(Last updated on January 12th, 2021)

McAfee or Norton, which security software is a better option in 2021?

Read this in-depth McAfee versus Norton comparison to make an informed decision.

These days, it’s imperative that you take proactive steps to ensure that your devices – especially computers – are free from countless different types of digital threats that are out there in the wild.

Do you know over 10 billion malware attacks were detected in 2018? In the U.S. alone, more than 8 million computers were infected with malware. These numbers are staggering, and they are only getting bigger and bigger.

It’s clear that anyone wanting to surf the Internet safely needs reliable antivirus protection. But it’s hard to pick which one is right for you, given all the different types on the market.

You might even be tempted to go for a free option, since it saves you a couple of bucks and says it can protect you, right?

However, most free antivirus software packages offer limited malware protection, with some even lacking real-time malware protection capability. Plus, all security companies reserve their best security features and utilities for their paid-for suites.

Therefore, we strongly recommend investing in a premium security suite for top-of-the-line security and complete peace of mind.

Editor’s Note: We have spent over 150 hours examining all the top antivirus software out there, so you can get the best antivirus product for yourself and those you love.

At the moment, we think that Norton is the best antivirus software available in the market. It offers exceptional anti-malware security with minimal impact on system performance, as evidenced by the recent independent lab tests conducted by the AV-Test Institute.

Currently, Norton is offering an exclusive 70% discount to our readers for a limited time, so grab your copy of Norton before the sale ends.

Best Antivirus Software for 2021

  • Unbeatable anti-malware protection
  • Minimal system impact
  • Exceptional value for money
  • Recommended by PC Mag, CNET & TechRadar
  • 100% virus protection promise
  • 60-day risk-free money-back guarantee

Today, let’s look at two of the top dogs in the antivirus market: McAfee and Norton.

Breakdown of this Comparison

  1. Features
  2. Anti-malware Protection
  3. Impact on System Speed
  4. Interface
  5. Pricing
  6. Popularity
  7. Customer Ratings

In a rush? See the quick rundown below to find out who wins in each category. Also, do read our short verdict below to see what we recommend in 2019, after having reviewed over 50 antivirus packages from top security brands.

McAfee Vs Norton: Comparison at a Glance

Features: McAfee is slightly ahead of Norton in this regard, as it offers all the advanced protection-related features and utilities in its security suites.

Anti-Malware Protection: Norton scored a shade higher than McAfee in independent evaluations when it comes to detecting and blocking malware.

Impact on System Speed: When it comes to computer performance, both McAfee and Norton performed exceptionally well in recent independent lab tests.

Interface: Simplicity is the hallmark of both Norton’s and McAfee’s interfaces.

Pricing: McAfee offers better subscription costs than Norton because of its affordable per-device pricing structure.

Popularity: McAfee is ahead of Norton in terms of market share.

Customer Ratings: Both companies enjoy excellent ratings from their users.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that both McAfee and Norton are excellent antivirus software, but when you consider price, performance, and protection we’re putting McAfee ahead of Norton. The latter is great for extra features, and protection is equal to McAfee, but the price makes it less of a value.

2021’s Top Antivirus Picks

#1 (Best Overall)

  • Extensive feature-set
  • Award-winning malware protection
  • Minimal system impact
  • competitive pricing structure
  • Intuitive user interface
  • 100% virus protection promise
  • 60-day money-back guarantee

#2 (Very Good)

Bitdefender Logo 1
  • Robust Feature-set
  • Excellent Anti-malware security
  • Zero System Slowdowns
  • Exceptional Value for Money
  • Intuitive User Interface

#3 (Very Good)

  • Impressive Feature-set
  • Good malware protection
  • Value for Money

Let’s dive into the details and find out which antivirus company performs in different categories.

1. McAfee vs Norton: Features

The kinds of features an antivirus suite offers tell a lot about the product as a whole. It’s true that keeping your computer safe from digital threats is the primary job of a security package, but today’s online world demands much more than just simple malware protection.

An excellent antivirus product has to come with several useful features, especially parental controls, ransomware protection, password manager, etc.

