How to remove malware from a Mac
Is your Mac rebooting itself without reason? Has the speed decreased? Maybe you’re getting tons of pop-up ads in your browser. If you answered yes to any of those questions, it is highly likely that your Mac has been infected with malware.
Malware on your Mac can lead to serious consequences – identity theft, financial losses, corrupted files, and a straight-up unusable device. If you suspect that your Mac has been infected with a virus, you need to take steps now.
In this article, we explain how to tell if your device is infected and provide the steps you should take to remove a virus from your Mac, and some tips and tricks on how to protect it from malware in the future.
How to know if my Mac has a virus?
Verifying that your Mac device is actually affected by a virus before jumping to conclusions is the first thing to do.
Here are the main signs that your Macbook has malicious software:
- Your Mac's speed has decreased. This could indicate that a malware is stealing your device's resources to achieve its malicious job.
- Your browser starts up with a new homepage. A homepage that you didn't choose as the main one might inform you that your browser has been hacked.
- Random ads get in your sight, redirecting you to fake phishing websites. This is one of the most common signs that your device has been infected. In this way malicious websites earn money.
- You are blocked from accessing your personal files. The reason behind this might be trojan horse or ransomware that threatens to expose your personal information.
- Spam messages are generated from your accounts. Within this type of malware, spam messages reach your contacts on various online platforms.
- You find extensions that you didn’t add. Unfamiliar extensions are strong indicators that you have unknowingly installed malware on your Mac.
- Your device and apps get randomly rebooted. If your gadgets restart for no reason, it’s possible that a hacker is installing a malicious program into your system.
How do I check my Mac for a virus?
Usually, it is not hard to tell that something is wrong with your Mac device. It starts to act oddly and annoy you: weird messages telling you that your device is infected, ads displayed on a browser, slower engine, random reboots. All of this definitely does not occur on a “healthy” Mac device.
Yet, it is important not to stress out and calmly evaluate the situation. Here are some tips on how to check your Mac for a virus:
- Run an antivirus scan. We recommend using TotalAV, now 84% off.
- Check recently modified apps. To do this go to “Apple Menu” > “About this Mac” > “Overview” > “Applications”
- Check auto-launch scripts. For LaunchAgents folder search for: /Library/LaunchAgents; for LaunchDaemons folder search for: /System/Library/LaunchDaemons (for native macOS processes)/Library/LaunchDaemons (for installed third-party apps)
On the other hand, if you recognize some of the symptoms that might be informing you about a virus, it does not necessarily mean that a virus or malware is in your Mac. However, these symptoms are indicating the danger, so you can eliminate the issue before it gets to its worst.
How to scan Mac for viruses
By using a robust MacBook antivirus, like TotalAV, you can attempt a virus scan effortlessly. Here’s how:
- Download and install the TotalAV software.
- Log in to the app.
- In the left-side menu, find the Malware Scan feature.
- Choose to run the System Scan.
- When the scan ends, select whether you want to quarantine or delete threats if there are any found.
How to remove malware from your Mac
It is important to wipe the virus from every possible corner there is to avoid data theft, spying, financial theft, ransomware, and malware spreading to other devices. The safest and most efficient way to remove malware from your Mac is to use an antivirus for Mac, such as TotalAV. However, you might also want to go through some steps manually. Here’s how to remove malware from your Mac manually:
Step 1. Disconnect from the internet
This first step is crucially important if you don’t want malware spreading through your home or work network to other devices. Simply turn off the wifi, disconnect your Mac from any internet cables, or put it in flight mode.
The most effective way to get rid of a virus is getting a reputable macOS antivirus program. With a set of advanced features, such as real-time scanning, ransomware protection, dark web monitoring, and more, you will be able to stop the damage on time.
Step 2. Turn on Safe Mode
Sometimes malware infections can make your device too slow to efficiently remove anything. Booting your Mac into Safe Mode will ensure that malware stops spreading from file to file, location to location.
Here’s how to turn on Safe Mode on Mac:
- Figure out what type of Mac you have. Choose Apple Menu and navigate to About This Mac.
- If you see an item called Chip, your Mac is with Apple silicon. If you see an item called Processor, your Mac is Intel-based.
Safe Mode for Mac with Apple silicon:
- Choose Apple Menu, and select Shut Down. Wait for your Mac to shut down completely.
- Press and hold the Power button until the Loading startup options appears.
- Select a volume.
- Press and hold the Shift key, and choose Continue in Safe Mode.
Safe Mode for Intel-based Mac:
- Restart your Mac, and immediately press and hold the Shift key until the login window appears.
- Log in to your Mac.
- You might need to log in again. On either the first or second login window, “Safe Boot” should be visible in the menu bar.
Step 3: stop malicious programs from running on your Mac
Programs are not caught as easily as applications, thus we rarely think of them running in the background. They are getting activated within every action we make, so malicious programs are able to quickly sneak in on your device.
Thankfully, it is very easy to stop those programs on a Mac. Let us show you how:
- Go to Applications.
- Look for the "Activity monitor" and open it
- Look for the malicious app and click [x] button to quit and stop it.
- Go back to Applications and drag the malicious app to the trash. Immediately empty the trash.
Step 4: remove suspicious applications
A virus comes in many different forms. It can even come up as security software, so it is easy to get tricked here.
If you have downloaded an app that turns out to be a virus, you must uninstall it as soon as possible.
