No more sluggish performance, annoying notifications, and a complicated interface.
Norton has obviously worked hard to improve its product, and it has positioned itself as a leader in the cybersecurity industry over the last several years. And with the 360 antivirus package, Norton has created something exceptional.
I’ve tested and reviewed over 70 cybersecurity products, and I have very high standards for antivirus software. I’m convinced that this is the best Norton product yet — in fact, it could very well be the best antivirus software on the market, beating out McAfee and Avira on my list of the best antivirus products of 2020.
After extensive testing, here’s everything I found out about Norton 360.
Norton 360 Security Features
Norton 360 is built around 5 core security features:
- Device Security.
- Cloud Backup.
- Secure VPN.
- Password Manager.
- Parental Control (360 Deluxe and 360 Premium only).
I’m going to give a detailed analysis of each of these features. For a full overview of everything Norton 360 has to offer, see the Plans and Pricing section below.
Norton calls its antivirus technology “SONAR” — Symantec Online Network for Advanced Response.
SONAR uses several methods to protect your computer from malware. In addition to traditional definition and signature-based antivirus techniques, SONAR uses heuristics to analyze the behavior of files. This means SONAR can detect “zero-day” threats (unknown and emerging types of malware).
All in all, Norton consistently ranks among the top-performing cybersecurity products on the market, and there’s no question that it’s a powerful antivirus application. Norton achieved perfect results defending my computer against the 17 different malware tests I ran on it — comparable to other big names like Bitdefender and McAfee. Nothing got past Norton’s SONAR antivirus engine.
It quickly quarantined every malicious file, and it stopped all suspicious processes from running. Norton prevented simulated attempts to encrypt my files, transfer data away from my computer, and hijack my CPU for cryptocurrency mining.
I also tested Norton’s Full Scan, which was completed in under 2 hours. I was able to use my computer throughout the scan without any slowdown.
I’d intentionally let one malware file escape Norton’s real-time protection by choosing not to quarantine it. Norton’s Full Scan detected this file.
My first-hand testing confirmed Norton’s excellent antivirus reputation. I also found Norton’s security tools to be lightweight, fast, and easy to use. There’s no doubt in my mind that Norton deserves top marks in malware protection.
If your device is infected, and Norton can’t remove the virus, you could get a full refund under Norton’s “Virus Protection Promise”. This is a generous offer — McAfee and Comodo have a similar policy, but few other brands offer a guarantee like this.
Norton’s “Cloud Backup” feature offers secure remote storage for your important files.
Norton’s cheapest plan, 360 Standard, includes 10 GB of Cloud Backup space. Norton 360 Deluxe offers 50 GB, and the most expensive plan, Norton 360 Premium, offers 75 GB.
This is excellent value across all plans — much more generous than the competition. For comparison, Comodo’s top-tier plan, Comodo Internet Security Complete, offers 50 GB of storage. Kaspersky’s highest-priced plan, Kaspersky Total Security, offers only 2 GB.
Cloud Backup is convenient — you can easily access your files across your phone, your home computer, your work computer, or anywhere you can access the internet. You won’t lose access to your data if your computer gets damaged, lost, or stolen.
But besides convenience, there’s another reason that Norton offers cloud storage — to protect against ransomware.
Hackers can use ransomware to encrypt your files and force you to pay for the decryption key. Cloud Backup is a way to defend against this threat. If your files are safely backed-up on Norton’s servers, it won’t matter so much if the originals get encrypted.
Like most of Norton’s features, Cloud Backup is very user-friendly. When setting up Cloud Backup, Norton let me choose which files to back up, where to back them up, and how often.
Norton lets you backup your data by file-type — like pictures, office documents, emails, etc.
You can schedule backups on a weekly or monthly basis. But most impressive is the “automatic backup” option — Norton can back up my files whenever I’m not using my computer. This minimizes the chance of losing any data, without causing any slowdown.
