McAfee and Norton are two of the best antivirus packages on the market in 2023. They both scored 100% malware detection rates in all of my tests, they come with a wide range of really good security features, and they’re easy to use across all operating systems.
With two products of this quality, it can be hard to decide which one’s best for you. In this article, I look at the key features Norton and McAfee offer and describe the differences between the two brands so you can make a fully informed decision.
McAfee vs. Norton — Final Verdict:
McAfee vs. Norton: Malware Protection
|Antivirus||Overall Malware Detection Score||Ransomware Detection||Full System Scan Time||Quick Scan Time||Scan’s Impact On System Performance||Scans External Drives|
|Norton||100%||100%||40 minutes||5 minutes||Low||✅|
|McAfee||100%||100%||1 hour||15 minutes||Medium||✅|
Norton’s anti-malware engine is one of the best on the market. It uses advanced machine learning, heuristic analysis, and a massive malware database to detect and prevent malware.
Norton detected 100% of the infected files in my tests. I downloaded 1,000s of malware samples, including worms, trojans, keyloggers, rootkits, ransomware, cryptojackers, and more, and Norton was able to find all of them during a full scan, which took only 40 minutes to finish.
Norton’s real-time malware protection is just as impressive, immediately blocking any malware I tried downloading. It even detected and blocked malware samples in encrypted folders — which is really cool.
Finally, I tried running a ransomware simulator on my computer, and Norton blocked the simulator before it could even begin running. Many competitors fail to block ransomware at all.
McAfee’s antivirus scanner is just as good as Norton’s. It uses heuristic analysis and a huge malware database to protect your system from known and new malware.
Just like Norton, McAfee’s full system scan scored a 100% malware detection rate in my tests. I used the same archive to test McAfee as I used to test Norton, containing the 1,000s of malware samples of all kinds.
I was really impressed with the flawless detection rate — however, McAfee’s full scan took 1 hour to complete, which is 20 minutes more than Norton. What’s more, the full-disk scan really slowed down my computer. I could still browse the web and social media, but I experienced a lot of buffering and lag while streaming videos and playing games.
McAfee’s real-time scanner blocked 100% of malware files before I could download them onto my system. Similarly, it blocked my ransomware simulator before it could encrypt any files, which was great.
McAfee vs. Norton: Web Security
|Web Security||Blocks Phishing Sites?||Stops Drive-By Downloads?||Scans Downloads for Malware?||Isolated Secure Browser?||Blocks Keylogging Scripts?|
Norton has a secure browser and an extension called Safe Web. Both are effective, blocking every one of the 50 phishing sites I visited.
The secure browser is, interestingly enough, called Secure Browser. It ensures you only visit sites that use the highest standard of encryption. On top of that, it blocks ads, trackers, and phishing sites. The Safe Web extension has similar features, but as an isolated browser, Secure Browser adds extra protection.
Both tools are also adept at stopping drive-by downloads — unwanted or malicious downloads that occur without user knowledge. This feature greatly enhances your online safety. It also effectively blocks keylogging scripts, preventing malicious entities from capturing your keystrokes to steal personal data or login credentials.
I particularly like how Norton provides a full breakdown of websites it blocks. You can see why Norton flagged a website and read community reviews to learn more about the website from first-hand experiences. Safe Web is available for all major browsers, including Firefox, Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Safari. Secure Browser has apps for Windows and macOS.
The browser comes with the Safe Search web extension. It uses color coding to indicate whether a site is safe before you click on it. However, I had mixed results with Safe Search, finding it often mislabeled dangerous websites as simply “untested”. That said, I do think it’s better than not having any protection at all.
McAfee’s web shield (WebAdvisor) is good, but it’s not as good as Norton’s. It didn’t flag several phishing sites that Norton blocked, but it still blocked a lot more unsafe websites than Chrome or Firefox’s built-in protections did.
Just like Norton, McAfee’s WebAdvisor also provides protection against drive-by downloads and keylogging scripts. While it may have missed some phishing sites compared to Norton, its ability to detect and prevent unsolicited downloads and keyloggers ensures a high degree of security when browsing the web.
