Norton Antivirus solutions review

Norton, the veteran security brand that is still a big contender

Norton antivirus
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

Norton's basic antivirus subscription includes tools not typically seen with lower-tiered solutions while its other packages include enough security options to make them great all-in-one options. However, there are some struggles and headaches that come with this antivirus.

Pros

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    Very good malware protection

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    Smart firewall

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    Unlimited VPN access with most subscriptions

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    Loads of features in even the cheapest package

Cons

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    Expensive after the first year

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    57 files lost during ransomware test

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    VPN kill switch issues

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    Missing file shredder and encryption

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Norton has remained a strong, antivirus software provider for many years, and it keeps packing in the security, even into its most basic subscriptions. Your digital and physical identities are protected with all tiers of Norton antivirus. You can also take advantage of Norton's secured, online cloud storage, and its password manager with any of its antivirus solutions.

One of the best tools available with higher-tiered programs is unlimited access to Norton Secure VPN. This program hides your IP address and online browser history so nothing can be traced back to you. It's just another great tool for protecting you in multiple aspects of your life.

Please note

This is the all-in-one roundup reviewing every Norton LifeLock consumer security solution. On this page, after this brief intro, you’ll find

(a) a full evaluation of the entry-level Norton AntiVirus Plus, along with reviews of the additional features incorporated with the rest of the range: 

(b) Norton 360 Standard, and

(c) Norton 360 Deluxe, and

(d) Norton 360 with LifeLock

You can jump to the reviews of those individual products by clicking on the links in the bar at the top of this page, but bear in mind that this article is really designed to be read all the way through, as the features of Norton AntiVirus Plus are also present in the higher-level security suites.

Norton's antivirus software works on all devices and does a decent job stopping malware. Most of its long list of security tools also works on these devices, so you're always protected. This makes it a top-notch Mac antivirus and Android antivirus solution.

Norton 360 subscriptions, including Nortn 360 Standard and Norton 360 Deluxe, come with dark web monitoring. This service keeps an eye out for your email addresses, passwords, and other identifying information that may be compromised and alerts you so you can take precautions to better protect your online and physical identity.

You can choose a Norton 360 subscription with LifeLock identity theft protections or add this as a stand-alone service to any other Norton subscription. This tool takes identity theft monitoring to the next level and helps you restore your identity - both virtual and physical - if your information is stolen.

Other Norton tools available include parental controls and privacy monitoring. Plus, if you subscribe to Norton and take part in its auto-renewal program, you're covered by Norton's 100% Virus Protection Promise. This guarantee promises to keep your system clear of malware. If it ever does become infected, Norton's support team will work hard to clean up your device.

Plans and pricing

At first glance, Norton may seem a little pricy compared to other antivirus programs, but competitors, such as Bitdefender, don't have the number of protection tools that Norton does, and definitely don't include advanced security features in its basic antivirus programs.

Even looking long-term at the subscription renewal prices, which jump pretty high after the introductory first year, still average out to a decent, per month cost considering what you get.

Norton AntiVirus Plus starts at $19.99 for the first year and jumps up to $59.99 for subsequent subscription years. It only covers a single device, but you do get 2GB of cloud backup and Norton's password manager. If you choose to auto-renew, AntiVirus Plus will cover your devices with its Ivrus ProtectionPromise.

With Norton 360 Standard, you get unlimited access to Norton Secure VPN and dark web monitoring services. You'll be alerted if Norton finds your personal information being bought or sold illegally along with some tips on how to secure your information. This software protects a maximum of three devices and starts at $39.99. After the first year to price increases to $89.99.

Norton's antivirus subcription prices 2023

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Norton 360 Deluxe lets you protect up to five different devices for $49.99 for the first year. It builds on the generous offerings of its Standard program by protecting against unauthorized access to your webcam through its Privacy Monitor. It includes parental controls and bumps up the amount of cloud backup space you get to 50GB.

After the first year, Norton 360 Deluxe increases its subscription price to $109.99

Upgrading to Norton 360 with LifeLock Select gives you the ultimate security for both your devices and your personal identity. LifeLock is a full identity theft protection service that also helps restore your identity if it is ever stolen. by letting you tap into its identity theft restoration specialists and a million-dollar insurance package.

Other perks to using Norton 360 with LifeLock include protection for up to 10 devices and 250GB of secured cloud backup storage. This offering starts at $99.99 for the first year with the price climbing to $179.99 for each subsequent year.

You don't have to make up your mind before buying. Each of Norton's antivirus software is available for you to try out for 7 days. You do need to provide a credit card, though it won't be charged until after the trial period is up. Just make sure you turn off the auto-renewal within the 7 days to avoid inadvertently being charged for the program before you're ready to fully commit.

