McAfee Safe Connect Full Review

A primarily newbie-friendly VPN from a top security name.McAfee Safe Connect is a simple VPN aimed at bringing secure Internet access to even the greenest of networking newbies.

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

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

There are apps for Windows, iOS, and Android (though not for Mac), and you’re able to connect up to five devices simultaneously.

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The feature list is very short, we’ve already run through it. For example, there is 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 is OpenVPN.

McAfee Safe Connect Plans and pricing

McAfee Safe Connect Plans and pricing

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

It’s a reasonable price – many companies charge $10+ for monthly billing, and $5-$6 for annual plans – but if you want to sign up for a longer subscription, there’s room to save some money. SafeConnect costs $35 for the first year, for example, and $48 on renewal; Surfshark’s two-year plan costs just $48, or $1.99 a month.

Sign up and McAfee will take your payment details (card or PayPal), but not bill you for the first 7 days, effectively giving you a week’s trial. Cancel before the trial ends and you won’t be charged.

There is further protection with a 30-day money-back guarantee. This only applies to annual subscriptions, unsurprisingly, but we couldn’t find any other significant exclusions or catches in the small print.

Safe Connect also has a free plan, but data transfer is limited to 250MB per month – yes, a month – so it’s only suitable for frequent users.

McAfee Safe Connect Privacy and logging

Worried about privacy and logging issues? You won’t find a lot of information on the McAfee Safe Connect site, which isn’t a big surprise. Its target user audience may not be interested in a detailed discussion of ciphers, authentication, and session logging.

McAfee’s general privacy policy (opens in new tab) goes into great detail about the data it may collect across its services: ‘Internet Protocol (IP) address, cookie identifier, mobile carrier, Bluetooth device ID, mobile device ID, mobile advertising identifiers, MAC address … geographic location information, hardware type, operating system, Internet service provider, pages you visit before and after using the Services, the date and time of your visit, the time you spend on each page, information about the links you click and the pages you view within the Services, and other actions taken through your use of the Services, such as Priorities.’

There is no information about what the company may collect through Safe Connect.

Watching TunnelBear gives us a better idea of ​​how the service handles user data, and it’s very satisfying. Not only is TunnelBear’s privacy policy one of the clearest and most detailed, it now conducts itself through annual security and privacy audit covering its apps, back-end systems, and website. (See our TunnelBear review for more.)

Of course, this doesn’t prove that Secure Connect is, well, secure. Although McAfee is using TunnelBear’s service, core API, and software libraries, for example, its apps are different, and not fully covered by TunnelBear audits. We’d like to see McAfee start cleaning this up, and a good first step would be to create a clear privacy policy for Safe Connect that explains what data it collects.

McAfee doesn’t provide too many technical details about its connection, but we took a look at the Windows client and found that it uses TLS 1.2 on the control channel, with capable AES-256-GCM encryption. , used OpenVPN to connect. Cipher ECDHE-RSA-CHACHA20-POLY1305 (This is key exchange authentication using Diffie-Hellman and Perfect Forward Secrecy using an RSA key with a 4096-bit key size). Or if you prefer a non-technical translation: that’ll be fine.

The real privacy issue with Safe Connect is the lack of features. Without a kill switch, for example, if the VPN connection is lost, you lose your encryption and your real IP is exposed to the world. This won’t matter much if you’re just watching Netflix, but if you’re looking for true anonymity, this could be bad news.

McAfee Safe Connect Apps

McAfee Safe Connect Apps

McAfee Safe Connect’s Windows app is compact and extremely easy to use. An opening screen shows your favorite country and a map of the world. Tapping the ‘Start Protection’ button adds and displays a pulsing dot at your virtual location. And by tapping on the country name you can select a new location from the list.

The settings panel enables you to decide when the VPN will connect. It can launch automatically when you connect to Wi-Fi and regular wired networks (with the option to specify trusted networks where you don’t need a VPN) or you can turn off automation. and can only connect manually.

There is no way to tweak your connection. TunnelBear’s own apps are pretty basic, but they still include a GhostBear option to try to get you online in VPN-unfriendly countries like China, and a TCP option to improve connection reliability. SafeConnect doesn’t have either.

The only other major feature we saw was a help panel, where we could browse some basic Safe Connect FAQs from within the client interface. It’s a decent idea, but there’s very little content and you’d probably go to the Safe Connect support site anyway.

Having checked the interface, we proceeded to look under the hood. SafeConnect doesn’t claim to have a kill switch, so what if the connection is lost, we wondered?

The answer, unfortunately, can be nothing. We tried forcefully closing key OpenVPN TCP connections and killing the OpenVPN.exe process, and even though the VPN crashed, leaving us vulnerable, SafeConnect’s interface displayed its green padlock and ‘Security and privacy: continued to show the status of ‘on’. In a real-world situation, we could continue browsing for hours without protection.

The mobile apps worked similarly to the desktop edition, though the Android app went a little further with a split tunneling feature. This enables choosing which of your apps use the VPN, and which don’t, potentially useful as a way to avoid conflicts and improve performance. (Android VPNs can also use a system-level kill switch, avoiding the problems we encountered on Windows.)

Overall, Safe Connect’s apps aren’t intimidating, and first-time VPN users will learn everything in seconds. But even beginners will benefit from additions like the Favorites system, and the Windows app needs an instant kill switch, or at least a notification in case the VPN drops.


McAfee markets Safe Connect for its security and privacy benefits, but the website also mentions unblocking. Signing up means ‘no geo-restrictions, it tells us, claiming that: ‘Connected via virtual servers in locations around the world, you can access your favorite content and geo-restricted apps from anywhere. and can access sites.’

Sounds great, but with BBC iPlayer the service immediately fails, as the site detects our use of a VPN and won’t allow us to stream content.

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

We only managed to stream YouTube content from the UK to the US, but that’s not a big selling point – YouTube has barely any protection, and every other VPN around will let you do that.

McAfee Safe Connect Performance

McAfee Safe Connect Performance

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

McAfee Safe Connect still did a decent job with our UK connection, though, hitting an average of 66-68Mbps on the 75Mbps test line.

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

That’s a long way behind the market leaders – the Hotspot Shield didn’t have a single test score below 447Mbps – but it’s faster than we’ve seen with many of the big names and faster than Safe Connect overall. There is plenty of speed for most tasks.

McAfee Safe Connect Pros and Cons


  • Cheaper than most
  • +Very limited free plan
  • Beginner-friendly
  • +TunnelBear technology underneath


  • Short on features
  • Speeds are average at best
  • Doesn’t unblock Netflix, iPlayer, or very much else
  • No kill switch with the Windows app

Final verdict

Safe Connect works as a basic VPN for newbies, but if that’s what you want, just sign up with TunnelBear Direct. It’s fractionally more expensive, but it has more apps, with more features, plus it’s more secure, and still very easy to use.


Hello My self Emelia , I'm a Technology & Gaming Guides Expert. OR Also Providing Gaming Guides For Public information.

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