Norton impresses by including a firewall, password manager, and online backup storage with even its most basic antivirus software. Other Norton subscriptions include VPN access, parental controls, and identity theft protections making Norton and good all-in-one computer protection program.
While Norton continues to do a good job blocking malware, it does have its struggles. Here's what I discovered during my hands-on testing, a little bit about each subscription option, and an in-depth look at all the available tools.
Bottom line: Norton is pretty expensive, but it includes an impressive number of security tools even in its most basic programs.
- Very good malware protection
- Good number of security tools
- Unlimited VPN access available
- Expensive after the first year
- Missing file shredder or encryption
- Noticable slowdown during some functions
Norton has excellent malware detection and protection, but it is also one of the best for identity theft protection. Its Antivirus Plus and some 360 subscriptions include identity theft monitoring. This service keeps an eye on the dark web and lets you know if your personal information is found there, including social security numbers, email addresses, and financial information.
If you choose a subscription with LifeLock, you get ID theft protections, which include helping you reclaim and restore your identity after it has been stolen.
Other threats Norton protects you from include hackers and snoops with its firewall, plus online tracers with its unlimited VPN access. Parental controls give additional protection to kids and families while online cloud backup services give you a safe place to keep sensitive files away from possible computer crashes and ransomware.
The introductory price of all Norton subscriptions is reasonable and worth every penny with the number of features each includes. However, after the first year, the price jumps significantly higher. At that point, it's better to look for a cheap option, like Bitdefender, then purchase a standalone identity theft service.
Your personal guard: Malware Protection
During my testing, Norton really impressed with how well it stopped malware infections. Considering the in-house tests, and testing results of other third-party labs, Norton averaged a 99% stop rate. This means there weren’t a lot of threats Norton didn’t recognize.
As part of the testing, I looked at Norton’s zero-threat detection rate. This determines how well Norton has been designed to use learning technology to stop threats that haven’t been officially recognized or added to malware databases. This is done by looking for files that look and act like known threats and tagging them as potential malware. Norton received a perfect score
Norton is equally impressive when it comes to blocking malicious websites that are known to have virus links or phishing schemes. It displays a prominent warning when you attempt to visit one, and will give you additional information like which threats are on the site, it ins detailed reports.
Since ransomware is one of the most dangerous, damaging, and costly malware, I wanted to make sure Norton can stop it. All Norton antivirus programs are able to recognize and stop ransomware threats on all devices without an issue. However, there are a couple of security features that are missing that typically are offered as additional ransomware protections.
The first missing feature is file encryption. This scrambles important files so that if ransomware is able to make it onto your computer it won’t recognize those files are important. Instead, it will bypass them instead of taking them hostage.
The second missing feature is a file shredder. This is important, not only for malware protection but for identity protection, too. Sending files through a secured shredded helps remove all traces of data, so nothing important is left behind for a hacker, snoop, or virus to attack or swipe. But even without these two features, Norton is still a top antivirus solution in my book.
See where Norton ranks on my list of the best antivirus software for Windows.
Taking center stage: Overall performance
Overall, Norton is pretty easy to figure out how to use, even with the impressive number of security features it comes with. On all platforms, I didn’t need to Google for help or reach out to Norton. Everything I really needed was already turned on by default, For advanced configuration options, I was asked if I wanted to turn them on or get a step-by-step tutorial from Norton on how to choose the best options.
Norton does take up plenty of space if you choose the download option. This results in some computer functions slowing down a bit. For example, during full system scans, I noticed substantial lag when trying to navigate the web. Pages loaded slower and locally saved programs took a bit to launch when opened.
You can choose the cloud version of Norton. For this, most of the program remains online, but there still are some pieces that need to be downloaded. For example, you need to access the dashboard from your desktop, but when you choose a function, it launches from the cloud.
The cloud-based Norton doesn’t take up as many local resources, but it still has its own struggles. For example, in order to use it you have to have an internet connection. And because things, like virus scans, originate from the cloud, they will take a bit longer to start. But you won’t see as much slowdown when using other programs or browsing online.
I personally wouldn’t use it on mobile devices. This is where I became the most frustrated using Norton. It caused too much slowdown that many apps timed out while attempting to launch. And so many apps and websites were tagged as malicious by Norton even when they were legitimate.
Beyond virus protection: Security features
Norton is by far the winner when it comes to security beyond basic malware protection. Even its basic AntiVirus Plus software comes with a password manager and cloud backup for Windows users.
The password manager holds all your complicated passwords used to log into online accounts in one secure folder. This manager secures passwords from being swiped and makes them easily accessible when you need to remember a password or two.
The extra protections around the password manager make it difficult for keyloggers and other prying eyes to snatch login credentials, steal your identity, or swipe bank, credit card, and other account information.
Online backup storage starts with 2GB of space with Norton AntiVurus Plus and goes up to 250GB of storage with the top Notron 360 subscription. This is an invaluable tool for keeping important files safe from ransomware and ready to reinstate if your find that your computer does become infected and needs to be reset.
