Let’s put each software up against one another and see which comes out on top in terms of performance, additional features, and overall cost.
For this comparison, I will use both my own in-house malware detection tests and find out which one offers my PC the best possible protection. I will also take a quick look at some independent research from the top antivirus labs running independent tests and consider other important aspects, including performance and the impact of scans on the speed of the PC.
If you don’t have enough time to read the full comparison, here is the quick version: Norton is my choice in this comparison, because of superior malware detection rates and good value for money.
Norton vs Kaspersky: A quick comparison
|No value||Norton 360 Deluxe||Kaspersky Antivirus|
|Web protection/anti phishing|
|PC Cloud Backup|
|Identity Theft Protection|
Norton is well known and a global leader in the antivirus program world and has been around for 28 years. Formerly Symantec, Norton acquired LifeLock identity protection in 2017, which led to its name change of NortonLifeLock.
In December 2020, it announced the acquisition of Avira antivirus, and in August 2021, it announced that it would acquire Avast, which itself acquired AVG a few years prior. This means Norton could soon implement the best bits from all three companies. Avast has already finished syncing the Avast and AVG cloud and behavioral monitoring technology. Norton helps secure the devices and online privacy of nearly 50 million consumers.
Kaspersky was founded in Russia in 1997 and currently operates in 200 countries. They protect over 400 million users and help 250,000 corporate clients with cybersecurity. The company’s portfolio is impressive and includes leading endpoint protection and services to fight the most sophisticated and evolving digital threats. However, Kaspersky is controversial, as some privacy enthusiasts are wary due to its Russian jurisdiction.
Pricing and Compatibility
Kaspersky offers a free security cloud program. As expected, it offers very basic features and only gives you core protection against common viruses and suspicious websites. The next tier offers you, again, basic software, but with the added feature of not slowing your computer down while protecting it. Next, Kaspersky Internet Security features webcam protection and an encrypted browser for when you bank online. Kaspersky Total Protection features all of the above, but with parental controls, a password manager, and file backup. Finally, the new Security Cloud program includes antivirus, anti-ransomware, mobile security, VPN, parental controls, and privacy tools.
Norton offers no free antivirus plan and prices start at $79.99 (GBP £59.37) per year. This basic plan includes anti-spyware, malware and ransomware protection with a password manager, 10GB Cloud Backup, secure VPN and safecam. The next tier up with Norton Deluxe provides everything the standard one has, but with an added 50GB of cloud backup, protection for up to five devices, and parental controls. You can also add on LifeLock, an identity theft protection service.
|No value||Norton Antivirus Plus||Norton 360 Standard||Norton 360 Deluxe||Norton 360 with LifeLock Select|
|First year price||$19.99||$39.99||$49.99||$99.48|
|No value||Kaspersky Security Cloud||Kaspersky Antivirus||Kaspersky Internet Security||Kaspersky Total Security||Kaspersky Security Cloud Personal|
|First year price||Free||$11.99||$17.99||$26.99||$26.99|
Both Norton and Kaspersky discount your first year of subscription. Norton 360 Deluxe software is $50 (GBP £37.11) off for the first year, cutting the price to $49.99, at the time of writing. Similarly, Kaspersky offers a hefty discount off its Total Security software, coming in at $26.99.
Norton and Kaspersky both offer a money-back guarantee. Norton offers a 60-day money-back guarantee, whereas Kaspersky offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. It’s also important to note that both work with all the major operating systems, including Windows, macOS, iOS and Android devices.
In terms of price, Norton and Kaspersky are about even. Later in this comparison, I’ll delve into what they both have to offer consumers.
Effectiveness against malware
Protecting your PC against malware is a key factor in deciding which antivirus program is best. To see how each product performed, I conducted a number of tests.
The first test I performed checked for malware threats in real-time, instead of waiting for a scheduled scan. For the second test, I downloaded sample malware files from The European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research (EICAR). I turned off real-time detection and ran a full system scan and a quick scan to see how well the malware was detected and quarantined. The results are in the table below:
|No value||Norton 360 Deluxe||Kaspersky Total Security|
|Eicar Sample 1||Blocked||Blocked|
|Eicar Sample 2||Blocked||Blocked|
|Eicar Sample 3||Blocked||Blocked|
|Eicar Sample 4||Blocked||Blocked|
|Live Sample 1 (Adware)||Blocked||Blocked|
|Live Sample 2 (Trojan)||Blocked||Blocked|
|Live Sample 3 (Trojan)||Blocked||Blocked|
Kaspersky successfully identified all EICAR samples, and all were blocked. In comparison, Norton only blocked one EICAR sample and allowed the rest.
For the live samples, Kaspersky immediately deleted them after being unlocked and zipped. Norton blocked all live samples.
To further the comparison, I looked at the latest available real-time malware protection test results from AV-Test in October 2021. In this test, both Norton and Kaspersky scored 100 percent against zero-day malware, which is malware that has never been seen before, and also widespread malware.
