Windows Defender vs Norton: Who Wins in 2023?

(Updated on January 9th, 2023)

Is Windows Defender antivirus enough? How about comprehensive protection from Norton? Between the two, which antivirus solution will you rely on?

In this review, we will do an in-depth comparison between Windows Defender and Norton products. We will evaluate them on various aspects such as features, malware protection, system performance, user interface, pricing, and compatibility. We will also rely on results from independent labs such as AV-Test.

Continue below to know which antivirus solution you should rely on.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to a massive shift to online and digital services. This shift increased the risk of identity theft and other online threats. According to the FTC, it got about 1.4 million reports of identity theft in 2020, double the previous year. This trend is set to continue for the better dates of 2021.

To protect yourself against identity theft, you need a paid antivirus suite that offers privacy and identity monitoring. A paid antivirus suite also offers premier services such as comprehensive protection and impressive features. These features include a secure VPN, cloud backup, password manager, safe online banking, credit monitoring, and other features.

Premium antivirus suites are cross-platform, and their subscriptions cover multiple devices. Hence, they offer excellent value for your money and peace of mind. These perks are not available in free antivirus solutions.

Summary (Quick Glance)

Windows Defender is an in-built antivirus solution for Windows devices. Although it lacks most features seen in other antivirus suites, it offers impeccable protection. On the other hand, Norton is a top-tier antivirus suite with a proven track record. It packs great features, offers incomparable online security, and protects you against identity theft.

In a rush? Here is a quick highlight on how Windows Defender and Norton compare.

1. Features
Winner: Norton. Norton products have a slew of features, including identity theft protection. Its features enhance on-device security and online privacy. Windows Defender is not well endowed in terms of features.

2. Malware protection
Winner: Norton. Windows Defender and Norton products offer impeccable security. However, Norton products have an edge ahead due to various features that complement security and privacy.

3. System performance
Winner: Tie. Both antivirus solutions don’t significantly impact your system performance. Windows Defender is light on system resources, and Norton is optimized not to compromise performance. At times, both solutions can be aggressive.

4. User interface
Winner: Tie. Windows Defender and Norton products sport user-friendly interfaces. They are simplistic, decluttered, and appealing to the eye. Features are easily accessible, and navigation is not a problem.

5. Pricing
Winner: Windows Defender. The Windows operating system comes with an inbuilt antivirus solution; Windows Defender. You don’t need a subscription to use this solution. To use Norton products, you have to pay. Nonetheless, they give you excellent value for your money.

6. Compatibility
Winner: Norton. Windows Defender is natively compatible with devices running the Windows operating system. On the other hand, Norton products are cross-platform. They are compatible with Windows, Macs, Android, and iOS devices.

Short Verdict

Windows Defender is a great free antivirus that offers advanced protection. However, you can’t rely on it for comprehensive protection. If you need an all-in-one antivirus suite, Norton has your back. Norton products offer on-device security, keep your online activity safe, and they protect you against identity theft.

1. Features

Antivirus suites boost their protection by using features and other functionalities. Most suites offer features that enhance on-device security, online privacy, and performance. You also get utilities that make your daily computing tasks easier. Without further ado, let us dive into the features offered by Windows Defender and Norton products.

Windows Defender is an unadorned but powerful antivirus. It is offered as part of Windows Security, which is the new security center for Windows. Concisely, Windows Defender is the antivirus which is offered by the Windows Security antivirus suite. For uniformity purposes, in this review, Windows Defender will refer to Windows Security as a whole.

Since Windows Defender is deeply integrated into the Windows OS, it utilizes most of the Window’s features. Unlike other Standalone antivirus suites, Windows Defender focuses on device security with a few online aspects. Its noteworthy features include;

  • Antivirus engine bolstered with ransomware protection.
  • App and browser control.
  • Device performance and health.
  • Device security functionalities.
  • Family options for parental control.
  • Firewall and network protection.
  • Windows account protection

Besides the seven limited features, Windows Defender also provides other security-related utilities. However, these are offered in conjunction with the Windows operating system and not antivirus-related. They include One drive storage, drive encryption, a fresh start, dynamic lock, and so on.

Norton offers third-party antivirus suites that provide on-device security, online privacy, and identity theft protection. More than 50 million users trust Norton products to offer the needed protection. Unlike Windows Defender, Norton packs various features relevant to its products. For home and personal use, here are the antivirus suites Norton offers.

Starting us off is Norton’s base product, Norton Antivirus Plus. This antivirus software specializes in device security. It is compatible with Windows and Macs. It boasts the following features;

  • Award-winning antivirus engine with online threat protection.
  • Smart firewall.
  • Password manager.
  • 2GB cloud back up.

