Before describing what this program does, it is easier to explain what it does not.
Amazingly, it does not scan for viruses or protect your system. Instead, it monitors already running processes and will inform you if a virus was found. It does nothing to preempt the virus. It does nothing to protect your computer. It will not tell you what files were infected, nor will it clean your system.
From McAfee's website, "(McAfee Security Scan Plus) Alerts direct customer to McAfee offerings if antivirus software, firewall protection or web security is out-of-date or not found. Offers also appear for users who are protected but may want to consider other security software products."
In other words, advertising.
This is pure, unadulterated junk. As you will see below, it also causes browser problems.
McAfee is aggressively advertising this program and if you
allow it to install, it will encourage you to buy
their full-fledged product.
While this program is not a virus, it acts like one.
How did you get it?
The web is awash with people commenting they did not know where the software came from. Sadly, it is being installed by venerated companies, such as Adobe and Sun Java, among others. The software comes as a payload, attached to other popular programs, and it installs almost surreptitiously.
Adobe Flash Player Install: Shame
For example, Adobe Flash Player (and its updates) installs the program on the unsuspecting with a default "Yes" install. Note the subtle checkbox a few steps into the installation process:
Similarly, Oracle/Sun Java threatens to install McAfee's product with this prompt, right at the moment you are tempted to click "next":
In other words, if you unexpectedly have this software, it is because you allowed it to install! Money and other kickbacks are involved because why else would these companies do this?
My daughter caught her copy on her school's website, again with a default opt-in "Yes" being checked. She clicked yes to install other, unrelated software, and got more than was hoped. In other words, her college (Idaho State University) sold their students out to the highest bidder.
A Default YES is a Sin!
Vendors hocking this software with a default opt-in (yes-install-me-when-you-don't-expect-it) is a disservice to their customers and is a disservice to hard-working, already-protected computers everywhere. This is reprehensible and shameful.
Does it cause problems: It can.
While McAfee claims the program can run along-side other virus scanners, my experience shows otherwise. Consider my daughter's laptop: Both IE and Firefox were crashing several times per hour. The most recent change: McAfee Security Scan Plus. Having two virus scanners (McAfee and Microsoft Security Essentials MSE) running on the same computer is never a good idea. We uninstalled McAfee and cured the laptop's problems.
Past experience with McAfee's commercial and retail products has been poor. Especially in the retail market, I found McAfee's products bloated and it caused more problems than it solved -- and this despite the awards bestowed by trade magazines. McAfee mercilessly pesters for paid renewals and many were set to auto-deduct from checking accounts with no recourse to stop the charges. Behaviors like these, along with default installs, have not endeared me to their products. Symantec has not been much better.
More often-than-not, I found un-installing McAfees and Symantec's Virus scanners dramatically improved a machine's performance. To un-install, open the control panel's "Programs and Features" (or XP's Add-Remove programs). Virus scanners are still a necessary evil. When you are done removing McAfee's software, install Microsoft's free Security Essentials.
Reviews and Accolades:
I found a variety of other website reviewing Mcafee Security Scan Plus. Of the 30 reviews, only one rated it as high as two stars -- and this review was cursory, where they clearly did not research the program. Most reviews were emphatic with more than one exclamation points!!!
- "Bloatware, junkware, whatever. It should be a crime to auto-install this junk. It does nothing for you, and takes up resources."
- "Latest Java update installs this bloatware!"
- "Crapware - Any company that does piggyback installs shows a true lack of concern for the user - For a "security" company to use these tactics should be criminal"
- "How do I give this no stars?! First it's McAfee which is bad. Second it's bloatware. And third it detects even less than a full install of McAfee."
- "Doesn't do a whole lot except consume system resources."
This article was originally published earlier this year, but was re-written and shortened to be more forceful in describing this program's behavior. Frankenstein graphics added to give a little color to such a dreary subject.
Keyliner Review: Microsoft Security Essentials