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McAfee vs Norton: Which Antivirus is Better in 2023?

Kate Hawkins
Last Updated by Kate Hawkins on April 01, 2023

Trying to parse the differences between these two industry-leading antiviruses can be difficult, and I wanted to see if McAfee and Norton got to be the two biggest contenders in the industry for good reasons. So, I put them through a series of rigorous tests to find out.

Norton emerged as the winner by a small margin. Alongside a perfect malware detection score, it has extremely useful features like cloud storage and a password manager. Plus, you can try Norton risk-free as it’s backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee— if you change your mind, you can easily get a full refund.

McAfee offers a solid range of extra features, but it doesn’t have the same range of unique tools as Norton. However, it also scores 100% malware detection for top device protection. You can try McAfee for yourself risk-free and get a refund if it’s not right for you.

Try Norton risk-free for 60 days

No Time? Here’s a 1-Minute Summary of Category Winners

McAfee logo
Virus Scanner Fast scans (Quick, Full, and Custom) Super-fast scans (Quick, Full, and Custom) plus unique Norton Insight feature
Real-Time Malware Protection Detected and blocked 100% of zero-day malware in real-time tests Detected and blocked 100% of zero-day malware in real-time tests
System Performance Average system slow down of 8% Average system slow down of 9.75%
VPN 20+ server locations, fast speeds, and supports torrenting 29 server locations, range of security tools, and reliably fast speeds
Parental Controls Good range of features for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS Advanced customization options on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
Firewall Strong protection by default, with highly customizable settings Powerful protection by default, with virus protection guarantee
Password Manager Limited to 15 passwords unless you upgrade Unlimited passwords on all plans, with a unique auto-change feature
Gaming Mode App Boost loads games faster for quicker, smoother gameplay Silent Mode stops pop-ups and background processes for uninterrupted gaming
Optimization Tools Optimization tools include file cleanup, app boost, and web boost Optimization tools include disk defragmenter, file cleanup, startup manager, and silent mode
Other Features Includes identity protection, web security, file shredder, and more Includes identity protection, web security, cloud backup, webcam blocker, and more
Ease of Use Intuitive apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS Intuitive apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
Customer Service Slow responses and issues solving queries — 24/7 live chat, phone support, online FAQs, and more Fast responses and quick resolutions — 24/7 live chat, phone support, online FAQs, and more
Price More expensive overall, especially after the first-year discount More affordable, plus more features make it better value for money
Free Version 30-day free trial with no payment details needed 30-day free trial — must add payment details
Money-Back Guarantee 30-day money-back guarantee 60-day money-back guarantee

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How I Tested and Compared McAfee vs Norton

I compared McAfee and Norton in the following 15 categories.

  1. Virus Scanner — I tested whether each virus scanner could detect every threat on my computer. I also compared the speeds of each type of scan on both antiviruses.
  2. Real-Time Malware Protection — I tested whether each antivirus could detect newly-released malware and if any of the antiviruses picked up false positives.
  3. System Performance — I measured how each antivirus impacted the performance of my device during different tasks.
  4. VPNBoth antiviruses come with an integrated VPN so I checked the speed, security, and streaming abilities of each VPN.
  5. Parental Controls — I tested the effectiveness and ease of use of the parental control features offered by each antivirus.
  6. Firewall — I tested how well each firewall protects against viruses as well as examined the default and customization options for each firewall.
  7. Password Manager — I tested each password manager to see how well it collected, stored, and generated passwords across my devices.
  8. Gaming Mode — I played online games while running each antivirus to see which antivirus was better optimized for lag-free and uninterrupted gaming.
  9. Optimization Tools — I tested each optimization tool and its effectiveness to boost my device’s performance.
  10. Other Features — I checked the additional features to see whether they’re worth using.
  11. Device Compatibility — I download the antivirus to Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS and tested each device’s client’s ease of use.
  12. Customer Service — I tested the efficiency and helpfulness of the live chat, email, and phone support.
  13. Price — I looked at the plans each antivirus offered and determined which plan is really worth the money.
  14. Free Version — I download the free trial version to see if it’s any good.
  15. Money-Back Guarantee — I tested the refund policy to see if I could get my money back.