In short, Norton Cloud Backup is an excellent cloud storage service.
I already have some cloud storage space with Dropbox and Google Drive. However, I found Norton’s Cloud Backup feature to be superior to even those well-known services — mostly because of how easy it was to back up my files automatically.
My child isn’t yet old enough to go online independently, but I’ve been shopping around for high-quality online parental control software in preparation for that fateful day! I believe that quality parental control software is an essential investment for any parent. And Norton offers the best parental controls I’ve ever tested.
My first step in setting up Norton Parental Control was to create a profile for my child. Norton provides presets for four different age groups. Younger children should have very strict controls, whereas older children need a little more freedom.
I named my child “Child 1”, and I set her age range at 12-14 years old. Norton also offers more detailed customization options if you want them, but I kept them at the defaults.
Once I’d set up Parental Control on my computer, Norton prompted me to install the “Norton Family” app on my child’s device.
Setting up that other device was very simple.
Unsurprisingly, the app requested a lot of device permissions. Norton helpfully explains why it needs each permission:
Norton is careful and transparent around privacy. Norton asked me to consent to specific functions — such as Location Supervision — on my child’s behalf, and it explained the implications of doing so.
Once I’d enabled Location Supervision, Norton showed me the location of Child 1’s device on Google Maps.
I then used the Parental Control feature to limit how much time Child 1 could spend on her device per day. I also imposed a curfew, which disables some apps after a certain time of day.
Here’s what Norton displayed on Child 1’s device when I tried to use an app after the curfew time:
This might seem a little strict. However, children can access the “House Rules” at any time to see how Parental Control monitors and restricts their behavior.
I couldn’t find a way to turn this “House Rules” function off on Child 1’s device. In my view, this is a good thing. In my opinion, it’s important to be open with your child about using any sort of parental control software.
I also received an email to let me know what Child 1 had been doing on her device that week.
Norton offers a lot of details about your child’s online activity. However, Norton Parental Control will not help you spy on your kids’ communications. There is software available for this (such as the keylogging software, Kidlogger). But I much prefer Norton’s respectful approach.
Kaspersky Total Protection also has a good parental control feature. However, I find Norton to be much more intuitive than Kaspersky. Norton Parental Control never felt complicated, despite offering extremely detailed customization options.
Norton’s Parental Control feature is only available with one of the plans offering support for multiple devices, like Norton 360 Deluxe and Norton 360 Premium. If you’re a parent, I strongly recommend investing in one of these plans — this feature alone makes it worth the upgrade.
A virtual private network (VPN) helps you protect all the financial data, passwords, and other personal information that leaves your device whenever you use the internet. Using a VPN is crucial when you connect to public Wi-Fi networks, so whenever I travel or work from a cafe or coworking space, I’m always first connected to a VPN.
Norton Secure VPN uses the Symantec network, which has a strict “no log” policy. This means that Norton doesn’t record your identity or browsing history when you use its VPN, keeping your online activity truly private. Some VPN companies — especially dangerous free ones — monitor your browsing history, but Norton not only doesn’t do that, the internet traffic sent through Secure VPN is highly encrypted. This means that even if someone wanted to intercept your traffic, they’d be unable to see what you’re doing.
A VPN also lets you hide true location by connecting to secure servers all around the world, so you can access online content that’s unavailable where you live. The Symantec network is particularly large, with servers in over 30 countries. For comparison, McAfee’s VPN has servers across 22 countries, and Kaspersky’s has servers across 18 countries,
Another great thing about Norton Secure VPN is that it lets you use unlimited data. Many other antivirus companies place data limits on their VPNs — Kaspersky (300 MB per day), Bitdefender (200 MB per day), and Panda (150 MB per day, with unlimited access on the most expensive plan).
But it’s not all great — a VPN can slow down your internet speed. I ran a few speed tests on Norton Secure VPN with the internet speed testing service Ookla.
First, I tested the speed of my broadband connection without the VPN running.
