In a world with plenty of free antivirus solutions for Macs, their paid counterparts need to offer a lot to justify their price. And while Norton Security Deluxe offers flawless Mac malware detection, it's not the only product that does.
The software leaves a noticeable impact on system performance, its interface is needlessly complex and it charges much more than its competitors, even in its single-machine iteration. So while Norton Security Deluxe will keep your Mac safe, Kaspersky Internet Security is the best antivirus for Mac.
Costs and What's Covered
Norton Security Deluxe costs $39.99 for the first year and $89.99 for subsequent years, and it includes support for up to five devices, including Macs, PCs, smartphones and tablets.
Norton Security Standard (for Mac) offers the same malware-detection technology for $34.99 for the first year (and $69.99 in subsequent years), but for only one PC or Mac and without a web portal for device management. If this sounds like a lot, it is. Bitdefender and Kaspersky each offer one-device solutions that stay at $39.99 per year and never jack up the price.
Both versions of Norton Security support the current (macOS Sierra) and previous two (OS X El Capitan and Yosemite) versions of the Apple desktop operating system. When macOS High Sierra is released this fall, Norton will likely drop support for Yosemite.
Norton Security Deluxe not only performs scans of your computer and its connections in the background while your Mac is running but also allows for both on-demand and scheduled scans. The utility also scans unopened archive files, such as ZIPs.
Norton Security Deluxe uses traditional signature-based malware detection to protect Macs, and adds intrusion prevention that analyzes network traffic for attacks as well as browser protection to block known phishing sites. Its LiveUpdate feature automatically receives security updates to help make sure that your device is protected against the most current potential threats.
The independent German testing lab AV-TEST recently tested seven of the eight Mac antivirus suites we evaluated, and Norton turned in perfect marks. The other lab whose test results we regularly use, AV-Comparatives, did not include Norton in its most recent Mac evaluations.
AV-TEST found that Norton Security Deluxe (for Mac) detected 100 percent of malware thrown at the lab Macs in May 2017 tests. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac and Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac also earned 100-percent marks. On the bottom end, Sophos Home scored a lower 98.4 percent, which translates to missing three out of the 184 (1.6 percent) pieces of malware that all of the tested products were tasked with detecting.
Security and Privacy Features
While macOS features its own firewall to stop applications from connecting to risky websites, Norton Security Deluxe (for Mac) includes its own firewall, which stops certain kinds of data from getting in and out. Its services protect your system from risky networks and known dangerous IP addresses. An application-blocking setting that is redundant with Apple's own is disabled by default.
Norton's Safe Web browser extensions (available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari) enhance your search results with flags that tell you which sites are OK and which are questionable. It flags Twitter as questionable, which seems to be either a false positive or a sly comment.
Silent Mode keeps Norton's notifications off your screen, presumably so you can focus on work. It was enabled by default, which I appreciated.
Performance and System Impact
Norton Security Deluxe had a medium to high impact on our Mac's system performance. We assessed this by measuring the completion time of our custom OpenOffice benchmark test, which matches 20,000 names and addresses on a spreadsheet. Our test machine was a late 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina Display, with a 2.6-GHz Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 70GB of data stored on a 512GB solid-state drive.
After we installed Norton Security Deluxe on our MacBook Pro, the OpenOffice test finished in an average of 2 minutes and 24 seconds, which is 2.5 seconds longer than it took before Norton's installation. That's a passive system hit of 1.7 percent, which is in the middle of the range we found.
By contrast, Bitdefender rated 2.8 percent (a category high), and Kaspersky had zero impact on system performance (the lowest). To be honest, though, you'd be hard-pressed to notice a system slowdown in any of these circumstances.
During a full system scan, the OpenOffice test finished in 2 minutes and 37.5 seconds, signifying a performance dip of 11.2 percent — one of the largest system impacts we recorded among Mac antivirus products. That's below Avira Free Antivirus for Mac's 12.8 percent (the highest) and well above Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac's 4.5 percent (the lowest). However, it isn't a huge issue, since most antivirus products wait until computers are idle to run scans.
During Norton's quick scans, the OpenOffice test finished in an average of 2 minutes and 38 seconds, for an impact of 11.3 percent. That's the highest system impact for a quick scan we found — above Avira's 10 percent (the second highest) and Kaspersky's 6.2 percent (the lowest). But because this test finished in 3 seconds, it's not a big concern.
Norton's full scans completed in an average of 5 minutes and 4.2 seconds, which is the second-shortest time we found. By contrast, the longest time we recorded was 72:45 (Kaspersky), and the shortest was 1:24 (Bitdefender). The average for all eight products was 36:30.
Most of Norton Security Deluxe's features can be found in its Mac home screen, which features tabs for Security, Scans, LiveUpdate, Advanced and Add Devices. When you click inside a section, you'll find its functions (such as different kinds of scans and settings), but each has its own Preferences icon.
I'm of two minds about this design decision. While it confused me initially — I expect all of these settings to be found in the Preferences window that nearly every other Mac antivirus program has — it does make it easier to adjust the setting for the feature you're currently thinking about.
I really like that clicking the LiveUpdate button triggers an update, turns the icon from green to blue and puts a progress bar underneath it. If only the Scans tab, which has a Scan Now label in its button, did the same with a quick scan.
While each of the scan buttons has its own preferences, the Advanced button is where you'll find most of the application's settings. There, you can enable and disable automatic, idle and scheduled scans; tweak firewall settings; and install Safe Web extensions throughout the app.
My.Norton.com allows users to remotely check their system's status and re-enable system protection if it is disabled. Unfortunately, it is missing the option to remotely perform an on-demand scan, which Sophos Home, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac and Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac all offer.
Installation and Support
After you buy Norton Security Deluxe, you'll download an installer application that will soon prompt you to restart your computer. Once you've restarted, Norton quickly pushes its Safe Web browser extensions on you and presents a lot of buttons that it wants you to click.
Installing Norton's Security Extension is a good idea if you want some guidance, but you might not want to set its Safe Search as your default search engine or home page, as it will funnel your activity through Ask.com's results. I've found Ask.com to be worse than both Google and Bing (my preferred engine).
For technical support, click Help in the top-right corner, select Get Support and click Technical Support. Scroll to the bottom of the next page, and click the headset icon that says Contact Support. Here, you'll find links to live chat and local 24/7 technical support.
If you care only about the effectiveness of your antivirus software in detecting malware and 24/7 technical support, Norton Security Deluxe is a capable solution. But then you'd be ignoring its notable system impact and lack of significant special features. More importantly, you'd be spending more money than you need to after the first year.