HomeAntivirus for Mac
Anthony Enticknap

Anthony Enticknap

Software Expert

I've been using Macs for both work and leisure for more than 15 years, starting off with a second-hand G3 iMac running OS 9.    

8 Best Antivirus Software for Mac Owners in 2021

01 July 2021

8 Best Antivirus Software for Mac Owners in 2021

Despite the popular misconception that Macs don’t get viruses, attacks on Macs accelerated significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to previous years. According to AV-Test, 674,291 new malware threats were identified in 2020, compared with 56,532 in 2019 and the previous high of 92,571 in 2018.


Thankfully, there are tons of great security apps for Macs. They’ll protect you from all kinds of malware, and many have extra features to protect your privacy too. That could be a big part of your decision if you’re concerned about people and companies spying on you when you’re online. 

There are many other features to take into account too. So to help you choose the right Mac antivirus app, we’ve selected eight of the best ones you can find right now. 

A lightweight antivirus with an extensive selection of easy-to-use tools, Avira for Mac offers one-click real-time scanning, ransomware attack prevention, phishing protection, and a basic VPN.

Avira is rated first in our list because of its ability to schedule and perform a range of scans, including active processes, external devices, local drives, and rootkits.

Integrating cloud-based scanning with real-time protection, scans use Avira’s Protection Cloud to detect malware. This is based on cloud technologies that are continuously updated with the latest available threat information from across the globe.
 
The Activity Stream provides at-a-glance confirmation of all security-related activities in real time, including blocked threats.
 
Additional features: Advanced browser extensions, game booster, and startup optimizer with Avira Free Security Suite.
 

Pros and cons

Pros Cons

Ransomware protection

Basic VPN with only 500MB per month

Excellent malware detection

No email or phone support

External device protection

 

Great lab test scores

 
  • Specifications: macOS 10.12 Catalina or higher.
  • Price: Free. Antivirus Pro for Mac starts at $4.99 / month
  • Number of devices: 5-25
  • Download: Available here

The Norton name has been synonymous with cybersecurity for decades. And while there was a period where its software was criticized for being bloated and slowing down computers, it’s improved a lot in recent years. If you’re looking for Mac cybersecurity, it’s likely to be one of the first solutions you think of. 

There are a few different tiers of Norton antivirus for Mac. Among them is Norton 360 Deluxe, a premium version with several advanced features. This gives you antivirus, anti-ransomware, a firewall, a password manager, parental controls and 50GB of backup space. Plus it protects your webcam privacy and monitors your email address to see if it’s been leaked on the dark web. 

On top of that, you get a VPN service for up to five devices and a junk cleaning tool. It really is the complete package for Mac security and privacy. But it’s not cheap. The first year is only $24.99, but that jumps right up to $104 a year afterward. If you just want a more basic package, Norton’s cheaper AntiVirus Plus may be a better alternative.

Pros and cons

Pros Cons

Multi-layer protection

High price after the first year

Built-in password manager

 

Cloud storage

 
  • Specifications: macOS 10.14 Mojave or higher
  • Price: From $104 per year
  • Number of devices:
  • Download: Available here

Despite negative reviews of previous versions, MacKeeper has come a long way in a short time. An intuitive, user-friendly Mac clean-up tool with a range of security features, MacKeeper is our favorite antivirus for non-techie users. MacKeeper detects and blocks adware, malware, ransomware, spyware, and viruses with complete protection in real-time.

Automatically scheduled to run every 24-hour, MacKeeper’s flexible scans allow you to scan an individual file, folder, or your entire computer, automatically removing any threats found. Unfortunately, MacKeeper does not view rootkits (tools used by hackers to gain control of your computer) as a virus, so you’ll need to use a dedicated rootkit removal tool to scan your Mac periodically.

One feature that stands out is MacKeeper’s ID Theft Guard. It enables you to quickly see what online accounts associated with your email address have been hacked. After the initial scan is done, MacKeeper monitors your email address for signs of identity theft, notifying you if your online credentials have been compromised.
 
Additional features: Adware cleaner, duplicate finder, ID theft protection, integrated VPN, memory cleaner, application update tracker, and many more.