Compare Norton Subscriptions

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Norton AntiVirus PlusNorton 360 StandardNorton 360 DeluxeNorton 360 with LifeLock
Operating systemWindows, Mac, Android, iOSWindows, Mac, Android, iOSWindows, Mac, Android, iOSWindows, Mac, Android, iOS
Max number of devices53510
Starting price$19.99$39.99$49.99$99.99
Cloud backup storage2GB2GB50GB250GB
Virus Protection Promise
Password manager
ID theft monitoringRow 7 - Cell 1
VPN accessRow 8 - Cell 1
Parental controlsRow 9 - Cell 1 Row 9 - Cell 2
Identity theft protectionsRow 10 - Cell 1 Row 10 - Cell 2 Row 10 - Cell 3

Norton AntiVirus Plus

UI

(Image credit: Norton)

Setup

Norton AntiVirus Plus has both an online and a desktop portion of the installation. For those new to antivirus, used to solely desktop applications, or that aren't very tech-savvy, the process may feel daunting. But Norton walks you through every step.

The package grabbed 1GB of storage space, average for a suite with this level of functionality, and added only two major background processes to my system.

Running PCMark Professional before and after installation, though, I found my score dropped by 4.8%. That's better than the 5.9% drop I saw with Sophos Home Premium, but most packages only see a 1-2% drop, and Avira and McAfee had barely any impact at all.

AV-Comparatives' October 2022 Performance Test showed Norton performing a little better, but it was still a mid-range. AV-Tests showed similar results with Norton landing squarely in the middle with an average performance score of 5.5/6.

Malware often tries to disable antivirus before launching a full attack, so the best antivirus makes real efforts to protect itself from attack. I test this by running various attacks of my own, including closing processes, deleting files, unloading drivers, and disabling services. I was able to close the process powering Norton's user dashboard, but the package's core files, services, and drivers were fully protected, and my security remained active at all times.

Norton antivirus dashboard on a Windows desktop

(Image credit: Norton)

Antivirus

Norton AntiVirus Plus has an odd interface, split across two windows. 

Its My Norton screen looks good, but makes poor use of screen real estate, with the bulk of its dashboard taken up by a wallpaper image of someone trekking along a mountain trail, a handful of buttons to launch key tools, and most of the rest being just white space.

There's more functionality and control available, but you must open a separate Security window to access it, and I found it took longer than expected to find my way around Norton's many features.

Scan Types

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Antivirus is relatively straightforward, though. Smart Scans are only a click away, whatever interface you're using. These run a Quick Scan for malware, identify network security problems and check for what Norton calls 'Advanced Issues' (in practice this just gave me a list of tracking cookies to delete.)

A separate Full System is on hand if you need it. And a highly flexible custom scan feature gives you all kinds of options. I set up an example to automatically scan my Downloads folder every three hours, for instance, but only when my system was idle and on AC power.

Scan times are reasonable, with 50GB of test data taking 29 minutes for the first scan, dropping to 4:13 next time, within the range I'd expect for this type of suite. Bitdefender's first scan was slower (50 minutes), but it dropped to 50 seconds next time; Avira began a little faster at 26 minutes, but there's no 'scan only new and changed files'-type optimization, and it took the same 26 minutes each time.

An option to run Norton's Power Eraser gets you a more aggressive detection and repair technique which might remove trickier threats. That's welcome (it's a capable tool), but you don't need to buy the package to get it. Norton Power Eraser is available for free on the Norton website.

But if you're unsure whether you’re infected and just want to find out more, a Norton Insight tool reports on the reputation of various files on your system. 

This works like a security-focused version of Task Manager. The main window lists running processes, with a Trust rating for each, an indication of how many others use them, their system impact and more.

This has some major benefits for expert users. Even if you've been infected by a threat so new that Norton can't detect it yet, Insight may still be able to point to a possible issue, highlighting active running processes or loaded modules which you don't recognize, and it's never seen before. If you've enough Windows experience to go manually hunting for malware, this is a very handy tool to have on your side.

AV-Comparatives March 2023 protection scores for Norton

(Image credit: AV-Comparatives)

Protection

AV-Comparatives' Real-World Protection Test is a comprehensive benchmark that pits 16 of the top antivirus engines against some of the very latest malware.

Norton’s results jumped up from previous results to earn a 99.99% overall protection score. The only place it seemed to struggle was with false positives, meaning it tagged legitimate files as malware. But it stayed consistent with blocking legitimate threats, including zero-day malware.

