This comprehensive comparison is created based on the research of our seasoned experts and the top independent labs in the world. This way, you can make an informed choice, making a tough decision a bit easier.

We follow the work of four labs that regularly release detailed reports: AV-Test Institute based in Germany, MRG-Effitas, and SE Labs found in the UK as well as AV-Comparatives based in Austria.

Another lab called SonicWall Capture Labs recorded 9.9 billion malware attacks in 2019. The number has grown over 2 billion from 7.9 attacks registered in 2016. In addition, over 4 trillion intrusion attempts were logged just last year. Yes, that is 4 with 12 zeros.

It means that every second, over 120 000 intrusion attempts are happening. And since you started reading this article, there have been about 5 million intrusion attempts. Seems crazy, right?

In May 2019, the Baltimore City government fell victim to a significant ransomware infection. It took 36 days to loosen hackers’ grip on its data, and even longer to fully recover all of the systems that were locked down. The city spent over $18 million recovering from the attack.

So you can see that the stakes are pretty high when it comes to digital security.

In this comparison, you’ll see the security products, features, and tools both companies offer, as well as how they stack up against each other regarding malware protection, system performance, user interface, cost, and more.

Here are the most important factors that we’ve compared:

  • Protection
  • Performance
  • Usability
  • Features
  • Pricing

That way, you can protect yourself against any digital threats and never have to pay hackers to get your precious files and photos back.

So let’s dive in.

A quick overview of results

If you’re in a bit of a hurry or just not too interested in all the nerdy stats, we have done a small overview of the results in each category.

  • Protection

    Both software showed good results, but as Norton scored 100% from two labs, we have a clear champion.

  • Performance

    McAfee offers incredible performance figures both on standard and high-end PCs. Still, it can't compete with Norton's results.

  • Usability

    Competitors offer easy-to-use interfaces, but McAfee has some problems with false reporting. It is the reason Norton is the winner.

  • Features

    McAfee and Norton offer entry-level products as well as complete bundles with everything you'll ever need.

  • Pricing

    Norton and McAfee have one of the best-priced product bundles because you get everything you need with only one purchase. That is why we have to call it a tie.

A short conclusion

Norton is the best option because it outperforms McAfee in the most crucial aspects like protection, performance, and usability. Norton is also our top-rated antivirus software, and you can see why – 100% results in all of the categories.

  1. Our #1 rated software
    Norton Antivirus logo

    Norton

    Norton has been performing with 100% results in all of the tests. It's the highest-rated software in the independent labs' eyes, and we see the reasons as well. If you want the best in the world, you'll get Norton.

    Special offer - up to 60% offGet the best dealFrom $29.99 / year
  2. A good alternative
    McAfee Antivirus logo

    McAfee

    Though McAfee had a bit of trouble with few samples, its virus definition database is updated frequently, at least once a day. But more importantly, McAfee offers all-around protection, minimal impact on system performance, and great features for a reasonable price.

    Special offer - up to 63% offGet the best dealFrom $34.99 / year

Detailed results

If a short overview and quick summaries aren’t for you, get ready for some in-depth analysis. We put McAfee and Norton head-to-head in all the categories using data gathered by our experts and test results of top independent testing facilities.

So let’s see what’s what.

Protection

Protection against malware is the most critical aspect of any antivirus software. In the last tests, McAfee and Norton both showed an above industry average result regarding the protection of a computer against threats.

Let’s compare the test results of two labs, AV-Test and SE Labs, so that you can see for yourself.

In the last tests, AV-Test put both software up against 402 samples of 0-day malware attacks and 20606 samples of malware for four weeks.

McAfee tested a high 99.1% result in protection and a clean 100% in detection. Norton showed an even more impressive outcome, getting a full 100% result in both tests.

