If ten years ago you would have asked what’s the best antivirus for Mac, this would brand you as someone who doesn’t know anything about computers. macOS was considered a much safer OS and that created a unique selling proposition against Windows, whose users seemed plagued with viruses on their Windows PCs.
Nowadays, there’s a lot more Mac users than there used to be. Naturally, the larger crowd attracts more attacks targeted at them. Consequently, using an antivirus on Mac isn’t as ridiculous an idea as it used to be. Here are the services that will reliably protect you and your Mac from the latest cyber threats.
Best antivirus for Mac – quick list:
- Norton 360 – Best premium antivirus protection
- Intego – Best Mac exclusive antivirus
- Avira – Best overall Mac antivirus
- McAfee – Best online threat protection
- TotalAV – Best lightweight antivirus
Our list of best antivirus software for Mac
1. Norton 360 – best premium antivirus protection
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Norton is counting almost three decades in the cybersecurity products industry. This also means that you’ve seen Norton pop up in these lists for about just as long.
Norton consistently catches the trickiest malware types with a meager amount of false-positives. This is in no small part thanks to their malware database. However, advanced as it may be, it wouldn’t help against zero-day malware that isn’t already cataloged in the databases. To catch those, Norton uses artificial intelligence. Their machine learning tool analyses every process on your device. When it detects a pattern that resembles malware, the potential threat goes into quarantine. This means that you’re safe even from the threats that are currently unfamiliar.
All of this is pretty impressive in itself, but Norton goes the extra mile to be more than a solution against malware. There’s also Dark Web Monitoring to give you a heads up when your data ends up leaked in a data breach. This is a lighter version of their Lifelock feature, which is only available to US customers.
There are also such bonus features like Firefox and Chrome extensions. These include Safe Web and Safe Search. The latter removes dangerous links from your online searches, and the former blocks dangerous websites. So, you get pretty good protection when surfing online.
Speaking of online threats, one of Norton’s most significant contributions to your device’s safety is the firewall. It watches over your network when you connect to public wifi. So, your security tools extend to your network and deal with potential threats in real time.
Finally, you will get a VPN, a password manager, Norton Clean to remove files cluttering up your hard drive, and more.
Sadly Norton doesn’t offer a free version, but the price starts at $39.99 for the first year. Even with the cheapest option, you get all malware and online protection features, plus 10 GB of cloud storage. If you ever come in contact with a virus that Norton can’t remove, you get your money back.
- Free trials for all plans
- Excellent protection
- Plenty of extras
- Dark web monitoring
- Low resource usage
- 100% virus protection promise
- No free version
- On the expensive side
- LifeLock only available to US users
2. Intego – best Mac exclusive antivirus
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It’s quite common for popular Windows antivirus providers to branch out into other fields. However, it’s much harder to find Mac-only cybersecurity products. This is why Intego is such an exceptional find.
If you’re a Mac user, Intego should be a household name by now. They have been providing cybersecurity tools and utility software for a couple of decades now. So, they’re not new when it comes to malware protection.
Intego’s VirusBarrier offers real-time protection scanning files and programs as they’re accessed. Plus, it doesn’t protect only you. There are measures against PC-based malware so you wouldn’t spread it to your contacts by accident.
Intego protects your device just as well. There are several types of scans to choose from. Only your first scan will be slower. Then, for each subsequent scan the program will use smart file-caching technology to check only the recently added or modified files. That way, it skips previously checked safe files.
Another area where Intego adds major value is the firewall. You can choose your location to modify NetBarrier settings to match the threat level appropriately. For example, this includes blocking incoming Local Connections, making you safe from threats that lurk in public cafes.
Naturally, Intego adds several more features to the list. There’s the Washing Machine, which removes accumulated junk and duplicate files, saving you space. You can even find their unique take on Mac’s Time Machine (called Personal Backup) for most important personal files to be stored on external drives.
Their product prices start at $39.99 a year or ~$3.34 a month when it comes to pricing. Although the service is paid-only, it offers a free trial with all its plans.
