Norton Security Deluxe Review

Norton Security Deluxe combines excellent malware protection with one of the most compact and useful interfaces in the business. It has neither the fastest malware scanner, nor the one with the least impact on system performance, but it works unobtrusively in the background when no scan is running.

On the downside, Norton Security Deluxe had a significant performance impact on our test PC during full scans, mistakenly flagged several pieces of harmless software as threats on Windows 7, and has relatively few features for its price. Notably, it lacks parental controls, which most mid-range antivirus products include by default.

Cost and What's Covered

The $80 Norton Security Deluxe license includes protection software for up to five Windows PCs, Macs or iOS and Android mobile devices. Most $80 mid-range packages cover only three devices, so this is a bonus. (Some online retailers offer a three-device version for about $70.)

But the versions of Norton Security vary widely by platform. The Mac version has built-in file encryption, yet lacks a password manager, while the reverse is true in Windows. The Windows version doesn't support Microsoft's new Edge browser. The iOS app doesn’t scan for malware and has far fewer features than its Android counterpart. (This review covers the Windows version.)

MORE: Best Midrange PC Antivirus Software Tested

Those with more than five systems to protect should consider Norton Security Premium, which covers up to 10 devices for $90 and adds parental controls, backup software and 25GB of cloud storage. If you've got only one PC or Mac, check out the $60 Norton Security Standard, which is otherwise identical to the Deluxe edition.

Norton offers a money-back guarantee if it can't remove every piece of malware, but the catch is that you've got to let trained Norton professionals take a look at your machine first.

Antivirus Protection

Norton Security Deluxe's malware protection for Windows includes the basic malware-signature matching, plus behavioral analysis of unknown code that Norton calls SONAR, for Symantec Online Network Response. (Symantec is Norton's parent company.)

The company's Community Watch program continually gathers threat data from systems running Norton or Symantec software and distributes daily, and often hourly, updates to subscribers. You can choose to participate in Community Watch upon installation.

Norton Security Deluxe enables advanced malware defenses that may not exist in older versions of Windows, such as Structural Exception Handler Overwrite Prevention (SEHOP) and address space layout randomization (ASLR), and also prevents the disabling of the Java Security Manager.

You can choose among Quick, Full and Custom scans, the latter of which examines a single suspect folder or file that you designate.

There's also a Power Eraser for finding deeply hidden malware; a scanner for your Facebook Wall; Norton Insight, which looks at a file's reputation; and Diagnostic Report, which surveys a system for vulnerabilities.

You can schedule a scan for anytime, day or night, but the setup screens are buried in the Custom Scan section. Travelers can opt to have scans run only when a notebook is plugged in.

Norton Security flags suspicious email attachments, phishing attempts and malicious websites.

It also has browser toolbars that help protect Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox, and can stop the transfer of a key number or character sequence based on a registered fragment. However, Norton lacks Bitdefender's ability to proactively protect key folders from an attack by encrypting ransomware, or Trend Micro's ability to back up files threatened by ransomware.

In tests conducted by German independent lab AV-TEST earlier this year on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, Norton Security found and deflected every piece of malware it encountered, regardless of whether the malware was well-known or brand-new. Among the other brands we've recently reviewed, only Bitdefender and Trend Micro had a similarly spotless record.

Malware-detection chart, AV-TEST, May-June 2015, Windows 8.1

But Norton Security registered four false positives, a relatively high rate, in one of the two Windows 7 tests, and registered similar rates of false positives in earlier Windows 7 evaluations. It didn’t have the same problem on Windows 8 or 8.1.

Malware-detection chart, AV-TEST, July-August 2015, Windows 7

Security Features

Norton Security Deluxe's firewall automatically adjusts its settings, but can also be manually controlled. Most of the package's other defenses can't be. For instance, neither Auto-Protect (a real-time monitor), nor Intrusion Prevention (for network protection) are adjustable.

Norton's password manager is called Identity Safe, which is a free download from Symantec's site but is also fully integrated into all editions of Norton Security except the Mac versions. You'll need to create a "master" password, and there's a built-in password generator, but if the master password is lost or forgotten, Norton can't recover it. (That's not a drawback, as it also means hackers can't steal the master password.) Identity Safe stores an unlimited number of encrypted passwords in what Norton calls its Vault. The Premium subscription let you store up to 25GB of additional files in the Vault.