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1. Virus Scanner — Norton Is Faster at Detecting Malware

Norton’s virus scanner is impressively fast, beating McAfee in this category. I ran full system scans using both antivirus services, scanning and checking over 778,000 items on my Windows PC. Amazingly, Norton only took 12 minutes to complete a full scan, while McAfee took 53 minutes for the same task.

Both Norton and McAfee offer the same scan options:

  • Quick Scan — Focuses on the most at-risk areas of your device that malware often targets.
  • Full Scan — Inspects every file, item, and location on your device, including connected external drives.
  • Custom Scan — Let you specify which particular files and folders you want to check for malware.

Not only is Norton a faster scanner, but it also features the Norton Insight tool to further boost scan speeds. Norton Insight flags files and folders it has already scanned and found to be safe, and it won’t scan them again unless there are changes made to the item. By not rescanning known-safe files, Norton Insight reduced my Full Scan time to just 3 minutes!

Screenshot of Norton's Windows app showing the different scan options available.
Norton’s customization options make scans fast and thorough

McAfee’s easy-to-navigate interface makes choosing the right scan easy. You can customize how often you’d like scans to run and schedule them for convenient times — I scheduled a Full Scan once a month, with Quick Scans running daily when I switched my PC on.

Screenshot of McAfee's scan options on its Windows app.
McAfee makes it simple to schedule scans at convenient times

Both antiviruses use machine learning to identify new threats, and both detected 100% of real-time malware threats on my device (including ransomware attacks). While McAfee has a great score, Norton’s accurate virus scanner and fast speeds outperform McAfee.

Virus Scanner Winner: Norton

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2. Real-Time Malware Protection — Fantastic Results From Both Norton and McAfee

When it comes to real-time protection between Norton and McAfee, there isn’t a clear winner. Both programs offer fantastic detection scores, no false positives, and an easy setup for all users.

Finding threats already on your PC is good, but being able to prevent them from getting there is crucial. I set up a test machine and hit each program with malware threats discovered over the past 24 hours. Both Norton and McAfee blocked 100% of the latest zero-day threats in real-time, including ransomware attacks.

Norton’s powerful real-time protection is an industry leader, using sophisticated SONAR analysis to detect the latest threats. This not only matches known threats against the websites and files you interact with, but it also examines application behaviors to determine potential risk before it’s widely detected. SONAR analysis keeps Norton’s protection one step ahead of many other antiviruses to ensure you always have the newest security measures.

McAfee uses advanced Global Threat Intelligence to detect and block malware. This cloud-based software examines the characteristics of known malware to predict the behaviors of the latest threats — and being cloud-based, it also reduces the overall system impact on your devices.

Neither program detected any false positives either. Many popular antiviruses detect dozens of false positives in my tests, so this is a great achievement for both! I also like that you don’t need to react when a threat is found, as both Norton and McAfee will quarantine or delete threats automatically.

Real-Time Malware Protection Winner: Tie

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3. System Performance — McAfee Is Fractionally Faster

McAfee offers better system performance across a variety of tasks. I discovered that Norton is also fast, but in certain tasks (such as launching websites or copying files) it lags a few percentage points.

To measure the speed difference I ran several tests, including performing scans, loading websites, copying files, and launching programs.

Average Slowdown
CPU Slow Down (no scan) CPU Slow Down (during Quick Scan) CPU Slow Down (during Full Scan) Launching popular websites Copying files (locally) Launching standard apps Average
Norton 2% 3% 9% 11% 3% 11% 9.75%
McAfee 2% 2% 12% 5% 0% 11% 8%

Importantly, both Norton and McAfee minimize system impact during high-intensity scans. I barely noticed a difference in my PC’s performance when running full system scans for both antivirus services. In my regular day-to-day device use, both antiviruses ran quietly in the background without disrupting my work, browsing, streaming, gaming, and more.