If you choose to visit a site that McAfee has deemed unsafe, it automatically adds that site to your whitelist. This is a super quick way to reduce false positives. Some antiviruses that I’ve tested (including ESET) make whitelisting websites very difficult. But I like how McAfee does it for you if you skip the warning screen (though only do this if you’re 100% confident the site is safe!).
I also like how, similar to Norton, McAfee includes color-coding to identify safe or dangerous websites before you click on them. I found McAfee’s to be a lot more reliable than Norton’s, and I really like how it checks links in social media as well as search engines.
That said, while I like McAfee’s web protection, it found fewer phishing websites than Norton’s, so I can’t recommend it over Norton because of this.
McAfee vs. Norton: Features
|Additional Features||Firewall||VPN||Network Scanner||Anti-Theft Protection||Parental Controls||Password Manager|
Norton covers up to 10 devices and includes:
- Web protection.
- Performance optimization tools.
- Password manager.
- Parental controls.
- Dark web monitoring.
- 50 GB cloud storage.
- 60-day money-back guarantee.
- And lots more…
Norton has the best extra features I’ve seen in an antivirus. I like Norton’s device optimization tools and startup manager — they’re designed to clean up your system by removing unnecessary files, managing startup programs to speed up boot times, and offering advice on how to improve overall system performance.
I also love Norton’s dark web protection, which uses live agents to monitor dark web forums for leaked information. Plus, Norton’s LifeLock identity theft protection provides identity recovery assistance, credit freezing, and more (it’s just too bad that LifeLock is only available for US users).
The only feature I’m not super impressed with is Norton’s VPN — it doesn’t work with all streaming sites, and it doesn’t allow torrenting on all servers. However, it’s good for day-to-day web browsing, and it’s great that it comes with unlimited data on all Norton 360 plans.
McAfee covers up to 5 devices on its introductory plan and unlimited devices on its top-tier plans. It includes the following features:
- Customizable firewall.
- Web protection.
- System tune-up tools.
- Network scanner.
- Password manager.
- Parental controls (family plans only).
- Identity theft protection.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
- And more…
Most of McAfee’s extra features are excellent. I particularly love the parental controls, which include some great tools like geofencing (sends you alerts if your child’s device leaves a specified area) and app and content blocking.
McAfee’s network scanner enhances security by continually monitoring your network for any threats. It identifies unauthorized devices connected to your network and alerts you to any potential intrusions.
I also like McAfee’s performance optimization tool — it cleans up junk files and can make apps on your computer run faster.
McAfee’s identity theft protection tool is also excellent, but it’s only available in certain countries (such as the US, the UK, and Australia). Still, that’s more countries than Norton’s identity theft protection covers, so if you’re outside the US in one of the countries McAfee covers, it could be a great option.
McAfee vs. Norton: VPN (Virtual Private Network)
|VPN||Encryption||No-logs policy||Works with Streaming Sites?||# of Server Locations||Kill Switch||Ad Tracker Blocking||Split Tunneling||Torrenting Support|
|Norton||AES 256-bit||✅||✅(not all sites)||30+||✅||✅||✅||Partial|
|McAfee||AES 256-bit||✅||✅(not all sites)||45+||✅||❌||✅
Norton’s VPN is one of the best antivirus-bundled VPNs in 2023, but it isn’t perfect. It provides access to over 2,000 servers in 30+ countries and uses 256-bit AES encryption to hide your data behind a virtual IP address, preventing hackers from intercepting and stealing your information and keeping your internet browsing private.
Norton’s VPN has a strict no-logs policy, meaning Norton does not log any user browsing activity or data. It also includes a kill switch, which will automatically disconnect your internet if the VPN drops, as well as split-tunneling and ad tracker blocking.
However, Norton only supports torrenting on dedicated servers — and all of the ones I was automatically connected to were located in the Netherlands. This is ok if you’re in Europe, but you will probably encounter slow download speeds if you’re located in a different part of the world. The VPN also doesn’t work with all streaming websites — my colleague in the US found it could work with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Max, but not Disney+ or Hulu.
That said, I experienced good speeds while running Norton’s VPN. Although the VPN impacted my download speeds and ping significantly, I maintained good upload speeds and didn’t notice any slowdown while I was connected.
