Norton Detailed Expert Review
Overall, Norton 360 is my favorite antivirus in 2021 — it’s got a powerful anti-malware engine, a wide range of internet security tools, an intuitive online dashboard, and good customer support, all for a better price than most competitors.
Norton’s anti-malware engine uses machine learning, advanced heuristics, and a consistently updated malware directory to identify malware — from viruses and trojans to advanced malware like ransomware and cryptojackers. During my testing, Norton’s full scan and real-time protection were both able to detect every single malware file I tried to download, with minimal system slowdown and no false positives.
Norton also has:
- A firewall.
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Parental controls.
- Secure VPN (virtual private network).
- Cloud backup.
- Privacy protection.
- Webcam protection (Windows only).
- Identity theft protection (US only).
- And a lot more…
Norton is very good, but it isn’t perfect. Norton’s desktop app isn’t the most intuitive software to use, and mobile users need to download 4 separate apps to get full security on their devices. And while Norton’s VPN offers encrypted web access to lots of servers worldwide, it failed to unblock Netflix’s geo-restricted content during my tests. The VPN is also a bit slower than many competitors, and it doesn’t allow torrenting.
While I do have some complaints, I still think Norton 360 provides an excellent value. I’m impressed by how many well-built features each package includes. Most competitors offer some extra features along with their basic anti-malware scanner, but almost all of Norton 360’s security tools would be worth buying on their own. Plus, Norton comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee — plenty of time to test it and see if it’s the right antivirus for you.
|Overall Rank||#1 out of 58 antiviruses|
|VPN||Yes (with unlimited data)|
|Pricing||Starting at (first year, terms apply)|
|Money-Back Guarantee||60 days|
|Operating Systems||Windows, Android, Mac, iOS|
Norton 360 Full Review
All of Norton’s packages are full of high-value features and internet security tools that are easy to use and greatly enhance your cybersecurity protections.
Even on the cheapest plan, in addition to a top-notch anti-malware engine, you also get a firewall, anti-phishing protection, webcam protection, a VPN (with unlimited browsing data), a password manager, and 10 GB of cloud storage.
Norton Security Features
Norton uses a massive malware directory as well as heuristic analysis and machine learning to detect malware and provide an excellent level of virus protection. It offers a variety of virus scanning options plus real-time protection to keep malware from Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices.
For my testing, I downloaded a database of nearly 1,000 malware files, including viruses, exploits, worms, trojans, backdoors, keyloggers, rootkits, zero-day attacks, ransomware, spyware, cryptojackers, and PUPs (potentially unwanted programs).
After testing Norton’s full scan, I turned on the real-time protection and tried to download the same 997-file malware database in the form of plain files, zipped files, and even encrypted files. Norton blocked all of the plain files before my computer could even begin downloading them, and it blocked all of my zipped and encrypted malware files the moment I attempted to unzip and decrypt them.
Norton’s full disk scan took about 40 minutes on my PC, which is as fast as most other top competitors. Norton also offers a variety of other scan options, such as:
- Quick scan — Scans areas where malware is most commonly found, such as temporary files, running processes, and system files.
- Custom scan — Scans specified folders and disk locations.
- Norton insight — Quickly scans for specific files that may need to be scanned.
Norton makes it really easy to schedule all of its virus scans — I scheduled Norton to run a full scan from 3-5am every morning, but you can also schedule weekly or monthly scans.
One thing I really like about Norton is that it’s designed to automatically detect when your apps are in full screen mode — Norton won’t give you any notifications or initiate any scans (including scheduled scans) while you’re playing games, watching movies, or using any other full screen app. Gamers will appreciate that Norton automatically suspends notifications and scans in full screen mode (Norton ranks among the best antiviruses for gaming).
Overall, Norton’s malware scanner is excellent — the full system scan detected all of my test malware without slowing down my PC, and the real-time protection blocked all of the malware samples I tried downloading. I also like that Norton offers several scanning options, including a quick and custom scan, and I found it very easy to schedule scans.
Norton includes a “Smart Firewall” that offers significant improvements over built-in firewalls from Windows and macOS. In my exploit testing, Norton detected every single network intrusion, including a few instances that my Windows firewall failed to block.
Norton’s firewall provides a ton of customization options for advanced users. When you’re on a public Wi-Fi network, Norton’s firewall blocks many of the services provided by Windows, such as Network Discovery, File and Printer Sharing, and Remote Desktop Connection. However, if you want to allow any of these options, you can see a full list of Windows services in the Permissions window.
