Microsoft Defender vs. Norton 360 2024: A Microsoft Classic vs. Norton’s Powerhouse Antivirus

If you’re a Windows user, Microsoft Defender may be just the thing you need for extra security features. But Norton 360 comes with even more features, like parental controls, a VPN, and more. So which is best? We’ll help you decide.
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Best for Extra Windows Security

4.0
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Microsoft Defender's website

Microsoft Defender
  • Enhances the free Windows Security product
  • Includes parental controls and identity theft protection
  • Costs extra

Best Full Security Suite

5.0
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Norton 360 Antivirus's website

Antivirus Software
Norton 360 Antivirus
Save up to 58% your first year
  • 4 plans available, all including antivirus, malware, ransomware, and hacking protection, Cloud backup, and a secure password manager
  • Option to add VPN connection, dark web monitoring, privacy monitoring, and more
  • Available for up to 10 devices depending on plan
  • Multi-tab navigation may be overwhelming at first

Microsoft Defender adds additional protection for Windows users, like identity theft protection and device security alerts, which you won’t get with the free Windows Security program. On the other hand, Norton 360 also takes your security seriously. It offers budget-friendly options as well as a complete cybersecurity suite, which includes LifeLock identity theft protection and credit monitoring. And its anti-malware protection earned near-perfect scores from independent testing labs.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we’ll help you choose whether you want to go full throttle with Norton 360 or add more protection to Windows Security with Microsoft Defender.

Windows Security is often used in the same sentence as Microsoft Defender, but they’re not the same. Windows Security comes built into Windows 10 or 11. Microsoft Defender is an app that can work with Windows Security to check malicious links, protect your identity, and give you more web protection. And to add to the confusion, Microsoft Defender was formerly known as Windows Defender.

In this article
Norton vs. Microsoft Defender review at a glance
Norton vs. Microsoft Defender: prices
Norton vs. Microsoft Defender: features
Norton vs. Microsoft Defender: test results
Norton vs. Microsoft Defender: compatibility and customer service
Norton vs. Microsoft Defender FAQs
Norton vs. Microsoft Defender: which is better?

Norton vs. Microsoft Defender review at a glance

Both Microsoft Defender and Norton 360 are antivirus products. You can think of Microsoft Defender as icing on the cake. It gives you more internet protection than you have with Windows Security, the security software built into Windows 10 and 11.

Norton, on the other hand, has a full toolkit of security features and doesn’t need another app to provide strong threat protection for your devices.

Another difference between Norton 360 and Microsoft Defender is that with Norton, you pick a plan and buy the one with the features and price you want. This ranges from basic protection with the AntiVirus Plus plan to parental controls, a privacy monitor, and identity theft protection with Norton 360 with LifeLock Select. 

Microsoft Defender requires a Microsoft 365 subscription, which only comes in two varieties: a Personal plan or a Family plan. The biggest difference between these two plans is additional device coverage, more cloud storage, and the Family Safety app.

The best antivirus software for Windows doesn’t necessarily have to be a Microsoft product, and Norton is worth considering.

  • Norton: Best for a full security suite
  • Microsoft Defender: Best for additional Windows security

Norton vs. Microsoft Defender compared

Starting price Starts at $29.99/first yr Starts at $6.99/mo ($83.88/yr)
Free version No (But Windows Security is free with Windows 10 and 11)
Max number of protected devices 10 5 per person (up to 6 people)
24/7 customer support
Compatibility Windows, macOS, Android, iOS Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
Real-time protection
Phishing protection
Ransomware protection
Learn more Get Norton
Read Norton Review
Read Microsoft Defender Review

While there are some similarities between Microsoft Defender and Norton, you’ll also see some staunch differences. The starting price for Microsoft Defender is almost as much as the top-tier plan you get with Norton.

We want to emphasize that although you’re not paying anything for Microsoft Defender, you cannot use it without a Microsoft 365 subscription, which starts at $83.88/yr. Norton 360 with LifeLock Select only costs $99.99/first yr.

With device coverage, Microsoft Defender allows for up to five devices per person with a maximum of six people if you choose the Family plan. Norton protects up to 10 devices.

Microsoft Defender doesn’t come with 24/7 customer support. So if you get stuck with a problem, you can either access the help feature in the Microsoft Defender app, use the website chat, or use the Microsoft community to ask questions. Meanwhile, Norton gives you 24/7 support. Norton also has community and chat support features. If none of those options work for you, you can connect with support via social media on Facebook or Twitter.

Again, we want to note that Windows Security comes built into your Windows PC, but Microsoft Defender requires you to purchase a Microsoft 365 plan. The prices we’re comparing for this review include the Microsoft 365 subscription plans.

