What Are The Best Antivirus Programs For Mac

Our research focuses on antivirus systems that come with firewalls, anti-theft protection, and anti-spam protection. The best antivirus software has protocols for blocking spyware, ransomware, and other common types of malware. Additional features. Top Mac antivirus software provides other benefits besides protecting computers from hackers.

  1. Best Antivirus For Mac 2021
  2. What Are The Best Antivirus Programs For Mac Versions
  3. What Are The Best Antivirus Programs
  4. What Are The Best Antivirus Programs For Macbook
  • Best Antivirus Software for Mac We compare the leading Mac antivirus and malware programs on the market, including free options. Tom Fogden December 21st 2020 12:01 am.
  • In what is quite possibly the best free Mac antivirus, Avast Free Mac Security comes with a solid amount of useful features that are sure to serve you well. It offers just about everything you’d find in the free AVG for Mac, but with much better protection.

19 November 2019

Antivirus for Mac. If you’re a first-time or casual Mac user, there’s a good chance those three words have never crossed your mind. After all, Macs don’t get viruses, right? They’re secure and not at all susceptible to malware or malicious attacks.

Seasoned Mac users will tell you otherwise. The threat of Mac malware is a growing one as savvy cybercriminals catch on to the increasing popularity of the device.

Naturally, Windows devices are still their bread and butter, but Apple machines are being targeted more and more. So, if you’re serious about protecting your data, you can’t simply rely on the Mac’s built-in security features alone.

In this article, you'll learn:

Here’s how we calculated our scores

We’ve given each of the antivirus software below a rating out of 5.

To arrive at our score, we compared the popularity and the average user rating of various antivirus software on MacUpdate with AV test results by the Independent IT Security Institute.

So, without further ado..

The Best Antivirus for Mac (as voted for by MacUpdate users in 2019)

4.0 stars

For a free antivirus software, Avast certainly goes above and beyond with a long list of features.

Real-time protection and on-demand scans keep things running smoothly, while you can even target specific folders, files or drives if you suspect they might be compromised. The best bit? You can schedule scans to run automatically.

What’s more, a Web Shield makes you aware of malicious websites, blocks dangerous email attachments, and stops dodgy downloads in their tracks. However, its malware protection has been described as “mediocre”.

4.1 stars

Sometimes companies can go a bit crazy with their features, to the point where you might question whether or not you’d actually use them all. Avira isn’t one of those companies.

They’ve kept things simple - their focus is on keeping your Mac malware-free.

That means there’s no network scanning or web filtering (although you can install the free AviraBrowser Safety add-on), but that doesn’t make this Mac antivirus any less impressive.

With a real-time scanner and a scheduler that lets you pick and choose when to check your system, you can be confident that threats are identified quickly and efficiently.

A neat feature with Avira is the fact that it leans on its Windows expertise to ID PC-related malware, meaning you won’t accidentally share malicious files with your PC-user friends and colleagues.

It’s a plain and straightforward interface, and the activity log doesn’t update in real-time, but as a free Mac antivirus, you really can’t go wrong.

4.2 stars

A good value for money, Bitdefender stands out as a real quality antivirus software. The features list is long without being overwhelming, and it does its job without a whole lot of fuss.

When it comes to protection, performance and usability, Bitdefender Antivirus shows up really well, while its Safe Files feature keeps ransomware at bay. And similar to Avira, it has its own browser plug-in to keep you safe while surfing the net.

The downside? It’s not as fast as some of the others on this list, and for software designed to prevent adware, it serves its own pop-ups to flog special offers from Bitdefender.

4.2 stars

VG antivirus for Mac is free, so we can forgive the lack of special features, and we can almost overlook the high background impact on your system. So why is it ranking so highly?

Simple - its impressive malware-detection capabilities. AVG might be among the best you can get for Mac without shelling out for a subscription.

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Add to that the fact that the interface is helpful and easy to use, and that its virus database is kept up-to-date automatically, you can feel confident that AVG will keep your Mac malware-free.