- Truly Mac-centered option
- Protects against PC-based malware, as well
- File caching skips already scanned files to save time
- Customizable NetBarrier
- Free trial
- No support for mobile or other platforms
3. Avira – Best overall Mac antivirus
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The whole premise of Avira antivirus is that it’s a lightweight solution that doesn’t skimp on features. You might have heard such statements many times, but Avira is a very transparent provider. They don’t waste time to come up with long lists of features to create artificial value. What you get is truly one of the best suites, capable of adding a firm layer to your cybersecurity.
For example, in lab tests, Avira consistently shines, blocking 99-100% of all provided threats. Besides, they seem extremely proficient at excluding false positives. Recently, Avira was acquired by Norton, so you may expect their malware databases to merge and improve even further. You can even contribute by sending suspicious files to be analyzed to a protection cloud.
Don’t think that you’ll only be using this service to scan your hard drive. What you will rely on daily is their real-time scan to analyze all files you use or click. Detected suspicious items will be placed into quarantine, where they won’t be able to harm your device. There, you will be able to delete them safely.
Avira contributes to your safety not only with antivirus countermeasures. There’s a password generator – a feature usually found on password manager software, but nonetheless, it’s a welcome addition. And you also get a VPN with a pretty severe data cap – only 500 MB a month. Lastly, there’s the junk remover – a tool that helps you to save space by deleting unwanted temporary files.
When it comes to price, there are a couple of nice surprises. There is a free version that is available for Mac and iOS, as well as other platforms. The first paid tier, called Avira Antivirus Pro, costs $44.99 a year (or ~$3.75 a month). It’s a bit on the expensive side, but considering that there is a free option, you can always test the service out. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting out of your subscription.
- Great lab tests results
- Superb free version
- Not resource-intensive
- Supports all popular platforms
- Password generator
- Free version lacks web protection
- Slow customer support
4. McAfee – Best online threat protection
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Despite being one of the best, McAfee is often glossed over. This might have something to do with reputational harm that came with the Intel acquisition, as a result of which many Windows users got McAfee installed as bloatware. Since then, the company has regained its independence and cleaned up its act.
From a safety standpoint, this means good protection against malware. McAfee doesn’t disappoint there. With their real-time malware protection, every file that you access will instantly be cross-checked with all malware entries in their database. It means that you won’t have to rely on full system scans to weed out the nasty programs hiding deep within your hard drive.
Undoubtedly, scanning is also there. You can perform Quick or Full system scans at will or schedule them automatically. Once the scan is complete, you will get a pretty detailed report on how it went and what potential threats were found. McAfee removes suspicious files by default, so keep that in mind.
McAfee takes care of the files that you might have and makes it much harder for online threats to end up on your system. There’s a robust firewall that isn’t difficult to set up even for novice users. Plus, it complements the included macOS tools. So, you should feel very safe when you’re logged into public networks.
The web protection extends to areas like web phishing protection. McAfee uses smart web filters to detect and block potential phishing websites to ensure that your payment information or credentials don’t end up in someone’s hands.
If anonymity is just as important to you as safety from malware, there is also a VPN. Using it, you can connect to a fleet of private servers to bypass geo-blocking restrictions and the tracking of your Internet Service Provider.
If you want to try the service, it’s free on iOS and Android devices. Desktop users will either have to opt for their free trial option or cough up the cash. The price starts at $19.99 for a first-year (1 device). So, it’s one of the most budget-friendly options if you want to protect your Mac against a growing number of online threats.
- Good protection against malware
- Generous device limits
- Solid firewall
- Support for all major platforms
- Some plans cost more, but add few extra features
- More limited than Windows app
5.TotalAV – best lightweight antivirus
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It’s always smart to be reluctant, especially when it comes to newer cybersecurity products. More often than not, you get more by sticking to experienced and reliable antivirus providers. Although TotalAV is truly the new kid on the block, it’s one that you shouldn’t dismiss just because of its age.