Overall, McAfee is a little faster when it comes to system performance, although Norton more than meets expectations for a premium antivirus.

System Performance Winner: McAfee

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4. VPN — Norton’s Secure VPN Provides Unlimited Data Plus 29 Server Locations

Norton’s Secure VPN service has better features for safe browsing and streaming. Unlike McAfee’s Safe Connect VPN, Secure VPN includes a kill switch (to cut internet access if the VPN connection is interrupted), split tunneling, ad tracker blocking, and an auto-connect function. Plus, you can connect to any of Secure VPN’s 29 server locations in just a couple of clicks as the app interface is easy to navigate.

In comparison, McAfee’s Safe Connect has no kill switch, split tunneling feature, or auto-connect. However, McAfee’s Safe Connect has more than 20 global server connections and supports torrenting (Norton’s Secure VPN blocks P2P connections). Safe Connect is also a little faster than Norton — only dropped my internet speeds by 13% (from 115Mbps to 100Mbps), while Secure VPN had a more significant impact of 25% (86Mbps).

Both VPN services provide unlimited bandwidth and data, meaning you can use the secure connections as much as you want. I also tested both VPNs for security flaws, including DNS and IP leaks — neither VPN had any leaks. This is crucial for anonymous browsing as it prevents your identity from being discovered.

When watching Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video, I found Norton’s Secure VPN was much better at accessing streaming sites. I could easily connect to a local server and start streaming almost immediately, while McAfee’s Safe Connect had issues — I frequently got error messages telling me to switch off my VPN.

Ultimately, Norton and McAfee are 2 of the best antiviruses with an integrated VPN. Both VPNs will keep your data private and your online activity anonymous. However, Norton’s Secure VPN has a few more security features and is a better overall option.

VPN Winner: Norton

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5. Parental Controls — Norton is Slightly More Cost-Effective

Both antiviruses offer quality parental controls, as you can track location, block inappropriate apps, and track visited websites with both. However, Norton’s parental controls are the top choice due to extra functions and customizability.

Screenshot of Norton's parental controls app interface.
Norton offers a wide range of easily accessible parental control features

Norton can even be configured to track which YouTube videos are watched, and it shows you a video snippet so you can see if it’s age-appropriate. You can also turn on school mode to remove distractions and track search engine usage.

McAfee provides accurate GPS tracking for your child’s devices, plus screen time features and app blocking for inappropriate content. However, it doesn’t provide social media monitoring and is a more expensive option — Norton offers the same features for less.

McAfee Alt text: Screenshot of McAfee's Safe Family parental controls app interface.
McAfee’s parental controls are easy to set up and use

You can see a complete comparison of features in the table below:

McAfee Norton
Time Supervision
Device Restrictions
Video Supervision
Mobile Functionality
Website Tracking
Location Tracking
Search Overview
School Time Settings

For the most part, both antiviruses offer similar and effective parental control settings. They’re both powerful and will help keep your children safe both online and in the real world. With its overall cheaper price and a few more features, Norton wins this category by a small margin.

Parental Controls Winner: Norton

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6. Firewall — Both Firewalls Offer Powerful Security

Norton and McAfee both include customizable firewalls that offer great protection. Both continuously monitor applications to ensure they’re safe and block them if they notice suspicious behavior. Both antiviruses also alert you to potential network intrusion. Norton has a whitelist already configured to let popular apps and sites have access. McAfee’s whitelist needs to be manually configured, which takes a little more time.

I especially like that both firewalls require no manual configuration to provide the best security. Both Norton and McAfee are configured to fully secure your network when downloaded, so you don’t have to touch a single setting.