Additionally, Norton provides a list of 136 uncommon protocols — these protocols can be used by malware to communicate between devices on a network. Norton’s firewall automatically monitors all of these protocols for suspicious activity, and notifies users if they should disable any of these protocols due to a network-based malware threat.
Overall, I really like Norton’s Smart Firewall — it detected all of the network intrusions during my tests, and it offers an impressive range of customization options for advanced users.
Safe Web & Safe Search
Norton offers a Safe Web browser extension that warns users of potentially dangerous websites as well as a Safe Search tool for secure browsing.
Norton’s Safe Web browser extension (available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge) provides protection against phishing sites, as well as community reviews for suspicious web pages, and an “Isolation Mode” for online banking. And Norton’s Safe Search is a search engine that lets users know whether a website is safe or not.
The Safe Web browser extension provides really good anti-phishing protection — it detected almost all of the phishing sites in my testing, including sites that Chrome and top competitors like McAfee failed to detect.
Safe Web also has an Isolation Mode for protecting users’ financial information. When users navigate to a financial site, Safe Web offers to put your browser in Isolation Mode — this blocks all browser-based intrusions and makes your browser window “read-only”, so no harmful web scripts or malware can make changes or steal information from your screen.
For my testing, I navigated to my PayPal account, and Safe Web offered to put my browser into Isolation Mode. This completely cut my browser off from the rest of my system — I couldn’t copy text from my browser, screen capture, or even paste info into my browser. Hackers frequently steal user information by remotely screen recording financial information — Safe Web’s Isolation Mode makes it impossible for hackers to steal the information on your screen.
Norton’s Safe Search tool is a secure search engine that offers color-coded assessments of search results — green is safe, orange is potentially unsafe, and red is dangerous. Unfortunately, Safe Search isn’t very good. During my tests, it falsely labeled numerous pirate websites as safe, and it offered grey “untested” notifications for most websites that are actually safe.
Overall, I wasn’t too impressed with Norton’s Safe Search — it isn’t very accurate, labeling unsafe sites as safe and vice versa. However, Norton’s Safe Web browser extension provides excellent anti-phishing protection and a secure sandboxed browser for financial transactions.
Dark Web Monitoring (Select Countries Only)
Norton’s dark web monitoring feature scans dark web forums, credit reports, and breach databases to notify users when their information has been leaked. As of right now, dark web monitoring is only available to US, UK, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand users. US users can also take advantage of LifeLock’s powerful identity protections — but I’ll get to that later.
Norton’s dark web monitoring scans for a really impressive array of personally identifying information (PII), such as:
- Bank account numbers.
- Credit cards.
- Driver’s license information.
- Insurance numbers.
- And lots more…
Norton improves on most data breach monitors by using live human agents who are paid to infiltrate dark web forums — Norton’s dark web assistants can find data that most companies can’t, and they can give you advice and feedback in the event that your information is found on the dark web. This “real person” approach is much more effective than database-based breach monitors from competitors like Kaspersky.
Furthermore, dark web monitoring is always active once you enter your information — the moment any of your data is discovered floating around the internet, Norton’s dark web monitoring team will give you a notification and instructions on how you can make the necessary changes to protect your identity and accounts.
Norton’s dark web monitoring is really good, and it gets even better for US users that can access Norton’s LifeLock identity protection services.
Identity Theft Protections (US Only)
Norton’s LifeLock identity protections include a huge amount of features, such as:
- Credit report monitoring.
- Live identity recovery assistance.
- Legal assistance.
- Credit freezing.
- Home title, court record, 401k, social security, and ID monitoring.
I’m very impressed by LifeLock’s identity theft protection services. With live credit report monitoring, you receive notifications about any loans, purchases, investments, rental applications, or credit card applications that include any of your personal identifying information.
LifeLock compiles data from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, which are the three credit reporting services in the US — if anybody is trying to use your information, LifeLock will be notified.
Furthermore, LifeLock offers up to $1M in insurance payouts and legal assistance in the event of serious identity theft.
I don’t have anywhere close to a million dollars, so I was happy to sign up for Norton’s LifeLock Select plan, which offers a substantial $25,000 payout for identity theft related damages, up to $1M in legal aid for identity theft victims, and access to Equifax’s credit monitoring network and LifeLock’s in-person identity recovery services.
