If you’ve got a Mac and are wondering whether you need antivirus and which antivirus you should choose, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we reveal the 8 best antivirus programs for macOS and Mac OS X right now.
You can click here to skip ahead and see our pick of the 8 best Mac antivirus options, or continue reading for answers to all of your Mac antivirus questions.
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Do I need Mac antivirus?
Macs are more secure – or less insecure, at least – than their Windows brethren for two reasons. On the technical side, macOS is a Unix-based operating system. As a Unix-based operating system macOS is sandboxed. It’s like having a series of fire doors – even if malware gains access to your Mac, it is unable to spread to the heart of the machine. Macs are not unhackable, but they are more difficult to exploit than Windows PCs.
The second reason is that there are far fewer Macs than there are Windows PCs. Fewer targets, and these are harder to hack. Is it any wonder that cybercriminals focus on the Windows world? All malware these days exists to make money, and the criminals who create and share such filth are not doing so because they want to work hard. They pick off the lowest hanging fruit, and that is unprotected Windows PCs.
Two reports from early 2017 suggest that Macs are becoming less secure. Business Insider even suggests thatMacs are now more vulnerable to viruses and attack than even Windows PCs! The CVE report on the Top 50 Products By Total Number Of “Distinct” Vulnerabilities in 2016 Mac OS X came in at number 10, and Windows at 14. And Fortune has warned of new Mac malware that can freeze Apple computers. Mac users should not feel complacent any more.
There is active malware in the Mac world, however. And one of the biggest threats is your own behaviour.
What we look for
For any security software to be effective and worth the install it has to be able to prevent malware from infecting your computer. Mac antivirus is no different. We look for anti-malware properties that prevent known and unknown threats from having their way with your Mac. We use AV-Test.org’s own testing data to ascertain the effectiveness of each antivirus in this respect.
But security is only half the story. In order for an antivirus to work effectively it also needs to be unobtrusive. AV-Test also looks at the impact of these pieces of software on your system: in laymen’s terms, how much does the antivirus slow down your Mac, if at all.
For each of the security solutions we outline over the following slides, we have tested their ability to keep your Mac safe, and balanced that against the impact on your Mac’s performance. You’ll see that even though the best free antivirus programs are good at protection, for instance, they also hurt your Mac’s speed much more than do paid-for software. So you need to balance cost against performance impact when selecting a product. Now, on to the best Mac antivirus packages.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac
Our number-one best antivirus for Mac is Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac. In AV-Test’s lab, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac blocked 100 percent of the threats thrown at it. Even more impressively, it had a lower than 10 percent system impact, meaning that you won’t even know it is protecting you, while it is protecting you. You can read more about Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac here.
Here are Bitdefender’s UK prices:
- £39.99 (1 Mac, 1 year)
- £59.99 (1 Mac, 2 years)
- £79.99 (1 Mac, 3 years)
- £49.99 (up to 3 Macs, 1 year)
- £79.99 (up to 3 Macs, 2 years)
- £119.99 (up to 3 Macs, 3 years)
In the US, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac costs:
- $39.99 (1 Mac, 1 year)
- $59.99 (1 Mac, 2 years)
- $89.99 (1 Mac, 3 years)
- $59.99 (up to 3 Macs, 1 year)
- $89.99 (up to 3 Macs, 2 years)
- $129.99 (up to 3 Macs, 3 years)
US Mac owners can buy Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac here.
Bitdefender, then, is our pick for best Mac antivirus. But there are seven more excellent Mac antivirus packages in this roundup, and depending on your precise requirements, budget and so on, you may find one of the others more suitable. If you’d like to learn more, read on.
For further reading, see: How to remove Mac antivirus software
ESET Antivirus for Mac
- RRP: From £29, From US$39.99
- Buy from ESET
Another paid-for Mac antivirus, here is ESET. This £29 tool offers 100 percent threat detection, and scores reasonably highly in speed tests. You can save up to 25 percent by going for a two-year licence, and there are various cost-saving options for multiple Mac households up to £59 for a four-Mac licence. And there is a 30-day trial.
To find out more about ESET Antivirus for Mac, click here.
AVG for Mac
- RRP: Free version available, Pro version £49.99, Free version available
- Buy from AVG
In AV Tests most recent research, only four our of the twelve antivirus packages tested managed to detect 100% of the malware thrown at it. AVG is one of those, as are numbers two and one in this chart. AVG has a bigger impact on performance than our two front-runners, though.
There’s a free version available with limited capabilities, and the Pro version which includes full protection costs £49.99. There is a free trial of Pro available, though, which is well worth trying.
To find out more about AVG for Mac, click here.
Norton Security for Mac
- RRP: £49.99, US$69.99
- Buy from Symantec
Symantec’s Norton Security didn’t perform as well in AV Test’s recent tests as it did back in December, so we’ve had to bump it back from its number-two position. It offered 99.17% detection which is still great, but when there are plenty of alternatives that scored 100% it makes it more difficult to recommend. It’s also not the fastest option available.
Norton Security retails for £49.99 for a single Mac. Step up to £59.99 and you can protect up to five devices, which can include Windows PCs and smartphones as well as Macs, which is pretty cool. Albeit a little pointless on the smartphone front. You can get further discounts by buying a two-year licence.
To find out more about Norton Security, click here.
Kaspersky will set you back £39 a year for the full internet security suite for Macs. In return you get 99.17% percent threat detection from the antivirus, as well as anti-spyware, safer banking software and the rest. Oh, and there is a 30-day trial. The catch? Greater impact on system performance than some of the better products we list in this story, although not by much.
To find out more about Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, click here.
Sophos Antivirus for Mac
- RRP: Free, Free
- Buy from Sophos
Our number-one free Mac antivirus, Sophos Anti-Virus requires of you only that you cough up some personal details. Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac costs you nothing but detects 99.17% percent of threats. It does have a minor impact on performance, however. That may be enough for you to notice the difference, depending on what spec machine you have. The paid products above it in our chart are better, but Sophos is a compelling product.
To find out more about Sophos, click here.
Avira for Mac
- RRP: From £29.99, Free version available
- Buy from Avira
Another free antivirus for Mac, and another that successfully protected its test Mac, Avira Free Antivirus 3.2 is in at number four only because it had more of a system overhead than products one to three. According to AV-Test’s lab Avira will keep your Mac safe, for free, but you may pay for it in terms of system performance.
To find out more about Avira Free Antivirus, click here.
Avast for Mac
A Mac security freebie, Avast detects 100 percent of threats. But this tool had a significant performance impact during tests. If you can stand that, it is a good free option. But there are better.
To find out more about Avast Mac Security – Free, click here.