McAfee and Norton are two of the best-known antivirus programs on the market. Unsurprisingly, you may need help deciding which one to pick. After all, these rivaling antiviruses offer market-leading real-time protection that can keep any device safe from malware.
Apart from protection, Norton 360 and McAfee Total Protection also come with a huge feature suite with encrypted storage, password managers, Internet security suites, and even VPNs. But if both providers are so great, you might wonder which antivirus software outrivals the other.
In this McAfee vs Norton comparison, we'll review both products' pros and cons to help you decide which antivirus can better protect your device and suit your needs.
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McAfee vs Norton
Norton Antivirus excels over McAfee in this comparison. Norton is way more affordable, with its plans starting at $14.99/year. Besides, Norton offers superior malware protection, faster scanning speed, and a lower impact on system performance than McAfee. Even though McAfee offers a free version and superb customer support, Norton provides a better overall value and is ranked #2 on our best antivirus software list.
|Norton Antivirus||McAfee Antivirus|
|🥇 Overall rank:||#2 out of #25||#7 out of #25|
|🔥 Coupons:||Norton Antivirus coupon 78% OFF||McAfee Antivirus coupon 67% OFF|
|💵 Price:||From $14.99/year||From $39.99/year|
|✂️ Free version:||No||Yes (Android, iOS)|
|🖥️ Platforms:||Windows, macOS, iOS, Android||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS|
McAfee vs Norton: which offers better protection?
|McAfee Total Protection||Norton 360|
|Independent tests||Highest marks||Highest marks|
|Scanning||Effective, caught 10/10 malware threats||Effective, caught 10/10 malware threats|
Many Norton 360 vs McAfee reviewers score this one as a tie. To determine the winner, we first looked at the German AV-Test Institute’s independent test results. McAfee Total Protection and Norton 360 earned “Top product,” meaning they are among the best antivirus providers, no matter which device you’re using.
When it comes to AV-Comparatives, both McAfee and Norton managed to score 99.99% online protection rate, receiving an Advanced+ badge. However, there are some things to point out. While both providers offer the same online detection and protection rates, Norton has a slightly better offline detection rate and a lower false alarm rate.
More so, we looked at the SE Labs test results. Turns out, both competitors got the best possible award. Norton managed to get a perfect score of 99% as well as McAfee.
When it came to our in-house testing, both antivirus providers performed really well. We ran various scan types to see how effective either of them are at removing malware threats. Both providers caught 10 out of 10 malware samples we’ve placed without requiring too many resources from our device.
Real-time malware protection
Both Norton 360 and McAfee have reliable threat prevention systems, and to test them out, AV-Comparatives put them to a rigorous real-world protection test.
It’s interesting to see that Norton is clearly improving. During the February – May, 2023 tests, it detected 14 false positives, while McAfee – 13. This year, both providers detected 9 false alarms, to McAfee’s disadvantage. Despite that, both antiviruses are capable of catching malware with a score of over 99%
Both Norton 360 and McAfee offer some great features for protection from malware and its removal.
Norton malware protection includes very reliable real-time protection that monitors and protects your device from various online threats. You can also add a Safe Web feature on your browser to strengthen your device security further. It indicates how secure each site you’re trying to visit is.
On the other hand, McAfee does offer a wider variety of features that include Tracker Remover, Secure Apps, and a file shredder. The Tracker Remover feature helps clean your device from cookies and temporary files to improve security. As for the other two – let’s just say that you won’t have to worry about your deleted sensitive files being recovered by cyber criminals or having to update apps manually. Furthermore, McAfee also has a feature to boost your browser security. It’s called WebAdvisor, and it protects you from misclicks and typos to ensure you won’t accidentally visit dangerous sites.
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.
In terms of scanning, both providers have quite a few options to choose from. Norton 360, for instance, offers multiple types of scans – quick, full, smart, file, and more scans.
The quick one works as a great alternative for a regular checkup – it analyzes the most vulnerable spots of your device. Meanwhile, the full scan analyzes everything – your entire system. And if you believe that a certain file is infected, you’ll make use of the file scan.
Moving on, McAfee has three types of scans as well – quick, full, and custom. The quick and full scans have the same purpose as relative Norton’s scans.
As for the custom scan, you don’t get a dedicated scanning button for it. If you need to scan a specific file or folder, you need to locate it on your device, right-click it, and press the “scan” button.
How effective is it in detecting malware?
Independent testing aside, we decided to run our in-house tests to see how effectively Norton and McAfee detect malware. The results don't come far from independent testing. During the full scan, Norton and McAfee caught 10/10 malware we planted on the device.