Screenshot of Norton's firewall settings on its Windows app.
Norton offers extensive customization options to personalize your security

I was impressed by McAfee’s high level of firewall customization, with many dropdown menus for different options. While this may seem a bit overwhelming for users new to antiviruses, having so many configurable settings is ideal if you want to personalize your firewall security levels.

Screenshot of McAfee's firewall highlighting its high level of customizable options.
McAfee’s many options mean you can easily personalize your firewall settings

Crucially, Norton’s firewall comes with a 100% protection guarantee. This means that if a virus does get through Norton’s defenses, the technical support team will work with you to remove it. If the virus is non-removable, Norton will give you a full refund. Norton’s firewall will also cloak your open ports to prevent hackers and spies from gaining access to your devices, providing an extra layer of security.

Firewall Winner: Tie

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7. Password Manager — Norton Offers More Features on More Plans

Norton’s password manager easily outstrips McAfee. With Norton, you’ll get unlimited storage for your login credentials and an advanced auto-change password feature on every plan. Auto-change automatically generates a new password for a website and changes it for you — you don’t need to manually change it yourself. While it doesn’t work with some niche websites, I successfully tested it with Netflix and Reddit.

Screenshot of Norton's password manager interface.
Norton’s integrated password manager improves your security and makes logins easier

In comparison, McAfee’s True Key only lets you save 15 passwords unless you upgrade to the most expensive package, which isn’t enough for most people — I personally have almost 400 sets of login credentials. Fortunately, there aren’t any restrictions to its digital wallet or secure note storage. McAfee’s True Key password manager is available on all of its subscription plans.

Screenshot of McAfee's True Key password manager interface.
McAfee’s password manager is easy to use but very limited at just 15 passwords

Overall, I was pleased with both Norton and McAfee’s ability to generate passwords, store your login credentials, and auto-fill them into the relevant online forms. However, Norton wins in this category with its auto-change feature and unlimited password storage.

Password Manager Winner: Norton

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8. Gaming Mode — McAfee’s App Boost Helps Games Load Faster

I found McAfee’s App Boost is useful for lag-free gaming, and this is a feature Norton lacks. App Boost monitors which apps require the most CPU power, diverting power away from background processes. I also found it helped my games launch and load more quickly.

Screenshot of McAfee's App Boost feature.
McAfee’s App Boost made a noticeable difference to my

Norton’s Silent Mode is a good tool for gamers — it stops annoying pop-ups from bothering you in the middle of a game, and suppresses background activities to keep gameplay smooth.

Screenshot of Norton's Silent Mode being turned on
Norton’s Silent Mode lets you game or launches other full-screen apps without any interruptions

However, I didn’t notice any performance boosts with Norton’s Silent Mode active, and there is no dedicated game mode to improve gameplay.

Both Norton and McAfee offer a similar gaming experience. They both have essential features that I would expect from a gaming antivirus, like shutting off background notifications while you’re playing. Additionally, they suspend background tasks so your game can take full advantage of your system’s resources (CPU and GPU) while you play. However, McAfee’s App Boost makes gaming faster and smoother, so it wins this category.

Gaming Mode Winner: McAfee

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9. Optimization Tools — Norton Has a Bigger Range of Device Optimization Features

Both Norton and McAfee have several optimization tools designed to boost your device performance. However, Norton’s wider range of performance-boosting features make it the top choice in this category.

Norton provides the following features:

  • Optimize Disk — Defragments your hard disk, consolidates all free space available, and lets your device run more smoothly.
  • File Cleanup — Removes temporary and unused files from your device to create more space.
  • Startup Manager — Let you manage which apps start automatically when you turn on your device, improving your startup time.
  • Graphs Monitoring — Shows you which apps are using the most CPU power so you can shut them down when you aren’t using them.
  • Quiet and Silent Modes — Pauses background processes when using specific apps or in fullscreen mode and silences notifications to improve PC performance.
Screenshot of Norton's performance optimization tools.
Norton’s optimization tools are in the “Performance” menu for easy access

I was impressed by how well Norton’s optimization tools work. Both the Optimize Disk and File Cleanup features were quick but thorough — it took less than 5 minutes to defragment my disk and delete all temporary files. If you have an older device, this could take a bit longer, but it’s worth the wait for a noticeable boost in performance. Plus, the Startup Manager detailed software I didn’t even know was automatically running — I cut my PC’s startup time from 45 seconds to just 15 seconds by switching them off.

