McAfee vs. Norton: Which One is Best to Use in 2024?

Ruheni Mathenge  - Streaming Expert
Last updated: January 1, 2024

Detailed McAfee vs. Norton antivirus comparison to help you pick which one is best to use in 2023. Alongside evaluating the features and pricing, we rigorous tested both products for different things.


McAfee and Norton have long been consumers’ choices for protecting their devices. Our detailed head-to-head McAfee vs Norton comparison is thus aimed at helping new users find their best pick. McAfee focuses more on device optimization and performance as it offers special features like ransomware encrypted storage, performance optimization, and file shredder. On the other hand, Norton focuses more on users’ privacy by offering webcam protection, parental control, and VPN.

McAfee and Norton are the world’s well-established, easily recognizable security software suites. Both have a reputation for effectively protecting against all kinds of online threats. But between the two services, which is the best for 2024? Malware and virus have become widespread, so it is imperative to go for the best protection.

We did rigorous testing on both products and consulted reliable, independent test labs to determine which offers better protection. McAfee narrowly did better than Norton, but it is still a trustworthy and solid software.

Read on the review to see our in-depth assessment of Norton vs. McAfee software programs and why we think McAfee performs better.

McAfee and Norton comparison at a glance

McAfee and Norton scored well in the defense against all antiviruses and malware. Here is a quick summary of both services.

McAfee Total protection covers 10 devices and includes:

  • Identity theft protection
  • Vulnerability scanner
  • Wi-Fi network security
  • PC optimization tools
  • File shredder
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Norton 360 covers 5 devices and includes:

  • 50GB cloud storage
  • Unlimited VPN
  • LifeLock protection
  • Dark web monitoring
  • 60-day money-back guarantee
FeaturesMcAfee Total ProtectionNorton 360 Deluxe
Webcam protection
Antivirus and Antispyware
Network Attack Protection
Parental control
Banking and Payment protection
Ransomware protection
Password manager
Performance optimization
File shredder
PC Cloud backup
Encrypted storage
Automatic apps update
Identity theft protection

Background information


Official logo of McAfee Total Protection

McAfee was established in 1987 as McAfee associates, named after its founder, the infamous John McAfee, who resigned later in 1994. The firm has gone through leaps and bounds, including being acquired by Intel Corporation. It is developing various security applications and tools to provide antivirus protection for home users and businesses.

It provides a proactive and verified solution to secure networks, systems, and mobile devices worldwide. This allows users to connect and browse the internet safely and securely. With its Global Threat Intelligence, McAfee delivers products that empower home users and businesses to protect data, identify vulnerabilities and prevent disruption.

Norton 360 Deluxe

Norton 360-min

Initially, computer viruses were transmitted with floppy disks. It was easy to contain the viruses because the disks were removable media. However, things got more complicated with the advent of the internet, where viruses began to spread more rapidly.

Symantec was one of the first companies to start developing antivirus solutions. In 1989, the company introduced the Symantec Antivirus for Macintosh (SAM), enabling users to identify and eliminate viruses on Apple products.

Around the same time, Peter Norton, a programmer and software publisher, introduced Norton Utilities for DOS. It enabled computers to increase boot speed and overall performance.

Symantec Corporation acquired Peter Norton Computing and launched Norton Antivirus for PC in 1991. It was the company’s first consumer antivirus that effectively prevented antiviruses and removed malicious software. Since then, the antivirus has continued to develop into what we have today.

McAfee vs. Norton: Protection

Malware protection

Both McAfee and Norton are rated highly in terms of malware protection. We installed both programs on our devices to determine the one that provides the best protection. After installing the programs, we used two methods to run the test.

First, we used the real-time protection feature to scan the malware threats in real-time while the PC is running. We used several malware samples from The European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research (EICAR) for the second test. However, we deactivated the real-time feature before running the full system scan.

We also relied on independent lab results such as AV-Test, and AV-Comparatives. The table below shows our test results.

Test fileEicar sample 1Eicar sample 2Eicar sample 3Eicar sample 4Live sample 1 (adware)Live sample 2 (Trojan)Live sample 3 (Trojan)

Norton blocked only one of the Eicar samples and allowed three to pass, as you can see above. However, it stopped all the live malware samples, including Trojans and Adware.

