Norton vs Avast: Step by Step Antivirus Comparison


Whether you’re looking to protect just a few home devices, or an entire network of office computers, you need an antivirus product that gets the job done. But with so many products available, how do you know which is the most reliable, has the least system performance impact, and offers the most features for your money?

That’s why we run these comparison articles, to give you exactly the information you need to make an informed decision. In this article, we’ll be putting Norton up versus Avast. Norton has been around for quite a long time, and is one of a few antivirus products that are commonly pre-installed on branded desktops and laptops.

We’ll be giving you an overview of each company’s various subscription offerings, the features you receive at each tier, the results of independent lab testing for threat detection, and how both Norton and Avast compare in computer performance impact.

Norton vs Avast: Quick Comparison
Basic protection: Avast. You can’t beat “free”, and Avast Free Antivirus offers outstanding protection for zero cost.

Advanced protection: Norton. We’re going with Norton here, because they offer up to 5 devices protection for $59.99, while Avast only offers a single-machine license in this price range.

System performance: Tie. Both have a negligible impact on system performance.

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 Desk
  • Norton Utilities Premium
  • Norton Safe Search
  • Norton Small Business


You may find older articles on the internet referring to either Norton 360, or Norton Internet Security. As of writing, Norton 360 is Symantec’s main product offering. Norton Security was a product that replaced Norton 360 between 2014 – 2018, but Symantec brought back a totally revamped Norton 360 for 2019.

So to summarize, Symantec discontinued Norton 360, replaced it with Norton Security, then discontinued Norton Security, and replace it with an “upgraded” Norton 360. Some websites have yet to catch up with all the rebranding Symantec seems to do, so we’re clearing up any confusion.

Norton Antivirus Plus

Norton’s lowest tier product starts at $39.99 per year, and is surprisingly lacking in many basic features and tools you’d normally find in similarly priced antivirus software. While you do get 24/7 technical support, 2GB of cloud storage backup, and a two-way firewall, this feels pretty slim compared to what Avast offers in even their free antivirus.

Norton Antivirus Plus

If you don’t mind the lack of extra features, Norton AntiVirus Plus does offer reliable threat protection, as well as built-in detection for phishing websites, and a password manager. Still though, at $39.99 per month, we cannot fathom recommending this entry-level product over Avast’s free basic protection, which offers similar features and even better threat detection.

Norton 360 Standard

For $49.99 per year, Norton 360 Standard will let you protect one PC, Mac, or smartphone device.

The features are just a small upgrade from the previous plan, as you’ll receive 10GB of cloud storage, a secure VPN, SafeCam technology to prevent webcam spying, and “Dark Web monitoring”, which basically means Norton will notify you if your personal information is discovered on “dark websites and forums”.

Again, we have to point out how ungenerous the offering is, compared to other products. Avast Antivirus Pro starts at $40 per month for one machine, and for $55, which is only $5 more than Norton 360 Standard, you can protect up to three devices.

On the bright side, Symantec offers a “Virus Protection Promise”, which means guaranteed virus removal assistance from a Symantec technician, or a 60-day money back guarantee.

Norton 360 Deluxe

At this tier for $59.99, Norton 360 Deluxe allows you to protect up to 5 devices. On paper, this sounds more generous than Avast’s Antivirus Pro offering, which is 5 devices for $85 per month – so this may be the only Norton product that offers more “bang for your buck” than Avast, at least as far as the amount of devices you can register under a single subscription plan.

As far as features goes, it is again an upgrade over what you already receive in previous plans, along with some additional tools. You’ll get 50GB of cloud storage, parental controls for website surfing, and some tools for PC cleanup and optimization, such as File Cleanup and Disk Optimizer utilities.

For managing all of the devices under your subscription plan, you can access a nice and convenient web portal, which does offer an intuitive UI.

Additional Norton Products and Services

While browsing Norton’s website, you may notice a lot of single-use tools and services being offered. The single-use tools are things such as Norton Secure VPN, at $5.99 per month. There are also some questionable services, such as “Norton Computer TuneUp”, which costs $49.99 for a single service. Basically, a Norton agent will access your computer and perform a “tuneup”, which likely means performing a few “optimizations” that you could very easily do yourself.