McAfee’s VPN is fast, has access to more server locations than Norton’s (45+ countries), and uses 256-bit AES encryption (the same encryption that Norton uses). However, while McAfee’s VPN offers good speeds and is decent for browsing the web, there are no advanced features like split-tunneling on the desktop version. That said, like with Norton, McAfee’s VPN includes a kill switch to automatically disconnect you if the VPN drops.
When I tested McAfee’s VPN, I found my download speeds were very fast on nearby servers, but I also had a much higher ping and slower upload speeds compared to my local network. That said, I didn’t notice much difference when browsing the web — I could still navigate all sites without any slowdown.
I also had a much easier time torrenting on McAfee’s VPN. I connected to several servers, and successfully downloaded torrent samples from the internet.
As McAfee’s VPN is powered by TunnelBear, it uses the same strict no-logs policy that TunnelBear uses, which is independently audited yearly to confirm its adherence to the policy. While Norton has a strict no-logs policy, it isn’t independently audited.
In short, it’s hard to pick a winner between McAfee and Norton’s VPNs. They both come with their own unique advantages, such as Norton having advanced features and McAfee being independently audited for privacy — so it really is just a case of picking whichever one suits you best.
McAfee vs. Norton: Password Manager
|Password Manager||Secure 256-Bit AES Encryption||Unlimited Password Storage||Password Vault Auditing||Account Recovery||2FA Options|
(Biometrics on mobile)
Norton has one of the best antivirus-bundled password managers on the market in 2023. It includes all the essential features in a password manager, such as secure 256-bit AES encryption, unlimited password storage, advanced 2FA options, and auto-save and auto-fill functionalities.
It also comes with unique features you don’t often see outside of standalone password managers, such as password vault auditing.
Norton’s password vault auditing is really good too. It can alert you to weak, duplicate, or old passwords that you should change, and give you an overall password health score. Norton provides clear instructions on changing your password as well.
My only complaint is that Norton only provides one account recovery option: logging in with biometrics on the mobile app and resetting your master password. In contrast, McAfee lets you reset your master password over email — which is a bit insecure — but at least you can get back into your account if you’ve lost your master password and don’t use the mobile app.
But overall Norton’s password manager is a great choice. All of its features work seamlessly, it’s super secure, and overall its the best antivirus-bundled password manager on the market.
McAfee’s password manager, True Key, offers decent password protection, but it’s basic compared to Norton’s password manager.
The password manager includes essential features, like unlimited password storage, synchronization across devices, a password generator, and auto-filling — all of which work as intended. However, it lacks some key features Norton includes, like password vault auditing.
I’m also not a huge fan of McAfee’s account recovery options. If you forget your master password, all you have to do is reset it via email. So, if hackers manage to compromise your email, they can easily access every password you’ve stored with McAfee.
That said, I found McAfee’s password manager easy to use. I never struggled to generate passwords, and I like how you can set up True Key to automatically enter your login information when you visit a stored website (again, this isn’t a great feature from a security perspective, but it’s certainly handy).
McAfee vs. Norton: Identity Theft Protection & Dark Web Monitoring
|Antivirus||Live Agents||Social Media Monitoring||Restoration Support||Historical Alerts||No. of Supported Items (Driver’s License, Passport, etc.)|
Norton features excellent identity theft protections for users in the US who subscribe to one of Norton’s LifeLock plans. Norton monitors your data across the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) and will alert you if anyone tries to use your information without authorization.
Norton also offers up to $1M of coverage for serious incidents of identity theft — which is great if you have plenty of assets you want to protect.
It’s disappointing that Identity Theft Protection is only available for users in the US, but Norton’s dark web monitoring is available in many other countries too, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and 10+ European countries. Unlike most competitors that use a free online database for their dark web monitoring, Norton employs real-life agents who infiltrate the dark web and look for your information.
Norton also monitors your social media accounts, which is pretty cool. This includes Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Norton alerts you if it spots suspicious activity on these accounts, such as hate speech or your account settings suddenly changing.
To test Norton’s dark web monitoring, I added a sample email I knew hackers had compromised. Norton immediately sent me an email saying they’d found suspicious activity and provided me with a link to their web dashboard where I could have a closer look.
Norton provided information on what I should do to protect myself, such as changing my password. It even included a chatbot to help answer any questions I had about the data breach, which was great.