During the quick scan test, McAfee found 9/10 viruses during its length 12 min scan. Norton, on the other hand, didn't find a single malware we planted. However, McAfee took longer to scan and used more PC resources than Norton.
Despite the mishap, both McAfee and Norton are secure and reliable antiviruses. In fact, they are leading providers on the market.
Pricing and plans
Both McAfee and Norton have a number of subscriptions to choose from. Three main plans for McAfee and four for Norton. However, Norton has a cheaper starting plan for those who don’t need that many features and are looking to save a buck. Here’s how different core plans look in a comparison-friendly table (all prices are for the first year):
|AntiVirus Plus vs Plus||$14.99/year||$ 49.99/year|
|Standard vs Premium||$19.99/year||$ 49.99/year|
|Deluxe vs Advanced||$29.99/year||$ 89.99/year|
|Check Norton Discounts||Check McAfee Discounts|
Norton 360 and McAfee offer pretty similar prices on average. A higher price isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it means you get extra features that may come in handy.
McAfee has a 30-day free trial, while Norton 360 gives you a 7-day free trial for annual subscriptions. Even after that you get a 30-day money-back guarantee with McAfee and a 60-day money-back guarantee with Norton 360. You can pay for both products with a credit card or PayPal.
Norton 360 pricing plans
When choosing Norton 360 as your antivirus, you have 4 main options to choose from. All of the plans include malware and online threat protection, a firewall, backup storage, and a password manager.
Here’s every plan Norton offers and what you get with it:
|AntiVirus Plus||Standard||Deluxe||LifeLock Select|
|Price upon renewal||$59.99/year||$94.99/year||$114.99/year||$179.99/year|
|Cloud backup storage||2GB||2GB||50GB||250GB|
|Secure VPN||❌||✅ (up to 3 devices)||✅ (up to 5 devices)||✅ (up to 5 devices)|
|Dark web monitoring||❌||✅||✅||✅|
|ID verification monitoring||❌||❌||❌||✅|
Norton 360 is expensive when compared to many other premium antivirus products. However, one would be hard-pressed to find the same list of features for a better price.
The most basic plan option, AntiVirus Plus, offers 2GB of cloud backup storage and the security features available for all the plans, like a virus scan option, real-time protection, and a firewall. However, by investing slightly more for the Standard plan, you already get 2GB of storage, a VPN, and dark web monitoring.
The most optimal plan is the Deluxe one, offering all the features in the Standard plan and adding privacy monitoring, parental controls, and much more.
However, if you also want to get identity theft protection tools, you’ll have to pick the Norton LifeLock Select plan, which is the most expensive.
Visit our Norton coupon page and see if there are any discounts that tickle your fancy.
McAfee Total Protection pricing plans
McAfee has 3 individual plans for you to choose from. They don’t have too many differences so it all comes down to your needs. That’s because you get malware and web protection, a password manager, a firewall, a file shredder, identity monitoring, and Secure VPN for up to unlimited number of devices with every plan.
Here’s how the McAfee Total Protection plans differ from one another:
|Price||$ 49.99/year||$ 49.99/year||$ 89.99/year|
|Price upon renewal||$39.99/year||$149.99/year||$199.99/year|
|Personal data cleanup||❌||❌||✅|
|Identity theft coverage||❌||❌||✅ (up to $1M)|
|Lost wallet protection||❌||❌||✅|
McAfee’s cheapest plan called Plus is also the most basic one. Apart from the virus scan, real-time protection, and firewall features, it offers no addition to the security package.
However, if you invest in Family plan, which is slightly more expensive, but supports unlimited devices, you’ll also get Parental Controls, but your VPN use will be limited to 5 devices only.
Now the most expensive plan is Advanced, and it offers the most comprehensive features package. In addition to all that you get with Premium, you’ll also get personal data cleanup, identity theft coverage, and many more features.
Check out our McAfee coupon codes to snatch the best prices.
Norton vs McAfee: feature comparison
Norton provides you with a much wider range of security features than McAfee. While both antiviruses cover the essentials, Norton includes additionals, such as phone takeover and monitoring cloud storage.
Here’s what we found during our Norton vs McAfee feature research:
|VPN (unlimited data)||✅||✅|
|Dark Web Monitoring||✅||✅|
|401(k) & Investment Activity Alerts||✅||✅|
|Secure cloud storage||✅||❌|
Overall, Norton is better in terms of features than McAfee because of the more extensive cloud storage. It doesn’t have McAfee’s file shredder or encryption, but those won’t agitate most users.
Norton’s arsenal is loaded with features beneficial for advanced protection from threats. Of course, the amount of features you get depends on the plan you choose.
For instance, the AntiVirus Plus plan ($14.99/year) includes all the basics. This includes various types of malware and online threat protection. Not to mention that you also get a 100% virus protection promise.
