(Last updated on February 19th, 2020)

Windows Defender or Norton, which is software is right for your protection needs?

Read this comprehensive, data-driven guide to make a smart decision.

In this detailed comparison, you’ll see how Windows Defender and Norton compare in terms of features, malware protection, impact on system performance, user interface, and more.

Do you know almost half of all computer users worldwide have been (or will be) victims of cybercrime?

In the modern world, it has become almost impossible to imagine a safe digital life without solid antivirus protection — regardless of whether you prefer Windows or macOS.

With time, malware (short for malicious software) has spread to every nook and cranny, and it’s important that you take proactive measures to ensure your computer (and your data) is safe from countless threats that are out there in the wild; viruses, ransomware, rootkits, worms, Trojans, spyware, just to name a few.

And if you’re curious to know what malicious software can do, it can corrupt your system, take over your important files, breach your privacy, drain your bank account, spy on your activities, and so on.

Even if you only visit trusted websites and avoid clicking dangerous links, experts say you still need reliable antivirus security.

Important Note

Best Antivirus Suite for 2020

(All the best security products examined)

Editors' Choice Award Winner 

Overall Score: 9.9/10

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During the past few months, we examined and reviewed over 50 antivirus suites from the biggest names in cybersecurity. We did this so you can confidently choose the best antivirus software to protect yourself and those you love.

Overall, Bitdefender is our #1 antivirus software for 2020, because of its excellent, flawless performance in all the recent independent lab evaluations we considered, particularly those conducted by AV-Test and AV-Comparatives.

Right now, we think that Bitdefender Total Security 2020 (currently at 60% off) is the best antivirus package available in the market. Apart from providing excellent anti-malware protection, it offers all the advanced premium features and utilities that must be there in a high-end package -- and best of all, it offers excellent value for money. You can protect up to five devices (PCs, Macs, or smartphones) with just one subscription.

If you need protection for more than five devices, we highly recommend Bitdefender Family Pack 2020. It will cover all the internet-capable devices in your household with the Total Security suite, so your family will be protected no matter what goes wrong.

Now, let’s see how Windows Defender and Norton compare in detail.

If you’re in a rush and want the answer straightaway, take a look at the graphic below and also read our short verdict to make your mind.

Windows Defender vs Norton Comparison Summary

Short Verdict

Norton offers more security-related features and extra utilities in its security products than Windows Defender. Also, independent lab tests prove that Norton is ahead of Windows Defender in terms of both malware protection and the impact on system performance.

Our recommendations: If you want to get the highest level of security and performance, there's no better choice than Bitdefender, which protects over 500 million devices worldwide.

We have reviewed, ranked, and rated all the best antivirus software products out there, and we think that Bitdefender Total Security 2020 (currently at 50% off) is the best antivirus package you can buy right now. You can protect up to five devices (PCs, Macs, or smartphones) with just a single subscription of this suite.

If you need protection for more than five devices, Bitdefender Family Pack 2020 is the best option for you.

Looking for Mac-specific protection? Check out Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac for complete peace of mind.

Now, let the battle commence…

Windows Defender vs. Norton: Which Software Offers More Features/Tools?

First, let’s see what’s included in Windows Defender.

Most cybersecurity companies offer a range of security products at different price points to attract a diverse customer base. But Microsoft only offers a free security solution, called Windows Defender Security Center (formerly Windows Defender); there’s no paid-for upgrade with additional tools or utilities.

The freeware provides protection against different kinds of malware threats, such as ransomware, viruses, botnets, worms, rootkits, but there aren’t many advanced security-related features or extra utilities packed into the software, other than a useful two-way firewall (proactively monitors your network traffic and blocks malicious attacks).

Another useful module included in the product is Parental Controls; it lets you control which sites your children can (or cannot) visit, how much time they can spend online, and more. But these features only work when you’re using the Microsoft Edge browser.

Advanced features/tools such as file shredder, password manager, automatic backup utility, and VPN are not included in the software.

Now, let’s see what’s included in Norton’s security products.

Norton AntiVirus Basic, which is only compatible with the Windows platform, is the company’s entry-level premium product. Besides providing excellent protection against all sorts of known and unknown (or zero-day) malware threats, it offers comprehensive protection against identity theft and online frauds. However, there are no advanced features or tools included in this package.

