Norton vs McAfee – Which One Is Better?

Whether you’re a tech enthusiast or have yet to subscribe to your first antivirus software provider, you’ve likely heard of Norton and McAfee.

These two providers are showing exceptional results as they shield millions of devices worldwide from the ever-evolving cyber threats we’re all exposed to. In this guide, we’ll pit Norton vs. McAfee and compare their features, pricing, and usability to determine which provider can be classified as the best antivirus.

Norton vs. McAfee Compared

Norton vs McAfee are exceptional choices if you’re looking to keep your devices safe from malware. However, antiviruses offer more than traditional anti-malware features, and some of their extra tools may tip the scales.

Here’s a quick comparison of Norton and McAfee’s key features.

Norton McAfee
Starting Price $29.99/year $29.99/year
Antivirus testing results Protection: 6.0/6.0
Performance: 5.5/6.0
Usability: 5.5/6.0
Protection: 6.0/6.0
Performance: 6.0/6.0
Usability: 6.0/6.0
Compatibility Windows, Mac, Android, iOS Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Firewall
Real-time protection
VPN
Max Devices Supported Unlimited Unlimited
Moneyback Guarantee 60 days 30 days
Site

Norton vs McAfee Pricing Compared

Winner: Norton is cheaper in the long run

Investing in an antivirus isn’t cheap, especially if you’re looking for a product for long-term use.

So, we’ve prepared a quick overview of Norton and McAfee’s subscription plans to determine which provider offers better value-for-money.

Norton 360 McAfee
Free Version 7-day free trial– any Norton plan 30-day free trial – McAfee Essential plan
Starter Norton AntiVirus Plus
$29.99/year (renews at $59.99/year) – password manager, 2GB cloud storage, 100% virus protection promise
McAfee Basic
$29.99/year (renews at $89.99/year) – VPN, dark web protection, McAfee protection score, and up to a $1M identity theft coverage
Advanced Norton 360 Deluxe
$49.99/year (renews at $119.99/year) – adds VPN, parental controls, dark web monitoring, and privacy monitor
McAfee Premium
$49.99/year (renews at $149.99/year) – adds scam protection, social privacy manager, password manager, and more
Premium Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus
$299.88/year (renews at $349.99/year) – adds identity theft protection and 250GB of cloud backup
McAfee Ultimate
$199.99/year (renews at $279.99/year) – adds identity theft protection

Although both providers offer similar prices, we’ve picked Norton as the winner because of its lower renewal rates.

While you’ll pay less if you opt for McAfee’s most premium plan, you’d be missing out on Norton’s 250GB of cloud backup and extensive parental controls.

Both providers offer protection for one device with their basic plans and unlimited devices with their most expensive plans. However, Norton extends its protection to just five devices with its 360 Deluxe plan, while McAfee Premium protects unlimited devices.

Regardless, thanks to its 7-day free trial and a lengthy 60-day money-back guarantee, you can try Norton risk-free. Alternatively, McAfee offers a 30-day free trial to test its services and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Norton vs McAfee – Which One is Safer?

Winner: Draw

Modern online threats are unpredictable and constantly evolving, meaning only the best antiviruses can achieve a 100% protection score. We’ve tested Norton and McAfee to determine which is better at blocking threats, like common viruses, phishing attacks, and ransomware. For additional analysis, you can also see our full McAfee review.

Here’s how their core antivirus features stack up.

Malware Protection

Norton and McAfee offer industry-leading malware detection powered by artificial intelligence (AI). That allows both providers to detect the most subtle and recent threats, including zero-day threats.

In testing, we attempted to download over 1,000 files ridden by trojans, worms, viruses, and similar malware. Both antiviruses successfully blocked and removed from the system. These results didn’t come as a surprise, as Norton and McAfee have a 100% refund guarantee if their software proves inefficient against malware.

Furthermore, we checked independent research lab results (AV-Test); they’ve had an identical experience with these providers. Although AV-Test detected more false flags in their Norton test results, McAfee wasn’t flawless during its testing round.

Firewall Protection

McAfee's Advanced Firewall

Both providers offer integrated firewalls to prevent unauthorized access to your devices. Whenever your device establishes a connection with a website or another device, the firewalls will check for malicious traffic and prevent it from reaching your device.

Furthermore, both firewalls will prevent malicious actors from extracting your sensitive data via trusted connections. This makes Norton and McAfee an equally good choice for privacy-conscious users.

