forcibly closing important OpenVPN TCP connections and killing the OpenVPN.exe process, and although the VPN crashed and left us unprotected, the Safe Connect UI still showed the green padlock and "Protection and Privacy" status. : A". In a real situation, we could have surfed for hours without protection.

The mobile apps worked similarly to the desktop edition, although the Android app went a little further with a split-tunnel feature. This lets you choose which apps use the VPN and which don't, which can be useful to avoid conflicts and potentially improve performance. (Android VPNs can also use a system-level kill switch to avoid the problems we encountered on Windows.)

Overall, Safe Connect apps are not intimidating and first-time VPN users will figure it all out in seconds. But even beginners would benefit from additions like a bookmarks system, and the Windows app is in dire need of a kill switch or at least a notification when the VPN goes down.

McAfee Safe Connect Review (7)


McAfee primarily markets Safe Connect for its security and privacy benefits, but the site also mentions unlocking. Signing up means "no geo-restrictions," it states, stating, "By connecting through a virtual server in locations around the world, you can access your favorite content and geo-restricted apps and websites from anywhere."

Sounds great, but the service immediately failed with BBC iPlayer as the site detected our VPN usage and would not allow us to stream any content.

Safe Connect was also unable to unblock US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Disney+. (The Disney website didn't give us a location error, but it did refuse to load while the VPN was active, a common problem with many VPNs.)

We were able to stream YouTube content only in the US from the UK, but that's not a huge selling point - YouTube has almost no protection and almost every other VPN lets you do the same.

McAfee Safe Connect Review (8)


It's hard to get a reliable measure of VPN performance, and running tests during a coronavirus lockdown, when internet and VPN traffic levels were exceptionally high, didn't make life any easier.

(Video) Mcafee Safe Connect VPN Iphone Review

However, McAfee Safe Connect still did a good job with our UK connection, averaging 66-68 Mbps over a 75 Mbps test line.

Our US connection of 600 Mbps gave Safe Connect a real chance to show us what it could do, but the results were only slightly faster at 80-130 Mbps.

That's way behind the market leaders - Hotspot Shield didn't have a single test result below 447Mbps - but it's faster than we've seen from many big names, and overall, Safe Connect is fast enough for most applications. tasks.

final verdict

Safe Connect works almost like a basic VPN for beginners, but if you want it, you can just sign up directly with TunnelBear. It's a little more expensive, but it has more apps with more features, it's more secure, and it's still very easy to use.

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McAfee Safe Connect Review (9)

Mike Williams

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Lead Safety Auditor

Mike is Future's lead security auditor, where he conducts stress testsVPNs,virus protectionand more to find out which services are sure to keep you safe and which ones to avoid. Mike began his career as a senior software developer in the engineering world, where his creations were used by notable companies such as Rolls Royce, British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace. Early PC viruses caught Mike's attention, and he developed an interest in analyzing malware and learning the low-level technical details of how Windows and network security work under the hood.


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