Windows 10 is the most common operating system, meaning more malware is coded with Windows users in mind. But despite persistent perception to the contrary, MacOS is just as susceptible to malware as Windows 10. Apple’s operating system is far from invulnerable, and new Mac threats appear regularly. That’s why it’s important to keep up on software updates and basic security.
Fortunately, there are many fantastic anti-malware platforms designed to give your Mac a booster shot against the latest viruses, adware, and ransomware, as well as historic threats. Many of them are made by the same companies that produce the best Windows antivirus solutions.
The best free antivirus for Mac
Avast Security for Mac
The application’s interface is straightforward and self-explanatory, and features a navigational pane on the left that consists of five primary buttons and a real-time graph that aggregates shield activity and allows users to quickly check the overall stats of their computer. The free version also offers to install two other programs 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.
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac
Windows users have long turned to Malwarebytes’ free version, affectionately known as MBAM, as a backup for always-on malware software. The Mac Malwarebytes 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 Malwarebytes team’s constant research on current threats — the company identified the first Mac malware threat in 2017.
Using the program couldn’t be easier. Just launch it, hit scan, and the software will quickly let you know if you’re infected with any Mac-specific malware — oftentimes when other software has missed 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 malware like Fruitfly.
There are scheduling and proactive blocks, but these features expire after two weeks if you are using the free version. To get live protection you’d need to pay for the premium version, which starts at $40 for a year.
Sophos Antivirus Mac Home Edition
Straddling the line somewhere between necessity and excess, Sophos offers all the basic utilities you’ve come to 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 even incorporates real-time protection features that will quarantine unknown files that are exhibiting suspicious behavior. Although the program has a tendency 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 being updated, ensuring the program is never without the latest knowledge of potential threats. It’s one of the most hands-off antivirus programs on the market, and as such, sits among the best.
The free version of Sophos also includes ransomware monitoring, webcam protection, and live support options, but all of these expire after thirty days, and you will need to get the premium version for $60 for the year to keep them.
Bitdefender Virus Scanner
Built upon Bitdefender’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 program 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 prior to scanning, while providing a quick means for blacklisting specific locations from system scans.
Bitdefender Virus Scanner automatically tries to disinfect and quarantine suspicious files it comes across, 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 homescreen, 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 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/delete the problem so you don’t have to worry about it again. The software can also scan USB devices for any potential dangers.
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 dealbreaker when you consider the nonexistent price tag and its thorough antivirus engine, but it’s an unfortunate downside.
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.
Bonus option for a little extra: Antivirus Zap ($7)
If you don’t mind spending a few bucks on affordable software, 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 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 bootcamp, external networks, and other systems that you may use on your Mac — and want to protect as a result. Plus, the interfact is extra simple and easy to understand even if you don’t have much experience!