The only thing I don’t like about LifeLock’s protections is that they’re only available to US users. Competitors like TotalAV and BullGuard provide credit monitoring for users in the US, Canada, and Europe, and for less than LifeLock — but their protections aren’t nearly as comprehensive as LifeLock’s.
If you’re looking to protect your finances, identity, investments, and personally identifying information, Norton’s LifeLock plans are the very best choice on the market (but again, only for US users).
Secure VPN (Virtual Private Network)
A VPN provides encrypted web access to a wide variety of servers around the world — helping to increase web privacy and protect browser activity from hackers, ISPs, and even the government. And Norton’s VPN offers unlimited access to an impressive amount of servers around the world… but it’s got a few downsides.
Norton’s Secure VPN lets you connect to 79 locations in 30 countries. Norton has servers in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, and even India and Ukraine. This is a much better geographic range of servers than almost any other competing internet security suite (for example, McAfee Total Protection only connects to 23 countries).
Norton’s VPN also provides a lot of good security features.
- Strong encryption (256-bit AES).
- No-logs policy.
- Kill switch.
- Ad tracker blocking.
- Unlimited browsing data (even on the cheapest plan).
In terms of connection speeds, while Norton’s VPN isn’t bad, it’s certainly not the best. VPNs work by sending your internet connection to another server (sometimes around the world) and encrypting all of your data — this process is always going to cause some slowdown, no matter which VPN you use. But because all VPNs handle these tasks differently, all VPNs have different speeds. In my tests, Norton’s VPN wasn’t nearly as fast as some antivirus competitors like Bitdefender, but it wasn’t the slowest either.
This is my internet connection from my local network, without a VPN:
Then I ran the speed test with Norton’s VPN connected to a local server in the US:
As you can see, my download speed was cut pretty significantly, while my “Ping” went up by a lot. Ping going up this much isn’t a huge problem unless you’re gaming or streaming torrents — with Norton’s VPN on, I was still able to stream HD video and browse the web without any noticeable slowdown. But my connection did get a little bit worse when I connected to a server in the Netherlands from my home in the US:
Ping and download speed remained about the same, but my upload speed was cut in half when connecting to this Dutch server.
Unfortunately, when I attempted to access geo-restricted content on Netflix, I found that Norton’s VPN was unable to get past Netflix’s anti-VPN sensors. This is not the best, especially when standalone competitors like NordVPN can easily bypass Netflix’s geo-blocking.
Also, another piece of bad news for file sharing fans is that Norton doesn’t allow torrenting with its VPN — Norton’s VPN disconnected the moment I opened my torrent client.
Norton’s Secure VPN is a bit slower than competitors, it doesn’t allow torrenting, and it can’t unblock geo-restricted content like standalone VPNs (like NordVPN) can. On the other hand, Norton still ranks as one of the best antiviruses with a VPN because it provides encrypted web access across a variety of servers around the globe that most competitors don’t provide access to — including Asian, Eastern European, and even Australian and South African servers — along with the inclusion of a strict no-logs policy, an easy-to-use interface, a kill switch, and unlimited browsing data (included in even the cheapest Norton 360 package).
Norton’s Cloud Backup is pretty good — but it’s limited to PC users. Norton’s backup tool is basically identical to well-known cloud storage tools like Dropbox, OneDrive, and iCloud. It offers the following options:
- Schedule backups.
- Back up specific files.
- Remove or save backed up files on your local disk.
- Back up to the cloud or a local disk.
Cloud Backup works pretty well — it automatically selected 50 GB of my important files, most of which were media files like .mov, .jpeg, .doc, and .wav. Advanced users can easily go into the “What” section of the backup settings and manually select which folders to back up.
Norton’s backup isn’t going to win any awards for innovation, but if you’re not already using a cloud storage app to protect your data, it’s a perfectly functional solution for protecting user data in the cloud. Depending on which Norton plan you subscribe to, you can get 10-500 GB of storage using Norton’s Cloud Backup feature.
Norton’s built-in password manager is surprisingly good — a lot of antiviruses include password managers that only provide basic password storage for a single device, without any of the additional features that make Norton’s password manager special.
Here’s what’s included in Norton’s password manager:
- Secure 256-bit AES encryption.
- Unlimited password storage.
- Synchronization across PCs, Macs, Androids, and iOS devices.
- Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari.
- Auto-save and auto-fill.
- Password generator.
- Password vault auditing.
After setting up my master password, Norton gave me the option to import my password vaults from Chrome, Firefox, Dashlane, LastPass, or 1Password.
After importing my passwords from LastPass, I navigated to my PayPal account — Norton automatically offered me a small icon in the login fields and filled my email address and password with a single click.
Norton surpasses other antivirus companies by also including vault auditing tools in its password manager. Norton’s vault auditing is automatically updated, providing a helpful chart that shows which passwords are insecure, too simple, repeated, or too old. The vault auditing tool has an “Autochange” feature which can automatically generate new passwords for some websites. However, Norton’s Autochange is only compatible with a handful of popular sites. Dashlane’s auto-change feature is much better — it works for a few hundred more sites than Norton’s does.
Norton’s password manager includes a mobile login option, which allows users to log into their vault using their mobile device instead of their master password. This feature is pretty good, but third-party password managers like RoboForm are also compatible with 2FA apps like Authy, mobile 2FA tokens like YubiKey, and a wide range of biometric scanners — Norton offers fingerprint login for Android users, but biometric login isn’t included on the iPhone password manager app.
Norton’s password manager isn’t perfect, though. The first problem I ran into is the fact that Norton doesn’t include account recovery or emergency access — if you forget your master password, there’s simply no way to log into your password vault. The only option Norton gives you is to destroy your vault and make a new one. Norton does let users create a password hint for their master password, but it’s hard to make a good hint for a string of random numbers, letters, and symbols — which is what any good master password should include.
Some users may appreciate this lack of account recovery options — it makes it impossible for con artists to gain access to your vault — but I think most users would rather have email account recovery or emergency contact options like LastPass provides.
Norton’s password manager isn’t as robust as some standalone competitors, but it provides multi-device sync, a secure password generator, auto-saving for new passwords, auto-filling for saved passwords, mobile login, and vault health auditing — it ranked as the #1 antivirus with a password manager in 2021.
Parental Controls (Safe Family)
Norton’s parental controls for Windows, iOS, and Android (not available for Mac) are some of the very best on the market — Norton ranked as the #1 best antivirus with parental controls in 2021.
With Norton’s parental controls, parents can:
- Accurately filter inappropriate content.
- Monitor YouTube and Hulu activity.
- Track location for mobile devices.
- Block apps on Android devices.
- Set time limits and schedule usage for all devices.
- Set emergency contacts.
I’ve tested a lot of parental control tools, looking for a decent balance of security and usability for my teenage son and 9-year-old daughter. Most antivirus parental controls advertise a ton of features but fail to deliver on their promises. For example, BullGuard comes with dozens of sliders for content filtering online, but I was still able to access porn, violent videos, military recruitment, and cult propaganda sites with BullGuard’s parental controls activated.
Norton, on the other hand, accurately blocked dozens of different sites during my tests — with the ability to block 47 different categories, including “Cult”, “Hate Speech”, and even “Abortion”. It automatically sets filters based on your child’s age, but it also gives users the choice to toggle all of the parental controls separately.
Norton Safe Family also offers a “School Time” mode, which only allows access to websites and apps that a parent deems to be important for their children’s education — this is an extremely helpful feature for any kids that may be involved in virtual school.
Safe Family also recorded every search, website, YouTube video, and Hulu program that I looked up on my PC, iPhone, and even on my daughter’s Chromebook!
Norton’s location tracking, app blocker, and usage scheduling tools are all easily accessed and customized from within the online dashboard, and I was pretty impressed that Norton could determine my iPhone’s location to within 65 feet at any time.
Unfortunately, Norton’s location tracker doesn’t include geo-fencing alerts to notify parents when their kids leave a restricted area — competitors like Bitdefender include geo-fencing in their parental controls, and I’d love to see Norton include this some day.
I was impressed by Norton Safe Family’s content filtering, app blocking, usage limits, location tracking, and YouTube monitoring features — it’s definitely one of the most intuitive and comprehensive parental control apps on the market.
Norton’s privacy monitor is a simple but unique feature for keeping your personally identifying information (PII) out of the hands of data brokers.
Data brokers harvest metadata from thousands of different sites to build an identity profile, which can include your last several addresses, the names of your family members, your favorite brands, your birthday, and your gender — and these data brokers then sell that aggregated information to the highest bidder.
