McAfee vs Norton: which antivirus is better?
McAfee and Norton are two of the best-known names in the antivirus space. They've been around for decades, watching as many of their competitors go bankrupt, and always adapting to stay on top.
Both Norton 360 and McAfee offer huge feature suites that not only contain excellent malware protection, but also encrypted storage, password managers, internet security suites, and even VPNs. But which of these two products is better for your cybersecurity, faster, and has more features?
Read the McAfee vs Norton comparison to find out.
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McAfee vs. Norton
|Price:||from $34.99/year, 1 PC||from $34.99/year, 1 device|
|Current deal:||Get Norton, save up to 53%!||Get McAfee, save up to 71%!|
|Free version:||No||Yes (Android, iOS)|
|Platforms:||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS|
|Customer support:||Guides, FAQs, live chat, phone||Guides, FAQs, live chat|
McAfee vs Norton: which offers better protection?
|McAfee Total Protection||Norton 360|
|AV-Test||Top product||Top product|
Many Norton vs McAfee reviewers score this one as a tie. To determine the winner, I decided to first take a look at the German AV-Test institute’s independent test results. Both McAfee Total Protection and Norton 360 earned “Top product,” which means they are among the best antivirus providers, no matter which device you’re using.
When it comes to AV-Comparatives, both McAfee and Norton get a 100% in malware protection test. However, the latter detected more false positives (24) than the former (6). Due to the difference in these numbers, Norton 360 Deluxe gets the Advanced and McAfee Total Protection gets the Advance+ honorary badge.
Finally, I looked at the SE Lab test results. Turns out, both competitors got the best possible score together with five more antiviruses. SE Lab tested 13 products in total.
It’s not entirely fair to name McAfee the winner in the protection category because only one out of three testers gave fewer points to Norton. However, I can’t call it a tie either.
Real-time malware protection
Norton has highly touted its prevention system, and AV-Comparatives put it to a rigorous Real-World Protection Test.
It turns out that wasn’t just empty bragging – Deluxe 360 failed to catch only 0.6% test cases. However, Total Protection ended up with the same percentage as well.
Once again, Norton was among the leaders in false positives (14) when McAfee did a great job, needlessly freaking out only five times.
In addition to the quick and in-depth scan, both services offer a Custom scan where you can select the files and folders on your own. This can be beneficial in case you connect a USB key that might have infected files.
Moving on to the results, I’ve already mentioned that both products are great at catching malware, leaving only 0.6% unremoved. Having said that, Total Protection does that automatically without asking you to take action.
In the meantime, Deluxe 360 is user-dependent 0.8% of the time, which is also the poorest score among all 17 tested products.
For more information about the scanning time and computer load, check the next section Impact of PC performance below.
Norton 360 Deluxe’s Smart Firewall works hand-in-hand with the Intrusion Prevention System. The former decides which data goes through while the latter checks if there are no malicious pieces. It also hides all unused ports to limit the connection options for third parties.
Of course, the firewall can work the other way as well, blocking you from accessing potentially harmful websites. However, you should expect quite a few false positives.
McAfee’s firewall protection works better in the sense that you’ll encounter fewer false positives. Other than that, the settings and performance are quite similar to Norton’s.
In this case, it’s enough to know that both firewalls do their job, and you shouldn’t be thinking this part over when selecting between McAfee Total Protection and Norton 360 Deluxe.
Which has better features - Norton 360 or McAfee?
I’ll be comparing the paid Total Protection Individual/Couples and Norton 360 Deluxe editions throughout this article, but in some cases, the contestants may get points for the free version or a solid entry-level product as well.
In short, I see Norton winning this round in our McAfee vs Norton review because of the more extensive anti-identity theft tool and cloud storage. It doesn’t have McAfee’s file shredder or encryption, but those won’t agitate most users.
Identity theft protection
|Dark Web Monitoring||✔️||✔️|
|Phone takeover monitoring||❌||✔️|
|401(k) & Investment Activity Alerts||❌||✔️|
As you can see from the table, Norton takes your identity theft protection pretty seriously. It offers Dark Web Monitoring, Credit monitoring, Phone takeover monitoring, and Investment Activity Alerts.
Dark Web Monitoring is one of the essential features of Norton 360 Deluxe. Like McAfee’s Total Protection, it searches for your personal information and informs you if it’s been leaked somewhere. It can be your driver’s license number, mother’s maiden name, emails, credit card numbers, even gamer tags. Upgrading to the LifeLock plan adds SSN, DOB, and more.
Meanwhile, the Credit monitoring feature lets you know when any kind of changes are made to your credit files. Phone takeover monitoring is also a useful tool that will protect your phone number and various accounts from takeover.