Moreover, the HTTP blocked .txt files and the EICAR samples but allowed zip files. On the other hand, HTTPS stopped .com while it allowed .zip and .txt files. The request to extract .zip files was rejected on both HTTP and HTTPS. After unlocking and unzipping, Norton immediately detected and eliminated live samples.

Contrariwise, from the results above, McAfee blocked all EICAR malware samples. It also prevented the attempt to install live samples of different malware.

We deactivated the AV tool and downloaded the EICAR and live samples to test the quick scan feature. Unfortunately, both McAfee and Norton failed to identify the malware threats and missed EICAR and live samples.

We also looked at other independent antivirus testing lab results to counterpart our test. AV-Test continuously evaluated 19 home user security products between September and October 2019. It gave each provider a score out of six in different categories based on the tests. So, we’ll look at the scores both McAfee and Norton received for the various categories.

Both McAfee and Norton security software programs had a protection score of 6.0/6.0 during the November and December 2020 testing. They scored 100% in protecting against zero-day malware attacks, including email and web threats (Real-world testing). The detection of widespread and prevalent malware was also 100%.

McAfee AV test
McAfee AV test score
Norton Antivirus AV Test
Norton AV test score

McAfee was rated 6.0/6.0 in terms of real-world protection. It also scored a 100% protection rate for preventing zero-day attacks, including web and email threats. Similarly, Norton attained a higher score of 100% in protecting against zero-day attacks, including web and email threats. This is commendable, as the industry average is 99.1%.

We also checked the latest AV-Comparatives malware protection test to see if the results matched AV-Test’s results. McAfee had a protection rate of 100%, putting it ahead of Norton, which scored 99.98%. The difference is minute, so both antiviruses will securely protect your devices.

Another way to compare the two products is to look at the False Alarm. When antivirus software flags a non-malware file is known as a false positive. This impacts the effectiveness of the antivirus because it can affect the device’s performance. The test results show McAfee had fewer false positives than Norton. 

Firewall protection

Norton has a Smart Firewall that works in conjunction with the Intrusion Prevention System. The former chooses the data to go through, while the latter ensures no malicious pieces are retained. Moreover, it masks the vacant ports to cap the connection options for third parties.

Indeed, the firewall will also block you from accessing harmful websites. Though, you should expect pretty few false positives.


With most antiviruses, there are quick and in-depth scan options. The former checks your device’s memory and other common areas, while the latter checks every part of your device. In most cases, the quick scan takes only a few minutes, while the in-depth scan takes hours.

Both McAfee and Norton antiviruses have a custom scan that allows you to choose the files and folders to scan. This feature is great, especially if you connect an infected USB flash drive.

McAfee vs. Norton: Impact on PC performance

The main work of modern-day cloud antivirus or traditional ones is to keep your computer safe. It is always advantageous if it can do this without slowing your device’s operations. We recorded our experience with McAfee and Norton to test their impact on our PC’s speed and performance.

We recorded the time to perform quick and full scans with both programs. This helped us analyze our PC’s speeds while the scanning ran in the background. The table below shows how each software performed.

Test typeFull scan – Time (minutes)Full scan – Number of scanned itemsQuick scan – CPU utilization (%)Quick scan – Memory utilization (%)Quick scan – Disk utilization (%)Quick scan – Time (seconds)

Norton took 115 minutes to complete the full scan. We continued to use our PC, usually during the scanning process. However, the speeds slightly dropped when launching some apps and websites. Afterward, we ran a quick scan that took only 182 seconds to complete. On the other hand, the in-depth scan with McAfee took 230 minutes, while the quick scan took 340 seconds.

The table below shows how each software used resources.

Test typeControl CPU utilization % (no scan)Control memory utilization  % (no scan)Control Disk utilization (seconds) (no scan)Full Scan CPU Utilization %Full Scan Memory Utilization %Full Scan Utilization (seconds) 

As you can see from the above data, McAfee has lower Control CPU and Control memory utilization than Norton. However, McAfee uses less control disk utilization than Norton when not performing a scan. Nonetheless, McAfee utilizes more CPU power during full scans than Norton though they use the same memory amount.