Avast has been around for a long time in the computer security industry. Founded in 1988, one of the co-founders wrote the first antivirus programs to remove the Vienna virus from DOS systems in the 80s, and Avast Antivirus was also the first antivirus software for Windows 95 OS. This does not mean Avast was the first antivirus for computers, rather only that its creators have a strong reputation in computer security history.

Avast Free 2019

That’s all fine and well, but what does Avast bring to the table in 2019? The tech security industry has certainly changed immensely in the past 30 years, and thousands of new threats are released every day. Let’s take a look at Avast’s various offerings and features to start.

Avast Products List

Avast currently offers a different lineup of products for Windows, Mac, and Android operating systems.

  • Avast Free Antivirus (Windows)
  • Avast Pro Antivirus (Windows)
  • Avast Internet Security (Windows)
  • Avast Premier (Windows)
  • Avast Ultimate (Windows)
  • Avast Security (Mac)
  • Avast Security Pro (Mac)
  • Avast Antivirus – Mobile Security & Virus Cleaner (Android)
  • Avast Passwords (Android)
  • VPN SecureLine by Avast – Security & Privacy Proxy (Android)

Avast Windows Products

Avast Basic Protection

Avast’s basic, free product gets a lot of things right. It’s an incredibly generous offering from Avast, as there’s not many AV companies that offer completely free products with as many features as Avast’s.

To start, not only is Avast’s threat detection some of the best around, but in Avast Basic Protection, you’ll find useful tools such as a WiFi Inspector, encrypted password manager, a rescue disk utility, and others. The WiFi Inspector is very useful, as it scans your local network for security vulnerabilities and intrusion points.

Furthermore, the software has quite a low impact on system resources, and features a passive ‘Gaming Mode’, which you can set to consume even less system resources while doing intensive gaming.

Avast Antivirus Pro

At this tier, you can protect up to 3 devices for $55 per month, which as mentioned earlier is a better offer than Norton’s single-machine license at $49.99. If you purchase Avast Antivirus Pro licenses in bulk, it works out to $14 per license (in packs of 10).

The features include an isolated sandbox environment, which launches apps in a strict sandbox desktop environment. Apps are unable to create any permanent modifications to your system files while being hosted within this sandbox.

Additionally you get “Real Site” security, which prevents DNS attacks, browser hijacking, and redirects to phishing websites.

Avast Internet Security

For $59.99 per year you get a single machine license for this product. It offers all the benefits and features of Avast Antivirus Pro, with some extra features that include an advanced firewall, anti-spam filter for desktop email clients, and additional ransomware protection.

Avast Premier + Avast Ultimate

Avast Premier starts at $69.99 per year for a single license. It comes with a data shredder and anti-webcam spying technology.

At the top of the tier list is Avast Ultimate, which costs $119.99 per year. Is it worth it for a single machine license? That’s hard to say, unless you’re really enticed by the features being offered. In Avast Ultimate, you get an advanced Ransomware Shield, an Automatic Software Updater for keeping all apps on your computer up to date, a Data Shredder for completely deleting files from your computer, an encrypted password vault, and numerous other tools such as browser junk cleanup and optimization.

Avast Mac Products

Avast only offers two plans for macOS users: Avast Security and Security Pro.

Avast Security is a freeware which provides a basic level of malware protection, a WiFi scanner for finding vulnerabilities in your network, and web / email shields. Upgrading to Avast Security Pro gives you ransomware protection, and a WiFi intruder alert.

There are of course various tools and utilities available for Mac that come as separate downloads for Mac users. These are Avast Passwords, Cleanup Pro, and SecureLine VPN. All of these tools have their own prices, but users can avail of free trials to get a feel for them.

Avast Android Products

It’s been said that Android antivirus products are largely a waste of space, as Android isn’t really susceptible to the traditional virus types that plague computers. However, there’s still some useful security features found in the Avast products for Android.

Avast Mobile Security 2019

Most antivirus companies are aware of this, and so for Android-based antivirus products, the focus isn’t necessarily on actual virus protection, but on the additional security tools found in the apps. With Avast’s mobile security app, you get an app locker, call blocker, a private photo vault, a VPN, a firewall for rooted devices, a junk cleaner, web shield, Wi-Fi security, and others.

You’ll also get a handful of anti-theft features, such as audio and photo capture of the phone thief, a GPS-based last known location of your device, automatically registering your device as lost after the SIM is changed, and others.

