mcafee vs norton

McAfee VS Norton: Antivirus Head-to-Head Battle

Last updated on May 11, 2021

The first cybercrime reportedly took place long before the first computer was even invented. Some even claim that it can be traced back as far as 1820 and the destruction of the first weaving looms. Most experts agree, though, that the first distributed denial of service attack took place over 30 years ago, and the threat and scope of cybercrime have been on the rise ever since. It’s little wonder, then, that both Norton and McAfee have been producing antivirus and other cybersecurity software for decades.

Technology has evolved quickly in the interim and assessing the best antivirus product for your needs has become increasingly confusing and challenging. Do you really need Dark Web monitoring or is a simple firewall sufficient? Is Norton’s additional identity theft protection going to offer better protection than McAfee’s VPN? Find out the answers to these questions and many more as we see who wins in the battle of McAfee vs Norton in this Antivirus review.

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In this article

1. Installation and Set Up

Choosing between Norton or McAfee is tricky as their products contain many of the same features and operate using similar detecting technology. McAfee’s antivirus packages require a lot more memory, while Norton’s lightweight products will usually download in less than 15 minutes. McAfee’s resource-hungry software will take double that and requires nearly 10 MB of hard drive, compared to Norton’s 3.4.

McAfee is not the easiest antivirus software to download and install, especially with Windows 10 which frequently throws up compatibility issues and requires a preinstall tool to be downloaded and operational before the antivirus installation process can begin.

Both companies provide in-depth instructions and video tutorials to make the installation process smooth and simple but, at the end of the day, installing Norton is a far more streamlined process. Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that you only need to install the product once, whereas you’ll be reliant on its protection for a year at least. Is it better than to opt for Norton’s smoother installation or grit your teeth and bear with McAfee in the hopes that the day-to-day protection makes up for the sluggish installation and setup process? Read on and find out!

Winner: Norton

2. Protection

When it comes to protection, one of the best ways of gauging a product’s efficacy is through lab tests and, according to the results produced by AV-Comparatives earlier this year, McAfee outperforms Norton on nearly every level. Not only will McAfee identify more potential threats online, but its offline detection rates are also higher. The only area in which Norton scores better is in the detection of false positives. These occur when an antivirus program flags a harmless app or file as being potentially dangerous. False positives disrupt operations and may even block a perfectly sound software and prevent it from opening.

Norton’s protection is heavily cloud-dependent so it won’t give you the same level of security as McAfee when you’re working offline. Furthermore, McAfee is moving with the times and providing specific social media protection which isn’t available with Norton’s products. Having said that, Norton uses some advanced detection techniques that will give you decent protection even against zero-day attacks. At the end of the day, though, that’s nothing more than you’d get from McAfee.

The only area of protection where Norton appears to have the upper hand is that of identity theft protection. Using Dark Web monitoring in conjunction with LifeLock technology, Norton offers some of the most comprehensive identity protection around. So, if you feel like your sensitive data is particularly vulnerable, this may be the right option for you. If you’re after cutting-edge generic protection against all cyber threats, however, and wondering whether to opt for Norton or McAfee, the latter is definitely our top recommendation.

Winner: McAfee

3. Cost

Although many consumers complain that internet security suites are overpriced, the majority shared very similar pricing structures, and neither Norton or McAfee are exceptions to that rule. Both companies produce entry-level antivirus software that offers basic protection at a representative price, in the case of both Norton and McAfee, that’s around $39.99 per year. The one advantage Norton has over McAfee is that it offers both monthly and yearly subscriptions, so consumers have an alternative to paying the yearly fee all in one go.

McAfee has gone in the opposite direction, offering clients reduced prices if they commit to a two-year subscription. For many, however, this is daunting as cybersecurity evolves so quickly, it makes it difficult to predict whether the protection being offered by McAfee today will be as robust and reliable two years from now. At the end of the day, the choice is yours and will no doubt be influenced by your level of brand loyalty.

Unlike rivals AVG and Avast, both McAfee and Norton have done away with free versions of their antivirus offerings. Instead, they offer cost-effective entry-level protection. Working from the bottom of their pricing structures upwards, there is little difference between the two in terms of cost and even their top-end premium products are only marginally distinct, with McAfee’s Total Protection costing $89.99 per year and Norton’s 360 with LifeLock Select, $99.99 annually.

While there is little to choose between the two when it comes to pricing, McAfee’s marginally cheaper premium package and multi-year subscription options give it a small advantage, making it the winner in this category of our antivirus review.

Winner: McAfee

4. Functionality and Features

When it comes to basic antivirus protection and the features bundled into that entry-level software, there is little to distinguish Norton from McAfee and vice versa. While both McAfee and Norton’s antivirus plus packages are compatible with both PCs and Macs, McAfee’s offers home network protection for an unlimited number of devices, whereas Norton’s is only available for a single device.