We also checked the AV-Test and AV comparatives’ tests to see how each software affects the PC’s performance. The test measures how the antivirus impacts PC performance when performing certain tasks such as:

  • Browsing sites
  • Downloading websites
  • Copying files
  • Archiving/unarchiving
  • Installing/uninstalling applications
  • Launching applications

AV-Comparatives test shows that McAfee performed exemplary across all the tasks. Norton scored lower, performing fast on two and fast on four tasks.

On the other hand, AV-Test performance shows that Norton outdoes industry standards in several categories. It also gives McAfee a score of 6.0/6.0 when running on low and high-end computers.

Both AV-Test and AV-Comparatives results put McAfee slightly ahead of Norton, although the difference is marginal. This complements our findings that both software’s impact on PC performance and speed are minor. Actually, we performed our daily tasks normally while the antiviruses were running in the background, and there were no lags.

McAfee vs. Norton: Features

Besides malware protection, both providers offer plenty of extra features. Which has the best additional features between Norton 360 Deluxe and McAfee Total protection? Let’s find out.

McAfee total protection

  • Performance optimization
  • Home Network security
  • Award-winning Antivirus
  • Password manager
  • Security experts and online support
  • Safe web browsing
  • Multi-device compatibility
  • File shredder
  • Identity Theft Protection
  • Encrypted storage
  • Secure VPN

Norton 360 deluxe

  • Antivirus
  • Anti-Spyware
  • Online threat protection
  • Malware and Ransomware protection
  • PC Cloud Backup
  • Smart Firewall
  • Parental controls
  • PC SafeCam
  • Secure VPN

Some of the features, such as firewalls, network security scanners, and password managers, are common on both McAfee and Norton. While others like parental control are not. So, your choice will mainly depend on your personal needs. Below, we take a closer look at some of the standout features of each software.

McAfee total protection

  • Identity Theft Protection – Nowadays, identity thieves can steal your personal information such as name and address, credit card, social security number, etc. This feature will monitor the web and alert you if your sensitive data is in the wrong hands.
  • File shredder – This feature will eliminate sensitive files to ensure no trace will be saved. This means your private information will remain secure even if you sell your device.
  • Encrypted storage – Uses the AES 128-bit encryption to protect your sensitive files. With this kind of encryption, malicious actors cannot access your data.

Norton 360 deluxe

  • Secure VPN – A virtual private network (VPN) is an essential security tool that will keep you private and protect your information. It is instrumental if you frequently use unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • PC SafeCam – With the rise of spying through the webcam and blackmailing scams, protecting your webcam is very important.
  • PC Cloud Backup 50 GB – This feature will enable you to store your PC’s content in the cloud. It is the best way to survive a ransomware attack.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Both McAfee and Norton VPNs have features like a secure 256-bit AES encryption, a zero-logs policy, and a kill switch.

McAfee VPN is fast, with access to more server locations (45+ regions) than Norton. Additionally, it is efficient for web browsing, observes a strict zero-logs policy that is audited independently annually, and offers fast downloads and relative upload speeds, making torrenting easier. However, McAfee does not provide extra features like split-tunneling and Ad Tracker Blocking.

On the other hand, Norton VPN, which is also among the best antivirus-bundled VPNs, has fewer server locations (30+ regions). It has additional advanced features, including Ad Tracker Blocking and split tunneling. Even so, Norton only supports torrenting on dedicated servers in the Netherlands, and it is not compatible with all streaming websites except for HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix.

In conclusion, choosing between McAfee and Norton VPNs is hard since each offers unique benefits.

Password manager

McAfee’s True Key password manager provides adequate password protection, although it is basic compared to Norton’s. The password manager has crucial features such as a password generator, auto-filling, synchronization across devices, unlimited password storage, and an account recovery option via email, making it easy to use. However, it is vulnerable because hackers can compromise your email during account recovery and access every password you have stored with McAfee.

Norton also has one of the best antivirus packages for password managers. It has vital password manager features, including robust 256-bit AES encryption, limitless password storage, and auto-fill and auto-save functions. Additionally, it offers extra features such as password vault auditing, which alerts you of weak, old, and duplicate passwords that require changing, and guidelines on how to change your password. Unfortunately, Norton does not offer any account recovery options, which makes it impossible to get back into your account if you lose your master password.

Dark web monitoring & Identity theft protection

McAfee’s identity theft protection isn’t as thorough as Norton’s, but it is available in over 20 regions, including US, UK, and Canada. It provides $1 million coverage for US users and access to its team of experts to help reinstate your identity and cancel your debit or credit cards if stolen.

