AdwareMedic: Tom's Mac Software Pick

On-Demand Scanner Doesn't Slow Your Mac Down

AdwareMedic icon
Courtesy of Thomas Reed and The Safe Mac.

AdwareMedic, created by Thomas Reed, is one of the few anti-adware, or for that matter, anti-anything apps that I recommend for Mac users. AdwareMedic isn't an anti-virus application, nor does it actively look for malware, viruses, or Trojans.

What it does do is scan your Mac for known adware; it then provides an automated way to remove these unwanted apps that usually use subterfuge to coerce you into installing them.


  • Only runs when you manually select it to make use of it.
  • Has no background processes to suck the life out of your Mac.
  • Scanner uses current adware signatures each time it's run.
  • Can automatically remove most Mac adware.
  • Can provide instructions for those who wish to manually remove adware.


  • Donationware; Mr. Reed really should charge for this.

AdwareMedic is the brainchild of Thomas Reed, a long-time Mac user. Over the years, Thomas has freely answered questions put to him on Apple public forums; these questions usually revolved around Mac security issues. As the presence of adware multiplied, Thomas created AdwareMedic, perhaps just so he didn’t have to answer the same questions over and over; whatever the reason, we're glad he did create it.

What AdwareMedic Does

AdwareMedic is a one-trick pony, in a good way. It only does one thing – find and remove adware – but it does it very well.

Adware is defined as an app that usually tricks you into installing it by promising some feature that sounds neat or useful, such as providing better search services for your browser, maybe adding the ability to track items you're interested in and letting you know when they're on sale. But adware's real reason for existing is to alter how your browser works, and serve up ads within your browser, open popups and browser windows with ads, or change your home page or search engine.

Adware also tries to keep itself from being removed. In many cases, removing the original app you installed does nothing to stop the ads from appearing. That’s because the original app was just a vehicle for installing other hidden components.

AdwareMedic is an app that, when launched, connects to the AdwareMedic web site, and uses the web site's list of adware signatures to scan your Mac for evidence of adware being present.

Once it finds any, Adware offers the ability to remove the adware for you; you can also remove it manually using instructions provided via the AdwareMedic site.

Using AdwareMedic

Once you launch the AdwareMedic app, you'll find three courses of action you can take: Scan for Adware, Next Step, and Get Help. Selecting Scan for Adware will start the process of scanning for installed adware. Scan times are very fast because AdwareMedic only looks for known adware. If any adware is found, AdwareMedic will display not only the adware name but also the paths to each component of the adware installed on your Mac.

You can then select the items you wish to remove, or, as most of us with adware issues will do, choose the Select All option, and then click the Remove Selected button.

AdwareMedic will then remove the offending items. If required, AdwareMedic will let you know if you need to restart your Mac to effectively remove all traces of the offending adware.

Next Step provides a series of resources and instructions for you if AdwareMedic wasn't able to resolve your problem. The suggestions are good ones and may help you with adware or malware that isn't directly identified by AdwareMedic.

The last button in AdwareMedic is Get Help, which takes you to a well-written guide to using AdwareMedic, as well as understanding basic concepts of adware and malware.

Final Thoughts

I like AdwareMedic for a few reasons. The first is that it doesn't try to be anything other than an on-demand adware scanner. It doesn’t run in the background, taking up your Mac's resources, and it doesn’t produce false positives by using some heuristic or AI engine to find adware-like behavior. Instead, it just looks for known adware files that may be stored on your Mac.

The downside to this method is that there will be a small delay before new or modified adware will be included in the AdwareMedic signature database. But I think that's a small price to pay for a very unobtrusive app that is so good at helping when adware strikes.

AdwareMedic is donationware; pay what you think it's worth. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.