The 4 Best Mac Antivirus Programs

Mac malware removal is a breeze with these antivirus apps

Image of an angry face on a computer screen representing a computer virus on a Mac
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First things first: yes, your Mac needs virus protection. While malware that targets Macs isn't nearly as common as malware that goes after Windows, it does exist and is a growing problem.

Viruses specifically may not yet be the major concern for the Mac but there are many different kinds of malware to worry about: things like Trojans, adware, ransomware, spyware, and lots of other dangerous wares so keeping your computer protected is smart.

Our advice? If you're not using an antimalware program for Mac yet, it's time! Below you'll find the 4 best ones we've found, any of which will keep your Mac safe from these growing threats.

Tip: If you're here because your Mac is already infected with some form of malware, try using a friend's Mac to create an emergency Mac OS boot device and then use that to download and install one of these antivirus apps to detect and remove the suspected malware.

Not on a Mac? Check out our updated best free Windows antivirus software and best free Android antivirus apps lists!

Avast Free Mac Security
Avast Free Mac Security app offers numerous methods of scanning for infections. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Avast Free Mac Security uses a traditional signature-based method to scan files on your Mac for known malware, Trojans, and viruses. Avast can root out rootkits and other methods that a hacker uses to gain control and is able to pry open compressed files to scan their content.

Beside malware designed for the Mac, Avast also looks for PC malware to help keep cross-platform infections from occurring. You don’t want to be the person sending off infected email attachments to your PC friends.

Download Avast Free Mac Security

Avast uses real-time detection that runs in the background. Avast, like other antivirus apps that continually run in the background, can have an impact on your Mac's performance. Avast, however, gives you the option of using its real-time detection, or a scheduling system that can have less impact on your Mac's performance.

Here's some more about Avast Free Mac Security:

  • Scheduled scans allow you to set the time for Avast for Mac to run its routine scans for the presence of malware. Moving the scheduled time to when it will least impact your workload is a big plus.
  • File shield can check all of the files on your Mac for nefarious content. Files can also be checked by file type or location on your Mac.
  • Web shield blocks unsafe websites from loading or downloads from those sites from occurring.
  • Mail shield prevents dangerous email attachments from downloading or from being executed.
  • Local network scan makes sure your home network and all connected devices are free from vulnerabilities that hackers could make use of to steal personal data.

Avast uses real-time detection that runs in the background. Avast, like other antivirus apps that continually run in the background, can have an impact on your Mac's performance. Avast, however, gives you the option of using its real-time detection, or a scheduling system that can have less impact on your Mac's performance. More »

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is the paid security app that offers advanced features to keep your Mac safe. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Bitdefender offers two security apps for the Mac a free Virus Scanner for Mac and the paid Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac. Both use the same Bitdefender engine for finding and removing malware, but Virus Scanner for Mac uses a manual approach to scanning your Mac, while Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is loaded with features to make the process simple and, if you want to, as automatic as possible to ensure you are never the victim of a malware attack.

In fact, the Autopilot feature works so well that you can just about turn it on and forget about it, knowing that your Mac is protected from current and future threats from malware as well as ransomware, which is on the upswing in the hacking world.

Download free Virus Scanner for Mac
Download Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac

Here's more:

  • Time Machine Protection monitors your Time Machine backups and prevents ransomware attacks that may try to encrypt or remove your backups.
  • Safe File allows you to specify folders that will be continuously monitored, preventing unauthorized apps from making changes to these folders.
  • Adware removal can free your Mac from annoying ads, unwanted browser add-ons, and browser toolbars that may be added without your consent.
  • Traffic Light browser extension works with Safari, Chrome, and Firefox to add advance phishing detection to your browser and warn you of dangerous websites.

Bitdefender makes use of traditional signature-based detection system as well as behavioral-pattern recognition. To help keep its database of devious malware types up to date, Bitdefender uses a cloud-based data collection system that stores the most recently detected Mac malware, adware, and ransomware information, allowing all Bitdefender users to have the latest updated detection system. More »

Malwarebytes for Mac main dashboard
Malwarebytes for Mac includes a 30-day trial of their premium offering. After the triail expires you can continue to use the basic features. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Malwarebytes for Mac has been a top choice for finding and removing Mac-based malware ever since its early appearance as Adware Medic.

Now under the guidance of Malwarebytes, the app retains its free ability to find and remove malware but has also expanded its capabilities to offer a premium paid version that can actively prevent Mac virus, spyware, and malware infections. It can also keep adware and unwanted apps from finding a home on your Mac.

Download Malwarebytes for Mac

Here's more on Malwarebytes for Mac:

  • Detects and removes adware targeting Macs without requiring a separate browser add-on.
  • Real-time protection can be disabled, allowing you to scan only when you wish.
  • Includes a uninstaller for removing the Malwarebytes app.
  • Low system overhead even with background scanning enabled.

Malwarebytes uses a signature-based system to determine the presence of Mac malware. The signature list can be updated as often as once per hour. Malware that is discovered can be automatically quarantined for easy removal at a later date. More »

Sophos Home for Mac
Sophos Home for Mac offers the ability to remotely manage the Sophos security app on all your household computers. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Sophos has been a leader in business-grade antivirus and security protection apps for PCs and Macs for years. Sophos brings the same business-grade security system to the personal Mac (there is also a PC version) user for free.

Sophos Home for Mac can protect every Mac in your home from malware, viruses, and ransomware. It also can protect your web browsing from stumbling across inappropriate websites that may contain phishing schemes or malware.

Download Sophos Home for Mac

Sophos uses signature-based as well as heuristic-based behavioral detection to monitor the unusual behavior of apps to identify suspicious activity. Like most antivirus apps for the Mac, Sophos can detect Windows-based threats as well, helping to prevent cross-platform contamination.

Here's more on Sophos Home:

  • Remote management allows you to monitor, configure and control Sophos Home on up to ten Macs or PCs.
  • Parental controls can block viewing inappropriate websites while keeping a log of such web visit attempts for later review.
  • Background scanning had a low impact on overall performance.
  • On-demand scanning allow you to initiate a scan at any time.

Sophos runs primarily in the background scanning your Mac and detecting if malware or related threats are present whenever you download, copy, or open a file or folder. The scanner can also examine compressed files to make sure files contained within are safe. More »

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