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The best free antivirus platforms for Mac in 2020

Searching for free antivirus software often ends in frustration for Mac users. After all, a lot of malware protection addresses Windows compatibility and concerns. Fortunately, there are many robust antivirus programs for Macs, too — you just need to know where to look.

MacOS needs protection as much as any other operating system, and these free options can provide essential malware, popup, phishing, and ad defense. Read on for advice on keeping your Mac operating flawlessly — for free!

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac

Malwarebytes for Mac

Windows users have long turned to Malwarebytes’ free version as a backup for always-on malware software. The Mac version started as an adware removal tool, but as of today, it’s also a full-fledged tool for protecting your machine against other forms of malware. Plus, it’s just as effective in MacOS as it is in Windows, a fact that’s aided by the team’s constant research on current threats — the company identified the first Mac malware threat in 2017, for example.

Using the app couldn’t be easier. Just select scan and the software quickly alerts you to any Mac-specific malware infection — often when other software misses something. Like the Windows iteration of the free version, though, this is not an always-on solution and is thus more suited for performing deep scans and ridding yourself of particularly pernicious MacOS threats like the fake Adobe Zii malware.

There are scheduling and proactive blocks, but these features expire after two weeks in the free version. You need the premium version for live protection, which starts at $40 for a year.

Avast Security for Mac 

Avast for Mac

Avast Security for Mac is one of the most popular security suites available, and it’s easy to see why. It’s effective and free for noncommercial use, providing on-demand tools for quickly performing full-system malware scans. It also sifts through specific email threads, attachments, and various web activities. It even offers drag-and-drop scanning for individual files and phishing protection, along with the ability to scan external drives and attached volumes.

The app’s interface is straightforward and self-explanatory. It features a navigational pane on the left that consists of five primary buttons and a real-time graph that aggregates shield activity and allows you to quickly check the overall stats of your Mac.

The free version offers to install two other apps during installation: Avast Internet Security ($30 per year) and Avast SecureLine VPN ($60 per year). Neither are necessary for detecting and removing malware, however, so pay attention during installation if you don’t want them.

If privacy is particularly important to you, you may want to keep in mind recent reports that Avast does collect and sell its customers’ web browsing data. And while Avast does admit to doing so, the company also maintains that it also does not collect “personal identification information, including name, email address or contact details. Users have the option to opt-out of sharing their data.

Sophos Antivirus Mac Home Edition

Sophos Security for Mac

Straddling the line somewhere between necessity and excess, Sophos offers all the basic utilities you expect from quality antivirus software, and a whole lot more. It has the custom, on-demand, and scheduled scans for specified files, folders, and drives, along with additional tools for deleting and quarantining any software Sophos deems a potential threat.

The software incorporates real-time protection features that quarantine unknown files exhibiting suspicious behavior. Although the app tends to scan slower than most, it’s fairly lightweight and non-obtrusively performs vital background tasks while barely leeching or exhausting your system’s resources.

Despite its robust feature set, Sophos manages to cram all this functionality into a compact interface. Initiating a full-system scan can be done directly from the top of the main menu, and you can configure exemptions quickly from easily navigable menus. The malware definitions also are constantly updated, ensuring the app is never without the latest knowledge of potential threats. It’s one of the most hands-off antivirus apps on the market, and as such, sits among the best.

The free version includes ransomware monitoring, webcam protection, and live support options, but all of these expire after thirty days. You’ll need to get the $60 premium version to keep these features.

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac

Bitdefender for Mac

Built upon the company’s award-winning antivirus engine, Bitdefender Virus Scanner features a host of scan options, allowing you to quickly perform deep scans of your entire system, or those targeting specific locations. If you grant it access, the streamlined app even provides an option for scanning critical locations — such as your Mac’s launch agents and the entirety of your system library — thus allowing you to bypass lengthier scans when pressed for time. Moreover, it automatically updates with Bitdefender’s hourly malware definitions before scanning, while providing a quick means for blacklisting specific locations from system scans.

Bitdefender Virus Scanner automatically tries to disinfect and quarantine suspicious files, and though the feature is not unique to Bitdefender’s offering, the software can also quickly search for malware within various archives and file types (PDF, PKG, ZIP, RAR, etc.). From the home screen, you can choose four different scanning options, in addition to an update button and a “view quarantine” button. It’s all very easy to understand and use.

Avira Free Antivirus for Mac

Avira for Mac

Avira strikes a nice balance between ease of use and quick access to advanced utilities, ultimately rendering basic system scans just as simple to execute as those that are scheduled and file-specific. The software is equipped with standard spyware and adware protection, along with the ability to intercept harmful websites and block tracking. If the software finds an infected file or folder, it can repair or delete the problem so you don’t have to worry about it again. The software can also scan USB devices for any potential dangers.

Avira’s full-feature interface uses a left-hand navigational bar for viewing the status of your system, scheduling tasks, and viewing past quarantine history, among other options. Virus definitions are updated in a timely fashion, too, regardless of how long the initial updates might take to finish. It’s resource-heavy, but capable enough if you’re looking for automation, scan history, and other advanced features.

Unlike most of the software in our roundup, Avira is coupled with a moderately lengthy installation and an update process that goes hand in hand with the software’s heavy use of system resources. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker when you consider the nonexistent price tag and its thorough antivirus engine, but it’s an unfortunate downside.

Bonus option for a little extra protection: Antivirus Zap

Antivirus Zap

If you don’t mind spending a few bucks on affordable software, Antivirus Zap is also a worthy download. This Mac security app offers a quick scan that searches likely places for viruses, and a full scan that takes longer, but checks out your whole system. Zap also offers a customized scan that can check specific folders or locations if you have a strong reason to believe something is infected.

But the extra options are where Antivirus Zap really becomes handy. It offers a “browser restore” option that will automatically remove your extensions, cookies, and caches, essentially cleaning out your browser to help remove any problems and speed things up. It can also scan Windows Boot Camp partitions, external networks, and other systems that you may use on your Mac — and want to protect as a result. Plus, the interface is extra simple and easy to understand, even if you don’t have much experience.

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