My regular broadband, without an active VPN connection, provided speeds of 40.68 Mbps.
Next, I connected to Norton Secure VPN. I chose a server in the United Kingdom — my actual location — which was likely to be the fastest virtual location, but I still expected the VPN to slow my speed a little.
My download speeds slowed to 16.48 Mbps. This is a pretty significant slowdown, but it wouldn’t be noticeable for most online activities except streaming very, very high-quality video (e.g. 4K HD).
Next, I tried connecting to a server in France. I expected this to be a little slower than with my UK test, but not much because France is pretty close to where I live.
My download speed slowed to 16.44 Mbps, which was barely any slower than when I connected to the server in the UK — still a pretty good speed.
Next, I tried connecting via the United States. This is a long way from home, but a good location for accessing the latest movies and TV shows.
Connecting via the United States gave me a download rate of just 2.40 Mbps. Ouch! This is fine for regular web browsing, but not good enough for even Standard Definition video. My upload rate was (weirdly) much higher, at 5.45 Mbps.
My regular VPN provider, Dashlane (a password manager), scored significantly better — providing download speeds of 23.98 Mbps when I connected to a UK server, 25.09 Mbps when I connected via France, and 21.86 Mbps when I connected via the US.
Norton’s VPN is disappointingly slow. Kaspersky’s VPN is faster (it uses the well-known VPN provider Hotspot Shield), as is TotalAV’s (which uses Windscribe). But there are drawbacks with these other brands — Kaspersky’s VPN has strict data limits, and TotalAV’s VPN costs extra.
Norton Password Manager lets you:
- Store usernames, passwords, text notes, contact details, and payment card details using secure 256-bit AES encryption.
- Assess the strength of your existing passwords.
- Generate strong new passwords.
- Automatically change passwords on over 60 sites including Facebook, Amazon, and eBay.
- Autofill login details, addresses, and payment information as you browse the web.
Norton Password Manager runs as a web app in your browser. I tested it on both Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome. Keep in mind that I’ve tested many password managers, so my standards are very high.
After installing the Password Manager Browser extension, Norton helped me create my Password Vault. The first step is to create a vault password, and Norton immediately tells you how strong your password is.
Once I had created my vault password, Norton took me to my Password Vault.
The Password Vault has a clear and simple interface. The “Safety Dashboard” tool gives you an overall score for the strength of your passwords. Along with login credentials, you can also store payment details, addresses, and notes in the Password Vault.
Norton Password Manager also has an “Autochange Password” feature. It can automatically change your password on compatible sites with just one click. This works on over 60 sites, including Facebook, Amazon, and eBay.
Features like Norton’s Autochange Password are very rare, even among the best password managers on the market. It’s really impressive that Norton Password Manager can do this.
As far as I’m aware, only Dashlane and LastPass offer a similar feature. Dashlane’s version is more developed, and works on over 300 sites. However, LastPass’s version only works on 50 sites — fewer than Norton Password Manager.
Like most password managers, Norton Password Manager also automatically detects username and password fields as you browse the web.
I found that Norton didn’t fill my passwords immediately. First I had to click the icon it had placed inside the password field. Norton says this is a security measure. This seems sensible — I wouldn’t want my passwords automatically sent to unverified websites.
When I entered a password that wasn’t saved in my Password Vault, Norton automatically offered to save it:
Norton can also autofill addresses and payment information that you have saved in your Password Vault. I did have a little trouble with this feature at first, but I got it working eventually.
Norton provides a Password Generator to create strong new passwords. This offers a good level of customization — you can create a password with up to 64 characters, including any combination of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.
Norton Password Manager is truly impressive. However, it isn’t quite up to the standard of the best password managers. Dashlane, for example, offers secure password sharing, emergency access, and a range of 2-factor authentication options on all of its plans.