Industry average McAfee Norton
Protection against 0-day malware attacks, inclusive of web and email threats

402 samples used

Detection of widespread and prevalent malware discovered in the last 4 weeks

20 606 samples used

Source: av-test.org

SE Labs use a bit of a different testing method. It conducts tests and gives each product a protection score based on the overall level of protection, making no distinction between neutralized and blocked incidents. For each product, they add blocked and neutralized cases together to create a straightforward tally. Norton scored a perfect 100 out of a 100, and McAfee scored 96 out of a 100.

McAfee Norton
Protection score

Source: selabs.uk

As you can see, both facilities found that Norton offered better protection against malware. It’s a close call, but the winner is Norton with higher test scores.

Winner: Norton

Performance

Another vital aspect to keep in mind when choosing antivirus software is its performance. It means that the safety it provides shouldn’t be overshadowed by the trouble of slowing down your computer.

Let’s see how the two competitors hold up against each other in that regard.

AV-Test independent research shows that McAfee performs better than the industry average in almost every test. But tests show that Norton performed better than the industry average in all the tests. An impressive result.

Industry average McAfee Norton
Slowing-down when launcing popular websites

50 websites visited

Slower download of frequently-used applications

20 downloaded files

Slower launch of standard software

12 test cases applied

Slower installation of frequently-used applications

19 installed applications

Slower copying of files (locally and in a network)

7388 files copied

Source: av-test.org

Both software showed good results, but one was undoubtedly better than the other.

Winner: Norton

Usability

There are two essential factors to usability with antivirus software. The first being the interface and how easy it is to use. False reporting can also be a critical factor. Error notifications that start popping up each time you open a perfectly virus-free photo or document prevent you from doing anything on a computer.

First, let’s compare the interfaces.

McAfee offers a sleek, simple, and easy-to-use client that is intuitive for anyone who has used computers before.

Everything is well laid out, and you can easily find anything you’re trying to find.

At the top of the window, you get five tabs: Home, PC Security, PC Performance, My Privacy, and My Info. There are also icons for alerts, tips, and settings in the top-right corner.

Home is your basic dashboard for the application.

PC Security is a deeper dive into the status of your computer. At any time, it shows you if your computer is secure or if it has identified any threats. It also keeps you in the loop of how many apps, web connections, and background processes it is protecting.

On the bottom of the window, you can start a scan for viruses, update apps, use safe browsing, and remove cookies and trackers there. In the center of the window, you can also start a scan by choosing between a full scan and a quick scan.

Left part of the window shows which parts of the security engine are running as needed – R

real-time scanning, firewall, automatic updates, and scheduled scans.

Mcafee User Interface

Norton’s design creates a pleasant atmosphere with a scenic photo on the left of its main window. You can also see your subscription status there.

On the opposite side is the most crucial information about your device. You can see your security, VPN, cloud backup, and password manager.

With ease, you can open up the security panel or configure any of the above options.

Norton Main Screen User Interface

The security window lets you dive even more into detail. You can quickly start a new scan and see the date of your last scan.

You can also add devices if you have a bundled option or subscribe for more.

In the bottom part of the window, you’ll get easy access to all the features you have subscribed to. Plus, there is the length of your remaining subscription there.

Norton User Interface

Now let’s dive into false reporting.

AV-Test laboratories also gather information on false reporting. Results show that McAfee had some problems, and a few incorrect notifications showed up. Norton, on the other hand, delivered a perfect result once again.

Industry average McAfee Norton
False warnings or blockages when visiting websites

500 samples used

False detections of legimate software as malware during a system scan

964 585 samples used

False warnings concerning certain actions carried out whilst installing and using legitimate software

87 samples used

False blockages of certain actions carried out whilst installing and using legitimate software

87 samples used

Source: av-test.org

Both McAfee and Norton have great user interfaces and are easy to use. There were some problems with McAfee regarding false reporting. It is why the winner is once again Norton.

Winner: Norton

Features

McAfee and Norton have long lists of features. The lineup consists of good value entry-level products as well as complete bundles.

Let’s dig into the features of McAfee first.