Although we found McAfee’s Advanced Firewall to be more user-friendly and customizable. Regardless, Norton’s Smart Firewall comes with the Norton Intrusion Prevention System, an additional layer of protection that performs a secondary traffic check.

Ultimately, neither firewall will fail to stop malicious internet traffic and data hijacking, resulting in a draw between the providers.

Real-time Malware Protection

McAfee's Real-Time Scanning feature

An antivirus must continuously scan your devices for malware to offer the highest form of protection – real-time malware protection. Although this type of protection significantly bolsters the security of your devices, it can also slow it down.

Norton and McAfee had equally satisfying results during our recent testing. We tried downloading malware-ridden files while the feature was active, and both providers prevented it from infesting our PCs and smartphones.

In addition, turning it off and sneaking malware into the storage was also ineffective, as both antiviruses immediately detected it when we reactivated their real-time malware protection features.

It’s worth mentioning that although both providers detected 100% of the malware we snuck in, Norton had a slightly faster malware detection rate than McAfee. However, we found McAfee’s Real-Time Scanning easier to use and configure, which beginners may appreciate.

Scanning

Norton's scan options

Scanning helps to detect spyware, malware, adware, and other cyber threats. To compare Norton vs McAfee antivirus scans, we measured their malware removal effectiveness, versatility, and the strain they put on our devices.

Both providers offer:

  • Scheduled Scans – Pick a time and date and allow Norton and McAfee to perform a scan of your choice.
  • Quick Scans – The providers will check your devices for malware in commonly infested storage areas.
  • Full Scans – Norton and McAfee will scan every file on your devices to detect even the most persistent, well-hidden malware.
  • Custom Scans – Both providers allow you to scan specific files, folders, or drives on demand.

Besides these, Norton offers Smart Scan. This feature will check your devices for performance, security, and network errors to help you keep your device safe. McAfee, on the other hand, offers Vulnerability Scan, which scans your devices for outdated apps and operating system updates to improve security.

Norton vs McAfee – Ease of Use

Winner: McAfee is easier to navigate and ideal for beginners

Norton and McAfee are simple to use and offer intuitive user interfaces. However, we found Norton’s interface slightly outdated, while McAfee made us feel like we’d been using it for years.

Norton's interface

Norton’s apps have a bottom-sided menu that separates their features into five categories, and navigating them isn’t a chore, but it is easy to get lost while looking for a feature.

Alternatively, McAfee offers an at-a-glance view of your security features on its home page. You can find feature settings below the home page, and each category and feature has a short description to help beginners find their way around easier.

McAfee's interface

However, McAfee didn’t score a point in this category just because of its looks. It is also more performance-friendly.

While locating the scanners in both programs is easy, you’ll notice fewer device slowdowns while running McAfee’s scans. For example, we tried watching a TV show on our computer with McAfee’s full system scan running in the background and noticed minimal stutter. In comparison, scanning the entire system using Norton resulted in frequent screen stutters.

In addition, McAfee is less likely to flag the wrong files during its scans. That means it is less likely to disrupt you by deleting files or apps containing false positives.

Thankfully, neither provider offers apps that bombard you with ads and push notifications or contain bloatware, and their features are highly customizable. That means advanced users won’t have any issues with Norton with the right amount of tinkering, but McAfee is more beginner-friendly out-of-the-box.

Norton vs McAfee Key Features

Winner: Norton has a wide range of features

Norton and McAfee tied in our comparison of their essential antivirus features, but the additional tools Norton offers earned it an extra point. As a full-featured antivirus program, Norton will safeguard your devices from basic and advanced online threats, but McAfee doesn’t fall too far behind.

Web Protection Features

Norton web protection

Norton offers Safe Web, a browser extension you can add to Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari to shield you from malicious, phishing, and scam websites. It will analyze every website you intend to visit and provide a safety score before you enter it. If its database flags the website as a malware carrier, Safe Web will prevent you from entering it.

McAfee’s alternative is called Web Protection, and it functions similarly. Besides malware and fraudulent websites, these extensions will safeguard you from malvertising.

The extensions from both providers will also scan your social media feeds and highlight links that lead to unsafe websites. However, Norton Safe Web’s layout and seamless integration left a slightly better impression. In addition, it detected more malicious links while we tested its capabilities on email-based attacks, which is the most common phishing attack method.

Parental Controls

Norton parental control

Norton’s antivirus software can easily compete with some of the best parental control apps because of its comprehensive lineup of monitoring tools.