However, Norton Security Deluxe lacks many features that its competitors offer. We've already noted that there are no parental controls, a striking omission as every other mid-priced antivirus package has them. But there's also nothing unique akin to Kaspersky Internet Security's Webcam protection, or Bitdefender Internet Security's ability to pre-emptively immunize files against encrypting ransomware.

None of the Norton Security packages include a hardened browser for online banking and shopping, or an on-screen virtual keyboard to thwart keylogging software — two features that some competing brands include in low-priced packages. Norton reserves its file shredder for the separate $50 Norton Utilities package.

Performance Optimization

Norton Security Deluxe does have a performance section with several utilities, such as a disk defragmenter, a feature to clean up Windows Temp files and a Startup Manager that suggests "delaying" certain programs to boot the system more quickly. There's a nice Graphs section, but it only shows processor statistics, not disk or network performance. It does show historical downloads, installations, optimizations and other key events.

If your system gets so burdened with malware and other unwanted programs that it grinds to a halt, Norton has two approaches, both of which are also available free online.

The Power Eraser scan can ferret out deeply embedded exploits as well as adware, but because it needs to check for rootkit malware, you'll need to restart the system. If Power Eraser doesn't work, you can use the company's downloadable Bootable Recovery Tool, akin to other companies' Rescue Disks, to independently boot the computer to clean the Windows system.

Performance and System Impact

As with all the other recently evaluated antivirus products, we tested Norton Security Deluxe on an ASUS X555LA notebook running Windows 8.1 with an Intel Core i3 processor, 6GB of RAM and 36GB of files on the 500GB hard drive.

With Norton Security Deluxe installed, but no active scans running, our OpenOffice benchmark test matched 20,000 names and addresses on a spreadsheet in 6 minutes and 50 seconds. That's just two seconds, or 0.4 percent, longer than the baseline without any antivirus software installed – a very light "passive" impact score, albeit one shared with ESET Smart Security, McAfee Internet Security and Trend Micro Internet Security.

Norton Security Deluxe took 39 minutes and 36 seconds to perform its first scan, during which it indexed our system. The full-scan time dropped to 16:29 by the third full scan, during which Norton went from scanning 371,306 files to looking at 281,363 items. That's about three minutes shorter than the full scans of McAfee or Kaspersky Internet Security, but more than an hour less than Bitdefender Internet Security's very slow (but light-impact) scanner.

System-impact chart; shorter is better

Norton Security took 7:26 to perform a Quick Scan and look at 6,671 files. That’s faster than McAfee's 8:18, but glacial next to Trend Micro's 44-second quick scan or Bitdefender's blink-and-you-missed-it 4-second quick scan.

The program's impact during full scans was significant. Our ASUS laptop took 10:55 to complete the OpenOffice test while Norton conducted a full scan, more than four minutes, or 60 percent, longer than the baseline. Only McAfee Internet Security took longer — 12:23, or 82 percent more than the baseline.

Norton's quick-scan system impact was much lighter, and let the OpenOffice benchmark finish in 7:21. That's a slowdown of only 8 percent from the baseline, on par with Bitdefender's 7:19, and not something you’d notice unless you were conducting a processor-intensive task. All the other programs we tested had substantially heavier system impacts during quick scans.

Setup and Installation

Rather than loading a small beachhead installer, Norton's servers send down the full 138MB program, which speeds the setup process.

You'll need to create a Norton account, and also decide whether to participate in Norton's Community Watch, which automatically reports malware encounters to the company. It took us, using a home broadband connection, 12.5 minutes to go from a vulnerable machine to a protected one.

Happily, Norton no longer tries to get you to agree to auto-renew the subscription when it expires. The software does show how many days remain on your subscription, with a link to renew it, at the bottom of most screens.


Norton Security's open and inviting interface has yellow highlights, in keeping with Norton's branding, but the main page will have green highlights if you're well protected, red if you're not. You can't run the main window full-screen, but Norton Security's scanning screens can run full-size.