McAfee’s identity theft protection isn’t quite as comprehensive as Norton’s, but it’s accessible to users in 20+ countries (including the UK, US, and Canada). And if you’re in the US, McAfee will monitor your data across the 3 major credit bureaus just like Norton and alert you to any sudden or unauthorized changes. You need to subscribe to McAfee+ Ultimate for McAfee to monitor all 3 bureaus though — if you subscribe to Advanced, McAfee will only monitor 1 credit bureau.
McAfee also offers $1M coverage for users in the US. It’s a shame this coverage isn’t offered to the other countries McAfee supports, but if you’re outside the US (and in one of those 20+ countries), McAfee will provide access to its team of identity restoration experts who can help restore your identity, and they’ll even help you cancel your credit and debit cards if they’re stolen.
McAfee’s dark web monitoring also works well, but it isn’t as good as Norton’s. McAfee can monitor your:
- Social Security number.
- Driver’s license.
- International bank account.
- Email addresses.
- Medical IDs.
- Phone numbers.
- And more…
When I entered a compromised email address, McAfee immediately emailed to alert me that it had found my information on the dark web. When I clicked the link in the email, McAfee showed me a list of breaches and how to fix them. However, it doesn’t include a chatbot like Norton does, which is quite disappointing. I also like how Norton can monitor social media accounts — something McAfee can’t do.
However, I do like how McAfee scans for your information in data broker directories. This allows you to stop brokers from making money off your personal information. Norton offers a similar service, and I found McAfee’s works just as well as Norton’s.
Overall, McAfee’s dark web monitoring and identity theft protection work well to keep your data protected.
McAfee vs. Norton: Parental Controls
|Parental Controls||Web Filtering||Geofencing||App Blocking||Usage Scheduling||Emergency Contact Support|
Norton offers some of the best parental controls on the market in 2023. They come with various ways to monitor your kids’ activity online, including content filtering, YouTube and Hulu activity monitoring, geofencing, usage limiting, and more.
Overall, the parental controls performed well in my tests. They successfully blocked multiple website categories, including pornography, violence, weapons, and drugs. I also like how you can choose presets for a particular age group — which is ideal if you don’t want to add websites to a blocklist manually.
When Norton blocks a website, you receive a notification. However, Norton also provides daily, weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly reports that show you all of your kid’s activity, including which websites they’ve accessed.
Norton’s parental controls also include location tracking and an app blocker. Again, these worked well in my tests. The child profile I made couldn’t access any of the apps I added to the app blocker, and I could track my “kid’s” phone to within 20 meters, which is really accurate. I also like how you can set up geofences which will alert you if your kid enters or exits a specific location. You can create geofences up to 3,200 meters in radius, which is really cool.
McAfee’s parental controls — McAfee Safe Family — are really good. They offer multiple ways to protect your kids online, such as device usage scheduling, geofencing, web content filtering, and app blocking.
However, you have to download McAfee’s parental controls separately from McAfee’s main antivirus suite (they’re only included in McAfee’s family plans), and I sometimes found the parental controls took quite a while to load up.
That said, McAfee’s parental controls worked well in my tests. They successfully blocked every app and website I didn’t want my “kids” visiting. They also logged all of my “kids’” web searches, so I could easily check in on what they’d been up to.
I also really like McAfee’s location tracking. It could pinpoint my test devices to 10 meters, which is excellent. And it’s great how kids can send you a quick update from the mobile app when they arrive safely at a location. Like with Norton, McAfee Safe Family’s geofencing also works really well. I successfully got a notification every time my “kid” entered or exited a restricted area.
McAfee vs. Norton: Plans & Pricing
|Antivirus||Price Range||Most Popular Plan||Free Trial||Money-Back Guarantee||Deals, Discounts & Coupons|
|Norton||$54.99 / year / year*||360 Deluxe
($29.99 / year*)
|✅||60 days||Check the latest Norton deals|
|McAfee||$39.99 / year – $199.99 / year||Total Protection Premium ($49.99 / year)||✅||30 days||Check the latest McAfee deals|
Norton offers a wide range of well-priced plans. For example, Norton’s cheapest plan, Norton AntiVirus Plus, costs $14.99 / year* and protects 1 PC or Mac. It lacks features like the VPN, parental controls, webcam protection, or dark web monitoring, but it’s a good choice if all you need is a good malware scanner, a decent password manager, and a smart firewall.