McAfee’s optimization tools consist of the following:

  • QuickClean — Finds and deletes temporary, duplicate, and junk files to create more space on your device.
  • App and Web Boost — Diverts CPU power to apps that are open and in use for smoother performance, and stops videos from auto-playing for faster website loading.

I found McAfee’s optimization tools work quickly and efficiently to improve performance. App and Web Boost made a noticeable difference to how quickly my apps launched and webpages populated — unfortunately, Web Boost is only available as a Google Chrome extension. QuickClean is also useful, removing thousands of useless files from my PC in less than 30 seconds.

Screenshot of McAfee's QuickClean feature freeing up almost 400MB of space on a Windows PC.
McAfee’s QuickClean removed over 4000 junk, temporary, and duplicate files

However, McAfee is lacking a startup and disk optimizer, which Norton includes in all of its plans. As such, Norton is the better choice if you want to improve device performance.

Optimization Tools Winner: Norton

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10. Other Features — Norton Has More Useful CyberSecurity Tools

Although both Norton and McAfee include useful features, Norton takes the lead with a few key additions:

Norton McAfee
Cloud Backup
Web Security
Safe Web available on Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari

WebAdvisor available on Chrome, Firefox, and Edge
File Shredder
Webcam Blocker
Encrypted Storage
Identity Protection
(US, UK, and Germany)

(US only)

Both programs offer identity theft protection, monitoring the internet (including the dark web) for occurrences of your personal data. They also alert you if your information has been used anywhere suspicious. This is an excellent addition to both apps, adding a layer of digital security beyond basic malware defense. However, Norton’s identity protection is available in the US, UK, and Germany, while McAfee only currently supports US users.

I was also pleased to find Norton’s identity protection extends to social media, credit card, insurance, and even gamertag monitoring. Filling in the data you want to monitor can take a little time, but it’s worth the peace of mind knowing that Norton is regularly checking to ensure your information isn’t stolen or misused.

McAfee’s file shredder is useful for destroying sensitive files so they cannot be reconstructed by potential hackers. Its encrypted storage is also a useful addition for hiding sensitive files and folders, like banking and tax information, and is secured by AES-256-bit encryption (impossible to break).

Although it doesn’t have either of these tools, I like Norton’s encrypted cloud storage (between 2GB to 500GB) that’s included in all plans. This is a great complement to its ransomware protection — if your device is compromised, you’ll rest easy knowing your most sensitive files are safe elsewhere. It’s easy to set up, and I quickly configured its scheduling option to back up my files regularly without further interaction.

With Norton’s webcam blocker, you can ensure that only specific apps get access to your webcam when you want them to. Considering the dangers of leaving your webcam exposed, this is a great way to give yourself peace of mind, especially if your children also use your devices.

Overall, both Norton and McAfee have top-tier features that improve your online and offline security. However, Norton’s addition of cloud storage, webcam protection, and comprehensive identity protection make it the winner in this category.

Other Features Winner: Norton

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11. Ease of Use — Both Antiviruses are Easy to Use and Compatible With Popular Operating Systems

Both Norton and McAfee are easy to use on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, whether you’re a first-time antivirus user or have experience with this kind of software. Norton is a bit more intuitive overall, mainly due to its app customizability — you can choose between the new “My Norton” interface or switch to the classic “Norton 360” interface. I found this let me navigate the app with ease and made it simple to find and configure different settings.