Finally, even though 401(k) & Investment Activity Alerts may sound extremely confusing, this feature is pretty straightforward. It will simply alert you about any fraudulent cash withdrawals.
|Secure cloud storage||❌||✔️|
Just like its competitor, McAfee Total Protection is not solely about antivirus. In many senses, it’s about prevention, not dealing with the consequences. For this, McAfee has Home Network Security, which secures your home network and configures a firewall to keep away the hackers and malicious scripts. If any of your connected devices are attacked, you will be instantly informed about the possible intrusion.
In addition to the core anti-malware tool, Norton 360 Deluxe offers Online Threat Protection that works in real-time and safeguards against attempts to jeopardize your system. Besides, there’s a Smart Firewall that blocks suspicious traffic, i.e., if someone decides to hijack your browser and start crypto-mining using your precious resources.
As for McAfee’s Total Protection, its Safe Web Browsing feature blocks a potentially dangerous website. This is especially useful during your in-laws’ visit when one of them decides to borrow your computer to check Yahoo and somehow ends up on an adult content site.
McAfee’s Safe Family offers definitive protection for the entire household. It lets you monitor your children’s online activity, limit screen time, filter the websites you deem inappropriate, and get alerts whenever rules are broken. Also, if you have younger children that are not entitled to own a smartphone, Guest Mode will help you block inappropriate apps on yours. With that said, Norton has a more robust online control package.
Norton’s Parental Control and School Time are synergic family-oriented tools. The first one lets you see what your kids are doing online, including search terms and downloads. You can even check on their whereabouts with GPS monitoring!
If that wasn’t enough, School Time allows you to block all learning-unrelated internet resources, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Netflix, to help your child stay focused. Sadly, it’s only available on Windows.
Next, we find a Norton 360 Deluxe feature that any family member can benefit from. Introducing PC SafeCam, a feature that blocks unauthorized access to your webcam. You’ll have the option to block any user that you find suspicious, which is great in case you forgot to cover the cam.
Moving beyond typical protection, we find Performance Optimization – a McAfee Total Protection feature that’s unavailable on Norton 360 Deluxe and not common on the best antivirus software. Mobile users should find it especially convenient, thanks to its ability to block auto-play videos or minimize bandwidth usage.
McAfee’s cheapest plan also has a password manager and a VPN to offer its clients. The same goes with Norton 360 Deluxe. So in case you still don’t have any of the two as separate apps, it’s worth considering.
If you’re still not using one, you will like Norton’s Password Manager. Your passwords will be stored in an online vault, accessible only with a master password. Additionally, you can increase security with two-factor authentication, including biometric confirmation.
There’s also a VPN for online traffic encryption and securing public wifi hotspots. However, the servers are located in 30 countries only, so for streaming and torrenting, you may want to choose something else.
One thing that Norton lacks is a file shredder and file encryption tools. In the meantime, McAfee has those available in their entry-level plan. However, it’s not likely that many users will need such niche services.
Both contestants lure the clients by offering a money-back guarantee in case their product is unable to remove a malicious piece from your device. McAfee calls it Virus Protection Pledge, while Norton names it Virus Protection Promise.
Are there any extras that only Norton has? Let’s start with a generous 50 GB of cloud backup storage that can be extended up to 100 GB with the LifeLock plan. It’s a good way to keep your files safe and not worry about a possible ransomware attack. If a cybercriminal encrypts a folder with your wedding photos, demanding $500 for unlocking, you can laugh at his virtual face.
Impact on PC performance
In this section, I’ll be checking the impact that McAfee Total Protection and Norton 360 Deluxe have had on my PC. I will also be looking at the results from AV-Test (February 2021) and AV-Comparatives (October 2020), both done on Windows, and determine which antivirus does the best on all three tests.
For my own batch of tests, I’ve checked how long a quick scan and full scan of 41 GB of data takes. I also noted down how much the CPU, memory, and disk usage changed during that time.
|Quick scan||2 min 20 s||1 min 16 s|
As you can see, Norton 360 Deluxe is much faster when running a simple quick scan. The CPU and memory load was similar, and neither of the contestants clogged more than a half of the disk load capacity.
|Full scan||0 h 57 min||0 h 10 min|
When performing a full scan, McAfee takes almost six times longer, which can be a real nuisance unless you're leaving it through the night. The CPU and disk load were quite similar, while the memory load was more than three times lower in the case of Norton.
Independent test results
Moving on to the independent test results, I found that both Norton Deluxe 360 and McAfee Total Protection received 6/6 from AV-Test. I really like that they performed virtually the same on standard and high-end computers.
The biggest slowdown was when installing new programs (20% for McAfee and 23.5% for Norton) and opening websites (9% and 10%, respectively). Most users will probably refrain from installing Adobe Photoshop while running a full scan, so the dip in performance shouldn’t be that noticeable.
