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How to remove a virus from a Mac

Mac devices can be infected by viruses. In fact, cybercriminals are more likely to attack your Mac device now more than ever. Mac users think that their devices are more immune to viruses than Windows devices. Yet, adware and other unwanted programs on your Mac are the most common threats among average users.

If your Mac has started acting oddly: rebooting itself, the speed has decreased, browser pop-ups get in your face, then a virus has possibly got into your system. But to make sure it actually has infected your device and stop a virus from spreading the damage, it is recommended to scan your Mac with antivirus. Antivirus software checks computer files and detects a virus before getting damaged by it.

In this article, you will find out how to recognize the virus on your Mac, how to get rid of it and protect it in the long run. Take a look below and get ready to increase your security.

Security tip

The easiest way to guard your Mac against malware is to use antivirus software. TotalAV antivirus can provide good protection against most malicious programs.

How do I 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. Symptoms caused by viruses can be similar to other technical Mac issues. Thus it is easy to get confused and not to detect the actual issue.

Let’s see the main symptoms that indicate a virus on your Mac:

  • 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.

How to remove malware from a Mac?

The moment a virus gets into your Mac system, it might be able to track your passwords and data, as well as share your sensitive information with third parties. Thus, it is important to wipe the virus from every possible corner there is. Applications, programs, browser – everything needs to be checked and cleaned.

We surely do understand how irritating and stressful malware can be. Getting rid of a virus is also a responsible thing to do. Frankly, we were able to test several options that help to get rid of a virus on a Mac. Take a look and find the way to go.

Remove unwanted apps

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:

  1. Open “Finder” and go to the “Applications” folder
  2. Scroll through the list of apps
  3. Detect and delete any applications that you don’t recognize
  4. Empty the trash. Any remains left from a program can restore the program itself and continue spreading malware. Applications folder

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:

  1. Go to the "Launchpad" (colorful squares icon in your bottom toolbar)
  2. Look for the "Activity monitor" and open it
  3. If it is known to you which programs are malicious, locate them in the CPU tab of your “Activity monitor” and stop them running by hitting the “x” in the middle of the top line of the window Activity monitor

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. What should you do in this case to remove a virus from your Mac?

Here is how to remove browser hijackers on different browsers:

On Safari

  1. Open Safari and on the “Safari Menu” choose “Preferences
  2. Select the “Extensions” tab and look for extensions that you didn't add
  3. If you find one, choose it and click “Uninstallsafari-extensions
  4. Furthermore, choose the “General” tab and set the homepage to your usual one
  5. Select the “Search” tab and choose the search tool you wish to use. Search engine
  6. If the issue persists every time you restart your browser, it is recommended to take a look at your login items. Login items

On Chrome

  1. Launch Chrome and in the address bar type in these words: chrome://extensions
  2. Look for extensions that you don’t recognize. If cross over any of them, press “Remove” next to the extension
  3. Paste these words in the address bar: chrome:// settings
  4. Navigate to the “On startup” and choose what page do you want to see at the start of your browser
  5. In the “Search engine” section, choose a default search tool.

On Firefox

  1. Launch Firefox and put these words in the search bar: about:addons
  2. Choose “Extensions”
  3. Look for any unfamiliar extensions
  4. If you find one, click on the three-dot (“⋮”) icon next to the extension and choose to "Remove" it
  5. Go to about:preferences
  6. In the “Home” section, set your homepage
  7. In the “Search” section, set your default search engine.

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 different browsers:

On Safari

  1. Launch Safari
  2. Click Safari in the top menu and then choose “Safari Extensions”
  3. Check the list and look if any extensions seem suspicious
  4. Read the description of an extension. If you do not recognize the extension, uninstall it.

On Chrome

  1. Launch Chrome
  2. Click on the three-dot icon (“⋮”) in the upper right corner
  3. Select “More Tools” and choose “Extensions” from the menu that appears
  4. Look over the extensions and remove the ones that you are not familiar with.

On Firefox

  1. Launch Firefox
  2. Click the three-line (“≡”) icon at the top right corner
  3. Choose “Add-ons and themes”
  4. Click the “Extensions” tab and remove the ones that you do not recognize.

Create a new user profile

Sometimes a virus gets connected to your Mac profile. This way allows viruses to gain access to admin permissions. So, creating a new account would allow you to get away from a virus.

  1. Go to Apple menu
  2. Select “System Preferences” and click on “Users & Groups
  3. Hit the Locker icon and type in your admin password
  4. Use the “+” icon to add a new profile Adding new profile

If you decide to add a new profile, you would probably want to transfer the information from your previous account. For this, you will need to access the “Shared folder”.

  1. Click on the “Finder”
  2. Go to “Folder”
  3. Paste in: /Users

Here you can copy your wanted files from your previous account and share them with your new profile.

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.

Also, whenever you install a new program, always go for a custom installation option. It allows you to deselect anything that is not familiar to you, so no PUPs will be installed on your Mac device.

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.

However, this solution will reduce the risk of flaws in the old code of a virus getting exploited by criminals to install malware on your device. Here you can see how to do that:

  1. Select “Reinstall macOS” from the utilities window in macOS “Recovery”
  2. Click “Continue” and follow the instructions
  3. If you get asked to unlock your disk, type in your Mac login password
  4. 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
  5. Choose "Macintosh HD"
  6. During the installation process keep your Mac device active.

How can I protect my Mac from viruses?

A virus is a program that is designed to damage your device by gaining access to it. Its threat can include stealing your personal data and crashing your Mac.

To protect your Mac from a virus you must use your device mindfully. Remember that cybercriminals are improving along with technology, so leaving your Mac without security is dangerous. Thus, we have several suggestions that will help you to keep a virus away from your Mac:

  • 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: not to run a program if you don’t know where it has come from or haven’t chosen to install it.

Truth to 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 like:

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:

  1. Antivirus scan Norton scan
  2. Check recently modified apps. To do this go to “Apple Menu” > “About this Mac” > “Overview” > “Applications”
  3. 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) LaunchAgents folder

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.


Though a Mac is less common to get infected by a virus, the chances are still high. By taking it seriously, Apple developers are constantly improving the security features that get implemented on Mac devices. So it is recommended to keep your device up to date to avoid viruses.

Frankly, a virus can be wiped out from a Mac and there are several ways to do so. Yet, it is important to double-check the system before trusting it casually again. Each residue from a malicious program can restore malware and allow it to crash your security and system.

Although you have managed to get rid of a virus on your Mac device, it is crucial that you take care of your security in the long term. To prevent your Mac from a virus, we recommend you get antivirus software. Also, you should keep in mind that it is dangerous to visit random, oddly-looking websites, clicking on pop-ups, and installing unknown and unofficial programs.

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