Across the bottom of the main window are large boxes for Security, Identity, Performance and More Norton, each marked "Protected" or "At Risk."  Security is the default category and shows when your last scan took place and when the software was last updated. There are smaller icons for Run Scans, LiveUpdate, History and Advanced. The latter lets you select specific defenses to be used.

The Identity section links to the program's Safe Web, Antiphishing and Identity Safe features, as well as an opportunity to install Norton's Internet Explorer Toolbar. This screen also contains Identity Safe, ID Settings, Statistics and a Password Generator, which lets Norton Security create secure passwords, but isn't integrated into the Password manager.

Performance shows you when the last optimization and cleanup were done, and has options for defragmenting the hard drive, cleaning up the files and getting the system to start up quicker. Have a question about Norton's features and techniques? Hover your mouse's pointer over an item and a definition pops up.

Bottom Line

For a relatively bargain price. Norton Security Deluxe delivers some of the most advanced techniques for identifying and eliminating today's (and hopefully tomorrow's) worst online attacks. It neutralized all threats thrown at it, even if it was fooled by a few false positives and noticeably slowed our test system during scans.

However, the package does without several creature comforts found in other mid-priced antivirus products, such as a file shredder, a secure browser or parental controls. Paying an extra $10 for the Norton Security Premium package gains you only the last feature, plus backup software and online storage, two features that aren't directly related to computer protection.

Norton Security Deluxe is ideal for individuals or couples who want flawless, no-frills protection for up to five devices on several platforms. But customers who have small children or seek more features might want to look elsewhere.

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  • I have been receiving numerous emails from a company sending SPAM email. In the past I have used the Norton Antispam system that comes with Norton 360 to place it in the SPAM folder. On Monday February 16, 2015, I received another email from this same SPAM sender that ended up in the inbox, so I figured I would contact Norton for help at stopping this SPAM because their Antispam software doesn’t seem to be working.
    At approximately 5:00 pm I got on the Norton website service and began a chat with one of the technicians. I was assigned case number 20616027. I did not copy down the name of the tech that was helping me but it was a foreign spelled first and last name. I also informed the tech that ever since I upgraded from Norton Internet Security to Norton 360, my computer takes much longer to start up. The tech said he would help me fix both problems by remotely getting onto my computer. He first worked on the SPAM issue. He spent a long time doing this and it almost seemed he didn’t know what he was doing, or had to read up on it or something. After completing the issue he worked to speed up my computer. He said it was a Microsoft issue but he would fix it for me. He went in and deleted my Temp Files and then went into some Norton system folders and added “OLD” in front of them. I was thinking this was his way to fix some Norton Issues. He then had me reboot my computer. When it booted up it didn’t work any better. The tech told me it was the best he could do and to contact Microsoft, because it was a Microsoft issue. I disagreed because this problem only occurred when I upgraded to Norton 360.
    When I went onto Norton 360 it was not working and came up with error messages that said I needed to erase Norton 360 and reinstall it. The Tech had managed to screw up Norton 360 with all the things that he did. I was very upset. So I got back onto the Norton Website to chat with another tech which I gave my case number 20616027. He told me he had to get on my computer remotely and remove Norton 360 and reinstall it. It took a long time but he finally fixed my computer. In fact after the reinstallation my computer was working as fast and therefore like I expected, the issue was with Norton and not Microsoft.
    On Tuesday February 17, 2015 I received a call that came up “Unknown” on my cell phone. A guy asked for me by my first name. He said he was calling because he wanted to help fix the SPAM issue I was having. Right then I suspected something was not right because Norton Techs worked on it the day before and they are the only ones that knew about the email SPAM problem. This person even referred to the email address the SPAM was sent from. In addition I gave Norton my cell phone number for the first time, so it is interesting this person called my cell.
    I decided to play along. I said it would be great if they could help me. I asked what number he was calling me from. He said 844-999-9666. I asked what the name of his company was. He said “FIX BY TECH”. He even spelled out the name. I asked him what his name was and he said “Andrew Parker” which he also spelled out. He had a foreign accent so I figured that was not his real name. I then asked him how much this would cost. He said between $50 and $150 to fix. I said that would be good, what do I need to do? He asked if I could I go to my computer and turn it on so he could fix the problem? I said I could not do it right now, but I will do it and call him. He said if you call that number ask for Samantha who was the person in charge and she would get my computer fixed.
    I have a neighbor that had AVG Security on their computer but somehow contacted the “cryptolocker" virus a few weeks ago. I told them they should have purchased Norton Internet Security or Norton 360 to protect their computer. They purchased the program and installed it on their computer to try and fix the virus issue. It may have been too late for them to do, but regardless they contacted Norton for help. A technician worked on their computer but could not solve the problem. Interesting enough they received a call the next day from someone that said they could fix the computer. The Caller ID number was 631-353-4127. They said that Norton could not fix their problem but they could for $100 and wanted to know if they should proceed. When my neighbor got suspicious of the call and started asking questions, the person hung up.
    How are these people getting access to Norton Customers? I have lost all trust in Norton support. I believe there is criminal activity going on within this company. I contacted Norton and they are investigating but I wanted your readers to be aware of this issue. If you look on line you will see other people around the country are being contacted by these scam artists after talking to Norton Support.
  • The second caller was definitely a tech-support scam. These have become very common in the past year, and mainly come from India. I doubt that Norton or its parent company Symantec are directly involved, but it's possible that someone at a Norton outsourced service center in India is feeding lists of service calls to a scam-call center.
  • I agree. Norton may have hired this company for support but they should be on top of these companies and are still responsible. They should have at least offered everyone that reported the scam some protection since these people now have my cell phone, name, address, etc. On top of that these people still call a few times every month. Norton had done nothing even though they now agree it is their fault. My only resort is now to file a lawsuit.
  • AV-Test Certification Devalued