Every Norton antivirus subscription comes with its 100% Virus Protection Promise, provided you agree to enable the annual auto-renewal feature. This Promise covers provides virus removal services should your device become infected with malware. If for any reason the threat can’t be removed, Norton will refund the remaining cost of your subscription price.
Most subscription packages include unlimited access to Norton’s VPN. This VPN lets you work online, including accessing geo-restricted content, without any way to trace back what you do to you or your devices.
Starting with Norton 360 Standard, you get ID monitoring. With this, Norton will keep an eye out on the dark web and alert you if your email addresses, password, or other personally identifying information is found there. If you add LifeLock to your subscription, you’ll also get identity theft protection, which includes help in restoring your stolen identity.
Norton 360 Deluxe comes with impressive parental controls. These work on both computers and cell phones and let you block specific apps, websites, or content from being viewed by your children, You can set time controls, and I like the detailed reports of exactly what my children are typing into search bard and text fields, including IM programs.
With all subscriptions, the included firewall monitors your network and everything communicating with your computer through your internet connection. Usually, your home service is pretty secure, but having a firewall on when connected to a public hotspot is essential since this is where a lot of dangerous communication tends to happen.
You can choose to add LifeLock identity theft protection to any subscription, or you can get Norton 360 with LifeLock combined together. In either case, LifeLock is one of the best identity theft services and an invaluable tool. Having personally used LifeLock to monitor my identity, I enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having a professional looking out for my personal information.
LifeLife is very thorough as it keeps tabs on your identity. It looks for the obvious - thieves using your information to take out loans, open credit cards or banking accounts, and sell your information on the black market. But LifeLife also looks for the unusual like health insurance numbers being used to receive medical treatments, or a criminal using your name as an alias.
It also searches the dark web where your identity may be used to clone social media accounts and hack email accounts. Other things LifeLock monitors include your email addresses, driver's license numbers, and telephone numbers.
If your identity is ever stolen, or if you lose your wallet, LifeLock will help you cancel credit cards and place holds on your credit reports. It will also walk you through the steps you need to notify creditors or the IRS.
And if your stolen identity is ever used while LifeLock is monitoring your account, you are covered by its $1 million guarantee. LifeLock will help you recover your identity and pay any fee associated with the recovery of up to $1 million.
For an extra fee, LifeLock will monitor your children's identities, too, so when it's time to head out on their own, they don't have to deal with the hassle of reclaiming their identity to get a student loan, purchasing their first car, or rent an apartment.
Is it worth it? The cost of using Norton
As a new customer, Norton's subscription process is pretty reasonable. Though they are higher than other antivirus software, the number of security features and privacy functions included with each one is amazing.
For example, Norton Antivirus Plus starts at $19.99 for first-time users. It includes a password manager and 2GB of secured cloud storage to back up important files and data.
Norton 360 Standard and Norton 360 Deluxe include ID theft monitoring. This looks for your personal information being sold or used online and alerts you if it is found. You have to do all the leg work to recover your identity (Norton 360 with LifeLock users get help with this), but the extra set of eyes is worth the $39.99 and $49.99 price tags, respectively.
All Norton 360 subscriptions come with unlimited access to Norton's VPN while 360 Deluxe includes more cloud storage space (50BG) and parental controls.
Norton's 100% Virus Protection Promise is available for all users. This service helps rid your computer of malware if something sneaks through Norton's protection. This is done remotely by Norton's very competent support staff. However, in order to take advantage of this promise, you must agree to automatically renew your subscription each year.
Compare Norton subscriptions
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Norton AntiVirus Plus||Norton 360 Standard||Norton 360 Deluxe||Norton 360 with LifeLock|
|Operating system||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS|
|Number of devices||5||3||5||10|
|Virus Protection Promise||√||√||√||√|
|ID theft monitoring||Row 7 - Cell 1||√||√||√|
|VPN access||Row 8 - Cell 1||√||√||√|
|Parental controls||Row 9 - Cell 1||Row 9 - Cell 2||√||√|
|Identity theft protection||Row 10 - Cell 1||Row 10 - Cell 2||Row 10 - Cell 3||√|
Norton antivirus programs caused noticeable lag while testing, especially on mobile devices, but it still does an excellent job stopping internet threats. It also comes with an impressive number of security tools, like a password manager and firewall with all subscriptions, plus parental controls, and identity theft protection with more advanced programs.
Introductory pricing for all Norton subscriptions is reasonable for the amount of protection you get. However, it does get substantially more expensive if you choose to renew.
Nikki is a commissioned editor for Future Plc covering internet security including antivirus and VPN. With over 18 years of research and writing experience, and 11 years of testing and reviewing internet security solutions, Nikki knows how to dive deep to get the information consumers need to make better buying decisions. She is also a mom to 10 children, and personally uses many of the products she reviews to ensure the safety of her own family.