Fortunately, privacy laws in most of the world forbid data brokers from collecting and selling your information if you specifically ask them to stop. So, Norton searches around 25 different data brokers for your information and asks them to stop.
Norton’s Privacy Monitor can be accessed in the my.norton online dashboard. After you enter your name and date of birth, Privacy Monitor gives you a list of data brokers that have your PII up for sale. The Privacy Monitor then gives you the option to manually request the removal of your information from each individual site, or you can buy a separate subscription to Norton’s Privacy Monitor Assistant service and have a Norton employee tackle the data brokers for you.
Norton’s Privacy Monitor is a useful tool that makes it easy to remove personal information from over 25 data broker directories with a few clicks.
Norton’s system tune-up tools aren’t unique, but they’re a well-built addition to Norton’s 360 plans. This is what Norton offers for device optimization:
- Optimize disk — Defragments your hard drive.
- File cleanup — Trashes temporary files from Windows and web browsers.
- Startup manager — Displays a simple list of programs that run on startup.
- Graphs — Shows a timeline of important activity on your device.
I found Norton’s tune-up tools to be fast, efficient, and fairly comprehensive. However, the file cleanup doesn’t remove browser cookies, duplicate files, or unused program files like Avira and TotalAV do.
I do like Norton’s Graphs feature a lot, which allowed me to see all of the program installs, downloads, virus scans, performance notifications, malware alerts, and system tuneups performed by Norton. Since a lot of Norton’s activity happens in the background, the Graphs feature was a helpful way for me to track the changes and assistance that Norton was providing for me.
Norton’s device optimization tools are a useful and fairly comprehensive addition to an already impressive antivirus suite. I’d like to see a few more options in terms of junk file cleanup, but Norton’s system tune-up tools are able to solve a lot of the most common system slowdown issues faced by today’s PC and macOS users.
Norton 360 has so many features that I just don’t have the space to talk about them all. Here are some other notable features:
- PC SafeCam (Windows only) — Webcam protection that makes sure your PC’s webcam isn’t being remotely controlled by a third-party.
- Norton for gamers (Windows only) — A special set of antivirus features for PC gamers (more info here).
- Virus Protection Promise — If you get a virus and Norton can’t remove it, you’ll get a full refund.
Norton 360 Plans and Pricing
Norton provides 4 different plans for users around the globe, and adds 3 different LifeLock plans for users in the US. Norton’s basic AntiVirus Plus plan is about the same price as Norton 360 Standard, without some of the web protections that make Norton 360 a comprehensive security suite. Users that want a super basic antivirus scanner can try Norton AntiVirus Plus, but I’ve focused on Norton’s 360 plans for this review.
Note: There’s a 60-day money-back guarantee on all of Norton’s plans.
Norton 360 Standard — Basic Norton 360 Plan
Norton’s basic 360 plan provides an impressive amount of features, but for 1 device only. Here’s what you get with Norton 360 Standard:
- Real-time malware scanning.
- Smart firewall.
- Password manager.
- 10 GB cloud storage.
- Webcam protection (Windows only).
- Dark web monitoring (US only).
A lot of antiviruses put limits on the VPNs, password managers, and other tools in their lower-tier programs, but Norton 360 Standard provides full access to almost all of Norton’s features.
The biggest problem with Norton’s basic plan is that it doesn’t offer multi-device coverage. However, Norton 360 Standard is an excellent choice for users that need protection for a single device.
Norton 360 Deluxe — Best-Value Norton Plan
Norton 360 Deluxe is Norton’s best-value plan, and the one I recommend for most users looking for good cybersecurity protections on a budget. It includes all of the same features as Norton 360 Standard, plus:
- Coverage for up to 5 devices.
- 50 GB of cloud storage.
- Parental controls.
- Dark web monitoring (US, UK, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand)
- Privacy monitor.
My only complaint with Norton’s subscription model is its lack of flexibility. Many competitors, like Bitdefender, will allow users to add one or two more devices to their plans for a nominal fee — with Norton, the 360 Deluxe plan maxes out at 5 devices, and the only way to get coverage for, let’s say, a sixth or seventh device per year, is to upgrade to Norton’s next-tier subscription.
That being said, I think that most users, including parents and families with 5 or fewer devices, will be really happy with the huge variety of security features included with Norton 360 Deluxe.