The latest AV-Test's Windows 10 Home User pitted Norton against 17 competitors. As far as protection, there wasn't anything Norton couldn't stop. it received perfect marks across the board for malware detection. With an overall industry standard of 99.4% detection, Norton clearly made sure to do better.

Threat

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I ran some simple tests of my own, using common malware-like tricks to download malicious files with standard Windows tools. Norton AntiVirus Plus performed well, blocking most of my simulated attacks at the behavioral level before the files could be downloaded. And although it ignored my exploit attempts a couple of times, the file detection layer detected and quarantined the file just as soon as it hit my hard drive.

I wasn't finished yet, though. I've also created a custom ransomware-like program that spiders through a test folder tree, opening and encrypting common images, videos, and document types. As it's never been released, Norton couldn't have seen it before, making this a good test of its ability to detect and block ransomware by behavior alone.

Security History

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I ran my test threat, Norton AntiVirus Plus detected and killed it, and a few seconds later, warned me about the problem. While that's good, I found my threat had encrypted 57 files before it was stopped. In previous tests, I found both Bitdefender recognized the danger after it had accessed a maximum of ten files. And even better, they recovered the originals, ensuring I didn't lose any data at all.

URL Blocking

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Browsing protection

Norton AntiVirus Plus uses multiple layers of protection to help keep you safe online.

Norton Safe Search is an Ask-powered search environment that highlights trusted and dubious websites; if you'd prefer to stick with Google, the Norton Safe Web extension adds site ratings to your search results; and if you hate weighing down your browser with security extensions, just ignore them - the main Norton engine detects and blocks malicious domains at the network level, anyway, allowing it to protect all your applications.

This all worked well for me, blocking the malicious URLs I tried without difficulty. I tried accessing them from a tiny browser I'd written myself, to confirm URLs were blocked at the networking level, and that worked, too; my app was blocked whenever it tried to access the page, with Norton displaying a detailed alert explaining why.

Firewall Settings

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Firewall

Norton AntiVirus Plus, as the name suggests, isn't just about squashing malware. It also has some very useful bonus features.

An intelligent firewall lets you know if untrusted programs are trying to make an internet connection and asks if these should be allowed. While that's a potential hassle for the user, I found it only happened in the most extreme circumstances, and I was given plenty of information to help me decide.

Instead of the usual 'dubious.exe is trying to get online, allow? <Yes, No>' warnings, for instance, the firewall warned me that my test program wasn't digitally signed, had been released less than a week ago, and had very few users, as well as showing me the URL it was trying to reach. You're able to allow or block the connection in a couple of clicks, and optionally have the firewall remember your decision, ensuring you won't be asked again.

If you know what you're doing, heading off to the Settings dialog gets you access to all the gory low-level technical details, right down to the detailed rules governing each protocol and traffic type.

NAV Backup

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Backup

The big surprise with Norton AntiVirus Plus is its bundled backup tool. It is a hosted service that comes with 2GB of online backup space in AntiVirus Plus (it supports local destinations, too.)

The app is seriously short on features. If you're hoping to get control of archiving, encryption, or versioning, forget it - there's none of that here.

NAV Settings

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I've no complaints about ease of use, though. By default, the app backs up your Office documents, pictures, music, contacts, internet favorites, and so on. If that totals less than 2GB, you can back up your data to the web in a click; if it's more, you're able to exclude individual files, folders, or entire files, or you can choose a local drive as the destination, instead.

Backups can be run on demand, or scheduled to automatically run every day, week, or month, and a 'Run only at idle time' option should ensure it won't get in the way when you're busy.

There's not a lot of power here, and when Google Drive gives you 15GB storage for free, Norton's 2GB doesn't exactly seem generous. It's 2GB more than you'll get with most antivirus packages, though. Upgrading gets you more, for example, 50GB with Norton 360 Deluxe. The ability to set up a genuinely useful online backup in seconds is welcome, too, especially for users who aren't so technical, and the service does add some value to the package.

NAV Performance

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Performance

Norton AntiVirus Plus includes a handful of simple maintenance tools designed to speed up your PC. While it isn't a lot, each one is effective in helping your system run faster.

NAV Optimize Disk

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Optimize Disk is a disk defrag tool which rearranges how files are placed on your hard drive to maybe improve performance. At least, that's the theory: the technology doesn't make much of a difference with modern SSD drives. And when I tried the Optimize Disk on my test system, it appeared to be using the standard Windows defrag tool underneath, anyway. If you're interested, you can try that now, for free (click a drive in Explorer, click Drive Tools > Optimize.)

File Cleanup

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File Cleanup is one of the most underpowered junk file finders I've seen. Run the tool, it deletes Windows, Chrome and Internet Explorer temporary files, and - that's it. There's no attempt to confirm whether you really want to wipe these files, they're just deleted immediately, and it doesn't even tell you up-front how much space it's freed up. (The information is available, but you must click a couple of links to find it.)