4.3 stars

Intego is one of the more expensive Mac antivirus on the market today, but once you look under the hood, you can understand why.

Its features list is comprehensive, it’s fast, easy to use, and it boasts a very impressive clean-up rate. You even get a firewall thrown in for good measure.

Those on a budget might instinctively skip past it, but you can take up the offer of a free trial to try before you buy - and that will probably convince you!

Intego scored the best for protection and usability when put through its paces by AV-Test, which speaks volumes for the quality and reliability of this software.

Do Macs Need Antivirus?

The numbers suggest that, yes, Macs do indeed require antivirus.

This is because there’s a growing threat of malware specifically designed to target Apple devices. A March 2018 report pinpointed a 270 percent increase in Mac malware.

And the same company highlighted a further growth in Mac malware in 2019, with 16 million instances reported in April alone (four times more than the previous record).

Meanwhile, of the ten most popular cyber attacks in the first quarter of 2019, Mac malware took up two spots.

Why is the threat growing?

The most significant change is the popularity of Macs. More consumers are buying them, and because of this, more cybercriminals are targeting them.

On top of that, there are newer, more sophisticated threats putting user data (and bank balances) at risk. Phishing attacks, adware, and malware designed to access cryptocurrency accounts should put Mac users on high alert.

If you’re interested in learning more, Macworld has a complete list of Mac viruses, malware and security flaws.

Doesn’t Mac Have Its Own Built-in Antivirus?

What are the best antivirus programs for macbook pro

Sort of. The Mac OS is built on Unix, and Unix boasts a number of inbuilt security features.

But the protection doesn’t end there. Apple has also taken its own steps to make the Mac a tough nut to crack for cyber crooks with the following features:

  • Gatekeeper
  • Xprotect
  • Malware Removal Tool (MRT)

Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper stops software from running on your Mac without your approval if it hasn’t been digitally approved by Apple.

It’s one of the most significant security features on macOS, and if you’ve ever tried to download and use unsigned software, you’ve probably encountered it. An error message pops up to tell you that the app “can’t be opened because it is from an unidentified developer.”

This is Gatekeeper at work. It’s a system designed to stop malicious software from sneaking through. Of course, not all unsigned software is dangerous, and you can control Gatekeeper in your System Preferences (under Security & Privacy).

Xprotect

The malware scanning tool is called Xprotect, and it works away in the background without any need for user intervention. In contrast to the antivirus software listed below, the updates happen in the background too, meaning it won’t slow down your Mac while it does its thing.

So, if you try to download and open a contaminated file, you’ll receive a warning that the file will damage your computer. It will also reference the type of malware it’s found in the file, and encourage you to delete the file immediately.

MRT

The Malware Removal Tool is an Apple application that’s hidden away and not intended for users to launch. It works in the background in a reactive manner, identifying and removing malware that’s already been installed. It can only be executed on system start-up.

Where these features come up short..

So, in theory, downloading malware onto a Mac should be virtually impossible.

With its anti-malware protection, macOS should check every file before you open it against a list of known malware, and it should stop you from opening any application from a developer that doesn’t have Apple’s approval.

But the world of computer viruses and malware is an ever-changing one. To effectively protect against the damage they cause, the software must be kept continually up-to-date.

And there have been some worrying signs that this just isn’t happening.

The reliability of Gatekeeper has been called into question with examples of unsigned apps bypassing it completely, while Apple is either ready to abandon Xprotect, or they’re just not prepared to give it the necessary level of attention.

At one point it went almost 4 months without an update (an eternity in computer security terms), and when it was recently updated, it was with a bump to the minimum required version of Flash, and nothing else.

Meanwhile, where MRT is concerned, like Xprotect it’s simply not being updated as often as it should be. There have been examples of malware families being added to MRT some 12 months after they’ve first been identified.