Mac is just one of the platforms that this TotalAV caters to. With this antivirus, macOS users get a nice blend of features that “patch up” the bases poorly guarded by the built-in tools.
In terms of security, TotalAV has traditional malware scanners to detect malicious software on your system. All of this is made possible with the malware scanner developed by Avira. However, with the news that Norton has acquired Avira, it’s hard to say how its support will continue in the future.
There are also several means to ward off threats without resorting to a full system scan. Their real-time engine is more than capable of detecting various kinds of threats when downloading or opening files. However, it’s less precise than other options that we have on our lists. It tends to flag false-positives, so double-check what you’re deleting.
TotalAV isn’t the flashiest option when it comes to the number of extra features, but there are some notable mentions. For example, you’ll get robust optimization tools to clean junk files and a VPN with an unlimited data plan.
For the first year, it costs $29 or ~$2.42 a month for the first year. Considering that the service is on the lighter side with features, it’s only natural that it’s not charging as much. That doesn’t mean that you should avoid this service. It’s one of the best when you need a lightweight solution with all the essential features.
- Malware protection powered by Avira
- Free version
- Easily accessible customer support
- Variety of optimization tools
- Low price
- Can only protect a maximum of 6 devices
- Frequent false-positives
How I tested the best antivirus software for Mac
Many antivirus service providers make Mac versions by porting their Windows application to another system. The flaw of this method is that most of the time, unique Mac traits get overlooked or don’t offer any better alternative than the built-in tools.
For this reason, I eliminated the services that don’t add additional benefits that could be useful to Mac users. Then, I installed the apps on our test Mac device and ran some tests. This made it possible to rank every service in terms of its features, malware removal capabilities (insights mostly based on independent tests), and pricing. If a service has a free version, it was always considered as a bonus.
Video review: Best antivirus software for Mac
Free antivirus for Mac
If a premium subscription is a bit above your budget, using a free version shouldn’t be out of the question. However, keep your expectations in check. Likely, the free version of a premium product will not have all the features. On the other hand, if an antivirus is entirely free, it might itself be malware.
The bottom line is, make sure that your chosen free version comes from a reputable source. There are many antivirus service providers. However, when it comes to the free versions, there are just a handful of options. This is especially true for Mac devices because they are pretty limited when it comes to antivirus selection. In any case, you can visit our best free antivirus services page to find all about the best free versions on the market.
Do I need virus protection on a Mac?
Based on some metrics, malicious software for Mac surpassed Windows several years ago. The number of Mac users has grown quite sharply, making threats for Mac a worthy investment. Consequently, the number of online threats is just as large, making good sense to safeguard your device with an antivirus.
How Apple protects your Mac from malware
Apple has pretty good measures in place to protect you from malware. For example, this includes Gatekeeper. It’s a security feature that forces every app you’re installing to be digitally signed by Apple. You can install the apps that are not signed, but it will require special clearance. It makes installing untrustworthy apps a multiple-step process, which means that the total number of malicious apps installed is significantly lower.
What is the best antivirus software for Mac?
Norton 360 is our favorite Mac antivirus. Mac has many built-in features that make a resilient OS against a variety of cyber threats. However, the safety of your devices could be much improved by using any of the antivirus services mentioned on our list.
Do Macs have built-in antivirus?
Yes. All Macs have built-in antivirus functionality in their File Quarantine. It’s called Xprotect, and it was included on all systems, starting with macOS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. It didn’t go anywhere, and now it’s counting almost a decade of being the first barrier of your system’s protection.
Why does Mac have no viruses?
There never was a time when Macs had no viruses. They were always out there. The main difference is that compared to Windows, Apple users were much less affected, so it seemed as if Macs were immune. The landscape has now changed, and many malware types affect Mac users.
Is paid antivirus better than free?
In terms of features, paid antivirus will almost universally have more features than a free one. That is the way of the world. However, whether these features are worth your time will depend entirely on your use cases, so you should treat each case individually.