However, Norton’s most expensive plan, Norton 360 Deluxe, includes all of Norton’s features for 5 devices for $29.99 / year*. This is the plan that I recommend for most users. It includes:
- Real-time malware scanning.
- Password manager.
- 50 GB cloud storage.
- Dark web monitoring.
- Webcam protection.
- Parental controls.
- Privacy monitor.
- And more…
Each feature works well and offers comprehensive coverage in 2023. However, if you’re in the US, you can also choose one of Norton’s LifeLock plans, which add identity theft protection and $1 million coverage if your identity is stolen.
All Norton packages come with a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
McAfee has several different subscription plans. They’re all well-priced and have a good range of features. However, depending on your location, McAfee’s plans may include different names, features, and subscription durations.
McAfee Total Protection Plus is a good option for individuals or small households. It costs $39.99 / year, covers 5 devices, and includes all of the essential features, such as the antivirus scanner, VPN, identity protection, password manager, and more.
However, McAfee’s best value plan is the Total Protection Premium plan. Total Protection Premium includes everything in Total Protection Plus, but you also get coverage on an unlimited number of devices, personal data cleanup, and identity theft monitoring. Costing only $49.99 / year, it’s a great deal, and you can try it on a 30-day money-back guarantee to see for yourself.
If you have a big family, I recommend upgrading to the Total Protection Premium Family plan, which includes parental controls and allows you to monitor your kids too.
Finally, McAfee’s Total Protection Advanced plan includes identity theft coverage of up to $1 million, lost wallet protection, and a security freeze. At $89.99 / year, it’s pricier than the other plans, but if you want comprehensive ID theft coverage, it could be the right choice. You can even upgrade to McAfee+ Ultimate if you want McAfee to monitor all 3 major credit bureaus rather than just 1.
McAfee vs. Norton: Apps & Ease of Use
|Norton||✅||✅||❌||✅||✅||Android app only||❌|
|McAfee||✅||✅||Enterprise only||✅||✅||Android app only||Kindle Fire, Blackberry 7.0|
McAfee vs. Norton: Desktop Apps
Norton features a straightforward, easy-to-navigate user interface with all its primary features available on the right side of the screen.
Since Norton is so feature-rich, there’s a learning curve to knowing exactly where everything is, but once you get past that learning curve, Norton is easy to navigate.
You can choose between a modern or classic view in the settings menu. Honestly, I prefer the classic view because it offers large, easy-to-access buttons for Norton’s main features. You also don’t have half the UI taken up by a picture of a mountain climber like you do in the modern view.
Finally, Norton offers a web dashboard. This is my favorite way of navigating Norton. Norton’s web dashboard shows all of Norton’s features in one place and also provides clear security alerts if Norton detects vulnerabilities. It’s a much more intuitive way of navigating Norton’s features than the desktop app.
McAfee’s desktop app is straightforward, but it’s not quite as well-designed as Norton’s. Its main features are located in the center of the main user interface alongside a large alert box that warns you of any vulnerabilities (such as disabled protections).
I find it slightly frustrating that the most crucial features aren’t prioritized in McAfee’s user interface. Features like the firewall that should be prominent are only accessible via the sidebar on the left.
McAfee also provides a web-based dashboard where you can access the parental controls and identity theft protection. However, there’s no remote access to the malware scanner and VPN from the web dashboard. This is annoying when you consider that Norton provides remote access to its malware scanner.
I don’t like that McAfee’s identity theft protection and parental controls are only accessible online. If your connection drops, you lose out on these features. However, overall I never struggled to use McAfee’s desktop app or web-based dashboard.
McAfee vs. Norton: Mobile Apps
Norton’s mobile app for Android and iOS is really good. It’s laid out nicely, and you can access most features with one tap.
It took me less than 5 minutes to install and initiate a malware scan on my Android device. Honestly, my only complaint with Norton’s mobile app is that not everything is bundled in one app. For example, if you tap Identity, you’re just given a button to install Norton’s LifeLock Identity App — I wish they’d included Norton’s Identity App in Norton 360 for Mobile.