Norton vs. Microsoft Defender: prices

Our Pick
Price range $29.99–$99.48/first yr $83.88–$119.88/yr
($6.99–$9.99/mo)
Money-back guarantee Yes, 60 days
Learn more Get Norton
Read Norton Review
Read Microsoft Defender Review

Microsoft Defender doesn’t cost anything to download, but to use it you must first create a Microsoft account and pay for a subscription to Microsoft 365. The lowest price you’ll pay for the software is $83.88/yr or $6.99/mo, which seems somewhat steep when compared to Norton’s starting price of $29.99/first yr for the AntiVirus Plus plan.

If you want the best value for your money and don’t mind sharing a plan with others, then the Microsoft 365 Family plan is the best value. For $3.00 more per month, you get coverage for up to six people as opposed to one. You also get up to 6 TB of cloud storage rather than only 1 TB of storage.

Norton considers the Norton 360 Deluxe plan the best value, and we tend to agree. It’s a solid midway point with protection for five devices, parental controls, and a privacy monitor — all for $49.99/first yr. You also get 50 GB of cloud storage. That’s not as much storage as Microsoft 365 offers, but for most people, it’s more than is needed.

If the Deluxe plan’s cost doesn’t fit your budget, Norton’s AntiVirus Plus plan comes with real-time protection, a password manager, and a firewall. Along with all that, you get 2 GB of cloud backup. We think $29.99/first yr is a fair price for this level of security protection.

Winner: Norton. Although Microsoft offers a lot of value, the price is much more than Norton, and Norton also packs a punch with the features included.

Norton vs. Microsoft Defender: features

Feature
Our Pick
Manual and scheduled scans
Phishing protection
Ransomware protection
Firewall
Parental controls
Password manager
VPN
Device optimization tools
Learn more Get Norton
Read Norton Review
Read Microsoft Defender Review

When you glance at the table above, you’ll immediately notice a difference in features. Although Windows Defender is good for additional protection, it doesn’t come with all the security options you get with Norton. Of course, the plan you choose with Norton affects how much cloud storage you have and if features like dark web monitoring and the Privacy Monitor are included.

When you get Norton, no matter which plan you select, you get features like a firewall, cloud storage, and a password manager. Many antivirus products offer those separately, so it adds value when you can get everything in an entire antivirus suite. From what we can see, there’s nothing Microsoft Defender offers that you can’t get with a Norton antivirus plan.


One thing we liked is that Microsoft Defender lets you know if there are recommended actions you should take for more security. You’ll have a view of what settings are active and which ones need to be turned on for better protection — these are cross-device security alerts, meaning alerts are sent to all devices on your plan.

The Microsoft Defender dashboard redirects you to Windows Security for any antivirus-related features. Both dashboards were intuitive and easy to use.

Winner: Norton is the winner. With all the features you get, it’s easy to see why it clears the deck when comparing it to Microsoft Defender.

Norton vs. Microsoft Defender: test results

When you purchase an antivirus program, you want to know it does the job right. Many products boast about what they can do, but how do you know if it’s true? That’s why we rely on third-party testing sites to deliver the goods. For this review, we used AV-TEST.

Norton vs. Microsoft Defender malware protection scores

Feature
Our Pick
AV-TEST Windows score 17.0/18.0 18.0/18.0
Learn more Get Norton
Read Norton Review
Read Microsoft Defender Review
Microsoft Defender and Norton test results from Nov-Dec/2023.

Microsoft Defender held up well during testing, having protected and detected 100% of malware attacks in both November and December. The other result we noticed was that it caused frequently-used applications to install more slowly. On a standard PC and on a high-end PC, it scored  a 19% and 18% respectively while the industry average was 15%. However, it still managed to receive a perfect performance score. We were also pleased to find that it didn't have any false positives. 

On the other hand, Norton seemed to slow down installation of frequently-used applications more than Microsoft Defender, with scores at 22% for standard PCs and 20% for high-end PCs. Norton also slowed down the launch of standard software applications, so it lost some points in the performance area. It also had seven false psoitives while using and installing legitimate software, which was much higher than the industry average of one. At least Norton nailed 100% protection in both November and December.

Winner: Microsoft Defender wins. Many antivirus products cause some system performance issues, and Norton’s and Microsoft Defender’s slowdowns weren’t too far above the industry standard, so we don’t hold that against them.

Norton vs. Microsoft Defender: compatibility and customer service

Feature
Our Pick
Windows
macOS
Android
iOS
Browser extensions Chrome, Edge, Firefox Chrome, Edge, Firefox
24/7 live chat
Customer support options Phone, live chat, knowledge base, support forums, social media Live chat, email, knowledge base, support forums
Learn more Get Norton
Read Norton Review
Read Microsoft Defender Review

Microsoft Defender, previously Windows Defender, is easy to use, and we had no learning curves with the program’s interface. One reason for that could be that there aren’t many features that come with the software. You won’t have a VPN or password manager, to name a couple of options you might miss.

One thing we noted while testing Microsoft Defender is that it directs you to the Windows Security settings for anything related to your antivirus protection. Thankfully, both apps mimic all the other dashboards in your Windows settings, and a majority of the security features are already toggled on.