But if you’re new to password managers, Norton Password Manager is definitely worth using. It’s a great addition to all Norton 360 plans with no restrictions. Compare Norton’s offering to Kaspersky’s password manager, which only lets you save 15 passwords — unless you pay for Kaspersky’s top-priced plan.
Norton 360 Plans and Pricing
When it comes to plans and pricing, Norton does things a little differently compared to most other antivirus companies.
Norton offers three plans, and pretty much every feature is available across each of them. The two more expensive plans offer more licenses, more Cloud Storage space, and access to the Parental Control feature.
This pricing structure means every Norton customer gets the best that Norton has to offer, and there’s no annoying upselling that you find in some other brands like AVG. While there’s no free option, all of Norton’s 360 plans include a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Compare Norton’s pricing structure to TotalAV’s, which denies access to important features even on its top-priced plan. Or Panda’s, which doesn’t protect its lower-paying customers against ransomware. I think Norton definitely has the best approach here.
Note that this review is about Norton’s international product line. There’s a slightly different offer for US customers. For US customers, all the core features are the same. As an added bonus, some US plans also include Norton’s identity-theft protection product — Norton LifeLock. There are also some minor differences around the number of licenses and the amount of Cloud Storage space, but other than that, it’s basically identical.
Basic Plan: Norton 360 Standard
Norton 360 Standard offers the following features (PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet):
- 1 device.
- Protection against all types of malware, including viruses, spyware, and ransomware. Includes customizable, on-demand scans and real-time protection.
- PC Cloud Backup (10 GB).
- Secure VPN.
- Norton Password Manager.
- Norton Smart Firewall for PC and Mac.
- 100% Virus Protection Promise.
- SafeCam for PC — prevents unauthorized access to your webcam.
This is a complete internet security package. It’s the most generous bottom-tier antivirus product that I’m aware of. Most antivirus companies only offer their lowest-paying companies basic malware protection, but Norton packs in lots of valuable extra features.
If you only have one computer, and you don’t have kids, you could save some money by choosing this plan. However, with only 1 license, you wouldn’t get access to the excellent Norton Mobile Security app — unless you use your 1 license on your mobile device, but it would be cheaper to just buy the Mobile Security license directly (or upgrade to the Deluxe plan).
Best Value: Norton 360 Deluxe
Norton 360 Deluxe offers all the same features as Norton 360 Standard, plus:
- 5 licenses (in total).
- 50 GB of storage (in total) with the Cloud Backup feature.
- Access to the Parental Control feature.
Because Norton’s basic package is so good, this also might not seem like a whole lot of extra features.
However, this is a big increase in value — 5 times more licenses, 5 times more storage space, and access to arguably the best parental control software on the market. You can also use one or more of your licenses to install Norton Mobile Security.
Parents with smaller families should definitely make the upgrade to Norton 360 Deluxe, if only for access to the Parental Control feature and support for more devices.
More Advanced: Norton 360 Premium
Norton 360 Premium offers all the same features as Norton 360 Standard and Deluxe, plus:
- 10 licenses (in total).
- 75 GB of storage (in total) with the Cloud Backup feature.
Norton 360 Premium is the best plan if you have a large family. For example, if there are 2 parents and 3 kids in your household, each person could protect up to 2 devices.
Norton 360 Ease of Use
It’s actually hard to believe that Norton once had a reputation for being sluggish and complicated. This certainly isn’t true anymore. Norton has spent the past several years developing one of the most easy-to-use and efficient antivirus applications on the market.
Installing the software takes just a few minutes, and then Norton gives you a guided tour to help you set everything up.
Another great thing about Norton is that it offers 2 interfaces — “My Norton” and “Classic”. This is presumably to keep long-standing customers happy who have grown accustomed to the old interface, but it’s nice to have two options.
Here’s how Norton’s “Classic” interface looks:
If you want to make the most of the software, Norton offers a great level of customization. You can exclude certain folders or types of files from scans to save time. You can also schedule automated tasks, such as clearing your browser history or backing up your files.