McAfee’s dark web monitoring service tracks your passport, email addresses, driver’s license, phone numbers, Medical IDs, international bank accounts, and social security numbers. Furthermore, McAfee warns you about threats from the dark web and scans third-parties directories for your information to prevent them from selling it for profit, enabling it to function properly and keep your data secure.

In contrast, Norton’s features are superb for identity theft protection in the US only for users who subscribe to one of its LifeLock plans. It monitors your data using Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion and warns about hackers. Also, it provides up to $1M in coverage for severe incidents and identity thefts, allowing it to protect many assets.

Norton’s dark web monitoring is available in several countries, including Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, where real-life agents infiltrate the dark web to search for your information. It also monitors your social media accounts, warns you about suspicious activity, and offers information through a Chatbot on protecting your data.

Parental controls

McAfee parental controls are excellent because they allow you to monitor your children’s activity while protecting them online with geofencing, app blocking, and web content filtering features. However, McAfee’s parental controls are downloaded separately from its main antivirus website. On the other hand, Norton also provides some of the best parental controls for monitoring your children’s online activity, such as content filtering, geofencing, blocking dangerous or illegal websites, and limiting usage.

Norton vs. McAfee: User interface

Both security software programs come with user-friendly and intuitive designs. However, which is easier to use?

McAfee has a minimalist interface with white and dark grey as the main colors. The dashboard shows the current security status and a menu to access other settings. At the bottom, the buttons will enable you to launch virus scans, remove trackers, and update apps. The layout is not flawless, but it is effortless to use.

Similarly, Norton’s interface has one main panel with four blocks at the bottom. This makes everything a click away with the top panel showing the current protection status. One of Norton’s most annoying things is that it uses alerts to show changes in the software.

McAfee and Norton: Pricing and plans

Both McAfee and Norton have similar pricing structures with 4 plans. The table below shows a comparison between the pricing structure of each software.


Product categoryPrice
Singe device$34.99
Individual/ couples$39.99


Product categoryPrice
Norton 360 standard$39.99
Norton 360 Deluxe$49.99
Norton 360 with LifeLock Select$99.48
Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus$299.88

Generally, McAfee is a bit cheaper than Norton though most of the features are similar. However, you will find that some of McAfee’s features are not available on Norton and vice versa. With both services, the expensive plans offer more features.

Both Norton 360 and McAfee offers 60 and 30-day money-back guarantees, respectively. Norton supports only some credit cards, while McAfee also has PayPal.

McAfee vs. Norton: Apps & Ease of use

Both antiviruses work well with popular operating systems, including Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, and Chromebook.

Desktop apps

McAfee’s desktop app is simple and moderately designed. Its key features are placed at the main user interface and include an alert box that displays any vulnerabilities. It also includes a firewall which you can access via the sidebar on the left, as well as identity theft protection and parental controls.

Similarly, the Norton desktop app is easy to use despite having a lot of features. For example, in the settings menu, you can choose between a modern and classic view, which offers extensive and easy-to-access buttons for its main features. Finally, Norton has a web dashboard that displays all of Norton’s features as well as security alerts when threats are detected.

Mobile apps

McAfee’s mobile app for iOS and Android has a simple-to-navigate user interface that allows you to access all features and scan your device with just a few taps. It is not without flaws, but once you get used to where the features and settings are, it is pretty simple to use. Furthermore, the mobile scan offers commendable speed and accuracy by detecting all malware on your Android gadget. Conversely, Norton’s mobile app for iOS and Android is quite good because it is well-designed and allows you to access all features with a single tap. However, all of its components are not packaged in one app, which is frustrating if you do not have the know-how because you must install multiple apps to access all of the features.

McAfee vs Norton: Customer support

Norton has 24/7 customer support all year round. Several options include a live chat, a community forum, and an FAQ. You can also get in touch directly through the phone, Facebook, and Twitter.

Conversely, McAfee has reliable support, including help with Windows, Mac, and billing. There is also a knowledgeable virtual assistant to help you with common issues. You can also post your questions on the community forum. The company also provides a knowledge base, social media channels, and live chat.