The free version of the app includes video advertisements, but users can upgrade to Pro to remove ads. Aside from that, all of the features are unlocked and included in the free version, so if you don’t mind ads, the free version is perfectly fine to use on your Android device.

For Avast’s other Android products, they are basically just individual app versions of the features found in the mobile security app.

Norton vs Avast: Threat Detection

Avast and Norton both utilize signature-match detection, and heuristic monitoring (as do many other antivirus software on the market). Basically, signature-match detection means that the antivirus software will compare files to a massive database of known malware, and block a file from being executed if its found on the list.

Heuristic monitoring on the other hand, is for detecting threats that may not be on the database, but the file executes malware-type behavior when executed. This is how new viruses are caught and added to the database of known malware. Any file that is deemed “suspicious” gets sent to the cloud server, and is further investigated by Avast’s team. If its discovered to be dangerous, it is added to the database, which helps keep everyone else around the world safe.

To determine which antivirus software is better at detecting threats, we turn to independent lab results. There are two separate labs we compare results from. They are AV-Test, and AV-Comparatives. Both are reputable research companies that perform various tests on most antivirus products out there, and grade them.

We will start with AV-Test. AV-Test uses a controlled environment method of testing, by exposing the antivirus software to tons of malware samples, both known (in the database) and unknown.


AV-Test Avast results April 2019


AV-Test Norton 2019

Avast was given a 5.5/6 rating, while Norton achieved a perfect score, blocking 100% of the attacks in both rounds of testing. 

In another set of tests, Avast blocked 99% of unknown malware, and 100% at a later date. Norton on the other hand received a perfect score of blocking 100% of malware samples, once again.

Norton would appear to have a slightly higher protection against threats in this case.

So to figure out if there is possibly a tie-breaker, we turn to AV-Comparative. Their testing method is relatively the same, but they also perform a “real world” test. They leave the antivirus products on their default settings, and surf the internet to see how well the antivirus protects a user while online, in a more ‘realistic’ type of scenario as compared to a controlled testing environment.

Both Avast and Norton (Symantec) were awarded the “ADVANCED” category, with Norton/Symantec being one of the vendors given a lower award due to a higher amount of false alarms. Avast blocked 99.2% of threats, with 5 false positives, while Norton blocked 99.6% of threats, with 21 false positives.

It is important to note how many false positives an antivirus product gives, because you really don’t want an antivirus product to be labeling a lot of things as a threat, when there is no threat to be found.

So based on this, it’s clear that while Norton and Avast are tied as far as protection rating, Avast is far less likely to give false positives, which is very important.

Norton vs Avast: Impact on System Resources

It used to be that antivirus was very resource intensive, and you should leave your computer alone while doing any type of scanning activity. However, modern antivirus should have barely any footprint at all – you shouldn’t even know its there, it should just quietly do its job without slowing down your computer.

So once again we turn to AV-Test and AV-Comparative results to figure out which product has less of an impact on your computer’s performance.

For AV-Test, they figure out, in terms of percentage, how the antivirus product impacts normal routine tasks, such as launching apps, surfing the web, copying large files, etc.


AV-Test Avast performance


AV-Test Norton performance

Both received a perfect 6/6 score rating, with just a few minor differences. Norton has a slightly higher impact on installation of applications, but a lower impact on copying files, compared to Avast.

For results from AV-Comparatives, they use an “impact score” instead of a percentage. A lower impact score is better.

Avast received a score of 6.2, while Norton received a 6.4. Both were given the “ADVANCED+” rating for performance impact.

To be completely fair, we are really talking about a few hundred milliseconds to a few seconds of “delay” time with these test results. Neither product will have any significant impact on your system performance. But for the sake of declaring a winner, Avast edges out Norton by a very tiny percentile.

Final Thoughts

It’s really tough to pick between these two, and it will ultimately boil down to the features you want, and what you’re willing to spend. If you just need free antivirus with a few features, Avast is going to be your best choice. If you need to protect up to 5 household computers on a budget, you also can’t go wrong with Norton’s highest tier offering.

We will say that for outstanding protection that is completely free, go with Avast’s free product. But if you need to protect a network of devices, and have a range of useful tools at your disposal, consider Norton 360.

Read next: You might also be interested in our Windows Defender vs Avast comparison.

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