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

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How I Tested and Compared McAfee vs Norton

I compared McAfee and Norton in the following 15 categories. Try Norton risk-free

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! 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. 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. Try Norton’s virus scanner risk-free

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. Try Norton risk-free

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. 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. Try McAfee risk-free

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. 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. Test Norton’s VPN risk-free

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. 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. You can see a complete comparison of features in the table below: 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. Try Norton risk-free

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. 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. 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. Try Norton risk-free

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. 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. 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. Try Norton’s password manager

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. 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. 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. Try McAfee for gaming

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.

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. 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. Try Norton risk-free

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: 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. Try Norton’s extra features

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. 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. 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: 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). Try Norton risk-free today!

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. 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: 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. Try Norton risk-free today!

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: 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: 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. Try Norton risk-free

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. Try McAfee risk-free

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. 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. Try Norton risk-free for 60 days

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.

Virus Scanner — Norton Real-Time Malware Protection — Tie System Performance — McAfee VPN — Norton Parental Controls — Norton Firewall — Tie Password Manager — Norton Gaming Mode — McAfee Optimization Tools — Norton Other Features — Norton Ease of Use — Tie Customer Service — Norton Price — Norton Free Version — McAfee Money-Back Guarantee — Norton

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. Try Norton risk-free

Quick Guide: How to Install Norton on Your Device 

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