Difference Between Norton & McAfee

By Ashley Poland

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Norton and McAfee are both recognized names in the computer security business; both sell anti-virus and anti-malware software. In that respect, they provide very similar products and don't differ greatly. Choosing one comes down to preference and what you want from your security software. When comparing Norton and McAfee products, make sure that you're comparing similar products; don't put the basic home version of McAfee against the business edition of Norton and expect meaningful results.

Accuracy and Protection

The most important element to choosing an anti-virus software is accuracy: how well it finds and stops potential malware and other threats. In terms of protection, Norton is king. In tests by PC Magazine, Norton consistently rates the best in terms of firewall protection, virus removal/blocking, anti-spam, privacy protection and parental controls. McAfee rates well in terms of firewall protection, virus blocking and anti-spam, but otherwise falls short of Norton.


Norton and McAfee have similar product lines. Both companies offer security solutions for both home and business users; in fact, both companies run a product called "Internet Security," which focuses on the security needs of habitual home Internet users. Both companies offer anti-virus software for PCs and Macs. Both also offer family security solutions and mobile security apps. McAfee offers different solutions for small businesses and enterprises, with products tailored to meet the needs of the system.


Which company is more expensive varies between products; even then, the difference between two comparable products is usually less than $10. For example, McAfee Internet Security is more expensive than Norton Internet Security. However, Norton's basic anti-virus program is more expensive than McAfee's anti-virus program. These prices also fluctuate depending on how many licenses you need, and how long a license term you choose. The longer a license you purchase, the larger a discount is available.

Resource Use

If you're dealing with an older computer or one that doesn't have many resources (such as a netbook), then you'll want to focus on performance as well; you're not likely to leave an anti-virus program turned on if it's constantly using all of your resources. Norton is considered one of the most lightweight security tools available, consistently getting good scores from PassMark.