Screenshots of Norton's two different interfaces, My Norton and Classic.
You can customize Norton’s interface to make it easier for you to navigate

In comparison, McAfee’s desktop app interface is clear and simple to navigate, with similar appearance across its apps. However, I found some of McAfee’s features are ambiguously named, making it difficult to find particular settings — its WebAdvisor tool, for example, is labeled “Protect me on the web.” At first, McAfee is less intuitive, but after spending some time using it, I found it easy. Fortunately, McAfee’s mobile app tools are easier to find.

Screenshot highlighting McAfee's WebAdvisor feature labeled as
I’d like to see McAfee clearly label tools in its apps for ease of use

Not all of McAfee’s features are available from its app interface, like parental controls and identity protection. These can only be accessed through the online dashboard, which is a bit inconvenient. I’d rather use an all-inclusive app like Norton, which offers quick links to its online dashboard for different features.

For mobile apps, Norton offers the same functionality and features for both Android and iOS. You can access tools like anti-malware scanning, scam call blocking, and web protection when you’re using your browser. McAfee’s Android app has device optimization features, tracking and security tools, and web protection. Its iOS app is less comprehensive, but still targets malware, scans for threats, and secures your browser.

Norton and McAfee both support current and earlier versions of Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS:

Norton McAfee
Windows 11, 10, 8.1, 8, Vista, 7 SP1, and XP (32 bit) 11, 10, and 8.1
Mac Current and previous 2 versions 10.15 or higher
Android 8.0 or later 7 or higher
iOS Current and previous 2 versions 13 or later

On Windows and macOS, I easily downloaded installers from each website’s download section, and on mobile, I downloaded the apps from the respective app stores. Once you’re logged in, it’s just a case of letting the app run in the background — you don’t need to do anything unless an issue is flagged or you want to change a setting.

In terms of device support, Norton’s subscriptions secure up to 10 devices, while McAfee’s subscriptions secure up to an unlimited number of devices (for its most expensive option).

Device Compatibility Winner: Tie

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12. Customer Service — Norton’s Quality and Speed Wins

Norton and McAfee both have several customer support options, but Norton wins this category due to its fast response times and friendly representatives.

When I tested the live chat option, Norton’s average wait time was just 1 minute versus McAfee’s 10 minutes. Additionally, the McAfee agent didn’t understand my issue for several minutes and still couldn’t help me once they did.

Screenshot of a Norton customer service agent helping a customer resolve a query.
Norton’s live chat agent answered my questions quickly and thoroughly

When I tested the phone support, it took both companies roughly 15 minutes to connect me to an agent. They were friendly and knowledgeable about my queries and resolved my issues within 5 minutes.

Both Norton and McAfee have customer support available in multiple languages, including Chinese, English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Japanese.

You can see a comparison of support options and speeds below:

Norton McAfee
Live Chat
Average Live Chat Wait Time 2 minutes 10 minutes
Email Support
Average Email Response Time 1 day 1 day
Phone Support
Phone Support Response Time 10 minutes 10 minutes
Social Media Support (Facebook, Twitter)
Social Media Support Response Time 1 hour 3 hours
Virtual Assistant
Community Forum
Online Knowledge Base
Video Guides

Overall, Norton provides more comprehensive support with a quicker response time than McAfee. During my tests, I found Norton resolved my issues speedily, whereas McAfee’s customer support sometimes struggled to answer questions and took much longer to get back to me.

Customer Service Winner: Norton

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13. Price — Norton Offers More Choice at Different Prices

While both Norton and McAfee provide comprehensive antivirus services, Norton’s subscription options are a little more varied and more affordable.