The next product is the Norton 360 suite. This is a fully-featured and cross-platform all-in-one antivirus suite. It offers on-device security, online privacy, and identity theft protection. It is compatible with PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets. The Norton 360 suite is divided into three plans; Standard, Deluxe, and LifeLock.

The Standard plan is the low-end package among the three. It has features of Norton Antivirus Plus and packs its privacy-related features as well. They include;

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

Up next is the Deluxe plan. This is the package we recommend: balances on-device security, online privacy, and identity theft protection.  Norton 360 Deluxe packs the following additional features;

  • Parental control with school time.
  • Privacy monitoring.
  • Secure VPN for up to 5 PCs, Macs, smartphones, or tablets.
  • 50GB cloud backup.

Finally, the LifeLock plan. This is the high-end package in the Norton 360 suite. Besides protection, this comprehensive plan focuses on identity theft protection and insurance. The LifeLock plan is further divided into three tiers; Select, Advantage, and Ultimate Plus. They all offer features of the previous plans.

Norton 360 with LifeLock Select is the base tier. It brings you distinct features such as;

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

Norton 360 with LifeLock Advantage tier adds the following unique features;

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

Last of all, Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate plus tier. This high-end tier is pricey and offers more on insurance and monitoring. Its distinct features include;

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

Comparing Windows Defender features to those of Norton, it is clear it doesn’t stand a chance. Norton packs a slew of features and even offers identity theft monitoring.

Norton features

Winner: Norton

2. Malware Protection

Windows Defender and Norton products offer unmatched malware protection. Even with the lack of security-enhancing features, Windows Defender does a premier job. Both antivirus suites protect you against viruses, malware, spyware, ransomware, and other online and offline threats.

Besides its antivirus engine, Window Defender also uses real-time and cloud-delivered protection. These technologies ensure increased protection, faster detection, and access to the latest protection data in the cloud. This data contains malware-signatures and online analysis of new and existing threats.

Its advanced security encompasses core isolation and memory integrity. This ensures protection against file-less threats. There’s also exploit protection, reputation-based protection, and tamper protection. For Microsoft’s Edge browser, Windows Defender provides isolated browsing. Your emails are also safe from malicious codes.

On the other hand, Norton offers all-in-one protection. Its antivirus products use an award-winning engine to keep threats at bay. The multi-layered and comprehensive protection further ensures your privacy and online identity are safe from malicious actors.

The antivirus engine relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence. These technologies offer unrivaled defenses that protect you against emerging and complex online threats. Norton products also use emulation and file signature data for a faster detection and protection rate.

PC users are lucky to benefit from behavioral protection, reputation protection, power eraser, and proactive exploit protection. Norton also offers an intrusion prevention system for Macs and PCs. To boast its advanced comprehensive protection, Norton has a 100% Virus Protection Promise. If you encounter a virus Norton can’t remove, you will get a refund of your money (auto-renew only).

To evaluate Windows Defender and Norton’s malware protection capabilities, we will rely on the independent lab results from AV-Test. This lab offers real-world scenarios on how antivirus suites protect you against malware. The AV-Test tests for zero-day malware attacks, protection against malware infections, and the detection of widespread malware.

Here are AV-Test results for Windows Defender.

Malware Protection 1

Here are the AV-Test results for Norton.

Malware Protection 2

From the above recent AV-Test results, Windows Defender and Norton products got a protection score of 6 out of 6. Hence, both antivirus suites are well suited to protect you against various threats. Despite the exceptional protection from Windows Defender, it still lacks security and privacy-enhancing features. These features give Norton products an edge over Windows Defender.

Winner: Norton

3. System Performance

Overall, Antivirus suites have a performance overhead during scan operations. This is not good as they compromise on performance. However, today’s antivirus suites have tried their best to reduce the performance overhead. Depending on your system and the task at hand, you may or may not notice a performance impact during scans.

Windows defender performance impact is not straightforward. As a built-in service, it tries its best not to hog on your system resources. However, this might not be the case. At times, Windows Defender can have a significant performance impact when doing scans. Other times, it hard to notice if it is running.

Similar to Windows defender, Norton products may or may not have a performance impact. Nonetheless, they have undergone several optimizations to ensure impeccable protection without impacting your system performance.

To evaluate the system performance influence Windows Defender and Norton products have, we will rely on AV-Test results. AV-Tests does various assessments that evaluate antivirus suites’ performance impact. These assessments test daily computer usages such as downloads, browsing, installation and launching of programs, and file operations.

Here are AV-Test results for Windows Defender.

System Performance 1

Here are the AV-Test results for Norton products.

System Performance 2

Both antivirus solutions got a performance score of 6 out of 6 points. This means they have a little performance impact on your daily computer usage. Although both solutions can be aggressive when performing scans, they won’t heavily compromise your performance.

