Bitdefender vs Norton: Antivirus Step by Step Comparison


Consumers have no shortage of options when it comes to malware protection. And yet, it’s almost too much for the average consumer. You might go with an antivirus product because it has the nicest UI, or has a lot of popular reviews, but how do you know if it will really work for you? How do you know which antivirus will really suit your purposes, and give the best protection and features for what you’re willing to spend?

Not all antivirus are the same. Some offer more features and security tools for a cheaper price, some have more generous licensing packages, and others can be really slim in extra tools, but have outstanding malware protection. All of that and more is what we aim to clear up for the consumer. By reading our antivirus comparison guides, you’ll be able to better decide which product is best for you.

In this article, we’ll be comparing Bitdefender versus Norton. Bitdefender and Norton are two of the top AV products on the market. Norton has been around a bit longer, and thus has more history in computer security, but Bitdefender has been highly touted as being one of, if not the best AV product for a number of years.

McAfee vs Avast: Quick Comparison

Basic protection: Bitdefender. They offer a completely free antivirus product, which does an excellent job. Norton offers no free products to speak of.

Advanced protection: Bitdefender. Their prices and bang-for-your-buck are much better than Norton’s, and Bitdefender performs better in threat detection tests.

System performance: Bitdefender. By a very slight margin.

Conclusion: We prefer Bitdefender. The range of products is better and they have a wider selection of tools and features. Read on below to make up your own mind.

Norton Products (Windows Only)

      • Norton Antivirus Plus
      • Norton 360 Standard
      • Norton 360 Deluxe
      • Norton 360 with LifeLock Select
      • Norton Secure VPN
      • Norton Computer TuneUp
      • Norton Family Premier
      • Norton Ultimate Help Hesk
      • Norton Utilities Premium
      • Norton Safe Search
      • Norton Small Business


      When searching for Norton products online, you can run across some confusion. A few years ago, Norton announced their main product, Norton 360, would be discontinued and replaced by the new Norton Security. This announcement came back in 2014, yet as of 2019, Norton 360 is still offered as their main product, including on this page, “Norton Products for 2019”. Google searches for Norton products turn up (outdated) pages that still tout Norton Security as their main product.

      Here’s where the confusion stems from: Symantec (the company that owns Norton) did in fact briefly replace Norton 360 with Norton Internet Security, however, they completely revamped Norton 360 and brought it back as the main product in April 2019. To summarize, they discontinued Norton 360, replaced it with Norton Security, then discontinued Norton Security and replaced it with an updated Norton 360.

      Norton AntiVirus Plus

      Norton AntiVirus Plus is a total replacement for an earlier Norton product, Norton AntiVirus Basic. It is entirely the same software, but “enhanced” with 24/7 tech support, 2GB of cloud backup storage, and a two-way firewall.

      Overall, Norton Antivirus Plus provides great threat protection, with built-in email phishing detection (for desktop email clients), and claims to protect your user data while online.

      Norton Antivirus Plus

      The downside of Norton AntiVirus Plus is that you won’t find many advanced security tools and features. It’s a bit disappointing, considering considering this is a premium product that starts at $39.99 per year. Other antivirus brands typically offer additional tools such as file shredders, VPNs, password vaults, or other similar tools at this price point.

      There is a password manager available, but it comes in the form of a browser extension.

      Norton 360 Standard

      Bumping up to $49.99 per year, Norton 360 Standard will protect one PC, one Mac, or 1 smartphone. One, not all three. This isn’t that great of a deal, to be honest.

      Other brands offer protection for more devices for the same price, or even cheaper. BitDefender offers protection for 3 devices at an even cheaper price, 5 devices for the same price, and 15 devices for a little bit more.

      As far as features goes, Norton 360 Standard offers users a Smart Firewall, 10GB of cloud storage backup, a password manager, secure VPN, SafeCam technology (webcam protection), and Dark Web Monitoring.

      You also receive a Virus Protection Promise, which includes a 60-day money back guarantee, and virus removal assistance from a Symantec employee.

      Norton 360 Deluxe

      Norton 360 Deluxe starts at $59.99 per year, and protects up to 5 devices. Again, this costs a bit more than what you’ll typically find from other brands. Bitdefender Total Security 2019 protects the same amount of devices, for half the price.

      Norton 360

      As for the additional features found in Norton 360 Deluxe, you’ll have 50GB of cloud storage, parental controls for the web, and a few PC optimization tools such as a File Cleanup and Disk Optimizer utilities. The cloud storage is a bit generous, and you may find the parental controls useful. However, we often point out that file cleanup and disk optimizer tools aren’t really that necessary, and a well-maintained PC will see pretty much zero performance boost from using these tools. However, if you’re not in the habit of regularly cleaning your PC already, these tools may make a difference for you (the first time).