Here are the parental control features you can expect from Norton:

  • Time Supervision – Norton provides an at-a-glance view of your children’s activities on their PCs and mobile devices. You can choose a limit, set curfews, and review the statistics daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
  • Video Supervision – The tools will list the videos your kids watch on their PCs, Androids, or iOS devices, including a snippet of each video.
  • Mobile App Supervision – This feature will show you which apps your children have installed on their devices, allowing you to block inappropriate ones.
  • Web and Search Supervision – Norton lets you block inappropriate websites remotely and track which websites your kids frequently visit.
  • Location Supervision – This lets you monitor your children in real time using a GPS location tracker on your child’s device. In addition, you’ll have a 30-day history log to check where they’ve been.
  • School Time – Norton allows you to block websites unrelated to schoolwork while they study.

McAfee offers no parental control features with its plans for individuals, and the ones found in its family plans cannot match Norton’s tools.

Password Manager

Opting for Norton or McAfee means you won’t need to invest in a third-party password-keeping solution, as their dedicated tools can match the best password managers today.

You can use either provider’s password manager to create strong passwords, store them in impenetrable password vaults, and auto-fill your credentials into various online forms. For example, you won’t need to remember your login info after saving it into Norton’s or McAfee’s password manager, as it’ll just pop up when you visit a website you have an account on.

Although McAfee’s tools and apps typically look and feel better than Norton’s, the password manager is a different story. Norton’s password manager is much easier to use, looks more modern, and does a better job at auto-filling your information.

In addition, both apps will inform you if your current passwords are weak, prompting you to replace them with a safer option to prevent brute-force attacks and account hijacking.

VPN

Norton Secure VPN interface

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a must-have online privacy tool, and both Norton and McAfee offer it. And while neither service can match the best VPN services, the offered VPNs are functional and reliable.

McAfee offers a solid VPN with 2,000+ servers across 48+ countries, while Norton falls behind with a network of 1,500+ servers in 29+ countries. That makes McAfee a better pick if you’re seeking a VPN with a large server fleet.

However, Norton offers better VPN features, including split tunneling, which allows you to choose which websites or apps will be encrypted by its robust AES-256 encryption. For example, you may encrypt your connection to a streaming platform to access foreign content while leaving your games or banking apps unencrypted.

Both providers offer a functional kill switch, which effectively cuts off your online connection in case a VPN gets disconnected.

Both VPNs offered solid connection speeds with no performance issues, and their privacy features worked well during our testing. Ultimately, you can pick between more coverage with McAfee or additional privacy features with Norton.

Dark Web Monitoring

McAfee's information leak alert

Nobody is immune to cybersecurity threats, including the biggest tech companies. When a company you have an account with suffers a data breach, your information is prone to leaking and compromising your security. Furthermore, you risk a data leak whenever you connect to an unsafe Wi-Fi hotspot without VPN protection.

These leaks can lead to a loss of your online accounts or even financial losses. The worst part? Large companies can take months to report a data breach, while hackers typically exploit the ill-obtained credentials within days.

Norton and McAfee offer dark web monitoring, a tool that continuously scans the dark web for leaks of your information and alerts you if it detects one. McAfee offers this feature with its cheapest plan, while Norton doesn’t, making McAfee a more budget-friendly pick if you’re seeking this type of protection.

Both providers offer to track your emails, credit cards, IDs, and even gamer tags to help you tackle this threat. In addition, their identity theft protection tool complements this feature by allowing you to freeze your credit cards immediately if needed.

Norton vs McAfee – Compatibility

Winner: Norton for everyone except Chromebook users

Both Norton and McAfee are compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices. However, there are some differences in which operating system versions they support:

Device/Operating System Norton McAfee
Windows Windows 11, 10, 8.1, 8, 7 Windows 11 and Windows 10 (RS5) or newer
macOS macOS X 10.10.x or later macOS 10.15 or later
Android Android 8.0 or later Android 8.0 or later
iOS Current iOS and the previous two versions iOS 13 and later

Besides these operating systems, both providers offer a web extension for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. Unlike McAfee, Norton also offers an Opera web extension.

Although the two providers offer similar platform coverage, ChromeOS users should know Norton lacks a dedicated Chromebook app, while McAfee doesn’t.

Norton vs McAfee – Customer Reviews

Winner: Norton has more positive customer reviews

We’ve extensively tested Norton and McAfee for this guide, from their performance to the capabilities of their features and extra tools. However, we decided to visit Trustpilot and find out what their long-term users have to say about their services.