But while it’s great to have all these options, most people don’t need to worry about them. Norton can handle this stuff for you, and it keeps everything simple by default.
My one minor complaint about Norton’s user-interface is that there’s no desktop application for Norton Password Manager — only a browser-based web app. But this really isn’t going to bother many people.
Overall, Norton is fast, simple, and easy to use. It will keep you happy whether you’re an absolute antivirus beginner or a total cybersecurity geek.
Norton 360 Mobile App
Norton Mobile Security is available with all 360 plans. However, if you choose Norton 360 Standard, you only get 1 license, so you’ll probably want to use it on a desktop or laptop.
Norton promotes a “free” version of Norton Mobile Security, which nearly made the number 1 spot on my list of the best free antivirus apps for Android — until it turned out to only be a free trial! What happens is you can download the “free” version, and then after a 30-day trial, it will default to the premium version which asks you to pay money to keep using it. But if you are using one of the 360 plans, you already have access to the premium version.
Norton Mobile Security provides the following features:
- Malware scanning and real-time malware protection (Android only).
- Anti-Theft (Android only).
- Wi-Fi Scan.
- Web Protection.
- Link Guard.
- Safe Search.
- App Advisor — checks apps for privacy and battery-use issues.
The following features are also available on mobile, but via separate apps:
- Norton Password Manager.
- Norton Parental Control.
- Norton Secure VPN.
I tested Norton Mobile Security on a Galaxy S10e running Android 9.
The first thing I noticed was that Norton Mobile Security has a very simple interface. It shows the features available in the app itself, and it also displays the features that are available via a separate app.
Norton Mobile Security easily detected my test virus — both in real-time and via a malware scan. The App Adviser feature also recognized my antivirus-testing app as malware and tried to warn me not to install or use it.
Other mobile antivirus apps have not been so effective — for example, TotalAV’s real-time protection didn’t detect this virus (although its malware scan did).
When you open a link outside of your browser (for example, via your email app), the Link Guard feature checks whether the destination site is safe. This protects against phishing scams and malicious websites.
Link Guard can integrate with all 6 browsers installed on my device (including Firefox, Chrome, and Brave Browser). The feature worked really quickly, flashing a quick progress bar at the bottom of my display as it verified a site.
There’s also a Wi-Fi Security feature which scans Wi-Fi networks to ensure they’re secure.
Norton’s Anti-Theft feature includes all the anti-theft tools I would expect from a mobile security app, including:
- Scream (emit a loud noise).
- Sneak Peek (remotely activate your front camera).
- Sim Card Lock.
It’s unfortunate that Anti-Theft isn’t available on iOS. For an app with great iOS anti-theft tools, I recommend McAfee Mobile Security, which made it to 2nd place overall on my list of the best free antivirus apps for iPhone and iPad.
The only other issue with Norton Mobile Security is that you need to download separate apps to access the Password Manager, Parental Control, and Secure VPN. This isn’t a big deal, however, as you can access all of your Norton apps via the main menu.
Norton Mobile Security is the fastest, most user-friendly, and most feature-rich antivirus Android app I’ve tested. That said, iOS users get a slightly worse deal without the real-time protection (not needed on iOS) and Anti-Theft (many default iOS apps do this). However, on either device, adding the mobile app is a great reason to upgrade to either Norton 360 Deluxe or 360 Premium.
Norton 360 Customer Support
Norton offers support via:
- Phone (available 24/7).
- Live chat.
- Community support forum.
Norton’s FAQs are comprehensive and well-organized. However, like any long-standing product, Norton has to cater for users of older products, so this can sometimes get confusing when there are a lot of questions to look through.
What’s strange is that Norton doesn’t seem to provide an email support option.
To be fair to Norton, email isn’t a great format for support. Solving a technical problem can take a lot of cooperation between the customer and the agent. However, I like having the option of email.