McAfee’s antivirus is called McAfee Total Protection, and it works on Windows, macOS, Android, as well as on iOS. It is the company’s flagship product and also the most popular option available.

It offers three distinct options depending on how many devices you want to use it for.

There is a Single Device option that you get to use for only 1 device. With this option you’ll get its antivirus capabilities that let you protect your computer and personal information from hackers and criminals.

The Secure VPN is also available when you’re enrolled in auto-renewal to keep your personal information and online habits private with their bank-grade encryption. Performance Optimization features block auto-play videos on websites and minimize bandwidth usage while Home Network Security secures your firewall and blocks hackers from accessing your home network.

You’ll also get the Password Manager to store and manage all your online passwords in a single location and Safe Web Browsing lets you browse confidently knowing risky sites will be blocked. The Encrypted Storage keeps sensitive files private by storing them on your PC with 256-bit AES encryption.

All Total Protection options offer security experts online support to get technical assistance and peace of mind from their team and support knowledge-base.

When you go for the Individual & Couples option, you get to use the software on up to 5 devices. An extra layer of online protection is made available as well, called Identity Theft Protection.

The Family package adds support for up to 10 devices and the Safe Family feature so you can get peace of mind knowing your kids are protected online.

McAfee also offers another antivirus option called McAfee LiveSafe. This software is only available as one bundle and offers cross-device protection. You’ll get the same protection. The main difference is that thanks to the next-gen scanning engine that offers real-time malware protection, it provides all-around security for your identity and data across all your devices. The Secure Cloud Storage feature that safeguards your cloud-based folders, is also included.

Another product in McAfee’s lineup is McAfee Gamer Security that makes the gaming experience even better. It has a Game Boost Engine that squeezes more performance out of your rig and ensures games stay prioritized over background applications. You’ll also get to monitor your computer’s performance in real-time thanks to a dashboard like in your car. You’ll get immediate access to and control over how your rig is performing.

The company gives you access to separate products like McAfee Safe Connect VPN, McAfee Safe Family, McAfee WebAdvisor, and McAfee Identity Theft Protection as well. But if you go for the antivirus bundles, you’ll get these features anyways.

View all McAfee products

Now let’s take a look at what Norton has to offer.

Norton’s entry-level security product is called Norton AntiVirus Plus, available for PCs and Macs. It comes with real-time threat protection, a password manager and a firewall. If you’re using Windows, you’ll get 2 GB of cloud backup as well.

Norton also has a separate VPN option called Norton Secure VPN. It helps secure private information like your passwords, bank account details, and credit card information when using public Wi-Fi on your PC, Mac, or mobile device.

There are three options for the software – 1 device, 5 devices, and 10 devices. You’ll get bank-grade encryption and can browse anonymously if you’d like to. These options prevent you from being tracked by online advertisers and other companies.

Norton Secure VPN also offers you access to your favorite websites, videos, or apps when traveling. Even if these sites are not available in the location, you are right now.

Adblocking is also available that block unwanted tracking technologies to avoid being tracked by online advertisers and other companies.

Norton also offers bundle options with the name Norton 360. These are newer versions of Norton Security packages that the company no longer provides.

Norton 360 gives you all-around protection, both offline and online. All the bundles are available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices.

The entry-level package is named Norton 360 Standard and allows you to protect 1 PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet. It also includes a Secure VPN for your device.

If you’re using Windows, you’ll get a bit more than mac OS users, including 10 GB of cloud backup and SafeCam. This feature alerts you to attempts to access your webcam and helps you block unauthorized access to it.

If you opt for the mid-tier option Norton 360 Deluxe, you can use the software on up to 5 devices. Cloud storage size is upped as well to 50 GB.

For all the parents out there, one significant benefit is also its parental control features so that you can manage your kids’ activities online. It helps them to explore, learn, and enjoy their connected world more safely. Unfortunately, this option is only limited to PCs and smartphones.