      You also get a nice web portal for managing all of the devices under this protection plan

      Norton Extra Products

      Norton offers a lot of separate tools and services on their products page. Some of these are tools that you manually run, others are services from Norton agents. So for example, Norton Secure VPN starts at $5.99 per month, while Norton Computer TuneUp costs $49.99 “per service”. Basically a Norton agent will remote access your computer and perform a “tuneup”.

      Now, we have to kind of chuckle at the product bylines. “Make it run like a V8 Supercar” is a highly dubious claim. Basically, these services are targeted at people who generally have no clue about computers, and the agent will just do a few basic things such as general file cleanup, removing programs from startup on boot, etc. We’re not saying it’s predatory, but… you could probably pay a neighborhood kid a lot less to do the same service.

      As most of the other products aren’t really related to antivirus protection, we’ll leave you to peruse the entire Norton product catalogue at your leisure.


      Founded in 2001, Bitdefender is a Romanian cybersecurity company that was considered the absolute best antivirus product available, for a number of past years. In 2019, however, there are numerous competitors that perform equally to Bitdefender in threat detection, though many still swear by Bitdefender for its reliability, competitive pricing, and low system impact.

      Is Bitdefender still the king of the mountain? Well, that’s what we’re here to figure out. Let’s begin by examining Bitdefender’s individual product offerings in detail.

      Bitdefender Products List (Windows + Mac)

        • Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition (Windows)
        • Bitdefender Antivirus Plus (Windows)
        • Bitdefender Internet Security (Windows)
        • Bitdefender Total Security (Windows + Mac)
        • Bitdefender Family Pack (Windows + Mac)
        • Bitdefender Virus Scanner (Mac)
        • Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac (Mac)
        • Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus (Android)


      Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

      Unlike Norton, Bitdefender offers the totally free Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition. For consumers who need only top-level malware protection, and no additional frills and features, this is really all you need.

      Bitdefender Antivirus Free

      Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition offers simply outstanding threat detection, is very lightweight on your PC, but has pretty much no additional features and tools.

      Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019

      If you subscribe to this product, you get the great threat detection Bitdefender is known for, with a few additional features. You’ll have access to premium customer support, secure browsing mode, an encrypted password vault, a file shredder for “permanently” deleting unwanted files (efficacy debated), and a battery saving mode for laptops. The secure browsing offers social network monitoring, and ransomware protection.

      There are a lot of viruses being spread through social media message these days, so social network monitoring is in fact a useful feature. Just a few days ago, I guided a friend through removing a browser extension that hijacked their Facebook account and was sending the extension to everyone on his friend’s list.

      Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019 also features a vulnerability scanner, which will scan your Windows system for things like missing critical updates, security holes, outdated software, and recommended security settings. Finally, a rescue disk option allows you to create a bootable disk for eliminating deep threats.

      Bitdefender Internet Security 2019

      Going up in tier, this product offers everything you find in the Antivirus Plus 2019, but Bitdefender gives customers numerous additional features which you may find useful. You’ll get parental controls for keeping your children safe online, a two-way firewall, anti-spam protection for your desktop email clients, a Safe File switch which will protect your most important files from ransomware attacks, and everybody’s favourite, webcam protection.

      Webcam protection is useful when you consider that many laptops with built-in webcams also have built-in microphones. So while many folks think sticking a piece of tape over the webcam can prevent webcam spying, your microphone can still be hijacked, allowing hackers to hear you, even if they can’t see you. So Bitdefender’s webcam protection addresses both audio and visual aspects of the webcam.

      Bitdefender Total Security 2019

      This tier contains everything mentioned so far in the previous products, and sweetens the deal with performance optimizations for your computer. You’ll get a OneClick Optimizer which claims to improve system performance, by scanning and deleting unnecessary junk files. Is this particularly useful for a person who already keeps their PC clean? Not really, though you could go ahead and uninstall CCleaner if you’ve been relying on that.

      Bitdefender Total Security 2019

      Other additional tools include a Disk Cleanup utility, a Startup Optimizer (for disabling programs at system boot), and anti-theft features. Honestly, most of this is stuff you can already do in Windows, so at this point you’re paying for a convenient GUI. We’ll rant more about system cleanup utilities in the Avast section.

      Bitdefender Family Pack 2019

      This isn’t actually a product by itself, but it’s a great deal on the Bitdefender Total Security product. With the Bitdefender Family Pack 2019, you can protect an unlimited number of devices in your home, under a single Total Security license.

      Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac

      This is the Mac version of the free antivirus for Windows. Just like the Windows version, it offers only the most basic security features, and two Mac utility tools. You’ll get an adware removal tool, and TrafficLight, which is a web filter that will block malicious content on the web.

      Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac

      This a premium product, which offers additional tools and features over the free Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac. Basically, you’ll get top-level malware protection, adware blocking, ransomware protection, and safeguarding for your backups.

      Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus

      For Android users, Bitdefender offers this security app. It has a 14-day trial, after which you must purchase a license. Android viruses aren’t really a thing, per se, so mostly you’re paying for security tools related to online privacy and protecting your personal data. It has a VPN, app locker, anti-theft phone tracking, web browser protection, and a malware scanner.

      Bitdefender vs Norton: Threat Detection Ratings from Independent Labs

      The most important question in our opinion, is what antivirus product does the best job of protecting you from viruses? Lots of tools and features are nice, but the product is worthless if it doesn’t actually do its job as an antivirus software.

      So to see how different antivirus products stack up against each other, we turn to the results from independent research labs. AV-Test and AV-Comparatives are two such well-known independent security labs, which make it their job to evaluate antivirus products on the market.

      They do this by putting the antivirus products through numerous tests, though both companies use slightly different testing methods.

      AV-Test uses a controlled environment, and throws tons of malware, both known and zero-day (previously unknown) malware types at the antivirus product. This gauges how well the product catches not only known virus types, but how well its heuristic analysis performs when scanning the behaviour of files, to prevent infection from wild viruses that haven’t been categorized yet.

      AV-Comparative runs a similar kind of test, but they also perform a “Real World” test, where they use the antivirus product on its default settings, while doing normal internet activity. They then gauge how many malware threats the antivirus product detects and blocks.


      AV-Test Bitdefender 2019


      AV-Test Norton 2019

      For AV-Test, both Bitdefender and Norton had a perfect score. Both products blocked 100% of all malware samples, earning Bitdefender and Norton perfect 6 out of 6 star ratings.

      For AV-Comparative, Bitdefender was given the ADVANCED+ award, which is their highest award available. It stopped 99.8% of malware, and gave only 2 false positives. It’s important to judge an antivirus product on how many false positives it gives, because false positives can make consumers their machine has been infected, or that a file contains a virus, when it really doesn’t.

      Norton, on the other hand, was given only an ADVANCED award, which is the 2nd best award. This is because while Norton was able to stop 99.6% of threats, it also gave 21 false positives, which is quite high.

      In Norton’s defense, you can adjust the sensitivity of its security. The absurdly high amount of false positives is mostly due to the “grey area” of what Norton considers PUPs (potentially unwanted programs). It’s incredibly strict on it’s default settings, but the consumer can lower the security strictness. Still, it’s a bit of an overzealous approach on Norton’s behalf, to have the security settings so high by default.

      Either way, it’s pretty clear that Bitdefender edges out Norton in terms of threat detection rate.

      Bitdefender vs Norton: Impact on Computer Performance

      Antivirus software usually starts when your system loads, and then runs continuously in the background, doing its job. However, that doesn’t mean its presence needs to be felt – the best AV programs have virtually no impact on your computer performance, while others can seriously dampen your computer performance while doing resource-intensive tasks.

      So to compare, we once again turn to independent lab results.

      AV-Test does a performance study, which measures the impact of antivirus software on computer speed as the machine does common, routine tasks. This includes surfing the web, launching other software, copying system files, etc. They then measure the impact in terms of percentage, on both “standard” PCs and high-end PCs.


      AV-Test Bitdefender performance


      AV-Test Norton performance

      In their testing, Bitdefender and Norton both received 6 out of 6 star ratings. The performance impacts on the tested PCs were entirely negligible.

      Over at AV-Comparative, their test method is pretty much the same. But instead of using percentages, they use an “impact score”, a lower score is better.

      Both Norton and Bitdefender received the “Advanced+” rating, though Bitdefender had a total impact score of 8.3, compared to Norton’s 6.4 (lower is better).

      However, it’s worth noting that we’re really talking about differences in perhaps hundreds of milliseconds, especially where high-end PCs are concerned.

      Overall, both products have pretty much no impact on computer performance.

      Final Words

      We’re going to go with Bitdefender in this comparison. The product offerings are better, and more generous with the amount of tools and features you get at the various price-points. Bitdefender also offers a perfectly capable free antivirus, while Norton does not. Finally, the amount of Norton’s false positives isn’t really acceptable, when compared to other products out there.

      Read our Bitdefender versus Avast comparison next.

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