Norton 360 Premium (only available outside US) — Most Advanced International Plan
Norton’s most advanced international plan provides the exact same features as Norton 360 Deluxe, but with coverage for up to 10 devices and more storage space (up to 100 GB). Norton 360 Premium only costs a little more per year than Norton 360 Deluxe, so if you want to add more than 5 devices to your plan, buying Norton 360 Premium is a pretty low-risk investment.
For international users with more than 5 devices to cover, Norton 360 Premium is the best antivirus software on the market.
Norton 360 with LifeLock Select (US Only) — Basic Norton with LifeLock Plan
Norton’s lowest-tier LifeLock plan includes all of the features of Norton 360 Deluxe, plus a pretty good amount of LifeLock’s protections, including:
- Credit monitoring with Equifax.
- $25,000 identity theft insurance.
- $1M in legal assistance related to identity theft.
- Live identity restoration assistance.
- Social security and driver’s license monitoring.
- Data breach monitoring.
- 100 GB cloud storage.
Identity theft is serious, but Norton’s LifeLock protections aren’t cheap. That said, if you don’t mind investing a little bit of cash every year into your peace of mind, then Norton’s LifeLock plans are a good investment.
LifeLock’s identity theft protections are some of the best out there — it’s really a big relief knowing that there’s an active insurance policy keeping me protected in the event of a data breach or identity theft incident. And I get a lot of reassurance knowing that I’ll have 24/7 assistance in case something happens.
Norton 360 with LifeLock Advantage (US Only) — Advanced Norton with LifeLock Plan
Norton’s middle-tier LifeLock plan is significantly more expensive than the LifeLock Select plan, but it could be worth the price for some users. Norton 360 with LifeLock Advantage offers coverage on up to 10 devices, 250 GB of cloud storage, and improved identity protections from LifeLock, including:
- $100,000 identity theft insurance.
- Credit file lock.
- Phone number monitoring.
- Enhanced social security monitoring.
- Court record monitoring.
As a reviewer, it’s not really possible to test Norton’s claims about LifeLock, which can be pretty frustrating — for example, I’m not entirely sure if the LifeLock Advantage plan would really detect social security fraud more effectively than LifeLock Select.
However, the concrete benefits of LifeLock Advantage are apparent in the numbers — users get coverage on twice the amount of devices, 4x more identity theft insurance payout, and 150 GB more of cloud storage than on the LifeLock Select plan.
If you’re using more than 5 devices and expanded identity theft protections are important to you, then Norton 360 with LifeLock Advantage is a great option. Plus, it’s got a monthly subscription plan for users on a budget.
Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus — Most Expensive Norton with LifeLock Plan
I’m not going to lie — I think Norton’s LifeLock Ultimate Plus plan is overpriced. However… Norton’s top-tier plan is a really impressive piece of security software designed to connect users with a massive infrastructure of digital and physical security tools — if you’re looking to protect the most devices with the best protection in the world, this is the package for you.
These are the improvements that Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus offers over Norton’s other plans:
- Coverage for an unlimited number of devices.
- 500 GB of cloud storage.
- $1M identity theft reimbursement.
- Credit monitoring from all 3 credit bureaus.
- 401k and stock monitoring.
- Home title monitoring.
If you have a really large family, a significant amount of assets that need protecting, and you absolutely want the utmost in cybersecurity protection, both online and offline, then Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus is the best internet security package on the market today.
Norton 360 Ease of Use and Setup
Norton 360 is a big program.
Even its lowest-tier package includes a wide variety of features that other top internet security suites don’t have. Just like with any large software, there is a learning curve when it comes to using Norton — the company made some pretty good design choices to make the program easy to figure out, but there are also a few pretty poor choices that make some features more difficult than they need to be.
Norton is simple to download and install. Just choose your operating system from the my.norton website, download and run the installer file, and Norton 360 will automatically be running on your PC or macOS (mobile protections are a little different, but I’ll get into those in the next section).
Once you have Norton installed, it gives you 2 options for the user interface: My Norton, and Classic. My Norton is the default interface — it’s pretty good, although I’m not sure why half of the window is dominated by an anonymous mountain climber.
Clicking on Device Security in the “My Norton” window takes you to Norton’s Classic view, giving users the option to run virus scans, check for web protections, back up data, and run Norton’s performance optimization tools.