Testing out the live chat support, I got connected to an agent immediately, who was extremely helpful. He offered to take remote access of my computer to resolve my issue. I declined, so he talked me through my problem instead, step-by-step:
I also called Norton’s helpline a couple of times. The first time, I waited nearly an hour on hold. However, the second time I got through in only a few minutes. On both occasions, Norton’s call handlers were helpful and polite, and they easily answered my questions.
Overall, it’s great to have access to live chat and phone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I don’t know of many other antivirus companies that offer this level of availability. Norton’s FAQs are also very good. I would really like to have email support as an option, but with so many other great support channels available, it’s not going to be that big of a problem for most users.
Is Norton 360 the Best Antivirus Out There?
After testing more than 70 cybersecurity products, I can safely say that this is probably the best all-around antivirus software out there. Norton’s “360-degree” marketing angle is actually meaningful — it really does all I’ve ever expected my antivirus to do. During this test, it protected my device from pretty much every type of cybersecurity threat I threw to it, on each of its three plans.
If you already have a VPN, password manager, parental controls, and plenty of cloud storage — and you only need antivirus protection — perhaps consider Kaspersky’s entry-level plan, Kaspersky AntiVirus, or take a look at Cylance.
While it’s a great product right now, I hope to see Norton continue to improve this software. The Secure VPN is private and user-friendly, but it’s also very slow. And the Password Manager is really good, but it needs more 2-factor authentication options to compete with top-of-the-range password managers software.
These minor criticisms aside, I’m confident in saying that Norton 360 is the best overall antivirus software available. It has the most impressive Device Security, Cloud Backup, and Parental Control features I’ve ever used, and it has a 100% protection rate against all types of malware.
Overall, Norton 360 is a powerful, efficient, all-in-one cybersecurity package — the best online protection money can buy.
What I Like:
- SONAR technology provides a powerful defense against all types of malware.
- Parental Control and Cloud Backup are the best of these kinds of features I’ve ever used.
- Other extra features including Norton Password Manager and Secure VPN.
- The best Android mobile security app available.
What I Don’t Like:
- VPN is slow.
- Limited 2-factor authentication for Password Manager.
- No Anti-Theft feature for iOS app.
Norton Antivirus — Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a free version of Norton antivirus?
There are some free Norton cybersecurity tools for PC users (no free tools are available for Mac users, unfortunately). These include a virus scanner and a password manager. However, there aren’t any free versions of their most popular products, such as Norton 360.
The free tools offered by Norton are useful, but they won’t fully secure your device — leaving you vulnerable to many different cybersecurity threats. You need one of the premium plans to secure your devices.
Is LifeLock Included in the Norton software?
Norton’s identity theft protection tool, LifeLock, is included in some of the Norton 360 packages and only in the United States.
Note that LifeLock is not included in the Norton 360 Standard or the Norton 360 Deluxe packages, only packages which explicitly state that LifeLock is included.
Is Norton compatible with my system?
Norton is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android users.
Windows users need to have Windows XP (32-bit) Home/Professional with Service Pack 3 or above installed on their PC. Mac users need OS X 10.7.5 (Lion) or higher.
Android users need Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or higher. To use the Norton Family Premier Android app, Android users will only need to have Android version 4.0 installed.
iOS users will need to have iOS 8 or higher installed on their Apple devices.
Does Norton scan external hard drives for viruses?
Norton’s antivirus software does scan external hard drives for viruses and other malware threats, during the Full System Scan. Make sure your external hard disk is connected to your PC or Mac before running the Full System Scan.
You can disable the external hard drive scan by creating a Custom Scan.
How long does the full system scan take?
This is entirely dependent on the number of files on your system. On average, virus scans can take over an hour to complete. However, if you have a large amount of data on your system, the scan will take longer.
Luckily, Norton’s developers have designed the software to make subsequent scans a lot faster — skipping over previously scanned files and only focusing on newer or recently modified files.