    I think this should be duly noted by readers of these articles. You're basing protection on testing done by a lab that has been known for lowered standards; and this has been known for a while. I wouldn't recommend anything based on AV-Test recommendations, for this reason alone.

    As I've said before, while I am biased AGAINST Kaspersky, they do know their stuff. If they say one thing, I don't take it lightly. My linked blog post should not be taken lightly.
  • Who says AV-TEST's standards have been lowered?
  • Click the link in my last post..
  • I did. You seem to like AV-Comparatives. That's fine, but that lab doesn't evaluate as many products, or evaluate products as frequently, as AV-TEST. We can't limit ourselves to only those products that AV-Comparatives looks at.
  • So you're saying that a post from a Kaspersky guy is proof of me being biased toward AVC? Do you know why I prefer AVC? Do you realise that could easily change? I go where the reports are comprehensive, and provide actual testing results. That's why I prefer AVC. I have no affiliation, and no bias towards them, outside of the fact that they release proper reports for their testing. They're the only lab that releases comprehensive test results, which is why I prefer them.

    Before AV-Test lowered their standards, I would have been behind them just as much. They have a much easier user interface, and cater to the lesser experienced home user. Why wouldn't I prefer that over the fairly complicated reports released by AVC?

    Also, AVC does provide private testing. If Tom's Hardware wanted AVC to do a comprehensive review for them, to help make a more informed review (for the users who read the article), then hire them. I've inquired abotu them testing products for me, and it doesn't cost too much. For the public test results, they release a small batch of testing publicly based on the person/company who sends them software, and requests the results to be released publicly. I even posted their email replies I received in another thread, which covers most of this. They're a very transparent testing lab, and are happy to disclose whatever they can without breaking their NDAs. They also have a rapid email response time, compared to most labs. Send them an email, and you'll see what I mean.

    I follow the numbers, not blanket statements... which is not currently in favour of AV-Test.
  • What post from a Kaspersky guy? And I didn't say you were biased towards AVC. But I am still curious about how AV-TEST lowered its standards. I am not doubting you -- I just need to see the evidence.
  • If you read that link, then you read the post from Eugene Kaspersky. I was half distracted, otherwise I would have said the name lol. This is what happens when you post on here while you're at work lol.

    And yes, that post came from a reputable source. He knows what he's talking about, so it's up to you to take it or leave it. All I'm saying is that blog post about AV-Test isn't something that should be taken lightly. If TH wants to ignore it, then that's not my call... but it definitely is ignoring something of importance. Finding evidence of what changed at AV-Test? That's something you would have to consult AV-Test about directly. I don't see why I have to provide the proof, when it's a single email away for you.