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The best free antivirus platforms for Mac

If you’re a Mac user, you probably love the sleek desktop experience and how easy it is to use and understand. Luckily, it’s not the most popular target for malware authors, but having antivirus software installed on your Mac can certainly give you peace of mind.

Finding the right antivirus software can be challenging because so many options are only compatible with Windows. However, there are plenty of antivirus solutions offered to Mac owners. Here are our top antivirus software picks for Mac, with each one being specially tailored to protect your Apple computer.

Further reading

Malwarebytes Free

Malwarebytes for Mac
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Windows users have long turned to the Malwarebytes free version as a backup for always-on antivirus 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. In fact, the company identified the first Mac malware threat in 2017.

Using the app couldn’t be easier. Just select Scan, and the software quickly alerts you to any malware infection — often when other antivirus 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 threats like the fake Adobe Zii malware.

The Free version only cleans an infected Mac while everything else — from preventing infections to updates — expires after 14 days. You need the premium version for live protection, which for one Mac costs $42.69 for 12 months or $74.70 for 24 months.

Avast Security

Avast for Mac
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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.

If privacy is particularly important, you may want to keep in mind the recent reports that Avast does collect, and it also sells customer web browsing data. And while Avast does admit to doing so, the company also maintains that it does not collect names, email addresses, or contact details. Users have the option to opt out of sharing their data.

If you want the Premium version, it costs $70 annually for one Mac license.

Sophos Home Free

Sophos Security for Mac
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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 on-demand, scheduled, and custom 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. It unobtrusively 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 30 days. You’ll need to get the $45-per-year premium version to keep these features.

Bitdefender Virus Scanner

Bitdefender for Mac
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Built upon the company’s award-winning antivirus engine, Bitdefender Virus Scanner features a host of scan options, allowing users to quickly perform deep scans of the entire system or target specific locations. If granted, it even provides an option for scanning critical locations — such as launch agents and the entire system library — allowing users to bypass lengthier scans when pressed for time.

This antivirus software automatically updates with Bitdefender’s hourly malware definitions before scanning while providing a quick means for blacklisting specific locations from system scans. It attempts to disinfect and quarantine suspicious files, and though the feature is not unique to this software, it can also quickly search for malware within various archives and file types (PDF, PKG, ZIP, RAR, etc.).

From the home screen, users 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.

In addition to the desktop version, you can get it straight from the Mac App Store.

Avira Free Antivirus

Avira for Mac
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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 includes standard spyware and adware protection, along with the ability to intercept harmful websites and block tracking. If it finds an infected file or folder, it can repair or delete the problem. It can also scan USB devices for any potential dangers.

Avira’s full-feature interface uses a left-hand navigation bar for viewing the system’s status, scheduling tasks, and viewing past quarantine history, among other options. This antivirus will provide you with up-to-date information about threats. It’s resource-heavy but capable enough when looking for automation, scan history, and other advanced features.

One distinction between Avira and our other recommended choices is that it uses more system resources. Consider yourself warned, but there is a lengthy installation process as you’re starting; the updates also tend to eat up a lot of time as well. The slow-rolling installation and updating isn’t a huge problem considering the meager price and comprehensive antivirus tool, but it’s definitely an inconvenience.

If you need more than what the free tool provides, Avira Internet Security adds advanced ransomware protection, real-time alerts, and more for a single Mac at $58 per year.



If you’re looking for a hands-off solution, AVG Antivirus for Mac is a solid option. AVG runs quietly in the background, offering live protection and schedule scans, as well as the option to manually scan your system or specific files if you’re concerned. AVG draws from a constantly updating database of known viruses and can even catch “zero-day” threats.

It offers both local and web-based protection, watching for malware downloads and malicious links, as well as email attachments that may contain nefarious software.

The user interface is intuitive, and though it pushes you toward some of AVG’s premium offerings, it gives you plenty of information to know how secure your system is.

The premium version offers added layers of protection, including guards against ransomware and phishing malware. It typically costs $70 per year, but you can get the first year for just $35.


Bonus option for a little extra protection: Antivirus Zap

Antivirus Zap
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If you’re someone who is okay with shelling out a little more for software, Antivirus Zap may be a decent option for you. Antivirus Zap is a Mac security app that conducts brief virus scans and hunts for potential places prone to viruses. It also implements a longer, full scan that analyzes your entire system.

Antivirus Zap proves its worth through its user-friendly and simple interface. It’s quite a useful download, offering various fun extras such as “browser restore,” which eliminates caches, cookies, and extensions gathered during browsing. This clears your browser, erasing issues, and boosting computer speed. Additionally, Antivirus Zap can scan and protect all systems used on your Mac computer, including Windows Boot Camp partitions and external networks.

In addition to the desktop software, you can install the app version from the Mac App Store.

Editors' Recommendations

Jon Martindale
Jon Martindale is the Evergreen Coordinator for Computing, overseeing a team of writers addressing all the latest how to…
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