Here’s how to remove unwanted apps from a Mac:
- Open “Finder” and go to the “Applications” folder
- Scroll through the list of apps
- Detect and delete any applications that you don’t recognize
- Empty the trash. Any remains left from a program can restore the program itself and continue spreading malware.
Step 5: remove browser hijackers
Browser hijackers overtake your device by transforming browser settings without your permission. Its purpose is to increase the income of malicious websites.
Here is how to remove browser hijackers on different browsers:
- Open the Extensions tab via your browser settings.
- Uninstall any suspicious extensions.
- Go to the Search Engine (or simply Search) settings and choose your default search engine.
Step 6: delete browser extensions
It is common for a virus to come over a browser extension. Even the extensions that are not malicious and you haven’t installed them knowingly can be bothering and they are also malware.
Here is how to remove browser extensions on a browser:
- Launch Safari
- Navigate to Extensions in the browser settings tab.
- Check the extensions and find any that look suspicious or were installed without your knowledge.
- Uninstall the suspicious extensions.
Step 7: update the macOS
With all the provided steps we would also like to recommend you keep your Mac device up to date. Each released update from a developer assures that security features are improved as well. Here’s how to update your Mac:
- In the Apple Menu, choose System Settings or System Preferences.
- Navigate to Software Update. The feature will check if there are new updates.
- If a new update is found, click the Update Now (Upgrade Now, Install Now, or Restart Now) button.
- Enter your admin password.
- Your Mac will update. If Software Update says that your device is up to date, you don’t need to update it.
Step 8: reset factory settings
Sometimes nothing goes as planned, and the only way to save your Mac is to erase it, and then reset the settings completely. Here’s how to do that:
- Go to Apple Menu and select System Settings.
- In the sidebar, click on General.
- On the right, choose Transfer or Reset.
- Click Erase all Content and Settings.
- Sign in with your admin credentials.
- If you need to back up your Mac before resetting, you can do so with the Time Machine. However, we don’t recommend making backups, as the virus could transfer.
- Click Continue to erase all your data.
- Enter your Apple ID password and click continue.
- Choose Erase All Content & Settings for confirmation.
- Your Mac will restart. You’ll be prompted to connect to any accessories and wifi networks.
- After connecting to the internet, your Mac will activate. Click Restart and set up your Mac anew.
Step 9: use antivirus software
The most effective way to get rid of a virus is getting a reputable macOS antivirus program. With a set of advanced features, such as real-time scanning, ransomware protection, dark web monitoring, and more, you will be able to stop the demage on time.
For this case, we recommend using TotalAV, which excels in malware detection and offers intuitive apps for Macs.
- Download and install TotalAV application. Now, you can get it at 84% off
- Log in to your account
- Run a full device scan
- Complete following steps provided by the antivirus
- Make sure you also enable the ad blocker feature to avoid adware
What to do if I still can’t remove a virus?
Unfortunately, sometimes none of the troubleshooting solutions will work. Thus, it is needed to make a cardinal action – reinstall your macOS. Here you can see how to do that:
- Select “Reinstall macOS” from the utilities window in macOS “Recovery”
- Click “Continue” and follow the instructions
- If you get asked to unlock your disk, type in your Mac login password
- If the installer is unable to see the disk or notifies you that macOS can’t be installed, then you need to erase your disk first
- Choose "Macintosh HD"
- During the installation process keep your Mac device active.
How to prevent malware from infecting your Mac
A virus is a program that is designed to damage your device by gaining access to it. Therefore, you should apply several security measures to prevent malware attacks:
- Use an antivirus. We recommend TotalAV Antivirus.
- Don’t download random stuff from the internet. No matter how tempting some options can be, just don’t do that.
- Avoid sketchy websites and links, even if they are saying that you are going to win a new iPhone.
Knowing a rule of thumb is also a helpful tool: don’t run a program if you don’t know where it has come from or haven’t chosen to install it.
Truth be told, macOS provides great security tools itself: Apple M series chips and FileVault 2, which encrypts your data; antimalware technologies like XD, ASLR, and SIP.
You may also improve your personal data security by using tools:
Getting a virus on Mac computers isn’t so uncommon anymore. Even though Apple developers are constantly working towards providing you with sufficient security, cybercriminals still manage to break through the system.
Frankly, a virus can be wiped out either from a MacBook Pro or other versions, and there are several ways to do so. You can do it manually or by using top-notch antivirus software like TotalAV, which will take care of your security in the long term.
At last, you should keep in mind that it is dangerous to visit random, oddly-looking websites, click on pop-ups, and install unknown and unofficial programs. And each residue from a malicious program can restore malware and allow it to crash your security and system.
More malware removal guides from Cybernews:
Do I need an antivirus for Mac?
Depending on your technical knowledge of the OS, the time you can spend checking for viruses and removing them, how much you value your money. Also, macOS has a lot of built-in protections that make it hard to get infected with a virus. However, if you don't have the time or the knowledge to do that, and you need a service that does that for you, an antivirus can be a great option.
Does Mac have a built-in virus scanner?
Yes, it is called XProtect, and is built into every macOS version since 2009. However it only works in the background and will notify you if it finds something, but there is no way to change its settings or start a scan manually.
Does resetting the Mac get rid of the viruses?
In most cases, yes. However, it will not help if your backup, the recovery partition, or other devices are infected. Also, resetting the Mac will not help if it was infected with a rootkit that enables administrator-level access to your device.