I also looked at AV-Comparatives latest Real-Time Protection Test. In October 2021, Norton achieved a 100 percent protection rate, with Kaspersky very slightly behind at 99.9 percent, which are both some of the top scores and put them right at the top of the list.
AV Comparatives also runs a false alarm test, which checks how accurately a file or app is identified as safe or as a threat. The test results from October 2021 show Norton picking up thirty-seven false alarms, which can be both irritating for the user and might prevent systems from operating as normal. Kaspersky did not pick up any false alarms with a score of zero, and AV Comparatives shows an average of seven. Norton was at the bottom of the false alarm test with the most.
In terms of protection against malware, there is not much difference in both programs, though Norton scored a little higher in the October test. However, Kaspersky was significantly better with false positives, with Norton at the bottom of the pile.
Impact on PC Performance
Antivirus programs can have a big impact on your PC performance, so it is important to consider your choice of software. To find out what effects both programs had on my PC performance, I captured some data while running a full scan and a quick scan.
The table below shows the results:
|No value||Norton 360 Deluxe||Kaspersky Total Security|
|Full Scan Time (minutes)||121||227|
|Full Scan # Items Scanned||1,420,276||2100000|
|Full Scan CPU Utilization %||84||100|
|Full Scan Memory Utilization %||75||76|
|Full Scan Disk Utilization (seconds)||381||316|
|Control CPU Utilization % (no scan)||14||46|
|Control Memory Utilization % (no scan)||72||70|
|Control Disk Utilization (seconds) (no scan)||13||12|
|Quick Scan Time (seconds)||171||273|
|Quick Scan CPU Utilization %||37||71|
|Quick Scan Memory Utilization %||76||73|
|Quick Scan Disk Utilization %||41||531|
Kaspersky took 227 minutes to complete a full scan, compared to Norton’s quick 121 minutes. However, Kaspersky scanned many more items compared to Norton. In terms of the quick scan, Norton was again quicker at 171 seconds and Kaspersky at 273 seconds.
I also recorded some data to see how my PC’s resources were affected by both antivirus programs while scans ran in the background.
Kaspersky had slightly more impact on CPU utilization when there was no scan taking place (46 percent), compared to Norton which was just 14 percent. The other tests all produced similar results for both programs. I then wanted to look at results from other independent tests to see if they had similar results. The tests run by independent labs show how each antivirus impacts PC performance during eight common tasks:
- Downloading files
- Browsing Websites
- File Copying: first and subsequent run
- Installing/uninstalling applications
- Launching applications: first and subsequent run
Each task is given a rating ranging between very fast and slow. In the AV-Comparatives Performance Test from October 2021, both Norton and Kaspersky achieved the very fast rating in all but one scenario. Kaspersky was rated fast in the first run of an application, whereas Norton was rated fast in the installing of an application. This is a tie.
When it comes to performance, Norton had a lighter impact on my PC. While Kaspersky is not a sluggish program and scored well in the independent performance tests, I give this round to Norton.
It’s not just about price and performance when deciding which antivirus software to buy. It’s also about the extra features that come in addition to the antivirus scanner itself. I’ve looked at what is included in each program to see what they both offer:
- Cloud Backup 50GB
- Real-time Threat Protection
- Identity Protection
- Password Manager
- Secure VPN
- Dark Web Monitoring
- PC SafeCam
- Parental Control
- Defends against viruses, ransomware & more
- Protects without slowing you down
- Easy to set up and use
- PC Mac and Mobile
- Blocks phishing
- Encrypted browser
- Safe Kids
- Password Manager
- File Protection
To help you further, I’ve picked out a few of the best additional features from each provider below and added a brief explanation of what they can do to enhance your online security.
Parental Control – If children use your devices, Norton’s parental control can manage your kids’ activities online.
Secure VPN – The secure VPN allows you to browse anonymously and securely. You can add bank-grade encryption to help keep your information, such as bank details, safe.
PC Safe Cam – Most PCs come with a built-in webcam, so it’s important to feel protected. Norton provides a Safe Cam, meaning you will get notified if cybercriminals try to use it.
ID Protection – Norton protects your personal information by looking for potential signs that your personal data might have been compromised. Criminals use this data to obtain credit, get medical care, file for a tax refunds etc. LifeLock and Norton 360 with LifeLock plans.
Safe Kids Parental Controls – Includes ‘bad content’ blocker, GPS tracker, and more on PC, Mac and mobile.
Safe banking – Kaspersky launches an encrypted browser to protect online transactions on PC and Mac.
Privacy – Stops webcam hijacks and hides browsing activity on PC and Mac. Overall, both security suites have some nice bonus features, but the VPN is only available with Norton. From my experience, a VPN offers a great deal of value to the average user in protecting their identity and safety online.
Sign Up and Installation
The sign-up and installation for both programs is simple. Norton clearly lays out their discount and renewal price for the following year. There is also an added option for Norton Computer Tune Up, which means you will have access to Norton-certified technicians who help make your PC or Mac run like new again.