A single subscription of the “Basic” suite will provide a year of protection for one PC.

Get Norton AntiVirus Basic

Next step up is the multi-platform compatible Norton Security Standard. It includes everything found in the entry-level suite, plus an advanced two-way firewall and free premium customer support. With this plan, you will also get Norton’s 100% Virus Protection Guarantee, according to which a Norton expert will help “keep your device(s) virus-free or Norton will give you a full refund.”

You can protect 1 PC or Mac with a single license of the “Standard” suite.

Get Norton Security Standard

Another level up is the more advanced Norton Security Deluxe, it is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. It includes everything jammed into the “Standard” plan, plus an intuitive web portal (helps manage protection for all your devices under one dashboard). Also, you can protect up to 5 PCs, Mac, or smartphones (in whatever combination you like) with a single subscription of this suite.

Get Norton Security Deluxe

Norton Security Premium is the company’s top-of-the-line antivirus offering. It includes everything that comes as part of the “Deluxe” suite, plus an advanced backup utility (automatically takes backup copies of your important data), 25 GB of online cloud storage, and the Family Premier utility (makes the web safer for your children and helps control how much time they can spend online).

The “Premium” suite comes at different price points depending on the number of devices covered in the plan. (We will cover the prices later in this guide.)

Get Norton Security Premium

Features included in Norton security suites

Overall, Norton’s security products offer more advanced protection-related features and extra utilities than Windows Defender.

Winner: Norton

Windows Defender vs. Norton: Which Software Offers Better Malware Protection?

There can be no security product without a solid malware detection engine.

Most modern antivirus products provide three levels of malware detection: a traditional file scanner that matches suspect files to known malware signatures from the database, a heuristic scanner that monitors behavioural activities of files, and a company server (that’s where suspicious files are sent for a more thorough check).

To see which of the two software is better in terms of malware protection, I’ll look at the most recent lab examinations conducted by AV-Test and AV-Comparatives — two independent and respected security firms that regularly evaluate top antivirus products against different criteria.

AV-Test’s most recent two-round evaluations were conducted in September and October 2018. All participating products – including Norton and Windows Defender — were tested against 311 samples of zero-day malware and 21,257 samples of widespread malware.

Norton successfully blocked all malware it encountered in all four examinations, earning a full 6/6 rating from the experts in the “Protection” category.

Norton's protection test result when conducted on Windows 10 by AV-Test on Sep-Oct 2018

Windows Defender’s results were slightly less appealing; its performance against widespread malware was perfect, at 100% during both months, but it proved to be less effective against zero-day malware.

It was awarded 5.5/6 stars in the “Protection” category.

Windows Defender's protection test result when conducted on Windows 10 by AV-Test on Sep-Oct 2018

Both software gave a single false positive during the tests.

***False positive is when a security product wrongly flags a clean file as malware-infected.

The experts at Austrian lab AV-Comparatives do a range of tests to test how well a security product prevents malware infections. The two main tests are Real-World Protection Test and Malware Protection Test.

The most recent Real-World Protection Test report released by AV-Comparatives includes summarized results of five monthly tests which were conducted between July and November 2018.

Overall, Windows Defender’s protection rate was 99.5% with 48 false detections, while Norton blocked 99.9% of the threats and gave returned 26 false positives.

Both software were given the second-best “ADVANCED” title in this test.

AV-Comparatives real-world protection test awards - July to November 2018

The most recent Malware Protection Test was held in September 2018. Both Windows Defender and Norton came up with impressive protection rates of 99% and 100% against malware, respectively, but both software once again gave a high number of false positives which marred their overall scores. Microsoft’s product returned 32 false positives, while Norton gave 47.

Both software were once again awarded the second-best “ADVANCED” title in this test.

AV-Comparatives malware protection test awards - September 2018

Overall, Norton is the winner in this category as it performed better than Window Defender in the AV-Test examinations.

Winner: Norton

Windows Defender vs. Norton: Which Software Puts Less Impact on System?

Another important consideration is the impact a security product puts on system performance. Most modern antivirus software are extremely light and put minimal impact on system performance.