Norton has developed an option for people who have a lot of devices or big families. Norton 360 Premium lets you use it for up to 10 devices and gives Windows users 75 GB of cloud storage.

Both Norton 360 and Antivirus Plus come with 100% virus protection promise. But to be eligible, you must have a qualifying subscription with automatic renewal.

If you choose to subscribe to one of Norton 360 bundles, a 24/7 phone, and chat support is also available.

View all Norton products

The list of extra features seems long for both McAfee and Norton. Both software options have anti-malware and VPN abilities. That is why we have to call it a tie.

Winner: It’s a tie

Pricing

Whenever you spend money, it’s good to keep in mind what you are really investing in. With antivirus software, you are not buying an application but rather an ease-of-mind that your digital life is in safe hands.

Let’s see what the price points are that this ease-of-mind comes in. Here are the prices of both McAfee and Norton products.

  1. McAfee Antivirus logo

    McAfee Total Protection

    Premium antivirus, safe web browsing and password manager with VPN & ID theft protection.

    Special offer 56% offGet the best dealFrom $34.99 / year
  2. McAfee Antivirus logo

    McAfee LiveSafe

    Ultimate all-round protection for all your devices – PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets.

    Special offer 67% offGet the best deal $39.99 / year
  3. McAfee Antivirus logo

    McAfee Gamer Security

    A faster, quieter, safer gaming experience with performance-enhancing technologies and renowned security.

    Special offer 33% offGet the best deal $39.99 / year

Norton offers its products bundled and independently as well. For the best all-around protection, it’s better to go with complete packages, so we’ll start with these.

  1. Norton Antivirus logo

    Norton 360 Standard

    High-grade antivirus and VPN for 1 PC, Mac, or smart device. 10 GB of cloud backup included for Windows users.

    Special offer 60% offGet the best deal $29.99 / year
  2. Norton Antivirus logo

    Norton 360 Deluxe

    High-grade antivirus and VPN for up to 5 PCs, Macs, or smart devices. 50 GB of cloud backup and parental control options included for Windows users.

    Special offer 58% offGet the best deal $39.99 / year
  3. Norton Antivirus logo

    Norton 360 Premium

    High-grade antivirus and VPN for up to 10 PCs, Macs, or smart devices. 75 GB of cloud backup and parental control options included for Windows users.

    Special offer 52% offGet the best deal $49.99 / year

Norton AntiVirus Plus is available individually as well. If you go with this option, keep in mind that you don’t have a VPN bundled in, but you can get it separately.

  1. Norton Antivirus logo

    Norton AntiVirus Plus

    Powerful protection for your one device and the personal information it stores. 2 GB of cloud backup included for Windows users.

    Special offer 57% offGet the best deal $14.99 / year
  2. Norton Antivirus logo

    Norton Secure VPN

    Bank-grade encryption, private browsing, and tracking block for PC, Mac, Android, or iOS.

    Special offer 43% offGet the best dealFrom $39.99 / year

Norton and McAfee have one of the best-priced product bundles, because you get everything you need with only one purchase. That’s the reason whe have to call it a tie in this category.

Winner: It’s a tie

Final Thoughts

We have concluded that one of the contenders in our head-to-head challenge has performed better than the other. Norton offers supreme protection, performance, and usability. It means your computer is safe, and you may not even notice the antivirus running.

Don’t get me wrong, McAfee still boasts as wide of a range of features as Norton, but the latter just does it a bit better in every aspect.

We hope this review has been helpful to you. Keep in mind that we give our best to get you all the facts so you can make an informed decision about the best option.

  1. Overall winner
    Norton Antivirus logo
    The best protection, performance, and usability you can get.

    Norton

    Norton has been performing with 100% results in all of the tests. It's the highest-rated software in the independent labs' eyes, and we see the reasons as well. If you want the best in the world, you'll get Norton.

    Special offer - up to 60% offGet the best dealFrom $29.99 / year