For secure storing of your credentials, you get a password manager even with the entry plan. And if you want to protect your device from threats accessing your device, all you have to do is enable the firewall.
Each of the plans includes cloud storage – with the entry one, you get 2GB. If you want more, you’ll have to opt for more expensive plans. For instance, the Standard plan ($19.99/year) includes čGB of storage.
Speaking of the Standard plan, it includes everything that AntiVirus Plus has and more. This includes the Secure VPN feature that will keep you anonymous online. Meanwhile, the PC SafeCam will stop unauthorized third-party access to your webcam.
Additionally, the Dark web monitoring feature searches for your personal information and informs you if your data has been leaked somewhere.
Moving on, the Norton 360 Deluxe plan ($29.99/year) is a great pick if you’re concerned with your child’s online activities. The parental controls feature will help you have some peace of mind. Not to mention that School-time will help you limit hours that your child spends on their device.
For more information about features, visit our Norton Antivirus review.
McAfee Total Protection doesn’t fall far behind Norton’s plans. While it offers 3 plans, they’re all very inclusive.
Take the McAfee Plus ($39.99/year), for example. Aside from malicious threat and web protection, you get such essentialities as a firewall that stops threats from getting into your device in the first place.
Thanks to a file shredder, the documents you remove are also protected. This means no cybercriminal will be able to recover the files you deleted and use it against you.
If you’re one to use the same password on multiple websites, you’ll make use of McAfee’s password manager. And for a full cybersecurity suite, a VPN is also included. It might not be the best VPN on the market, but it’ll do the job well.
It’s worth mentioning that the Premium subscription ($49.99/year) will have all the mentioned features plus parental controls. So if you’re a guardian, you might want to look into this plan.
Last but not least is McAfee’s Advanced ($89.99year) subscription that includes even more security features. For instance, personal data cleanup will search for and remove your personal data from data brokers and search sites, ensuring additional anonymity.
With the most expensive plan, you also get up to $1M in identity theft coverage. Aside from that, there’s also lost wallet protection which helps you cancel your credit card and contact your bank.
For more information about features, visit our McAfee Antivirus review.
Impact on PC performance
In terms of performance, both providers are quite gentle on system resources. While Norton 360 was much quicker during the scans that we've run, the resources used turned out to be very similar. No antivirus won’t have any effect on your device performance, so such results are great compared to many other services.
And these are not only our tests talking – the AV-Comparatives performance impact test showed that both providers are some of the best. For instance, Norton scored 6.9 points and ranked 7th place. Meanwhile, with a score of 7.3 points and ranking 8th place, McAfee didn’t fall far behind either.
For our own batch of tests, I’ve checked how long a quick scan and full virus scans of 41GB of data takes. We also noted down how much the CPU, memory, and disk usage changed during that time.
|Quick scan||12 min 3 s||1 min 22 s|
|CPU load||90 - 100%||90 - 100%|
As you can see, Norton 360 Deluxe is much faster when running a simple quick scan. During my tests, the CPU and memory load was similar, and neither of the contestants clogged more than half of the disk load capacity.
|Full scan||2 h 27 min||1 h 47 min|
|CPU load||80 - 100%||60 - 80%|
When we ran a full scan, McAfee took 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 lower in the case of Norton.
Apps and interface
Both Norton and McAfee have a smooth installation and setup process. Their apps were user-friendly and simple to navigate.
Desktop app designs are not outdated or clogged with menus and buttons, so it all depends on which one appeals to you more. As for the mobile devices and their apps, I have noticed that Norton offers most of the features, while iOS users should expect a few less. McAfee is doing everything similarly but emphasizes improving your device’s performance with specialized tools. However, McAfee is easier to navigate as in Norton's app, you have to open many new tabs and apps to find features.
Norton 360 offers a minimalist design with fewer colors and fewer things to click on, which can be easier to navigate for beginner users. There’s no left sidebar, only five big buttons clearly informing what purposes they perform (Security, Online Safety, Backup, Performance, My Norton) at the bottom and settings at the top-right of the window.
However, there’s a small price to pay for this initial simplicity – Norton uses pop-ups that are informative but I found them to be quite annoying. Yet, the most important part is that everything is clear and easy to understand even for beginners.
In the meantime, McAfee antivirus program gives you a clear and concise main screen. However, for some reason I was not able to maximize the window or change its size in any other way, which can be irritating for users.
On the top menu, you will find the 4 main options related to McAfee functions: Protect your PC, Protect yourself on the web, Protect your identity and More security. During the test, clicking each of them showed us what’s on or off, what McAfee did while we weren't looking, and buttons at the bottom to choose a possible action.