This sort of hands-off approach won’t bring comfort to Mac users who are worried about the damage malware can bring.

Additional Mac security features

Despite being lax with the updates to Xprotect and MRT, Apple has been proactive in other areas of Mac security, including:

  • Sandboxing. This means that the apps you download are isolated from your data, other apps, and the important system components of your device. In short, they’ll only do what they’re supposed to do, and no more. They won’t be able to access anything that could cause any damage.
  • Stopping outdated plug-ins from running. If Silverlight, QuickTime, Oracle or Flash aren’t updated to the latest version, they simply won’t run.
  • Anti-phishing technology in the browser. Safari can detect fraudulent websites and will disable the page and warn you that you’re visiting a potentially dangerous webpage.

Here’s Why You Still Need a Third-Party Antivirus Software

It’s clear that Apple has taken some notable steps over the years to safeguard the Mac with its in-built protection.

However, if you’re storing sensitive data on your Mac, or multiple family members use it, or it’s part of a wider network, these steps just won’t be enough.

With Mac malware on the rise, one misstep online could render your device unusable - and the cost of fixing a virus-ridden Mac is a hassle no one wants to think about.

Here’s why third-party antivirus software is a must-have:

  • It’s specifically designed and continually updated to provide an advanced layer of security against emerging threats. The built-in protection has been shown to be far too reactive in this respect.
  • The built-in protection also won’t prevent XSS attacks or identity theft while browsing.
  • One software subscription can be used to protect multiple devices. This is particularly useful in a family setting, where you might not have complete control over family member’s browsing habits or downloads.
  • Good antivirus software boasts additional features, like browser security extensions, VPN, firewall, and parental control, which can all contribute to a far tighter level of security.
  • Some vendors can detect and remove malware aimed at other operating systems. This is handy if you have a mix of devices in your household, or if you share files with friends with Android or Windows devices.

Choosing a Winning Antivirus Software

What are the qualities of a good antivirus? Speed? Performance? Usability?

While those are all important, focusing on those areas alone only scratches the surface. When sizing up the best antivirus software for you, you need to consider how it goes about the business of identifying and eliminating threats, and the types of premium features that matter most to you. Let’s take a look.

1. On-demand vs. Always-on

First of all, you need to know the difference between on-demand protection, and always-on protection.

On-demand, as the name suggests, examines your files one by one during a predetermined scan, or when you choose to start a scan. This is where speed and performance can matter, as some on-demand scans can hog your Mac’s CPU while taking hours to thoroughly search your system.

Always-on, meanswhile, protects your device around the clock. If you download something dodgy, or some malware arrives via an email, always-on protection should quickly detect it and either copy it to a safe folder (known as ‘quarantining’) for you to take action later, or delete the file straight away.

Some antivirus software will only work on-demand, while most paid-for software will provide both on-demand and always-on protection.

2. Ransomware Protection

Beyond straightforward malware and virus detection, many antivirus apps offer premium tools to guard against growing threats from increasingly savvy cybercriminals. One such threat is ransomware.

Ransomware infects a computer, encrypting a user’s files (often personal, sensitive, or sentimental information) and then demands a fee to decrypt them.

Anti-ransomware tools can protect against this type of threat by blocking apps from writing to a user’s home folders (photos, documents, etc.) unless the app is pre-approved.

3. Web Protection

Browsing the web can bring with it a different set of threats. Indiscriminate users (often youthand teenagers) visit adult websites and click dodgy links, download files, or give up personal information.

Antivirus software can help police web browsing activity via plugins or extensions, designed to stop such behavior.

4. VPNs

A number of antivirus apps also offer the use of a virtual private network (VPN). These are particularly useful when using an open, unsafe WiFi connection in a hotel, airport, or cafe. VPNs protect your internet connection by encrypting it.

5. Cost

The final factor to consider when choosing antivirus software for your Mac is of course price.

Typically, antivirus apps can be purchased on a subscription basis, and you’re usually encouraged to pay for the year with a discount when compared to signing up for a monthly subscription.