Methodology: How we choose the best antivirus products

Choosing an antivirus based on its reviews and assurance of malware removal may seem easy, but it’s not. The following are some features to consider when choosing the best antivirus software:

  1. The ability to remove malware. We test each antivirus thoroughly to ensure they can detect and remove inert and live malware samples from your gadget.
  2. Compatibility. We choose antivirus software that offers apps for all major platforms, primarily those that protect macOS and Windows.
  3. Usability. We aim for antivirus solutions that are simple to use and have optional extra features for advanced users.
  4. Performance. We always examine each antivirus software’s impact on different systems to ensure they do not slow down your device.
  5. Value. The providers we chose always offer discounts to new users, a money-back guarantee, and options for extra device installations.
  6. Benchmarking. We constantly compare our test results with test labs that lead globally to ensure comparable malware detection and performance.
  7. Support. We expect antivirus options to provide 24/7 support via email, a ticketing system, or a live chat.


Operating systems continue to offer built-in security systems. For example, Microsoft does that in the form of Windows Defender. Still, McAfee and Norton are probably the most prominent (and widely used) security software applications.

Both services offer dependable malware and virus protection. However, during our tests, Norton did not detect some malware samples.

McAfee is our top pick because of its advanced protection and other essential security features, such as a VPN. This does not mean that Norton is weak software. In fact, it outdoes McAfee in terms of speeds. As we mentioned earlier, your choice will mainly depend on your needs.


All antiviruses come with different security features and tools. So, understanding what you need will enable you to choose the right one. Some antiviruses have extra features, such as a virtual private network (VPN) and password manager, while others don’t. Also, some software has compatibility across all devices, while others work on specific devices. So, it is always good to compare the best antiviruses to find the right one for your needs.

The primary purpose of an antivirus is to protect you against all types of malware. Some of the common malware include rootkits, trojans, spyware, worms, ransomware, and viruses. It will keep you safe in many ways, with real-time protection being the most effective. This helps to stop any active threat that might damage your device. Besides malware protection, other features you should consider are a faster detection rate, excellent system performance, good customer support, and more.

A top-notch antivirus should detect, identify and eliminate all malware types. Besides, it will provide real-time protection against all threats, whether you are online or offline. Many antivirus suites have a VPN, password manager, and secure storage as additional security measures.  Combining all these features will protect you against various cyber threats. 

Generally, both Norton and McAfee are security software programs that protect your devices against malware and viruses. They even have similar features, such as a firewall, password manager, anti-phishing, and more.

Installing multiple antivirus programs on the same device is not good, as it can lead to conflict. They will treat each other as a threat and can even slow down your device’s performance. By and large, when installing antivirus software, it will detect other similar programs and request you to deactivate them.

McAfee has flaws, but this does not make it a wrong choice. However, unlike Norton, it has unique features like fast performance and the ability to recover account passwords. In contrast, Norton performs slightly better regarding streaming sites and its unlimited password manager storage. However, McAfee has a limit of 15 passwords on all plans except the highest.

Running multiple antivirus programs on your device is wrong because it will lead to conflict. This will slow down your system’s performance and make it vulnerable to malware because they threaten one another. We strongly advise using either McAfee or Norton because both are top-tier antivirus solutions with superb security features.

Certainly not. McAfee antivirus software uses minimal system resources, allowing your devices to run smoothly even during intensive scans. Furthermore, McAfee includes various efficient features, like the Tracker Remover, which removes cookies and junk files, enhancing your system’s speed.

We recommend Norton 360 Deluxe, which offers excellent value for money. It protects you from all malware and provides advanced features for your device, like real-time protection, a password manager, dark web monitoring for up to 5 gadgets, and 50GB of cloud storage.

Although tempting, free is not always the best option. It is because free antivirus programs such as Avast sell the users’ data to third parties for profit, whereas others are malware that infects your device. We recommend premium antivirus software like McAfee that provides top-notch security features and protects your device from all threats at an affordable price.

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About the Author

Ruheni Mathenge

Ruheni Mathenge

Streaming Expert
201 Posts

Tech researcher and writer with a passion for cybersecurity. Ruheni Mathenge specializes in writing long-form content dedicated to helping individuals and businesses navigate and understand the constantly evolving online security and web freedom worlds. He specializes in VPNs, online anonymity, and encryption. His articles have appeared in many respected technology publications. Ruheni explains complicated technical concepts clearly and simply. He advocates digital freedom and online privacy at every level.

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