McAfee vs Norton | Head-to-Head Comparison (2023)

(Updated on January 9th, 2023)

Norton and McAfee always do their best to keep your digital life protected at all times. When pitted against each other, which one is the best?  

In this ultimate comparison, we will determine the best antivirus security suite between Norton and McAfee. We will compare them using the following aspects: Features, Malware Protection, System Performance, User Interface, Pricing, and Compatibility. Read on to find out which antivirus suite you should use on your devices.

Cyberattacks and threats continue to be on the rise and more sophisticated than ever. Malware and infection vectors are also evolving, and cybercriminals are now targeting even remote online services. With the sudden shift to these online services due to the Covid-19 pandemic, you now need to protect your devices more than ever, and at all times.

According to AV-Test, it is projected that by the end of January 2021, there will be 6 million global new malware samples. For enhanced security and privacy, you need a premium antivirus security suite such as Norton or McAfee.

These antivirus suites not only protect you against malware and viruses; you also get identity theft protection and credit monitoring services. These suites’ premium features provide comprehensive and robust protection. Such features include cloud backup, VPN, password manager, system optimization tools, webcam protector, and other utilities such as a firewall.

Furthermore, a single subscription on these suites can cover up to 10 devices. To sweeten the deal, you can use them on various platforms such as Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. With a premium security suite, be it Norton or McAfee, you get peace of mind and great value for your money.

Comparison at a Glance

Norton and McAfee are fully featured antivirus security suites. Both products are well known in the industry and are recommendable options for your device’s security. If you are in a rush, below is a quick comparison summary of the products.

1. Features
Winner: Norton. Although both products have an impressive list of features, Norton products have more outstanding features and extras.

2. Malware protection
Winner: Tie. Both products offer comprehensive and advanced security against malware and online threats. In the latest independent lab tests conducted by AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, both suites got perfect scores.

3. System performance
Winner: McAfee. McAfee uses fewer system resources when running on your system. Hence, it doesn’t impact your overall system performance.

4. User interface
Winner: Tie. Both security suites sport a user-friendly and intuitive interface. Features and functionalities are well organized, and navigation isn’t a problem. Their main dashboard nearly has everything you need.

5. Pricing
Winner: Tie. Norton and McAfee offer different pricing plans for their products. Norton offers various subscription plans, while McAfee gives you a streamlined subscription of three plans.

6. Compatibility
Winner: Norton. Both products are compatible with Windows, Macs, Android, and iOS devices. But Norton gives you the same product functionality across all platforms.

Short Verdict

Overall, Norton and McAfee provide the necessary protection against malware and other online threats. When pitted against each other, Norton takes the lead as the best security suite among the two. Although they tie in various aspects, Norton’s set of features and compatibility gives you excellent value for your money.

Without further ado, let us take an in-depth look at how the two antivirus security suites compare.

1. Features

These are essential aspects that will help you determine if a product is worth your time and money. Let us look at the various features offered by Norton and McAfee.

Features of Norton

Norton has various products with incremental features. Let us look at Norton Antivirus Plus for PCs and Macs features. This is Norton’s low-end product; the features include;

  • Multilayered threat protection
  • Password manager, Firewall, and 100% Virus Protection Promise.
  • 2GB cloud backup

Up next is the Norton 360 suite. This is our recommendable product and Norton’s cross-platform solution. It is compatible with PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets. This suite comes in three plans; Standard, Deluxe, and LifeLock.

The Standard suite is the base product of Norton 360, and it includes all the features of the previous antivirus product. Other additional features include

  • Dark Web and Webcam monitoring.
  • 10GB cloud backup.
  • Secure VPN for 1 PC, 1 Mac, or 1 smartphone or tablet.

The Deluxe package includes the following features

  • Dark Web and Privacy monitoring.
  • Norton parental control and School time.
  • 50GB cloud backup.
  • Secure VPN for up to 5 PCs, Macs, smartphones, or tablets.

The high-end package in this suite is the Norton 360 LifeLock. This package has three tiers, namely Select, Advantage, and ultimate Plus. Besides malware protection, this package offers identity protection, online privacy, and insurance.

It also packs all the features of the Norton products. The lowest tier is Norton 360 LifeLock Select. its unique features include

  • LifeLock Identity Alert System and Data Breach Notifications.
  • 1 Bureau Credit and ID verification Monitoring.
  • SSN and Credit alerts.
  • Million-dollar protection package and Stolen Wallet Protection.
  • Access to US-based Identity Restoration Specialists.
  • 100GB cloud backup.
  • Secure VPN for up to 5 PCs, Macs, smartphones, or tablets.

The next tier is the Advantage package. It offers the following additional features

  • Identity lock and Fictitious Identity monitoring.
  • Phone take over monitoring.
  • Court record scanning.
  • Bank and credit card activity alerts.
  • 250GB cloud backup.
  • Secure VPN for up to 10 PCs, Macs, smartphones, or tablets.

