Welcome to our list of the best Mac antivirus software in 2018. Despite what some people claim, Mac viruses do exist, but it’s very hard for them to spread. OS X and macOS are based on the Unix operating system, which is sandboxed. That means it’s very difficult for viruses to do any damage. Think of them as locked in a little box from which they can’t escape no matter how hard they try.
Not only is a Mac much more difficult to hack or compromise than a Windows PC, but the relative obscurity of Macs means that even if a criminal does find a vulnerability to exploit, it’s a lot more effort to attack far fewer computers. That means Macs benefit from security by obscurity; the baddies target the more common and potentially lucrative Windows machines instead.
However, you should be careful not to get complacent if you own a Mac, as viruses and security risks are increasing, so it is wise to consider buying antivirus software for your Mac. Read on for our top choices.
Mac antivirus: which is best at detecting threats?
The excellent AV-TEST regularly puts anti-virus programs through their paces, and their most recent tests took place in July 2017 on macOS Sierra. They tested two key areas: how well the packages detected Mac-specific threats, and how well they protected against Macs in mixed-OS environments being hijacked to spread Windows malware.
For Mac malware, four packages achieved 100% detection without false positives:
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is one of the most accurate virus protection suites for Apple devices on the market, and it comes with a host of features, including multi-layer ransomware protection, adware removal, and it can also scan for Windows PC malware as well. If you're concerned about internet nasties, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is the best antivirus software for Macs in 2018.
Intego has been protecting Macs for 20 years, so if there's any software that knows what kind of security Apple machines need, this is it. It comes with an antivirus engine that cans for the latest Mac threats, as well as Windows and Unix malware as well, and it also features a full firewall for managing network permissions.
Kaspersky is a well regarded name in the field of antivirus protection, and it maintains that reputation with its Internet Security for Mac software, which brings a range of features that put much of its competitors to shame, including firewall protection, parental controls and tools to make sure you can shop and bank completely securely online. The huge range of features are certainly welcome, but it can make the interface a bit cumbersome to navigate if you're looking for a particular tool.
Norton is another brand that's well known in the anti-virus world, and the Norton Security Deluxe software helps protect your Mac with an excellent malware detection engine. It can cover a range of devices, so you can have it protect your Macs, or even any Windows PCs you have, or mobile devices. While the security it offers is great, there can be a noticeable impact on system speed when in use. If you want to keep your Mac feeling as speedy as possible, look at one of the other choices in this best antivirus software for Mac list, but if you want robust, dependable protection, no matter what, then Norton Security Deluxe is definitely worth investing in.
The next four achieved between 99.5% and 98.4% without false positives:
If you're running the latest version of macOS, macOS High Sierra (10.13), then Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac is a very good choice, as it has been built for compatibility with the recent operating system. It brings antivirus protection, content filtering, a social media privacy checker and new ransomware protection tools. Scanning speed has also been improved since the last version, making it faster to check your Mac for any viruses.
ClamXAV doesn't have the catchiest of names, but it's the antivirus software for Mac that many IT professionals swear by. That doesn't mean it's overly complicated – in fact, it has one of the most simple and easy-to-use interfaces out of all the Mac antivirus software on this list. It's particularly adept at catching viruses in email attachments, and while it doesn't come with some of the internet safety tools of other suites, it's still an excellent choice for protecting your Mac, and unlike its competitors, it offers a one-off fee, rather than a yearly subscription.
ESET Cyber Security for Mac scores highly from independent testing labs, so you can rest assured that your Mac is being well looked after if you have this installed. It's not the quickest software to scan your Mac for viruses, but it digs deep into your system to make sure your machine is completely free from viruses, and it has a pretty competitive price tag as well.
While the other Mac antivirus software on this list require you to pay for their services, Sophos Home for Macs is completely free. That doesn't mean it's not trustworthy – it also scores highly with independent testers, and it comes with some good features, including anti-phishing tools, website filtering and ransomware protection. You can easily manage your devices from an online interface, and add up to 10 Macs and Windows PCs for complete control.
Mac antivirus: what’s the effect on performance?
Most of us believe that anti-virus software has a negative effect on performance, but chances are it’s much less negative than we think: in their tests, AV-Test found that there was no measurable performance drop when using ClamXav, MacKeeper, Kaspersky or Norton. There was a measurable difference with Sophos and Trend Micro (2% of additional system load), and with ESET and Bitdefender, which added around 4% to the overall system load.
Mac antivirus: which tools are recommended?
If you don’t want to spend money, go for AVG: it achieved 100% detection in AV-TEST benchmarks. However, AV-TEST did point out that unlike paid-for products, AVG had a significant effect on system performance, taking around 10% of system resources.
Of the paid-for products, AV-TEST recommends Kaspersky Lab and Norton, noting that they deliver 100% detection with no noticeable effect on performance.
Bitdefender and Trend Micro are highly recommended too, as is Intego – albeit with the caveat that it can increase system load by 16%.
Mac antivirus: do I really need it?
That really depends on you. The risk of infection remains pretty remote, and if you practice basic security measures and don’t fall for common scams then you’re very unlikely to suffer from any problems. Even ransomware can be defeated with the cunning tactic of having a backup of anything important.
That said, if you’ve ever experienced the mess malware can make on a Windows system you’ll know that just getting things back to normal can be an incredible time thief, especially if key data has been damaged. Perhaps the question shouldn’t be whether anti-virus is worth the money, but whether your time is more valuable than the cost of a security app.