The good news is, most paid-for antivirus software provide you with a number of licenses to use on multiple devices, meaning all computers within your household can be protected for one yearly payment.

Wait. Do you really need to pay for Mac Antivirus Software?

Free vs Paid. The debate rages on. But the fact of the matter is, you will almost always get more from the paid version of a product - and antivirus software is no different.

Free antivirus products will protect your device against threats, but on a much smaller scale. If you have multiple devices on one network, you leave yourself open to attack. This is because cyberattackers have more users and more devices to target.

Paid antivirus software can provide you with the premium tools and features to keep all of your users and devices safe.

So, What’s the Bottom Line?

Do you really need antivirus for Mac? Well, that depends on you and your circumstances.

If you’re careful when browsing the web, vigilant when dealing with emails from strangers, and keep everything backed up, your Mac should tick along without too much to worry about.

After all, it’s built with security in mind.

However, malware can make a mess of a Mac pretty quickly, and if you’re not the only person using the device in your household, it would be smart to keep your bases covered.

The time it can take to retrieve key data and get your Mac running smoothly again after a malware attack certainly makes antivirus software a worthwhile investment.

For less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day, you have peace of mind that you and your family can browse safely online every day of the year.

According to a report by Malwarebytes, Mac malware grew by 270% in 2017 and is set to grow even further this year. This took some people by surprise because macOS has always been seen as a safe operating system. Because Macs are more popular than ever, they’ve become a more attractive target.

Thankfully, the fact that Macs are Unix-based systems mean they remain a lot more secure than Windows PCs, while Apple’s built-in security features like Gatekeeper do a good job of blocking a lot of suspect software, there is a much greater chance that something will get through and infect your Mac.

So, let’s take a look at the best antivirus software on the market, starting with big guns at the premium end of the market and then top free options.

RatingNameFeaturesInfo
1CleanMyMac X Large database, removes Mac-specific threatsLink
2BitdefenderQuick adware and ransomware deletionLink
3IntegoReal-time scanning and firewall protectionLink

Best antivirus software for Mac

You should approach choosing antivirus software as if you were buying a new smartphone or computer — research until you’re absolutely sure you’ve found the right one. This doesn’t matter so much with free software where you’ve nothing really to lose but when you’re parting with your hard earned cash you need to know that the software is going to get the job done.

When it comes to reliable information, there’s no better place to get it than from the independent the labs — the researchers who make it their life’s work to rigorously test antivirus software. Mac hardware diagnostic tool for old macbook pro. The researchers at AV-TEST, the independent IT-security test institute, regularly put macOS antivirus software through its paces.

In their most recent round of testing, the lab experts evaluated 12 of the top MacOS solutions on three criteria: protection, system load, and usability.

  • Protection: the software’s ability to protect your system from malware
  • System load: the software’s impact on system performance
  • Usability: how easy the software is to navigate

Here are some of the best options on the market if you're considering antimalware software for your Mac.

Best Antivirus For Mac 2021

1. CleanMyMac X

CleanMyMac X is a utility tool with plenty going for it. Not only does it help you rid your system of threats, it continually scans your system for malware and offers immediate removal. It’s as simple and effective as malware protection gets.

In addition to that feature, the tool also has a vast range of options for ridding your system of junk files and keeping Mac performance at the top of its game. The ability to clean up old apps and files in a few clicks is the perfect complement to malware removal.

What Are The Best Antivirus Programs For Mac

Pros:

  • Excellent malware scanning
  • Real-time anti-malware monitor
  • Good Uninstaller to remove 'undeletable' apps
  • Removes lots of recent threats, including adware, spyware, and viruses

Cons:

  • It has a limited number of free Malware scans

2. Bitdefender

Cost: $39.99/year

Free antivirus for mac downloads

A solid all-rounder that’s one of the best suites on the market. The multi-layer ransomware protection and adware removal are standout features, and the software’s ability to scan for Windows PC malware (a feature not available on some software) set it apart from the rest.

