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McAfee vs Norton Anti-Virus, which is the best?

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The battle is on, now let’s find out whether McAfee or Norton is the best antivirus checker.

We all know the names, but which of these two anti-virus programs is really best?

Both McAfee and Norton are legends within the antivirus industry, holding equally solid reputations as very effective virus checkers that can be used on a range of different operating systems, including Windows, iMac, and Google’s Android.

Without expert insider knowledge or the huge resources required to test these two antivirus programs yourself, it really is hard to choose between them or any other program on the market for that matter. So to help you out, this article is going to closely examine the differences between these two programs so that we can tell you which really is the top antivirus checker, McAfee or Norton?

Why do I need a virus checker anyway?

Antivirus ScanningWe are living in an increasingly complex security environment, where we now require full time active protection from all manner of threats. Whether it is internet browsing protection, secure interfacing between our different devices, or safe interconnection with our cloud platforms, antivirus programs have more doors than ever to watch.

Today, we not only face more threats, but more types of threats than ever before. So complicated have these threats become in their breadth and form that the industry no longer uses the term virus to define them all but rather a variety of terms that include malware, trojans, worms, spyware, rootkit, and ransomware. To learn more about the history of antivirus software click here.

To give you an idea of the enormity of the problem as well as some insight into why having the best possible security is so important; here are some figures from 2016 concerning the number of attacks that US households alone have faced.

  • Number homes that have experienced a serious virus problem in the past 2 years -16 million
  • Have had spyware problems in the past 6 months – 8 million
  • Have lost money by phishing scams – 1 million
  • Total number all US households that have been affected by viruses – 40 %

The problem with so called virus software is that it cannot protect against viruses until after they have been first discovered and solved. Since these viruses spread very quickly, it is really important to find a virus program with a high detection rate as well as one that minimizes the disruption it causes to computer performance.

What do you need to consider when buying a new antivirus program?

Virus AlertFinding the right virus checker can be quite time-consuming, how time consuming exactly depends on the complexity of the system and environment that you wish it to work in. A large server system that is interfacing with a number of hardware options will require a greater level of protection than a standalone home computer, for example, and will therefore require much more time to research.

For the purpose of this article, we are going to assume that you are someone who is looking to protect a standalone private computer from the normal types of attack that such a system might expect to face.

In this case, here are a few features to look out for:

  • Free or Paid Plan – Usually this influences the level of protection.

If you are using Windows 10 and are worried about compatibility issues, read this.

Included features:

In order to ensure even the most basic level of protection your virus checker should have the following:

  • Real-time Scanner
  • Scheduled Scans
  • Real Time Browser Protection
  • Instant Messaging Protection
  • Automatic Virus Updates
  • Automatic Program Updates

Let the battle commence: MacAfee vs. Norton



Named after its eccentric founder John MacAfee, who was one of the first people to popularize the use and importance of antivirus software, MacAfee AntiVirus offers a free basic security scan program for PC’s, but if you want a good level of active protection, you are going to have to pay for it.

All of their 3 types of protection options are available with a free 30 day trial.

  • McAfee® AntiVirus Plus – Yearly Plan – $29.99
  • McAfee® Total Protection – Yearly Plan – $79.99
  • McAfee® LiveSafe™ – Yearly Plan – $99.95

For the sake of this comparison, we are going to look at McAfee® AntiVirus Plus plan as this is the most popular choice amongst home owners.



Norton was also an early player in the antivirus game, later being bought out by Symantec who continued the company under the same name. The company has placed a special emphasis on keeping its virus detection rates as high as possible to give it the edge on its competitors. To date, Norton is a seven-time winner of PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award, proving that it really gets the job done consistently.

Like MacAfee, Norton offers 3 main levels of protection for home users that are also available with free 30 day trials.

  • Norton Security Standard – Yearly Plan – $69.99
  • Norton Security Deluxe – Yearly Plan – $89.99
  • Norton Security Premium – Yearly Plan – $109.99

To make things even, we will compare Norton Security Standard with McAfee® AntiVirus Plus. The latter of the two scores the opening victory, being $40 cheaper.

Winner: Norton

Though an antivirus’ user interface might not be thought to be that important when it comes down to it, appearance and ease of use can make all the difference to whether people like a particular anti-virus program and how well they are able to use it. Surveys have shown that people like convenient, easy to navigate interfaces that don’t interfere with other things that they are doing. So with this in mind, how do our two antivirus programs compare?

MacAfee has largely continued to use the same interface style for the last decade with very few changes. The interface feels a little old fashioned now and honestly, could do with an overhaul. That said, it is still fairly easy to navigate around all the main functions, though some aspects of the interface may still confuse people.

Norton has really come from behind in this area, and now has arguably the best interface of all. It feels really modern and responsive as well as being really easy to navigate. Even a total beginner can find their way around in a matter of minutes, something which makes this a much better interface than MacAfee’s.