Clicking the “My Norton” symbol will bring you back to the home screen, where you can access Norton’s VPN, dark web monitoring/LifeLock protections, password manager, and parental controls. Unfortunately, I had a surprisingly hard time getting Norton’s desktop app to do anything other than run antivirus scans. I found myself repeatedly clicking on the Parental Controls button or LifeLock protections with no success.
The good news is that there’s an alternative to Norton’s desktop app — during my time with Norton 360, I found myself returning time and again to Norton’s online dashboard.
The my.norton web dashboard is cleanly laid out, responsive, and includes all of Norton’s features — it’s a much better user interface than Norton’s desktop app. I was able to configure my parental controls, access my password vault, look at my cloud storage, and check out my identity theft settings with a few clicks.
Overall, Norton is easy to use and intuitive, and it has more features than almost any other competitor. Users may need some time to get used to Norton, but I’m fairly certain that even non-technical users will be able to understand and use all of its features pretty quickly.
Norton 360 Mobile App
Norton’s mobile protections for Android and iOS are both really good — but I wish the company would bundle all of Norton’s security tools into a single app.
Note: I successfully ran all of Norton’s Android security apps from the Google Play Store on my daughter’s Chromebook. Norton says it doesn’t “officially support” Chromebook, but Norton is still the best Chromebook antivirus in 2021.
Norton offers these protections for mobile users:
- Malware scanner (Android only).
- App advisor (Android only).
- Web protection.
- Wi-Fi network monitor.
- Safe Web & Safe Search.
- Ransomware recovery.
- Device security.
- Password manager (separate app).
- Parental controls (separate app).
- LifeLock identity theft protection (separate app).
I really like Norton’s App Advisor which scans both apps that are about to be downloaded and apps that are already installed. The App Advisor for existing apps lets you know which of your apps have no privacy risks, which apps are installed in the last 30 days, and which apps are using more battery than normal.
My favorite protection for Norton 360 on mobile devices is “Web Protection” — it uses an on-device VPN and anti-phishing technology to protect your device from phishing threats, unsecured sites, and even smishing links that can be sent to you via SMS messaging apps.
The rest of Norton’s mobile security tools are really good — my only complaint was with the amount of apps I had to download. Norton should include the password manager, LifeLock, and Safe Family app in a single app.
I like Norton’s mobile apps — they provide malware protection and app security for Androids and Chromebooks, they provide web and Wi-Fi protections for all mobile users (including iOS), and all of Norton’s separate apps for password management, parental controls, and identity theft protection sync up well with Norton’s desktop app and online dashboard.
In terms of overall device security, Norton provides some of best mobile antivirus apps on the market.
Norton 360 Customer Support
Norton offers customer support via telephone, live chat, and email. I really like that Norton’s support is available in dozens of different languages, including English, German, Dutch, Turkish, Mandarin, and Arabic. Some of these languages are only available for phone chat during regional business hours, but I was able to live chat with a surprisingly large number of agents in different countries 24 hours a day. By comparison, competitors like BullGuard and Malwarebytes only offer support in a few languages.
My customer service experience with Norton was both good and not good. First, I spoke with a support rep in Bogota, Colombia who was able to access my Norton subscription and add LifeLock to my account when I encountered a bug on the Norton website. The rep was patient, knowledgeable, and helpful — this was honestly one of the more positive phone support experiences I’ve ever had with an antivirus provider.
However, I also had one of my most annoying customer service experiences a few days later. I was waiting for a live chat operator to help me with my mobile protections, and Norton’s chat window issued a loud alert to me every 20-40 seconds, informing me that the ETA of my support person was moving up or down by a couple of minutes. After nearly 20 minutes of this obnoxious “ping”-ing, Norton closed the chat.
This experience was out of the ordinary for my overall experience with Norton, and I was messaging them during a particularly busy time of the year. For the most part, I was connected with a phone or live chat representative within a couple of minutes, and most of the people I spoke with were very knowledgeable and courteous.
Norton’s customer support team is available in more languages than any other product I’ve tested, and its representatives are generally extremely helpful and knowledgeable. However, if you’re trying to reach Norton during a busy time, you may encounter significantly worse customer service. But even then, in my experience with Norton, this is uncommon.
Is Norton 360 the Best Internet Security Suite for 2021?
I’m very confident in calling Norton the best antivirus software on the market in 2021. Norton stands above the competition in terms of malware detection, internet security tools, mobile protections, useability, and value.