Lastly, the Ultimate plus tier. This tier gives you better insurance and monitoring. Its additional features include

  • 3 Bureau Credit and Home Title Monitoring.
  • 401(k) and Investment Activity Alerts.
  • 500GB cloud backup.
  • Unlimited Secure VPN for PCs, Macs, smartphones, or tablets.

Features of McAfee

Unlike Norton, McAfee only has a single product, McAfee Total Protection. Its features include

  • Device security and optimization: Award-winning antivirus, Password manager, Safe browsing, Encrypted storage, Shredder, Home network security, Performance optimization, 100% guarantee virus removal.
  • Online privacy: 5 licenses of Secure VPN,
  • Identity theft protection essentials: Dark web monitors and protection of the whole family.

Although these Norton and McAfee sport almost similar features, Norton offers more extra features via its products. Furthermore, Norton gives you insurance.

Winner: Norton

2. Malware Protection

Both Norton and McAfee have robust and advanced antivirus engines that will protect you against complex online threats. To determine which offers better protection, we will rely on real word tests and evaluations conducted by AV-Comparatives and AV-Test, respectively.

AV-Test and AV-Comparatives test on protection parameters against zero-day attacks, detection of prevalent malware, infection vectors, and other protection features on the products. But first, how do these products offer the required protection?

Norton uses multilayered security with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence. This combination brings about multiple defenses and advanced security that protects your devices against online threats.

Here are the results on how Norton fared in the latest AV-Test evaluations.

Chart 1, Norton 360 Deluxe Sept-Oct 2020 protection results. Source: AV-Test.

Here are the results from AV-Comparative tests.

Chart 2, Norton July-Oct 2020 protection results. Source: AV-Comparatives.

McAfee Total Protection also uses multilayered protection to offer comprehensive protection against evolving threats.

Let us see how it fared on the latest AV-Test evaluations.

Chart 3 McAfee Total Protection Sept-Oct 2020 protection results. Source: AV-Test.

The results from AV-Comparative tests are as follows

Chart 4 McAfee Total Protection July-Oct 2020 protection results. Source: AV-Comparatives

Both Norton and McAfee Total Protection got a perfect 6 out of 6 protection score from the AV-Test evaluation results. In AV-Comparatives, both products received the two-star Advanced real-world protection Nov 2020 award.

Additionally, both products have a 100% virus removal guarantee. If you come across a virus that they won’t remove, you are entitled to get your money back.

Winner: Tie

3. System Performance

Performance is one of the most critical aspects consumers don’t like compromising. With a low-end computer, you would gladly trade security for performance. However, you will be vulnerable to online threats and malware. To put an end to this practice, antivirus companies are now designing their products with security and performance in mind.

You will notice performance impacts when you launch scanning operations. Both Norton and McAfee Total protection have two scanning modes; Quick scan and Full scan. They also offer custom scans. For example, you can choose to scan a folder, a file, or even an external storage device such as a USB drive.

A Quick scan rapidly checks a few areas where malware and viruses are likely to infect your system. This scan takes a few minutes, and you might notice a little impact on performance. On the other hand, a full scan is an in-depth scan that checks almost everything on your hard drive. If you have a low-end device, you might not perform some operations during a full scan.

In this section, we will again pit Norton and McAfee Total protection against each other. To measure their system performance impact, we will consider evaluations and test results from the reputable AV-Test and AV-Comparative.

These tests revolve around parameters such as your daily computer usage activities such as launching applications, copying files, web browsing, and downloads.

Let us start with Norton.

Chart 5 Norton Oct-2020 performance results. Source: AV-Test.

Our next results are from AV-Comparatives.

Chart 6 Norton Oct-2020 performance results. Source: AV-Comparatives

Next, let us look at how McAfee Total Protection fares in terms of performance. We will start with AV-Test evaluations.

Chart 7 McAfee Total Protection Oct-2020 performance results. Source: AV-Test.

Here are the performance results from AV-Comparatives.

Chart 8 McAfee Total Protection Oct-2020 performance results. Source: AV-Comparatives.

Overall, both products seem to have less impact on performance, as shown in the AV-Test results. But looking at the results keenly, McAfee Total Protection has a lower impact than Norton.

This is also evident in the AV-Comparative results, where Norton has a two-star advanced performance rating. In contrast, McAfee Total Protection has the three-start advanced plus performance rating.

Winner: McAfee

4. User Interface

The user interface enhances the usability of a computer program. In this section, we will see how Norton and McAfee Total Protection implement their user interfaces.