McAfee’s features

McAfee’s flagship product is McAfee Total Protection. This bundle comes with one, five, or 10 licenses, so it’s great for single users or households with multiple devices. McAfee Total Protection comes with almost all the advanced antivirus features you can expect to find in a top-drawer suite.

  • Firewall Shield – guards against all kinds of cyber threats and malicious programs. The firewall is updated daily with new virus definitions from McAfee.
  • Centralized Hub – allows you to control all aspects of the McAfee program from a single screen. The various operations are controlled from different windows or screens which are tabbed through from the central application.
  • File Lock Utility – encrypts your data and helps safeguard your sensitive files from ransomware.
  • Full-blown Password Manager –  organizes your password information and saves it securely in a digital vault to keep it inaccessible by hackers.
  • Identity Protection – protects your private information online and instantly notifies you if your identity is being used elsewhere.
  • Vulnerability Scanner – checks your system for outdated software and network security flaws that can be exploited.
  • Network Manager – protects your Wi-Fi network against hackers and intruders.
  • Parental Control Module – does age-appropriate website filtering to ensure your children don’t see objectionable content while surfing the website. It also lets you block specific sites and limit the number of hours your children spend online.
  • Optimization Tools – help improve your computer’s performance by eliminating junk and organizing temporary files.
  • Permanent Delete Feature –  (also called file shredding utility) lets you erase sensitive files that you never want to be stolen.
McAfee Security Suites and Features 2019

Another antivirus suite the company offers is McAfee LiveSafe. This software package not only includes all of the protective and scanning functionality of McAfee total protection but also protects files on the Cloud.

McAfee LiveSafe comes in single license packages only, so families or those who wish to protect multiple devices will need to look at different options, like Bitdefender Family Pack which protects unlimited devices with a single license.

All of McAfee’s products offer 24/7 customer service via online chat, phone calls, or emails.

Norton’s features

Norton has many of the same security features as McAfee’s packages but has a broader range of security suites.

Norton AntiVirus Plus is the most basic of Norton’s antivirus software. You can only buy one license at a time with this software package, meaning this package is only suitable for individuals. However, the security suite comes with many useful features:

  • Norton’s Signature Smart Firewall – The intelligent firewall is updated daily to incorporate new virus definition updates. The firewall also checks all incoming data and files to your computer and will block data that it deems dangerous. It will alert you via a small pop-up if it believes a download is unsafe.
  • Ransomware Protection – protects you from falling into a financial trap on phishing websites.
  • Antispyware utility – Keeps hackers from installing spyware-loaded apps on your device.
  • Password Protection – keeps your passwords and other credentials secure from misuse while you are browsing the internet or shopping online.
  • Anti-Spam feature – scans social media links as well as email attachments for malware.
  • Cloud Data – 2GB of free cloud data storage is also available with this package.

Next up is Norton 360 Standard. This package comes with a license for one PC or Mac and one smartphone or tablet device. It has all the security features that are part of the previous suite, along with:

  • Secure VPN – protects your real IP address to prevent others or viruses from stealing your identity via the Internet.
  • SafeCam feature –  prevents your webcam from being hacked and used for spying purposes against you.
  • Dark web monitoring from LifeLock – tracks your sensitive information on pages hidden from the regular Internet. If your personal information is used without your knowledge, Norton will alert you.
  • Cloud Data – 10GB of free cloud data storage is also available with this package.
  • Virus Protection Promise – involves virus removal service by a Norton expert (conditions apply).

Norton 360 Deluxe is a five-license package that has everything Norton 360 Standard does as well as:

  • Comprehensive Parental Controls – keep tabs on your children’s web usage as well as restrict their online activity and access to inappropriate websites.
  • Cloud Data – this suite includes 50GB of cloud data.