Let’s see how Windows Defender and Norton fared in the recent lab examinations conducted by AV-Test and AV-Comparatives.

AV-Test’s performance study involves carrying out some common computer tasks (like visiting popular websites, downloading and launching common applications, copying files) and measuring the slowdown each product caused on test systems.

Here’re the results of the test with Norton installed:

Norton's performance test result when conducted on Windows 10 by AV-Test on Sep-Oct 2018

Here’s how Microsoft’s Windows Defender performed in the test:

Windows Defender's performance test result when conducted on Windows 10 by AV-Test on Sep-Oct 2018

As you can see, Norton was awarded a full 6/6 rating by the lab, while Windows Defender — which proved to be more resource-hungry — had to settle for a lower 5.5/6 rating.

The experts at AV-Comparatives also conduct a similar examination, called Performance Test. The test method may be slightly different to AV-Test’s study, but the concept is more or less the same. Several common computer tasks are executed with each product installed, and the impact of a security product is measured in terms of system speed (or system performance).

In the most recent version of the Performance Test, which was held in October 2018, Norton got the highest “ADVANCED+” award with an impressive impact score (the lower, the better) of 6.7, while Windows Defender came last in the test which involved 17 software and was only eligible for the “STANDARD” award.

AV-Comparatives performance test awards - October 2018

Overall, it’s clear that Norton is far better than Windows Defender in terms of the impact on system performance.

Winner: Norton

Windows Defender vs. Norton: Which Product Offers Better User Experience?

It’s important for a security software to provide a good user interface.

Let’s see how Windows Defender and Norton compare in this regard.

Windows Defender Security Center (formerly Windows Defender) provides a simple, minimalistic interface that sits nicely on all versions of the Windows operating system. It’s in shades of white, gray, and light blue.

The vertical menu on the left has six tabs, namely Home, Virus & Threat Protection, Firewall & Network Protection, App & Browser Control, Device Performance & Health, and Family Options.

Home — which is the main window — gives you an overview of all the modules and alerts you of issues that need your attention. If everything is well, you’ll also see a reassuring “Your device is being protected” message on the main window. Just below the message is the date when the last computer health scan took place.

The other modules contain relevant features and their settings.

Windows Defender Interface on Windows 10

Norton’s user interface has seen a major facelift in 2018. It’s now simple, bright and airy, in shades of white and green.

The default window has four main modules (Security, Identity, Performance, and More Norton) arranged in a horizontal manner. Each module contains a set of related features and their settings. In the upper half of the view, you’ll see your current protection status, along with a link to run a Quick Scan.

The top bar has links to different pages, like Settings and Help, while at the bottom you’ll see the number of days remaining in your subscription.

Norton's Interface as seen on Windows 10

Overall, both Norton and Windows Defender offer a simple, easy-to-use user interface.

Winner: It’s a tie

Windows Defender vs. Norton: Which Software is Less Expensive?

Here’re the prices of Norton security products:

Norton Security ProductsPrices
Norton Antivirus PlusCheck Price
Norton 360 StandardCheck Price
Norton 360 DeluxeCheck Price
Norton 360 with Lifelock SelectCheck Price
Norton 360 with Utimate PlusCheck Price
Norton Small Business SecurityCheck Price

Windows Defender is a freeware that comes with no additional upgrades, so no comparison can be drawn between both software in this category.

Winner: No comparison can be drawn.

Final Thoughts

Norton is better than Windows Defender in terms of both malware protection and the impact on system performance. But Bitdefender, which is our recommended antivirus software for 2019, is even better.

Get Bitdefender at 60% off today


Overall Score: 9.9/10

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Editors Choice Award Winner

Our recommendations: After reviewing 50 antivirus suites from some of the biggest names in the cybersecurity realm, we believe that Bitdefender Total Security 2020 (currently at 60% off) is the best antivirus suite for 2020 in terms of value for money. You protect up to five devices (PCs, Macs, and smartphones) with a single license of this suite.

Got more than five internet-capable devices? We found that Bitdefender Family Pack 2020 is the best option out there in terms of value for money.

If you are still unsure, Bitdefender offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and exceptional customer support, so you there is nothing to lose.

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