Here are Norton’s current subscriptions and what they include:

Norton Antivirus Plus Norton 360 Standard Norton 360 Deluxe Norton 360 Advanced Norton 360 with LifeLock Select Norton 360 with LifeLock Advantage Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate
Number of Devices 1 1 (3 in US) 5 10 10 10 Unlimited
Real-Time Threat Protection
Cloud Backup 2GB 10GB 50GB 200GB 100GB 250GB 500GB
Password Manager
Virus Protection Guarantee
SafeCam Webcam Protection
Parental Controls
Dark Web Monitoring
Social Media Monitoring
Identity Protection
(US, UK, and Germany)
24/7 Customer Support

It’s important to note that Norton’s Virus Protection Guarantee is only available when you have auto-renewal active — otherwise, you can’t access the virus removal team to help you.

Norton also offers several US-only plans called Norton LifeLock. These plans include identity theft protection, credit score, and social security number monitoring, data breach protection, and more. Plus, Norton LifeLock offers up to $1million reimbursement for stolen funds. These plans are more expensive than Norton’s 360 subscriptions.

Here are McAfee’s current subscriptions and what they include:

McAfee Antivirus Plus McAfee Total Protection Basic McAfee Total Protection Plus McAfee Total Protection Premium
Number of Devices 10 1 5 10
Real-Time Threat Protection
Web Protection
Password Manager
File Shredder
Identity Monitoring
(US only)
Parental Controls
1 license

5 licenses

5 licenses
24/7 Customer Support

You should note that McAfee’s unlimited VPN service is only available for users who have auto-renew active. If you switch off auto-renew for your subscription, you are limited to a data cap of 500MB per month.

Both Norton and McAfee have a range of payment methods for their subscriptions, including credit and debit cards and PayPal. Plus, both antiviruses are affordable in the first year of their subscriptions. However, on renewal in the second year, the prices jump — while Norton’s price hike is steep, its comprehensive coverage is well worth paying full price for. McAfee is a more expensive option overall, even with its first-year discount, and it doesn’t include as many security features.

As such, Norton takes the top spot when it comes to price and value for money. It’s a little pricier than other top antiviruses, but its full-coverage protection and device compatibility are worth the cost.

Price Winner: Norton

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14. Free Version — McAfee’s Trial Period Is Easier To Access (No Payment Details Needed)

Neither Norton or McAfee has a free version, but both do have 30-day free trials. McAfee wins here since it doesn’t require any credit card information to sign up for a trial, while Norton does.

With McAfee, all you need to do is click on the free download, install the software, and create an account. After the trial expires, McAfee’s antivirus protection is automatically revoked, so you’ll need to add your payment details if you want to continue the service. Unless you cancel the service, Norton automatically subscribes you to a year-long plan once the free trial period is up — this could be an unpleasant surprise if you forget to cancel.

Both McAfee and Norton provide full access to all premium features so you can test every tool thoroughly. This is a great way to see if the software is suitable for your needs before subscribing.

Free Version Winner: McAfee

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15. Money-Back Guarantee — Norton’s Is Longer and More Accessible

Both antiviruses offer money-back guarantees, but Norton’s is twice as long at 60 days versus McAfee’s 30 days. I also found it significantly easier to get a refund from Norton than McAfee.

Getting a refund from Norton was simple. I simply contacted a customer support agent through the 24/7 live chat, and they confirmed the refund within a few minutes. I had the money back in my account 5 days later.

Screenshot of Norton live chat agent processing a refund request quickly and efficiently.
I got a refund approved in minutes on Norton’s live chat, which isn’t possible with McAfee

Unfortunately, McAfee’s refund process wasn’t as simple. I had to first submit a refund request online, after which I was sent a support phone number to call. This is far from ideal and seems to be a tactic to make it harder to quit. It took about 5 minutes to be connected to an agent and another 10 in total for all the required cancellation steps. Fortunately, my refund was eventually approved, and I had the money back 7 days later.

Overall, Norton’s refund process was far simpler and faster than McAfee’s. Not everyone wants to or has time to set up and make a phone call, making Norton’s simple live chat option hassle-free in comparison.

Money-Back Guarantee Winner: Norton

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And the Winner Is… Norton (But Not By Much)

Both Norton and McAfee are top-tier antiviruses that offer powerful protection against the latest online threats. They’re a very even match in almost every test category, but differ in a few important ways.