Similarly to Norton, Kaspersky makes it very easy to sign up. On clicking Buy Now, you are greeted with a pop-up window to upgrade to more devices. The next page is laid out simply, with an option to add on Kaspersky Expert Installation. The auto-renewal is automatically set to on, so if you do not wish to renew the following year, I suggest turning this off.
How easy is the interface to use?
Whether you’re super technical or a novice when it comes to technology, the useability of any software is worth considering. Kaspersky’s home screen displays a green check to let you know everything is running accordingly. Common tools such as scan, database update, safe money, privacy protection, password manager, backup and restore, and parental control are laid out in tiles. This makes it really easy to navigate to the right section. The design is fairly simple, with a light grey and green. Although not too appealing, it does the job.
Norton has its signature yellow color scheme. The dashboard ensures easy functionality and clearly shows if you are protected. From the dashboard, you can access security, identity, performance, and more. Norton 360 Deluxe also includes a web portal where you can manage the protection for your five devices from a web browser.
Norton offers 24/7/365 support on all of its product tiers. An online community forum, FAQ, live chat support, and support through Facebook and Twitter are all available. Kaspersky technicians are available to call between the hours of 7am and 1am, seven days a week. You can also get customer support by email or online chat. Extensive videos, FAQs, and other useful information are found on its website.
Can I use free antivirus software or should I buy the premium version?
Although a free antivirus is an extremely useful tool that all consumers should use at a minimum, there is nothing quite like a full, premium, paid antivirus.
Free antivirus software can scan your computer on the fly, or at scheduled intervals. During these scans, the antivirus checks your hard disk for signs of infection and removes any malicious software that is detected to keep your machine and its data safe.
A paid antivirus increases your protection levels by also introducing real-time scans. Active protection constantly checks all the data packets arriving from the internet for signs of malware. This proactive approach to malware prevention ensures that you don’t get infected in the first place, which decreases the potential for you to suffer data loss or theft.
A paid antivirus usually also provides additional security features as part of a security suite. This includes things like email scanning, safe search, parental controls, password management, a smart firewall, and other advanced features that you don’t get with a basic, free antivirus.
How do I uninstall Norton or Kaspersky?
There's an ongoing joke that antivirus software is in fact some of the worst adware out there because of all the pop ups and lack of control when you want to make it go away.
Removing either of these programs is easy enough and you can do so with the native Windows uninstaller. All you need to do is head to the Control Panel and launch Programs and Features. From here, search the list of available programs for Norton or Kaspersky, depending on which one you want to remove.
Once you have located your antivirus, right-click on it and select uninstall. The uninstaller will now launch, and you can follow the on-screen instructions to completely remove the software and all its unwanted components. Once it is removed, you may be asked to restart your computer to make the changes take effect.
If you need to remove Norton or Kaspersky on a Mac computer, simply head to the application folder on macOS, search for the removal tool for your specific antivirus, and launch it. Follow the instructions, and the antivirus will be completely uninstalled from your Mac computer.
Do I also need a VPN?
A VPN is an online privacy tool that provides completely different benefits to antivirus software. For this reason, it is essential that you use both an antivirus and a VPN if you want watertight online security for your devices.
A VPN works by encrypting your web connection and tunneling your data to a remote server location. This prevents local network administrators, wifi hotspot providers, ISPs, and government agencies from being able to track your online browsing habits.
The encryption provided by a VPN also provides an extra layer of protection for your data in transit, which secures it against eavesdroppers and hackers on public wi-fi. The way a VPN works also prevents websites from detecting your home IP address, which allows you to bypass restrictions and censorship online.
While some premium VPNs are now including malware filtering as part of their service, it is important to remember that this does not mean you can get away without using an antivirus. Although VPN malware protection can prevent you from visiting malicious URLs and will help you to avoid malware infections, it will not provide you with the ability to scan your device for exploits. This is why you should always use an antivirus alongside a VPN.
What if Norton or Kaspersky can't detect a virus?
If your antivirus does not detect any malicious programs, viruses, or other types of malware, it is likely that your computer is all clear. That said, it is vital that you ensure your antivirus is up-to-date with the latest exploit definitions. If your antivirus is not updated, you could fall victim to newer infections, which means that the antivirus may not detect some of the infections that are circulating in the wild.
If after scanning your computer with your fully updated version of Kaspersky or Norton, you are still concerned about unusual activities, you may want to double down by also scanning with a secondary free antivirus. Both Malwarebytes and Comodo are available to scan for free, and they serve as a good way to double-check your computer for known exploits.
Ultimately, you must use your discretion. However, if you are still worried after scanning with a secondary antivirus, you may want to get professional help. Some deep-seated infections can reinfect you remotely via a CnC server. And some infections can affect your bios which means they must be removed using specialist tools from in safe mode.
In conclusion, both Norton and Kaspersky are great contenders for the ideal antivirus software. However, while Kaspersky offers very useful additional features such as encrypted browsers and file protection, Norton gives you access to a secure VPN.
It’s close when it comes to malware detection rates with Norton scoring marginally better in the independent lab tests, and Kaspersky slightly better in my own tests. Both are amongst the top performers for malware detection and come in at an identical price point at the time of writing.