Pros and cons

Pros Cons

Fast scheduled and on-demand scans

Lacks protection against fraudulent URLs

Numerous privacy and performance features

Expensive compared to the competition

Integrated VPN with unlimited data

No automatic device scanning when accessed

Great lab test scores

Doesn’t detect or remove rootkits 
  • Specifications: macOS 10.11 El Capitan or higher.
  • Price: $10.95 (1-month plan).
  • Number of devices: 1
  • Download: Available here

Avast Security detects viruses, ransomware, and other threats in real-time. Still, advanced users may find the lack of access to granular features somewhat frustrating unless they bite the bullet and upgrade to Avast Premium Security at $69.99 (12-month plan) for one device.
For example, the free version detects ransomware but doesn’t stop it from corrupting personal files.

Despite its limitations, though, Avast is an excellent free antivirus and anti-phishing solution for macOS, with a built-in network scanner to detect security problems on devices within your network.

      

There were some allegations of Avast being involved in collecting and selling private data a couple of years back. But as a free antivirus solution with excellent lab scores, you can’t go wrong.
 
Additional features: Anti-phishing protection and Wi-Fi Inspector.

Pros and cons  

Pros Cons

Network security scanner

No free ransomware protection

Excellent malware detection

Network scanner lacks Windows features

External device protection

Allegations of violating privacy

Great lab test scores

 
  • Specifications: macOS 10.11 El Capitan or higher.
  • Price: Free. Avast Premium Security for Mac starts at $69.99 (12-month plan).
  • Number of devices: Not applicable
  • Download: Availbale here
     

Trend Micro uses advanced, cloud-based security tools for optimized, real-time threat detection.

Using sophisticated AI technologies to establish a baseline based on “normal” behavior, Trend Micro uses that information to detect and block anomalies, rooting out malware that may be hiding in what appears to be a standard file. The scanner is easy to use and offers effective, real-time protection against Mac-based malware, phishing, ransomware, trojans, and viruses.

While it lacks a firewall, Trend Micro has a comprehensive range of privacy features, including a privacy scanner, safeguards against email scams, and tools for protecting your identity and data while browsing the web.
 
Additional features: Data theft prevention, mute mode, parental controls, password manager, privacy scanner, secure erase, and social media security.
 

Pros and cons

Pros Cons

Impressive lab test scores

Slow initial scan

Ransomware detection and protection

Resource intensive compared to others

AI-based, real-time malware detection

Inferior mobile security

Social network privacy scans

 
  • Specifications: macOS 10.14 Mojave or higher.
  • Price: From $29.95 (12-month plan).
  • Number of devices: 1
  • Download: Available here

Promising 100% malware detection, TotalAV has a powerful scanner and real-time malware protection managed via an intuitive user interface. And in addition to having one of the best malware detection engines in the market, TotalAV includes numerous system optimization features along with a password manager and integrated VPN.

Delivering impressive results, TotalAV offers four different scans - from the entire system to a single file - which are fast with a negligible performance impact. TotalAV’s Web Shield uses the latest blacklists of dangerous websites, together with its AI-based website detection system to identify and block malicious activity.

Note: While TotalAV does offer a free version of its antivirus software, it does not include real-time antivirus protection and should only be used with extreme caution.
 
Additional features: Ad-blocker, cloud-based malware scanning, password manager, system tuning.
 

Pros and cons

Pros Cons

Excellent anti-malware protection

Expensive add-ons

Excellent anti-phishing protection

No real-time protection in the free version

Efficient device optimization

Basic password manager

User-friendly interface

 
  • Specifications: macOS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher.
  • Price: From $99 (12-month plan).
  • Number of devices: 3
  • Download: Available here
     

Featuring a bright purple and cyan color scheme, Clario’s interface is simple and intuitive. As well as letting you quickly enable features like anti-malware, real-time antivirus, VPN and a data breach monitor, you can drill down further for more advanced options. Along with the Mac client, your subscription includes a mobile version for iOS or Android. 

Clario also offers something it calls Areas. These are various categories of security issues, such as Identity, Money, and Network. These don’t actually add new features, but they help you to enable and correctly configure the ones we’ve already mentioned. This provides a quick, easy way to see which areas of your security you need to work on next. 

But Clario is more than an antivirus and VPN app. It also offers a free ad blocking extension for the Chrome and Safari web browsers on macOS. And on top of that, you get 24/7 access to a team of digital security experts. They’ll answer any queries you might have about your cybersecurity – even things that aren’t related to Macs. 

Clario is AV-Test certified, receiving maximum scores for its protective effect, speed, and usability. It detected 100% of malware in those same tests, so we’re confident it does a good job of protecting your Mac.