McAfee’s low-impact software keeps your system running smoothly, even during high-intensity scans. Its App Boost is a great choice if you enjoy gaming without annoying pop-up interruptions from your antivirus, and McAfee’s free trial doesn’t require any payment details. I recommend you try McAfee for yourself risk-free and see if it’s right for you.

On the other hand, Norton is better for those who want top tier-features like integrated cloud storage, a password manager, and more at an affordable price. Its app interface is intuitive, making it a great choice for users who are new to antiviruses. Plus, you can try Norton completely risk-free and test every feature as it’s backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee. If you change your mind, you can easily get a full refund.

Overall Winner: Norton

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Quick Guide: How to Install Norton on Your Device 

  1. Open Norton’s official website and choose a plan you want to sign up to. Norton has a money-back guarantee so you can test the antivirus without any risk or commitment.
    Screenshot of Norton's subscription payment page
  2. Download and Install Norton. Use the same site to download the Norton client that is compatible with your device. You will most likely get a message asking you to allow Norton to make changes to your device. Once you give the relevant permission, click install and let the installer download and set up your antivirus. 
  3. Familiarize yourself with the antivirus app.  You can customize your interface by choosing between the classic Norton 360 or My Norton interface. 
  4. Run a virus scan. Even if there are no obvious threats to your computer, you should run the virus scanner to check if there is any hidden malware on your device.
    Screenshot of Norton's app interface
  5. You’re protected! You can configure additional settings if you want to, or you can let the antivirus protect your device automatically.

FAQs About McAfee vs Norton

Is McAfee better than Norton?

No, but that doesn’t mean McAfee is bad. Among the features that I tested, Norton appears to be slightly better in performance compared to McAfee. For instance, Norton’s VPN was much better at accessing streaming sites. Also, Norton’s password manager allows you to store unlimited passwords on all plans, but you can only store up to 15 passwords on McAfee’s password manager, except for the highest plan.

While both antiviruses can detect 100% of malware threats, Norton’s antivirus scanner is faster than McAfee’s. Norton only took 12 minutes to complete a full scan, while McAfee took 53 minutes for the same task. Additionally, McAfee offers a wide range of top-tier features, but it’s fewer compared to Norton. You get features such as cloud backup and webcam protection, which are absent on McAfee’s app.

Can you run McAfee and Norton together?

Not ideally. They will interfere with each other, causing your system to run slowly and be exposed to malware. You’re okay with either Norton or McAfee, as they are both top-ranking antivirus programs with excellent security features. They will protect you from the latest threats and malware like viruses, ransomware, spyware, worms, trojans, and more.

Does McAfee slow down your computer?

Not at all. McAfee is a lightweight antivirus program that utilizes minimal system resources. Its low-impact software allows your computer to run smoothly, even during high-intensity scans. Plus, McAfee comes with multiple performance-enhancing features. For instance, McAfee’s Tracker Remover gets rid of junk files and browsing cookies, allowing your system to run even faster.

Which Norton version should I get?

Norton 360 Deluxe is a great option with excellent value for money. It will protect you from the latest threats and provide you with features such as 50GB of cloud storage, real-time protection, a firewall, a password manager, and dark web monitoring for 5 devices.

Can I get a free antivirus instead?

I don’t recommend it. Some free antivirus programs like Avast have been caught selling users’ data to third parties. Others are malware posing as antivirus software to infect your system.

I always recommend going for premium antivirus software if you take your security seriously. Norton provides top-tier security features and will protect your devices from all types of threats for as low as $19.99 .

Which is the best antivirus overall?

Norton is the overall best antivirus on the market. It tops the list of best antivirus programs for its excellent malware detection rates, lightweight software, and wide range of extra features. Norton offers comprehensive protection for all your devices with features such as a firewall, real-time protection, password manager, cloud backup, parental controls, identity protection, and more.

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