Norton products pack a minimalistic yet intuitive interface. The dashboard design features green and yellow colors. Features are implemented by big buttons, which, when clicked, open more functionalities. Unlike other antivirus suites, Norton cares for its ‘old’ customers. If you don’t like the “My Norton” interface, you can always switch to the old, still sleek looking “Classic” interface.

The new interface offers easy access to new functionalities, such as access to the VPN.

McAfee Total Protection also sports a decluttered, user-friendly interface. The dashboard features big buttons similar to Norton’s, and it uses the blue signature color with a hint of red. The interface is well organized, and you can find various features and functionalities without navigational worries.

The dashboard provides various insights and information, such as your device’s security status and other system information.

Comparing both products, they both have user-friendly and intuitive interfaces.

Winner: Tie

5. Pricing

Norton offers various subscription plans for its products. Here are the details

  • Norton antivirus plus goes for $19.99 per year for the first year, and it offers protection for 1 PC or Mac.
  • Norton 360 standard costs $39.99 per year for the first year, and it covers 1 PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet.
  • Norton 360 deluxe retails at $49.99 per year for the first year, and it offers protection for up to 5 PCs, Macs, smartphones, or tablets.

Norton’s high-end suite, the Norton 360 with LifeLock, offers three pricing plans. They are as follows;

  • Norton 360 with LifeLock Select goes for $99.48 per year for the first year, and it covers up to 5 devices.
  • Norton 360 with LifeLock Advantage costs $191.88 per year for the first year, and it covers up to 10 devices.
  • Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus goes for $299.88 per year for the first year, and it covers unlimited devices.

On the other hand, McAfee Total Protection offers three subscription tiers that carry a 30-day money-back guarantee. That is;

  • The Single device subscription costs $19.99 per year per device
  • The Individual/Couple subscription goes for $24.99 per year for 5 devices
  • The Family subscription $29.99 per year for 10 devices

Here is a pictorial on how McAfee Total Protection prices compare for a 2-year subscription.

If you compare the ‘5 devices subscription plans’, you will find that McAfee Total Protection is cheaper than Norton 360. However, if you look at the features, you will find that Norton has more extras than McAfee. Although Norton 360 is expensive in the long run, you get more value for your money.

Nonetheless, your budget will determine the product you will pick. Payment for both products can be made through all major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or PayPal.

Winner: Tie

6. Compatibility

You can use both Norton and McAfee Total Protection to protect more than one device. For Norton 360 Deluxe, its subscription supports up to 5 devices. McAfee Total Protection subscriptions can cover up to 10 devices. Both products are compatible with Windows, Macs, Android, and iOS devices.

Norton offers the same Windows security suite for Non-Windows platforms such as Mac, Android, and iOS. The mobile versions also have similar features for both Android and iOS. iOS might only miss some functionalities due to its closed system nature

McAfee Total Protection only extends the antivirus suite with some universal extras such as VPN, identity theft protection, and a password manager to Non-Windows platforms such as Mac. Its mobile versions also get a few features, such as security, privacy, anti-theft, and performance features.

Winner: Norton

Final Thoughts

Norton and McAfee Total Protection security suites offer impeccable protection against online threats. They both provide impressive features, but Norton takes security and privacy a notch higher with its outstanding features and extras.

Although McAfee Total Protection gives you a streamlined subscription plan, it is all about trading price for protection. In the long run, the expensive Norton 360 suite gives you excellent value for money.

Pitting these two security suites against each other, Norton emerges as a winner in crucial aspects.

Frequently asked questions

Do I need both Norton and McAfee on my computer?

Having Norton and McAfee might seem an excellent idea for better protection. However, for best results, you only need one antivirus suite installed on your computer. Having more than one suite can be problematic. You will experience a significant performance impact, and your computer might crash. Additionally, the antivirus suites might destroy each other.

Do I need Norton or McAfee with Windows 10?

Yes. As much as Windows 10 comes with a revamped inbuilt Windows Defender, it would be best if you have impeccable protection. Windows Defender is a free product, and unlike paid products, it doesn’t have high detection rates. At times malware may slip through. Additionally, Windows Defender doesn’t conflict with other paid antivirus security suites.

Which is better, Norton or McAfee?

Norton is better than McAfee. In our ultimate comparison, Norton has impressive features, excellent compatibility, and better value for your money. In other aspects, such as system protection, both offer impeccable protection against malware. McAfee fares well in system performance.

Will McAfee remove existing viruses?

Yes, McAfee Total Protection will remove existing viruses and protect you against other malware. McAfee Total Protection uses an advanced and comprehensive antivirus engine to detect and prevent malware and virus infection. If you encounter a virus that McAfee won’t be able to remove, you are entitled to get your money back.

Why is McAfee so bad?

McAfee is not that bad. It is among the best products preferred by most people. It is excellent in terms of performance, overall protection, and it has cheaper subscription plans. However, they are other better Norton products with great features, such as Norton 360 Deluxe.

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