AV-Comparatives show that McAfee has a significant performance edge. McAfee was very fast in all 8 tests, while Norton was “only” fast in Archiving/Unarchiving and Installing/Uninstalling Applications. The total Impact Score of McAfee is 1.1 and 12.1 for Norton, where the smaller number is better.
To sum up, as my test gives Norton 360 Deluxe an edge but AV-Comparatives are in favor of McAfee Total Protection, this round is a draw.
Pricing and plans
Both Norton and McAfee have four pricing plans. The last Total Protection option named Ultimate is basically the same Family plan, only with unlimited users. I liked that Norton clearly showed that the price is higher for the second year.
Here’s how they look in a comparison-friendly table (all prices are for the first year):
|Single Device vs Standard||$34.99||$34.99|
|Individual/Couples vs Deluxe||$39.99||$39.99|
|Family LifeLock vs Select||$44.99||$99.48|
|Check Pricing||Check Pricing|
McAfee is cheaper than Norton 360, but that doesn’t say much about the actual product you’re buying. A higher price means extra features that may come in handy.
Also, with Norton 360 LifeLock Ultimate Plus, you get an awe-inspiring list of seven tools against identity theft. That’s something that McAfee Total Protection cannot offer at the moment.
McAfee has a 30-day free trial and a money-back guarantee, while Norton 360 gives you a 7-day free trial but requires your payment info. You can pay for both products with a credit card or PayPal.
Notice that these prices are for the first year only. To get a better view of what will cost you to remain a loyal customer, check the dedicated pricing sections of each antivirus below. But for now, the winner of this McAfee vs. Norton Antivirus round is the latter.
But what about the price-value ratio of all these plans? Let’s compare McAfee’s Single Device and Norton’s Standard, both of which costs 39$/year. Save from the general protection features, the first one gives a VPN, a password manager, file shredder, and file encryption.
Norton answers to the latter two with 10 GB cloud backup, SafeCam, and Dark Web Monitoring. Therefore, I see Norton giving more bang-for-the-buck in this instance. But what about the most expensive offers?
McAfee Total Protection Ultimate gives unlimited devices, Safe Family, and Identity Theft Protection Plus. In the meantime, Norton’s LifeLock Ultimate Plus lures you with 10 (!) identity theft-related features not forgetting your family. So if you need this extensive package, you’ll pay $258.81/year, which is more than three times pricier than McAfee.
McAfee Total Protection pricing plans
Here are your options when choosing McAfee Total Protection antivirus. The prices in the brackets are for the second year:
- Single Device – $34.99/yr ($79.99), 1 device (Windows, macOS, Android, iOS)
- Individual/Couples – $39.99/yr ($99.99), 5 devices
- Family – $44.99/yr ($119.99), 10 devices
- Ultimate – $69.99/yr ($159.99), unlimited devices
I was disappointed to find that the Family plan for 10 devices allows Secure VPN only on five. However, McAfee is among those few antiviruses that support Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS right from the cheapest plan. Other than that, the feature list seems pretty good.
If you add five bucks and upgrade from Single Device to Individual/Couples, you’ll be able to protect most if not all of your devices, which is totally worth it. Also, you’ll be getting Identity Theft Protection Essentials, which is basically a dark web scanner. Unfortunately, there’s a caveat – you must commit for at least two years.
Adding another fiver is a good idea if you’ll need to protect more than five devices. There’s only one new feature in the Family plan named Safe Family, that’s why the price doesn’t go up that much.
The Ultimate plan is for those who are planning to share the account with more than one person. That’s because there’s no limit for simultaneous connections. It includes an upgraded Identity Theft Protection Plus which no longer requires auto-renew.
Norton 360 pricing plans
When choosing Norton 360 as your antivirus, you have four main options to choose from. Again, prices in the brackets are what you’ll be paying after one year.
- Norton 360 Standard – $34.99/yr ($84.99), 1 device (Windows, macOS, Android, iOS)
- Norton 360 Deluxe – $39.99/yr ($104.99), 5 devices
- Norton 360 Deluxe with LifeLock Select – $99.48/yr ($149.99), 5 devices
- Norton 360 Deluxe with LifeLock Ultimate Plus – $251.88/yr ($349.99), unlimited devices
Norton 360 is expensive when compared not only to McAfee but most other premium antivirus products. However, one would be hard-pressed to find the same list of features for a better price. Even the Standard plan gives you 10 GB of cloud storage, SafeCam, and a dark web scanner. Throw in five bucks, and see your storage increase fivefold, plus adding a full Parental Control tool.