Norton detected every single malware file in my testing — including newer malware threats like ransomware files, cryptojackers, rootkits, and adware. Its anti-malware engine uses a vast malware directory, advanced heuristics, and machine learning to synthesize the best parts of traditional and modern antivirus detection. There are a few other programs with near-perfect detection rates — McAfee and Bitdefender, for example — but Norton’s layered approach to malware protection remains the best.
Norton’s web protections are really good, too. The Safe Web extension offers anti-phishing protection that is better at detecting phishing sites than Chrome or Firefox, and it also provides an “Isolation Mode” that provides an extra layer of security during financial transactions.
Norton also has comprehensive parental controls, a good password manager, and excellent dark web monitoring (which uses real people to discover data breaches). For users in the US, Norton’s LifeLock protections provide a huge network of PII (personally identifying information) monitoring tools, as well as between $25,000-$1M in reimbursement in the event of identity theft.
I don’t love Norton’s VPN — it doesn’t work with Netflix, doesn’t support torrenting, and is slower than I’d like it to be. However, the VPN is good for secure browsing, the dashboard is easy to use, and it costs less per year than most standalone VPNs.
Overall, Norton is the best all-around internet security suite you can find — it provides unbeatable malware protection, it bundles almost all of the internet security tools available on the market into a single program, and it provides an excellent value for virtually all types of users. You can try out Norton risk-free with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Norton 360 — Frequently Asked Questions
Is Norton free?
Norton isn’t free — there are some decent free antiviruses out there, but none of them contain anywhere near the level of malware protection and internet security features included in Norton’s 360 packages.
For users on a budget, the Norton 360 Standard plan offers excellent antivirus protection for a single device. Norton offers a pretty good first-year discount and you can try all of its features risk-free with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
How does Norton’s malware scanner work?
For real-time protection and virus scanning, Norton provides a multi-layered approach, including:
- Malware directory.
- Heuristic analysis.
- Machine learning.
Most antivirus software uses a malware directory, cross-referencing the code of each scanned file against hundreds of thousands of known malware files. Norton’s malware directory (which is top-secret) consistently ranks among the best on the market.
Norton also uses heuristics and machine learning to detect zero-day threats. Heuristics analyze the code of new files against known malware, flagging potentially unsafe files that contain similar code.
Machine learning analyzes files based on their behavior, looking for actions and source code that are similar to the malware files that have been given to Norton’s machine-learning interface. If a piece of malware tries to embed itself in your root files, or encrypt your system files, or connect to your Wi-Fi network, or perform any other malware-like operation, then Norton can block and flag that malware file, even if it’s a zero-day threat that isn’t contained in any malware directory.
What’s the best Norton package?
Norton 360 Deluxe is the best choice for most users. It provides a ton of useful features for up to 5 devices across Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. But if you’re only trying to protect one device, Norton 360 Standard includes almost all of the same features for a single device.
In the US, Norton also offers 3 packages with LifeLock’s identity theft protections. Users looking for the very best protection, with the most identity theft insurance and coverage for unlimited devices, should invest in Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus. However, most US users will be perfectly happy relying on Norton 360 with LifeLock Select for a more basic but still adequate antivirus + identity theft protection package.
Does Norton work for iPhones, Androids, and Chromebooks?
Yes. Norton provides mobile apps that work for iOS devices, Androids, and even Chromebooks.
- For iOS users. Norton 360 is better described as a “security app” — it’s not an antivirus, because iOS devices can’t get “viruses”. However, I still think Norton is worth downloading for iOS — it provides Wi-Fi protection, a secure VPN, a password manager, LifeLock identity theft protections, and also Norton’s excellent Safe Family parental control app.
- For Android users. Norton 360 provides all the same protections as Norton’s iOS apps, but it also includes a malware scanner, which scans for malicious code in every app and file you download.
- For Chromebook users. We’ve gotten some confused emails about Norton’s Chromebook coverage, and if you contact Norton, they’ll even tell you that “Norton isn’t designed for Chromebooks”. That may be true, but Chromebooks are designed to run Android apps, and Chromebooks have access to the Google Play Store. Norton 360 on Chromebook looks a little funny, taking up only a smartphone-shaped third of the screen, but the app scanner, Wi-Fi scanner, VPN, password manager, and Norton Safe Family parental controls all worked perfectly well when I tested Norton on my Chromebook.