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I'm not an expert, but I believe the high RAM usage is to accommodate the *******' enormous definition file. Remember a few years ago it was 10-11 MB Dat files, but the number of bugs has grown and the dat has too. Which means more memory to load it into memory for fast retrieval. Could you imagine going to disk for each file check?
Just my 2 cents.
I could agree with you, however auto update is schedule to occur at 9:00am then every 6hrs and this problems is occurring between update intervals. Not only that there were no DAT updates available when system rebooted. Additionally SuperDAT is over 130mb, so if your theory is right and antivirus DAT files are stored in the memory than McAfee would consume high system resources all the time, this only occurs during the boot. So going back to my point why would it be using so much RAM during the boot, what is it doing?
Unless your installation is "broken" there should always be a DAT available which needs to be loaded during the McAfee process startup at boot time.....