Norton’s last antivirus option is Norton 360 Deluxe with LifeLock Select. This also comes with five licenses for computers or devices as well as the entire Norton LifeLock feature suite. In addition to dark web monitoring, this collection of benefits includes:

  • LifeLock Identity Alert System – monitors your online usage behavior and promptly notifies you if your information is being used in a way that is against your usual behavior.
  • Credit Monitoring – alerts you to any sudden drops in your funds which can be another sign of identity theft.
  • Finance Protection provides financial insurance for up to $1 million in case of stolen funds through the company’s Million Dollar Protection Package.
  • Cloud Data – this suite includes 100GB of Cloud Backup.

The LifeLock Identity alert system is the standout offering here. It informs you if your identity is being used across the Internet in ways that don’t align with your usual website visits or standing habits. It’s intended to allow you to get the jump on those who are trying to steal your identity or financial records without your permission.

Norton Security Suites and Features

Norton, of course, offers the same customer service options as McAfee, including website chat, phone service, and email communication.

Winner: McAfee. Overall, both McAfee and Norton offer a robust set of features/utilities in their security suites. But McAfee wins this round of comparison as it includes all its advanced features/utilities right into its flagship product.

2. McAfee vs Norton: Anti-Malware Protection

Malware is a generalized term used for viruses, spyware, ransomware, botnets, rootkits, and other types of online threats.

Malware protection is possibly the most critical aspect of a security software suite’s performance. So, which of these two companies does a better job in this regard? Let’s find out.

They both use a firewall which is updated daily so that new viruses cannot get through. Both also use an in-depth scanner to analyze your computer’s files for potential threats, as well as eliminate malware that have already infiltrated your computer.

So, let’s look at some independent tests from reputable testing organizations to see how they measure up against each other.

AV-Test is an independent IT security institute that measures the effectiveness of various antivirus software products.

In their recent two-round evaluations, which were conducted in July and August 2019, both companies successfully detected almost all malware samples during both months, earning a perfect 6 out of 6 rating from the AV-Test experts. (See this and this for detailed results.)


McAfee Protection Test Results AV Test Evaluations July-August 2019


Norton Security Protection Test Results AV Test Evaluations July-August 2019

AV-Comparatives, another antivirus testing organization, conducts a range of tests to evaluate how well a security product protects against malware infections. The two main tests that are worth a look are the Real-World Protection test and the Malware Protection test.

The major difference between the two evaluations is that the Real-World Protection test is web-based, whereas the Malware Protection test is system-based.

Both tests measure overall virus protective capabilities in addition to an antivirus suite’s propensity for raising false alarms.

In the recent Real-World Protection test, released in June 2019, McAfee received the lowest STANDARD award, while Norton (Symantec) received the second-best ADVANCED rating.

Real World Protection Test Results AV Comparatives Evaluations February May 2019

In the March 2019 Malware Protection test, both software packages were awarded the second-best ADVANCED award.

Malware Protection Test Results AV Comparatives Evaluations March 2019

Winner: Norton. Both products tied in the AV-Test’s Protection evaluation and AV-Comparatives’ Malware Protection test, but Norton fared slightly better than McAfee in the recent Real-World Protection test.

3. McAfee vs Norton: Impact on System Speed

Again, to find out which of these two software companies provides better performance for your computer, let’s examine some independent tests to get unbiased results.

The impact of security software on system performance is measured by running the program alongside normal computer functions and examining how quickly the computer responds to other operations.

This is a critical test because it shows how much an antivirus product slows down a computer as it works in the background. They are also tested on how quickly they complete their in-depth scans, as well as how much these scans slow a computer’s normal processes.

From AV-Test, both Norton and McAfee received another 6 out of 6 in the Performance category. This shows that both products put a minimal impact on system performance.


McAfee Performance Test Results AV Test Evaluations July-August 2019


Norton Security Performance Test Results AV Test Evaluations July-August 2019

AV-Comparatives reaches a similar conclusion, as seen from its recent Performance test (conducted in April 2019). Both McAfee and Norton received ADVANCED+ awards from AV-Comparatives, showing that neither really outshines the other in this regard.

Performance Test Results AV Comparatives Evaluations April 2019

Winner: Both. Both antivirus products are excellent in terms of malware protection.