That said, I liked how intuitive Norton’s VPN is. You can turn it on with one tap from the Privacy menu. And the App Advisor for Android is great — Norton scans apps you’re about to download or have recently downloaded to check for privacy and battery use issues. This is a really useful tool to ensure your apps aren’t doing anything untoward.
Overall, I found Norton’s mobile app easy to use. As said, having to install multiple apps to access all of Norton’s features gets annoying, but other than that, I had a really good experience with Norton.
McAfee’s mobile app for Android and iOS features a simple-to-navigate user interface. Most of McAfee’s features can be accessed with just a few taps and scanning your device is easy.
That said, I didn’t find McAfee’s mobile app as good as Norton’s mobile app. Since McAfee uses a lot of decorative images in its mobile app, I often had to scroll down my screen to find particular features, which quickly got annoying. However, when I got used to where everything on McAfee was located, it never took me long to find the features I needed.
There are two tabs on the bottom of the screen alongside the Home tab: the Features tab and the Settings tab. If you tap Features, you can scroll through and access all of the features included in McAfee’s mobile app. The Settings tab lets you change notification rules, access your account details, or customize different services — such as the secure VPN or identity protection.
I was really impressed by the speed and accuracy of the mobile scan when I tested it on my Android — it took about 10 minutes and it was able to catch all kinds of malware, including rootkits, spyware, adware, and more.
McAfee vs. Norton: Customer Support
|Antivirus||Email Support||Live Chat||Phone Support||Active Community Forum||Social Media Support||FAQs & Setup Guides|
Norton has pretty good customer support. It offers support through telephone and live chat, and it supports many languages, including English, German, Dutch, Arabic, and Mandarin. I had a really good experience with the telephone support — I got connected quickly, and the support rep was helpful and gave me detailed answers to my questions.
Norton’s live chat support might have its hiccups, but their representatives are both competent and courteous. This shows that quality sometimes outweighs speed in terms of customer support.
What’s more, Norton has an impressive range of product guides, FAQs, and videos on its site, so most users won’t even need to contact customer support.
McAfee offers several customer service options such as live chat, phone assistance, a knowledge base, and a discussion forum. The support representatives I connected with over the phone and through live chat were extremely prompt, gave helpful responses, and even offered to remotely control my computer. Furthermore, for every question I asked, I was assigned a case number to conveniently follow up on it.
I really like McAfee’s forum because it has a very active community (I received answers to my inquiries in about 6 hours). However, I think its knowledge base could use some improvements as some of the information only applies to older McAfee versions and is missing the level of organization you’d see in Norton’s support library.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find the best antivirus for me?
The first thing to do is to understand what you need — all antiviruses come with different internet security tools to help you stay protected, so identifying what level of protection you want will help you figure out which product is right for you.
Some antiviruses have a virtual private network (VPN), some have safe browsing extensions, and some have a password manager. Some only work on certain operating systems, while others cover all operating systems across multiple devices.
It’s important to compare the best antiviruses on the market to find the perfect one with the functionality you need.
What makes an antivirus secure?
A high-quality antivirus suite will detect, flag, and remove viruses and various types of malware. It will also offer real-time protection against all threats, regardless of whether you are browsing the internet, downloading software, shopping online, or opening email. For additional security, many antivirus suites offer a VPN, secure storage, and a password manager — these things all add several layers of protection against various cyber threats.
For more information on how antiviruses work, read this.
What do I need to look for when searching for an antivirus?
An antivirus needs to protect against all types of malware — trojans, rootkits, worms, spyware, viruses, ransomware, and anything else that might cause damage to your devices. This is done in a variety of ways, but the most essential feature of an antivirus is real-time protection — this makes sure that an active threat is effectively stopped before anything serious can happen.
Other things to look for include — excellent detection rates, fast system performance, included extra features (like a VPN, password manager, etc.), easy-to-use interface, good customer support, and overall value.
How do I know if one antivirus is better than another?
When researching antiviruses, it’s a good idea to visit a few well-known antivirus websites such as Norton and McAfee to directly compare each antivirus’s features.
You can also look at the expert opinions of our reviewers at SafetyDetectives to find the most up-to-date and unbiased information about the best cybersecurity products on the market today.