Here’s what we found:

Norton secured 4.2 out of 5 stars with more than 22,000 reviews. More than half of the reviews gave Norton the top score. However, to better understand users’ perspectives, we scrolled through the negative and positive reviews.

A customer's review of Norton

This user praises Norton’s ability to keep their devices safe online and offline, including on networks that aren’t their own. In addition, dozens of reviews describe its customer support teams as knowledgeable and patient, which is a compliment McAfee often gets from its users as well.

What users didn’t like about Norton is its lack of a file shredder, which allows you to permanently erase every trace of a sensitive document, something McAfee offers. In addition, some complain that while most competitors offer a 30-day free trial, Norton only has a 7-day test period.

While Norton has an overwhelmingly positive score on Trustpilot, McAfee has the opposite. With over 1,100 reviews, McAfee has a rating of 1.2 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot, a surprisingly low score given its performance results in the tests conducted by AV-Test and us.

A customer's review of McAfee

After some research, we found that most user complaints stem from its pop-up notifications for free trial users. While this is a common upselling practice among antiviruses, we don’t believe McAfee deserves such a low score on Trustpilot, considering that AV-Test gave the service 18 out of 18 points for its performance, usability, and protection capabilities.

Overall, the user reviews for both providers agree that their customer support teams are helpful, their additional features are comprehensive, and they offer exceptional protection for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices. However, Norton had a significantly better score, which earned it a winning point.

For further analysis, check out our complete Norton Antivirus review.

Conclusion: Norton vs McAfee – Which One Wins?

Norton McAfee
Price
Security Draw Draw
Ease of use
Features
Compatibility
Customer reviews

Comparing McAfee vs Norton led to the latter winning, but that doesn’t mean McAfee doesn’t have much to offer. It is one of the cheapest antiviruses if you’re looking for protection across unlimited devices, an exceptional pick if you require identity monitoring, and one of the best Windows antiviruses.

However, Norton offers more value for money overall, as its renewal prices are lower, its feature kit is more comprehensive, and real-user reviews are more favorable.

How We Test Antiviruses

Our hands-on testing of Norton and McAfee involved our team of tech experts injecting them with malware, stress-testing their extra tools, and monitoring the performance of our testing rigs over an extended period. Here are the key metrics our experts use to evaluate their features and usability:

  • Independent Antivirus Testing – We referred to AV-Test to get up-to-date results from an independent antivirus testing lab that tests these programs against emerging threats.
  • Features – Our experts thoroughly tested Norton and McAfee’s core antivirus features and their extra tools, including password managers, VPNs, identity theft protection solutions, and more.
  • Ease of Use – We tested the two providers on each major operating system and browser they are compatible with to determine whether they are user-friendly and suitable for beginners.
  • Third-Party Reviews – We complement our experience with third-party reviews from real-life antivirus users for a better insight into their capabilities.
  • Pricing – We compared the pricing structures of the two providers to determine which offers more value for money based on their introductory prices, renewal prices, and features.

How to Choose the Best Antivirus Service

Comparing the best antivirus software can be difficult, as dozens of reputable providers offer unique features. Here’s a list of key factors to consider before committing to a subscription:

  • Independent Antivirus Testing – Check out independent research lab results, like AV-Test, to make sure the antivirus software passed its tests.
  • Ease of Use – Top antiviruses don’t require a guide or technical expertise to set up or use. Look for products with intuitive, easy-to-use apps.
  • Compatibility – Avoid antiviruses that aren’t compatible with major operating systems. While most providers offer support for Windows and Mac, look for the ones that offer native Android and iOS apps and browser extensions.
  • Key Features – Check which features the providers offer with their cheaper and more expensive plans. Most providers include core antivirus protection with low-cost plans, allowing you to pick between the optional features without breaking the bank.
  • Customer Support – Comb through online user reviews to see how long-term users feel about their customer support. In addition, pick a provider that offers multiple customer support options, such as live chat, phone, and email.
  • Price – A plan that offers extra features like VPN, password manager, and similar tools is worth paying for, as these services often cost extra. Most antivirus providers offer multiple plans, so pick one that suits your budget for the first year.

FAQs

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Ilijia Miljkovac
Technology Writer

Ilija Miljkovac is a Techopedia writer with 7 years of experience covering all things tech. He writes about everything from cybersecurity to ISPs, ensuring businesses and customers are educated about the latest products and services. He's written for publications such as Business2Community, TheTechReport, Comparitech, and more. When he's not maniacally hacking away at his keyboard, Ilija spends his time either hiking in nature or holed up in his apartment gaming.