Winner: Tie

4. User Interface

Windows Defender and Norton sport user-friendly interfaces. Windows Defender has a minimalistic and simple interface. Once you launch the security dashboard, you will see all the seven features outlined in the main window. This main window has two panels. The right panel hosts the features, while the left panel acts as a menu.

Besides the seven features, you can access other functionalities by clicking on the main features. As stated earlier, some functionalities rely on the Windows operating system. Thus, you might notice other apps opening up when you click on a functionality.

Windows Defender Interface

Akin to Windows Defender, Norton products also have a simple and decluttered interface. Unlike most antivirus suites, Norton packs two interfaces. The ‘classic Norton’ and the ‘My Norton’ interfaces. My Norton is the default interface and is vertically oriented. The main window has two panes. The left pane houses a mountain climber photo, very inspiring. The right pane hosts the features.

The classic interface is oriented horizontally, similar to most antivirus suites. It has big tiles which make it easy to use.

Norton interface

Overall, both Windows Defender and Norton products have intuitive interfaces. Their designs are appealing, and navigation is easy.

Winner: Tie

5. Pricing

Windows Defender is a free antivirus integrated into Windows 10. You don’t need to buy it. As long your device runs on Windows 10, you will have access to Windows Defender.

It’s a different case for Norton products. Since they are paid premium antivirus products, you need a subscription to access what they offer. Norton has different subscription plans for each product it offers. The plans carry a 60-day Money Back Guarantee. Here are the details of the first-year subscriptions;

  • Norton antivirus plus costs $19.99 per year; it covers 1 PC or Mac.
  • Norton 360 standard goes for $39.99 per year; it covers 1 PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet.
  • Norton 360 deluxe retails at $49.99 per year; it offers protection for up to 5 PCs, Macs, smartphones, or tablets.
  • Norton 360 with LifeLock Select costs $99.48 per year; it offers protection for up to 5 devices.
  • Norton 360 with LifeLock Advantage goes for $191.88 per year; it covers up to 10 devices.
  • Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus retails at $299.88 per year; it covers unlimited devices.

Norton gives you excellent value for your money. Its features and identity protection make it worth your every penny. Nonetheless, Windows Defender won’t break your bank, and it offers robust protection.

Winner: Windows Defender

6. Compatibility

You guessed correctly! As the name implies, Windows Defender is compatible with devices running on Microsoft Windows OS. As aforementioned, it is built into the Windows system. Windows Defender is designed to allow the installation of other third-party antivirus suites. It will automatically turn itself off once you install another real-time antivirus.

If you wish to use Windows Defender on non-Window devices, Microsoft allows it. However, you will get a modified version known as the endpoint. This version comes with a subscription, and it is pretty similar to what you get on Windows. Only a few changes and features.

In contrast, Norton products are cross-platform. They are compatible with Windows, Macs, Android, and iOS devices. The products for Windows have many features as compared to what it provides on other platforms. Regardless, you get the same protection across all your devices.

Winner: Norton

Final Thoughts

Windows Defender is now a reliable antivirus software. You can even use it as your first line of defense on your Windows devices. However, if you need comprehensive protection, you will need a paid premium antivirus suite. In this definitive review, Norton is your go-to antivirus suite.

It has an outstanding list of features, and it offers all-in-one protection – security, privacy, and identity theft. Additionally, Norton offers cross-platform products; you get the capability to protect all your devices. Norton subscriptions also give you excellent value for your money as they cover multiple devices.

Frequently asked questions

Do I still need antivirus software with Windows 10?

By default, Windows 10 ships with Windows Defender. Although not a premium antivirus solution, Windows Defender offers impeccable protection. It also offers a firewall and limited parental control. Even so, it is prudent to have a paid premium antivirus security suite for comprehensive protection.

Is Windows Defender good enough for 2023?

Windows Defender has undergone several developments to make it a world-class antivirus. The current version goes head-to-head with some top-tier antivirus security suites. Nowadays, Windows Defender is sufficient to protect you against online threats. Couple it with another antivirus suite for maximum protection.

Is Norton better than Windows Defender?

Yes, Norton is way better than Windows Defender. Norton antivirus products pack impressive features, and they offer superior protection. The Norton 360 line offers privacy and identity theft protection. Additionally, Norton products are cross platforms, and they give you excellent value for your money.

Can Norton and Windows Defender run together?

Yes, Norton and Windows Defender can run together. However, Windows Defender will be inactive in the background. Also, it is not necessary to run to antivirus solutions simultaneously. The system performance impact will be high.

Does Norton slow down my computer?

Generally, antivirus solutions have a performance overhead. Norton has undergone several optimizations to ensure it doesn’t compromise your performance. However, at times it might get aggressive and hog significant system resources.

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