4) McAfee vs Norton: Interface

McAfee and Norton allow their users to control all aspects of security from one control panel that is accessed via the desktop. Users can scan, review virus definitions, run updates, and purchase more licenses – all from one convenient hub.

Norton allows for extra pop-ups to appear when it detects potentially malicious software about to enter your computer. It gives you a chance to allow or block incoming data or files.

Norton has an interface that is optimized for tablet or device use. This keeps things simple and very easy to understand, which might be vital for use by folks who aren’t very computer-literate but who still require antivirus protection.

Norton Antivirus Interface

McAfee’s application has a left rail for moving through its various menus, but also splits its functions between many slides or windows. This means you’ll need to switch from screen to screen to perform most basic operations.

McAfee Antivirus Interface

Winner: Both. Both the companies lay great emphasis on simplicity and offer an easy-to-understand interface.

5. McAfee vs Norton: Pricing

Now, let’s take a look at the value for money offered by both companies.

McAfee offers protection for one device through its Total Protection package at $34.99. This may look expensive for a single device, but things start to shift as we move towards more devices. With the subsequent addition of just five dollars, you can cover five devices with McAfee at $39.99 and 10 devices at $44.99.

Norton’s price starts from $39.99, which buys you a single-device annual license for Norton 360 Standard. If you want to protect up to five PCs, Macs, smartphones or tablets, you can go with Norton 360 Deluxe (for $49.99) or Norton 360 with LifeLock Select (for $89.99).

Norton Products Regular Price Discounted Price
Norton Antivirus Plus$59.99/yearCheck here
Norton 360 Standard$79.99/yearCheck here
Norton 360 Deluxe$99.99/year Check here
Norton 360 with Lifelock Select$149.99/year Check here
Norton 360 with Utimate Plus$349.99/yearCheck here
Norton Small Business SecurityVariesCheck here

Winner: McAfee. Overall, McAfee wins this round of comparison due to its generous per-device pricing model. As you can see, McAfee becomes a more and more affordable option when you need multiple licenses. Also, you get the top-shelf Total Protection suite if you choose to go with McAfee.

6. McAfee vs Norton: Popularity

It’s clear that both McAfee and Norton are established names in the antivirus realm, but let’s look at some details to find out which company is more popular among users.

OPSWAT, a popular security company, regularly releases data on the market share held by leading antivirus products.

According to its recent report, ESET currently dominates with a 12.89% market share, followed by McAfee (11.9%). Norton (Symantec) is in the third position with a market share of 10.27%.

OPSWAT Antivirus Market Share

7. McAfee vs Norton: Customer Ratings

Another important factor that determines a product’s overall superiority is user ratings according to independent review websites.

Let’s look at the Better Business Bureau, an independent company that rates companies on an A+ to F- scale.

McAfee and Norton both have A+ BBB ratings, meaning that neither receive an outstanding amount of customer complaints. This is great news for both companies since customer satisfaction is one of the most important ways to tell if a company takes good care of its users.

Winner: McAfee. Overall, McAfee is more popular among users than Norton.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that both McAfee and Norton are excellent antivirus products, but when you consider price, user interface, performance, and protection we’re putting McAfee ahead of Norton. The latter offers numerous security-related features and utilities, but the price makes it less of a value.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is better McAfee or Norton?

Both McAfee and Norton are top-notch cybersecurity companies. Both software provide excellent anti-malware protection without putting a burden on system performance. In terms of price, McAfee is slightly cheaper than Norton.

Is McAfee the same as Norton?

McAfee and Norton are two separate antivirus brands. Both have been around for years and are well-known in the antivirus space.

Does Norton slow down your computer?

Norton consistently gets perfect or near-perfect scores from reputable independent labs, so it’s very unlikely that you will notice system slowdowns with Norton.

Does McAfee slow your computer down?

McAfee regularly gets excellent scores on independent performance tests, so it’s very unlikely that your system will suffer slowdowns due to McAfee.

Is it bad to have both Norton and McAfee?

It is recommend to have one antivirus software active on your computer at one time. Keeping both McAfee and Norton active at the same time may cause conflicts and other performance-related issues.

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