Winner: Norton

According to various tests, Norton outperforms MacAfee in the key area of virus detection, discovering an average 7% more potential threats for a total of 98%.

Winner: Norton

MacAfee’s virus checker is underperforms in virus removal compared to Norton. While Norton is able to remove most of the detected viruses, or at least effectively quarantine them, MacAfee is not always able to effectively isolate select deep routed viruses. Part of this success lies with Norton’s ability to fix deeply embedded infections by creating and running an alternate recovery system reboot, after which, it is then able to successfully remove even the most deep rooted viruses with ease.

This fact has huge potential ramifications for infected computers as should a virus slip past MacAfee’s security detection and plant itself in the computer, once it detects the virus, it still won’t be able to properly remove it, leaving you in deep trouble.

Winner: MacAfee

Because McAfee® AntiVirus Plus and Norton Security Standard are the most basic antivirus programs offered by the two companies, they don’t feature a lot in the way of additional security features. Here are a few of the ones that they do:

Phishing Protection

One important feature that they both offer is Anti-Phishing protection. Phishing is big business and has affected millions of people. Antivirus programs now help to spot phishing scams and warn the user. According to our tests, MacAfee fared better in this area, being able to detect more phishing threats than Norton.

Identification Protection

Another area where MacAfee performs exceedingly well is protecting your online identity and keeping passwords safe. Well-developed parental controls reinforce this security net helping to keep your children protected too. Norton has its own system that it calls Identity Safe, which on the whole, is evenly matched with the MacAfee system, making them both viable solutions in this area.


Though the MacAfee software has an effective firewall, Norton seems to have a much bigger list of unsafe or undesirable sites which it will step into block. This might be excellent in helping to prevent unwanted cookies and spyware, but it can be a real nuisance at times when you just want to be free to view different sites. Fortunately, this feature can be adjusted to allow a lower level of protection and therefore prevent fewer sites from being blocked.

Winner: MacAfee

Virus checkers differ quite significantly when it comes to how fast and efficiently they run alongside your computers normal operations. This is an area that can really affect whether people want to use the software or not. Even if a particular antivirus program has the best virus detection and removal rate in the world, if it slows up the user’s computer or takes hours to complete a scan then they are just not going to want to use it. Though performance drag won’t be so noticeable on faster computers, if you are using an older computer that lacks ram, in particular, then you might suffer from your computer slowing down with more resource heavy antivirus software.

MacAfee’s virus checker is really good at using the minimal possible resources and therefore not slowing up your computer a great deal. Norton on the other hand is known for causing computer performance to drop, though this is becoming less of an issue on current versions of their software.


Norton has a great update feature called Norton Pulse, which updates virus databases every 5 to 15 minutes. Though if you are on a very slow internet this could be a minor frustration, it otherwise doesn’t do much in the way of slowing up overall system performance and really makes sure you are protected even against the most recent threats.

MacAfee’s update doesn’t update so regularity, which technically makes the software a little less safe. When it does update, however, it is completely unnoticeable, not causing any system slow down whatsoever.

Other notable features

Winner: MacAfee

One of the things that is also really nice with the MacAfee protection plan is that with just one license it is possible to use their security protection with all your PC’s, laptops, tabs, and phones. This is a really nice feature as it means that you only need to pay once and with that all your devices will be secured. According to their site, you can connect an unlimited number of devices under one membership, which massively surpasses Norton’s one device per membership policy.

Winner: Norton

Norton’s offers some of the best IM and chat protection, as well as the best social network protection in the business. Really good parental controls allow you to limit your children’s exposure and protect them from getting to undesirable sites and chat rooms. Many parents will be happy with the addition of their Safe Web for Facebook feature that is able to detect threatening links on Facebook walls that could allow for security breaches such as web cams being hijacked, for example.

Winner: Norton

Both companies offer a money back guarantee where they will refund you 100% of your money should their program fail to remove a virus from your computer after you install it. For reasons unknown, most antivirus companies only offer 30 days while Norton offers a 60 day period in which to get your money back. Though the difference is rather irrelevant, if you are someone who takes a long time to get around to things then Norton is the one to choose.


Both MacAfee and Norton have their strengths and weaknesses. For us, Norton is a clear winner when it comes to protecting your computer from unwanted viruses, malware, spyware and more. It has a better overall detection rate and is far better at removing deep viruses than MacAfee AntiVirus.

That said, the MacAfee virus checker still does a pretty respectable job detecting viruses, and does have a number of advantages such as running better on slower machines. And don’t forget, if budget is your main concern, it is cheaper as well.

About Aran Davies

A full-time nomad, Aran Davies decided to combine his love for writing with traveling. Having spent most of his 20’s traveling around Europe, he is now currently doing the same in Asia. When he is not huddled over his computer writing, you can usually find him hiking some mountain or lazing by the ocean.

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