There's really no reason for this tool to exist, as it doesn't fully clear your Chrome history, and even Windows' standard Disk Cleanup tool does a significantly better job of finding system leftovers. I ran Norton's File Cleanup, then tried Disk Cleanup, and it identified 1.43GB of extra files I could safely wipe. 

Performance

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The pick of the performance tools, by far, is the Startup Manager. Not only does this display the programs set up to launch along with Windows, but it also tells you their level of resource usage, and how commonly they're found across Norton's other customers, and gives you the chance to delay the app's start or disable it entirely.

There's a surprising amount of detail about each app's performance, too. In a click or two you're able to check on a summary of an app's CPU and RAM use, disk reads and writes, and you can even view a scrolling graph showing the app's CPU usage over the past ten minutes.

The average user probably won't care much about any of that, but if you're more experienced, and genuinely looking to identify the most resource-grabbing processes on your system, Norton's performance monitoring is a helpful extra that you won't get with any of the competition.

Final verdict

Powerful, and with more features than some high-end suites, there's a lot to like about Norton AntiVirus Plus. The package didn't perform quite as well as the top suites in my anti-ransomware test, but it blocked the threat, and overall, it's a quality antivirus app and security suite. Well worth a try.

Norton 360 Standard

Norton 360 UI

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Norton 360 Standard, the baseline plan of the Norton 360 range, is essentially Norton AntiVirus Plus with webcam protection, an upgrade from 2GB to 10GB of backup space, and unlimited use of Norton Secure VPN for a single device.

This isn't just for PC and Mac anymore. Android and iOS apps enable protecting your phone or tablet, too.

Prices start low at $25 for a one-device, one-year license, rising to $85 on renewal. That first-year price is a good deal, especially if you'll use the VPN and don't mind the single-device restriction - most specialist VPN providers charge $40 or more for their one-year plans (although they'll typically cover five devices).

VPN Region

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VPN

Unusually for a bundled VPN, Norton Secure VPN is fully integrated with the suite interface. There's no need to open extra app windows or scroll through long lists of countries to find what you need: just click the Turn On button and you're automatically connected to the fastest server outside of your country.

That scores well for anonymity, as websites will always think you're in another country, but it could be inconvenient if geoblocking leaves you unable to access some local sites. 

If that's an issue, you can switch back to the standard 'choose a country' list. There's a decent selection of 31 countries to choose from, but it's strictly country-only, with no region or city-level options. 

The location list doesn't have a Favorites system. The countries appear in a tiny box that only has room to display three locations at once, too, forcing you to spend more time scrolling to find what you need. 

VPN Settings

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The VPN has recently added a host of new settings. It can automatically connect when you access insecure networks; ad and tracker-blocking help preserve your web privacy; split tunneling enables deciding which apps use the tunnel, and which don't; and a kill switch tries to protect you if the connection drops.

Some of these features perform well. Auto-connect and split tunneling work as advertised, for instance. And the app now properly raised a notification if my connection dropped, ensuring I knew when my traffic was unprotected.

VPN Kill Switch Error

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The kill switch wasn't as successful. It kicked in whenever I forcibly dropped the VPN connection, ensuring my real IP address didn't leak: good news. But the kill switch blocked my internet so well that the app couldn't reconnect: I had to turn it off before we could connect again. 

My performance tests showed Norton achieving 280-290Mbps on a 1Gbps connection from a UK data center. That's good for an IKEv2 connection, but NordVPN and many WireGuard-equipped VPNs reached 750Mbps and more.

It was a similar mixed story on unblocking, where the VPN got me into BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime, but not US Netflix or Disney+.

Put it all together and Norton Secure VPN is far from the worst service I've seen. But it's not a great one, either. The VPN adds some value to Norton 360, but it doesn't begin to compete with the best of the specialist VPN providers.

Safe Cam

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Webcam protection

Norton 360 includes its SafeCam webcam protection, which alerts you to untrusted apps trying to access your camera, and gives you the chance to allow or block them

That's not as much hassle as it sounds. By default, SafeCam automatically allows known good apps to access the camera, so you'll rarely see any alerts. And if SafeCam does ask permission for something, choose the 'always allow' or 'always block' options, it'll remember your decision, and you won't be prompted again

I found this worked exactly as it should: my most trustworthy tool automatically allowed its capture, while my little-known app raised an alert. That works as a default setting for me, but if you prefer, you can turn off the 'automatically allow good apps' option to be prompted for everything, or you can turn off SafeCam entirely.