Unfortunately, Norton 360 is less family-friendly than McAfee – you get 5 devices unless you pick the most luxurious plan that lifts the limit. Well, at least they didn’t make Standard PC-only like some other antiviruses.
Making a leap of faith and going for the LifeLock Select is for those who have multiple bank accounts and spend quite some time managing their assets online. And if your identity theft would wreak havoc on the stock market, you may want to choose nothing but Ultimate Plus. One thing to note – LifeLock is oriented towards US upper-class clients, so Russian oligarchs and Saudi Arabian oil princes won’t get the same bang-for-the-buck.
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Apps and interface: which is more user-friendly?
I had no major problems with downloading and installing neither McAfee Total Protection nor Norton 360.
Overall, both are user-friendly and easy to use. App design is neat and not clogged with menus and buttons, However, Norton 360 did a bit better in hiding extra options to the point that the design might apply for mobile devices. On the other hand, you pay for that clean main menu by getting pop-ups.
As for the mobile versions, Norton offers most of the features, even though iOS users should expect a few less. McAfee is doing everything similarly but emphasizes improving your device’s performance with specialized tools.
To sum up, if someone fancies one more than the other, it’s more likely because of a personal preference, not some missing features or glaring UI/UX glitches.
McAfee gives you a clear and concise main screen. However, for some reason it’s not possible to maximize the window or change its size in any other way.
On the top menu, you will find the three main options related to McAfee functions: PC Security, PC Performance, and My Privacy. Clicking each of them shows what’s on or off, what McAfee did while you weren’t looking, and two to five big buttons at the bottom to choose a possible action.
The cogwheel at the top-right opens the full list of tools, showing which ones are turned on or off. This, however, overlaps a bit with the left sidebar of each screen. There you can also toggle General Settings and Alerts.
In the meantime, Norton 360 offers a minimalist design with fewer colors and fewer things to click on. There’s no left sidebar, only five big buttons (Security, Online Safety, Backup, Performance, My Norton) at the bottom, plus settings at the top-right.
However, there’s a small price to pay for this initial simplicity – Norton uses pop-ups that are informative but can still be annoying. But the most important part is that everything is clear and easy to understand even for beginners.
Norton's Android version installation starts with choosing your desired tools. It can be basic Norton Security, or you can add Password Manager and Norton VPN. I personally recommend installing all three if you don’t have separate apps for the latter two. With McAfee, you install everything at once.
Norton’s mobile apps are pretty similar in the number of available features. What iOS might miss are app installation checker, spam call checker, and battery usage warnings. Also, it’s not possible to have it start up automatically whenever you switch to a public or another unsecured wifi.
McAfee’s mobile app is unsurprisingly simpler than its desktop counterpart. You get four main options (Storage Cleaner, Memory Booster, App Lock, Anti-Theft), which emphasizes improving performance. The hamburger menu on the top-right server as a notification area and settings for all the tools. The Guest mode, which allows you to lock certain apps before giving your phone to someone, is also right there at the bottom of the main menu.
|24/7 live chat||✔️||✔️|
|Twitter and Facebook||❌||✔️|
Both contestants have solid customer support. McAfee has a 24/7 live chat, but Norton also adds a phone line. The waiting times are a few minutes tops, and according to their website, the shortest waits are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Additionally, you can try contacting Norton via Twitter or Facebook, but I would rather go for a live chat or a phone call instead.
There are also forums for individual research, and I would say that I was able to find more help from the McAfee community. Their knowledge base is also better-structured, plus there’s a virtual assistant to help you out.
Looking for some external opinions, I checked what the Better Business Bureau had to say about the customer service of each contestant. Turns out, they both get an A+.
To sum up, I give Norton a nod in this McAfee vs Norton Antivirus round only because of the phone line. If that’s not your preferred support method, consider these two even.
After this Nord 360 and McAfee antivirus comparison, it's clear that the former is a much better service. Norton 360 has more features, brings more value for money, and has more customer support options. McAfee has better malware protection by a tiny margin, and that's its only advantage.
Both contestants are among the best antiviruses that you can find in 2021. In fact, most of the time, they'll be in the Top 5, so choosing one or another comes down to a few aspects which may not be that important for some.
For me, Norton 360 walks out as the winner of this Norton Security vs McAfee battle.
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Is McAfee or Norton better?
Is McAfee and Norton the same company?
No. The products of McAfee and Norton are owned by different companies.
Will McAfee find malware?
Yes. Just run a scan on your device and McAfee will find and eliminate the threat.
Which edition of Norton is the best?
Norton 360 Deluxe might have the best cost-feature ratio of all the Norton 360 products. It has everything offered by the Standard version and covers 5 devices at once.
Does Norton 360 offer a free trial?
Yes, there's a 7-day free trial. However, it requires you to enter payment details first.