Norton's Android version installation starts with choosing your desired tools. It can be basic Norton Security or you can add a password manager and Norton Secure VPN. We recommend installing all 3 if you don’t have separate apps for the latter two. With McAfee, you get to 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.
Moving on, McAfee’s mobile app seemed simpler than its desktop counterpart. Compared to the desktop app, the mobile one heavily lacks certain features. For example, after the latest update to the McAfee Mobile Security, it no longer offers features like Storage Cleaner, Memory Booster, App Lock, and Anti-Theft anymore.
|24/7 live chat||✅||✅|
Both contestants have solid customer support. McAfee and Norton both offer 24/7 live chat options, as well as a phone line for contacts with human agents. The waiting times for a response are a few minutes tops, so for any urgent issues you’ll receive the needed help quickly.
There are also forums for individual research for both providers, and we were able to find more help from the McAfee community. Their knowledge base is also nicely-structured.
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+.
Tired of reading? Check out our video on McAfee vs Norton comparison. You’ll get all the most important facts in a concise and informative video.
Norton is a much better antivirus software than McAfee. Based on independent and our in-house tests, Norton has better malware protection rated, more features, brings more value for your money, and offers great customer support options.
Meanwhile, McAfee also has solid malware protection that performs just slightly below Norton. The provider also doesn’t fall far behind Norton with its useful customer support options and essential features.
It’s worth noting that these contestants are among the best antivirus that you can find in 2023. 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.
Alternatives to McAfee and Norton
Being a market-leading antivirus, Bitdefender can boast a wide range of security features that will prevent various types of threats from entering your device. It’s an independent laboratory-approved antivirus that also includes real-time protection, a built-in VPN, a password manager, and more.
Bitdefender’s prices start from $29.99/year. Plus, there’s a free version you can try out.
With excellent malware detection rates and ample security features, you’ll be able to secure multiple devices in your household with TotalAV. Real-time protection, performance optimization tools, a VPN, a password manager, ransomware detection – you name it, this antivirus has it.
TotalAV prices start from $19.00/year. And if you want to test it first, there’s a solid free version.
How we tested and compared these two antivirus programs
Choosing the best antivirus software always depends on what exactly you need this AV for. The relevant characteristics change based on your OS, the level of protection you need, your financial situation, and more.
However, there are a few main criteria that we follow no matter what:
- Independent antivirus testing. Having the antivirus software tested by the companies like AV-Test Institute or AV-Comparatives helps us to know how legitimate the AV is. We can clearly see how well the antivirus software detects and fights threats.
- In-house antivirus testing. While third-party results are helpful, running tests on our own reveals how well the antivirus performs multiple times. It’s especially helpful when testing adware, spyware, and other types of malware.
- False positive detection rates. Just like in real life, the cyber world also requires security to react to danger properly. Therefore, we always pay attention to how many false positives the AV catches to avoid oversensitive protection.
- Extra features. Nowadays, only basic antivirus features aren’t capable of detecting and stopping evolving cybercriminals. Hence, we care if the antivirus app includes bonus features, such as a firewall, spam filters, a VPN, and more.
- Performance. Having robust antivirus software on an older device might be quite challenging. As there are constantly running processes, it’s important that the protection software wouldn’t have too much effect on your gadgets.
- Price. After testing dozens of antiviruses, we aim to select only those that offer the best quality and price ratio. After all, cybersecurity shouldn’t be a luxury item.
Other antivirus software comparisons:
Is McAfee or Norton better?
is a better antivirus than McAfee. That’s because it offers many more additional advanced security features, such as secure cloud storage, Dark Web monitoring, and SafeCam feature. Plus, subscription prices are more affordable considering the features provided, and the cheapest plan starts at $14.99/year.
Is McAfee and Norton the same company?
No, they aren’t. The products of McAfee and Norton are owned by different companies and group of investors. While McAfee is owned by a multinational corporation and tech company called Intel, Norton is owned by the NortonLifeLock software company, previously known as Symantec Corporation.
Will McAfee find malware?
Yes, McAfee antivirus can successfully find malware on your device. According to independent lab tests, McAfee blocks 100% of threats and detects barely any false positives.
Which edition of Norton is the best?
While Norton 360 has a few plans to choose from, we believe that Norton 360 Deluxe has the best cost-feature ratio of all the products. It has everything offered by the Standard version, expands your cloud backup space so you can protect more files, and covers 5 devices at once.
Does Norton 360 offer a free trial?
Yes, there's a 7-day free trial. However, for a free trial, you’ll have to enter your payment details first. But don’t worry – in case you forget about your free trial, there is an extra long 60-day money-back guarantee.