Unlike Norton, McAfee’s basic antivirus software doesn’t include a password manager but does bundle in both optimization tools and a social media guard. Moving up to the two companies’ premium packages, McAfee continues to distinguish itself by offering protection on unlimited devices, whereas Norton users have to choose to pay for a specific number. Beyond that, the products are very similar, with both offering a two-way firewall, identity protection, safe browsing, parental controls, and a password manager.

When considering McAfee or Norton, both provide additional cybersecurity with their VPN offerings, but McAfee’s Safe Connect VPN service is available only as a stand-alone tool that can be added onto another package, whereas Norton’s is included in its top-level products. Norton also includes webcam protection which is missing from McAfee’s feature line-up, giving Norton the advantage in this category.

Winner: Norton

5. Interface and Usability

Most antivirus programs utilize a similar user interface with the main screen indicating protection status and clickable buttons giving users instant access to the most important features. Norton’s interface is a little sparse, to say the least, but navigation is both straightforward and logical. McAfee’s interface takes a little more getting used to, but once familiarity is established it certainly isn’t an issue. In fact, using McAfee is a pleasurable experience, especially since its redesign and even the most advanced settings are easy to locate and customize.

To make a mark in this category, the software needs to be system-friendly as well as user-friendly and, in this regard, McAfee easily surpasses Norton. Norton’s internet security products are renown for being resource-hungry and will slow down some operating systems by almost 30%. By comparison, McAfee’s products only impact on performance by around 15%, making it far more responsive and easier to work with.

While the full operation of Norton’s products requires users to control proceedings in both their app interface and their online portal, McAfee clients can perform almost every function needed without leaving their desktop app. McAfee’s latest products are not only faster, but the interface is more inviting and less confusing than in previous versions. Tools are easy to find and customization can be completed at the click of a button.

Reduced system impact, seamless navigation, and overall usability make McAfee the winner of our usability section.

Winner: McAfee

6. Customer Support

Given the level of sophistication present in antivirus technology, the standard of customer support among internet security, in general, is surprisingly disappointing. While the best VPNs, and even most of the mediocre ones, offer online assistance, email support, and live chat options, these are as rare in the world of antivirus as rhinos are becoming in Africa.

Fortunately, both McAfee and Norton have been trying their best to rectify this situation, with Norton offering a well-designed online support section, live chat, and both email and telephone support systems. McAfee is also pretty impressive with an online ticket system aimed at the more complex inquiries and a suitably jam-packed online knowledge center.

While both companies support community forums, they don’t push these as offering the best online support like some of their rivals do. For me, this is crucial as I have forum phobia and have yet to find one where I could easily navigate to the answer I was looking for. Being able to contact a customer support representative is, as far as I’m concerned, the easiest solution so facilities like live chat and online ticket systems warm my heart.

McAfee vs Norton is a tough contest in terms of social media and both have strong presences and respond quickly to messages sent via platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. While we want to congratulate both McAfee and Norton on their dedication to customer support, Norton’s live chat option gives it a tiny advantage and gives it another win.

Winner: Norton

7. Privacy

When it comes to cybersecurity, there’s simply no point in having a product that makes you more vulnerable through tracking and sharing your sensitive data with third parties than you were with no protection. This is why many are turning their backs on free antivirus options, such as those provided by AVG and Avast, both of which have come under fire for being excessively liberal with their users’ privacy.

Both Norton and McAfee have managed to stay out of the limelight when it comes to privacy concerns but that doesn’t mean they don’t collect or share user data. Unfortunately, data collection is a necessary evil when it comes to cyber threats and the company with the largest collection of data relating to viruses, malware, and other dangers is likely to be the one that gives the most foolproof protection.

While neither Norton or McAfee are completely squeaky clean, it’s much easier to find this out by reading McAfee’s well-organized privacy policy than reading Norton’s chaotic one. McAfee’s policy is broken down into sections which deal with specific sticking points, such as “What Kinds of Information Do We Collect?” and “Who Do We Share Personal Data With?” While Norton’s privacy policy deals with the same issues, it lumps it all together and leaves the user scrolling through the small print in search of vital statistics.

At the end of the day, both companies have a similar policy when it comes to user privacy but McAfee wins simply because it presents that information in a more readable and accessible manner.

Winner: McAfee

Overall Winner: McAfee

Distinguishing between the level of protection and security you get from McAfee vs Norton is no mean feat and either of these technology titans will give you multi-layered defenses that will combat malicious software, ransomware, phishing attacks and a host of other potential cyber threats. While Norton’s identity protection is second to none, McAfee offers better protection across the board and smoother user experience.

Pricing structures are almost identical but Norton’s impact on system resources is much greater, making it more difficult to operate. While McAfee needs to work on its installation process, once it’s up and running navigation is easy and customization a breeze. Similarly, McAfee excels when it comes to multifaceted security and ease of use, giving it a small yet discernable advantage.

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