Microsoft Defender includes Device security tools like Core isolation, Security processor, and Secure boot.

Norton’s user interface works seamlessly, and we had no lags in speed while testing the product. We even gave it a go with multiple browser tabs open. Everything worked without any issues. The full scan took only a few minutes to check over 600,000 files.

With Norton, we noticed that as soon as the scan gets finished, the number of files disappears. If you want to know how many files Norton checked, you need to look fast.

As we often find when reviewing antivirus software, some features don’t work with macOS. For instance, you won’t get the advantage of the Power Eraser tool or parental controls. 

We tried Norton's junk file cleaner, which took a few minutes to identify files we could safely remove to improve our device's performance.
Norton antivirus junk scan

But you still get plenty of options if you're a Mac user. The dashboard monitors different categories of personal data Norton checks for on the dark web. The VPN is easy to use and allows you to watch your favorite streaming service.

Norton VPN unblocked Australian Netflix for us.

Although we didn’t need to contact Norton customer support, we were pleasantly surprised with all the options available for assistance. The only customer service feature not listed is email support. Otherwise, you have plenty of ways to get help when you need it. Going above and beyond, Norton also has a support team you can message on Facebook or Twitter. The live 24/7 customer support means you can get assistance anytime, day or night.

Microsoft Defender comes with some options if you need support. There’s a community where you can chat with other users, or you can also log in to your 365 account and fill out a support ticket. Microsoft also has articles in case you have common issues, like problems downloading the app.

Winner: Norton wins. It is probably no surprise that Norton is our pick here with all the ways to contact customer support. As far as compatibility, it’s not that Microsoft Defender isn’t easy to use, but Norton has many features that are also simple to navigate.

Norton vs. Microsoft Defender FAQs


+

Do I need Norton or is Windows Defender good enough?

Windows Defender, now Microsoft Defender, mentions that it’s compatible with other antivirus programs. If you use Defender, you may want to install Norton or another antivirus software for additional protection.


+

Can I use Windows Defender and Norton antivirus together?

You can use both, but be aware that you could experience performance issues running multiple antivirus programs.


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Is Norton security better than Windows 10 Defender?

When it comes to features included with a product, Norton is better than Windows Defender (now called Microsoft Defender) because you get more well-rounded protection. Norton comes with a VPN, password manager, and webcam protection to name just a few features you won’t find with Microsoft Defender.


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Does Windows Defender have a firewall feature like Norton antivirus?

Yes, Windows Defender has a firewall feature like Norton that you can use for better security protection.


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Does Norton antivirus protect against ransomware?

Norton antivirus protects against ransomware, malware, and spyware.

Norton vs. Microsoft Defender: which is better?

Norton is the pinnacle of protection and security features. Granted, some features may not work for Mac users, but that’s nothing new in the antivirus world today. Still, when pitting these two antiviruses head-to-head, we have to go with Norton. There are so many options to use, and you get solid security protection for a reasonable price.

Microsoft Defender antivirus is a good addition if you have Microsoft 365 and want more protection on your Windows machine than Windows Security can offer. But it isn’t exactly what one would call a security suite since it’s missing certain security features you can find with Norton.

If you’re a Windows user and want to add Microsoft 365, Defender is a good option to fill in any security gaps. Otherwise, we think Norton antivirus is the better software when you want a host of features like a smart firewall, secure VPN, a password manager, and more.

Microsoft Defender vs. Norton alternatives

Suppose you don’t like Microsoft Defender or Norton antivirus. We have some alternatives you may be interested in that still provide a great level of security.

  • McAfee: McAfee has been a trusted antivirus for a long time, offering excellent protection with extra features like optimization tools and parental controls.

    Get McAfee | Read Our McAfee Review
  • Bitdefender: You’ll get reliable security tools with Bitdefender along with extras like a VPN and a password manager. Bitdefender also offers a free plan if you’d like to try it before you commit.

    Get Bitdefender | Read Our Bitdefender Review
  • Avast: This antivirus has excellent security test scores protecting against ransomware, phishing, and more. Its free plan is one of the most comprehensive we’ve seen, and it offers excellent protection even for Macs.

    Get Avast | Read Our Avast Review
Enjoy Norton’s 100% Virus Protection Promise
5.0
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Norton 360 Antivirus's website
Antivirus Software
Norton 360 Antivirus
Save up to 58% your first year
  • 4 plans available, all including antivirus, malware, ransomware, and hacking protection, Cloud backup, and a secure password manager
  • Option to add VPN connection, dark web monitoring, privacy monitoring, and more
  • Available for up to 10 devices depending on plan
  • Multi-tab navigation may be overwhelming at first
Author Details
Patti Croft is a seasoned writer who specializes in all things technology. She holds a B.S. in Computer Science and carries a wealth of hands-on experience thanks to her background as a technical analyst and security specialist.