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Protect your Mac for free with these five anti-virus apps

Despite rumors, the relationship between Apple’s desktop operating system and viruses is more myth than reality. Mac users will continually tell you that third-party antivirus software isn’t necessary, that the machines are downright insusceptible to the infectious malware, spyware, and ransomware plaguing the Windows ecosystem. It is true that there’s less viruses coded to target OS X than Windows, but Apple’s operating system is far  from invulnerable, and new threats appear regularly.

Fortunately, there are many fantastic anti-virus programs designed to bolster an already well-built system. Whether you’re looking to utilize the ever-popular Avast, the graphical user interface of ClamXav 2, or the balanced Avira, there’s more than enough freemium products on the market to secure you’re computer from potential threats. Combine that with a little caution, and you’ll have plenty of peace of mind. Below are some of our favorite pieces of antivirus software.

Updated on 4-17-2015: This article has been updated since it was originally published to reflect recent software changes.

Skip ahead to the best free antivirus software for Mac OS X

A few protection suggestions prior to installing antivirus software…

Stay up to date — Keeping your Mac up to date with the latest software is never a bad idea. Apple has always been keen to pinpoint potential threats, often issuing incremental updates that address system vulnerabilities as quickly as possible. Assuming you’ve opted for automatic updates, install them as their notifications arise, or manual install the updates from within the Updates panel located on the right-hand side when viewing the main App Store window. Leaving updates unattended will only risk your Mac to greater virus exposure.

Turn on your firewall — Although not for everyone, turning on the firewall built into more recent versions of Mac OS X can help secure network traffic is properly monitored and secure. If you’ve haven’t done so already, navigate to the main System Preferences panel, select the Security & Privacy option and click the Firewall tab located at the top of the window. Afterward, click the Turn On Firewall button, followed by the Firewall Options button, and specify any connection you wish to block by adding the application to the resulting list.

Encrypt your data — Mac OS X may already secure important files on your behalf, but setting up FileVault’s full disk, XTS-AES 128 encryption adds yet another level of protection to your entire drive. It essentially prevents unwanted users from seeing and copying your files, setting a master password for your machine in the process and allowing you to specify which user accounts are allowed to unlock the encrypted drive. To turn on FileVault, navigate to the main System Preferences panel, select the Security & Privacy option and click the FileVault tab located at the top of the window. Afterward, click the Turn on FileVault button, note the recovery key — or allow Apple to store the password on your behalf — and restart your computer when prompted.

Exercise caution — It should go without saying, but be cautious when browsing the Web, downloading email attachments, or otherwise engaging with unfamiliar sources and content. There’s usually a good reason if your browser or antivirus software doesn’t trust a certificate or attachment. Use your brain and consider picking up the community curated Web of Trust extension for your browser. The basic software functions as a review system for various websites and links, providing users with up-to-date information on whether the content in question is reputable or malicious.

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