Additional features: VPN, expert live support, data breach monitoring

Pros and cons
 

Pros Cons

Robust malware detection and protection

Only a few VPN locations

Clear interface

No password manager

24/7 security advice

 

Included VPN

 
  • Specifications: macOS X 10.13 High Sierra or higher.
  • Price: From $12 per month (1-month plan)
  • Number of devices: 3
  • Download: Available here

An award-winning, lightweight antivirus, F-Secure’s multi-layer security offers protection against adware, keyloggers, ransomware, spyware, trojans, viruses, and other malware.
 
SAFE’s behavior-based, artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities detect and protect against new, previously unknown threats, including most ransomware attacks.

As well as excellent protection from phishing attacks, SAFE includes a banking security feature. This automatically kicks in when you’re connected to a financial site, blocking all other connections and notifying you that banking protection is active.
 
SAFE also comes with parental controls for monitoring screen time, blocking websites with inappropriate content, and requesting parental approval before allowing children to use new applications.

Additional features: Website safety ratings, banking protection, protected online gaming, and parental controls.

Pros and cons

Pros Cons

Behavior-based detection

Exposure to zero-day ransomware attacks

Excellent anti-phishing protection

Limited cross-device parental control

Automatic banking protection

No VPN

Robust parental controls

No optimization or backup
  • Specifications: macOS X 10.14 Mojave or later.
  • Price: From $69.99 (12-month plan).
  • Number of devices: 3
  • Download: Available here

What to look for in Mac antivirus

There’s no point in having antivirus on your Mac if it can’t detect viruses. So you want security software with a good detection rate. Testing specialists like AV-Test track this kind of thing, so it’s worth looking at how different apps score in the latest round of tests. 

Aside from that, you should consider extra features. Some Mac antivirus solutions don’t have much more than the basic security, but others include additional features like VPN, password managers, junk cleaners and more. 

Price is important too. Unless you use a free antivirus app for Mac, you’re going to be paying for a subscription. These can vary massively, and some offer more features than others. If you can keep your costs down by leaving out features you don’t need, that might be worth your time. 

Finally, ease of use is a major factor in choosing the right cybersecurity for your Mac. Some apps are much easier to use than others, and a confusing interface can be a real pain. If you can, try out a free trial before committing to a full subscription. 

So which Mac antivirus is right for you?


All the security solutions we’ve looked at here will do a good job of protecting you. Which one you choose ultimately depends on your budget and what features you feel you need the most. 

The most important thing is that you have some kind of security in place. The days of Macs being immune to viruses are long gone. Cybercriminals are actively creating malware to attack Mac users, so you need to protect yourself. 

And, of course, you should make sure to follow best practice when it comes to things like choosing passwords. The more layers of defense you have, the better. 
 

Mac Antivirus FAQs

Do Macs need antivirus software?


In a word, yes. While it appears on the surface to offer adequate protection, Apple’s built-in antivirus, XProtect, is only designed to provide essential protection against widely known threats. It can’t compete with dedicated malware research teams and third-party antivirus apps. These provide comprehensive malware removal, scheduled system scans, and performance features such as cookie blacklists and cache cleanup.


What should I look for in a Mac antivirus app?


When choosing the best antivirus software for you, consider the protection it provides and the premium features that matter most to you. At the very least, your Mac antivirus software should include both scans and real-time protection against adware, malware, ransomware, spyware, and viruses. It should also police and block phishing attempts via plugins or extensions.

How do I purchase a Mac antivirus app?


Antivirus apps are typically purchased on a subscription basis, with discounts for paying a year in advance rather than every month. The good news is that many subscriptions allow you to install the software on multiple devices, so you can protect all Macs in your household with one yearly payment.


Can I use a free antivirus app for Mac?


Yes, you can, but choose carefully. Some free products are inadequate when it comes to protecting you fully, while others are designed to force you to upgrade to the paid version, to get additional features or more granular control. Of course, even free protection is better than no protection at all.

Does antivirus affect Mac performance?


All antivirus products affect Mac performance to some extent. Some are lightweight with minimal impact, while others are more resource-intensive. But the good news is that other than while running your first full scan following installation, it’s unlikely you’ll notice.

Anthony Enticknap

Anthony Enticknap

Software Expert

I've been using Macs for both work and leisure for more than 15 years, starting off with a second-hand G3 iMac running OS 9.    

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