Pros:

  • Excellent Mac integration
  • Capable of scanning for Windows malware

Cons:

  • Other antivirus software for Mac has a greater range of features

3. Intego

Cost for the Premium Bundle X9: $39.99/year

Intego is a household name in Mac protection and does the job of keeping your computer free of malware in a no-fuss kind of way. It also scans for Windows malware. However, some of its great work is undone by its drain on system resources.

Pros:

  • Firewall protection
  • Accurate scanning

Cons:

  • Limited features
  • No website filtering
  • Can affect performance

4. Symantec by Norton

Cost for Security Deluxe: $89.99/year

Norton antivirus comes with a reputation for outstanding performance and that’s what you get with Symantec. Its malware detection engine is second to none and you can use it across multiple Mac, iOS, Windows, or Android devices. Like Intego, it’s demanding on performance but not to a point where it’s annoying. The biggest drawback of Symantec is, unfortunately, the price. $89.99 a year is a lot of money, especially when you consider you can get antivirus software for free.

Pros:

  • Works across a range of devices
  • Excellent malware detection
  • Firewall protection

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Can affect system performance

5. Trend Micro

Cost: $39.95/year

Trend Micro is the kindest tool of the paid options for your system. You hardly notice it’s there. It integrates with your system well. Features like content filtering and social media privacy checking are useful, while the overall speed of scanning is excellent. The only real drawback is the lack of firewall protection.

Pros:

  • Good all-around protection
  • Built for compatibility with the latest MacOS
  • Nice range of features

Cons:

  • No firewall protection

Other notable mentions include Kaspersky, which offers an outstanding range of features but is let down slightly by its user interface, and ClamXAV, which is a favorite of IT professionals and is available for a one-off fee, rather than a license. Unfortunately, ClamXAV doesn’t offer website filtering, phishing protection, or firewall protection.

Best free antivirus software for Mac

If you’ve looked at the prices of the paid options and balked a little, you’ll welcome this next bunch of software with open arms because they’re all free.

Free software doesn’t get the same fanfare as the paid products, mostly because it doesn’t have to push for sales at every given opportunity. But that doesn’t mean it won’t serve you just as well.

Free software tends to only be available for one device per download, however, if you only have one Mac to protect that’s all you need.

If you want to keep your Mac malware-free, these tools have you covered.

What Are The Best Antivirus Programs For Mac Versions

1. Sophos Home

Sophos is a paid tool that comes with a free version. This version is limited in what it can do but offers accurate scanning and features like website filtering and anti-phishing.

Pros:

  • Good virus detection
  • Easy to use

What Are The Best Antivirus Programs

Cons:

  • Limited features

2. Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes is a classic antimalware software that has both a premium and free version. Malwarebytes is a pioneer in malware research, and the company regularly posts summaries about newly-discovered threats. The software itself is known to be stable and contains all the “gold-standard” tools for an antivirus: quarantine, real-time detection, blocker for malicious sites, etc. Some of them are only available with a paid package.

Pros:

  • Excellent reputation
  • Has its own anti-malware lab

Cons:

  • Lots of notifications

Which antivirus software for Mac should I use?

The antivirus software we’ve listed here is the best of the best. In truth, you could choose any and be happy with your purchase.

What Are The Best Antivirus Programs For Macbook

Of the paid options, Bitdefender is one of the standout options, simply for the accuracy of its virus scanning and ease of use. Symantec by Norton is known for being reliable and capable of defeating numerous threats, although it is a bit pricey. From the free options, AVG is the most effective, but it will consume around 10% of your Mac resources when it is running.

Whereas CleanMyMac X is a Swiss Army knife: it will protect from malware while removing clutter and freeing up much-needed space. It does everything you need and, alongside Mac’s built-in Gatekeeper, will protect you from the dangers that lurk on the internet.

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