Kasperspky mac antivirus
Credit: Kaspersky.co.uk

Perhaps the greatest lie told to any Mac user is this: “Macs don’t get viruses.” If you’re landing on this page, you’ve either discovered, unfortunately, that Macs are indeed susceptible to viruses, or you were just a bit suspicious of the claim when you heard it. Regardless of which camp you fall into, there’s a good chance that you’re now on the hunt for the best antivirus for Mac computers.

What to look for in Mac antivirus software: How we test

Despite the fact that most antivirus applications work similarly, no two programs are alike. Indeed, some actually work better for Windows computers than they do for Macs, meaning you’ll want a program that has a Mac version and that is well suited to the task of both cleaning up and protecting your computer. Additionally, one of the largest concerns for Mac users, and a continuing complaint is CPU usage. A good Mac antivirus program should perform well with very little CPU usage and should not noticeably slow down your computer’s processing power.

When looking for the best Mac antivirus software, we judged software using the following criteria:

  • A definitive Mac version of the software is easily available
  • High independent AV-Test detection scores
  • Excellent  independent AV-Test performance rates (CPU usage)
  • High independent AV-Comparatives detection scores
  • Consumer-friendly billing practices

Each of these was necessary to ensure Mac users not only find the most effective antivirus program but one that will offer long-term benefits both for your computer and your wallet. Consumer-friendly billing practices, in particular, are extremely important. Many fake or shady antivirus programs exist on the market that seek to grift computer users out of their money. Instead of legitimate software, they often provide faulty applications that act more like a virus than an actual antivirus program.

All of the software recommended below are not only legitimate programs from reputable software companies but fully vetted across multiple independent antivirus test labs, independent users, and review sites.

Note that we specifically utilized AV-Test.com and AV-Comparatives.org scores as these two testing labs are independent. We investigated other respected independent testing labs ( such as Dennis Labs and Virus Bulletin) but these either did not have antivirus program tests for Mac programs or did not have recent tests as of 2017.

Best antivirus for Mac OS: Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac

kaspersky mac antivirus

Kaspersky scored consistently well across different independent lab tests, making it a top option for us as well. However, we also took an eye to the price point and looked for consumer-friendly billing practices. We found Kaspersky’s price and the billing practices to be quite good. Kaspersky offers their service for a relatively cheap $39.99 per year if you’re purchasing the program for one computer.

In detection tests, Kaspersky scored 100% for AV-Test and 100% for AV-Comparatives. This puts Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac at a perfect 100% detection rate between the two tests, as good as it gets for any antivirus program.

In the AV-Test performance analysis, Kaspersky performed extremely well. In AV-Test’s file copying test (which looks at how running the antivirus program impacts file copying of large files), Kaspersky did not increase the amount of time required at all. In the downloading files test, running Kaspersky only netted a 1-second change, small enough to be considered inconsequential.

Beyond detection rates, performance and price, we placed heavy emphasis on how the antivirus programs we reviewed treat you at checkout. Kaspersky allows you to check off on whether or not you want auto-renewal for your service before you even click “buy,” which is a rare treat. Other antivirus companies quite often either don’t inform customers that the service will auto-renew or don’t give buyers the option to avoid auto-renewal unless you go through the rigamarole of contacting customer support. Kaspersky is likely taking a hit to their bottom line by having more consumer-friendly billing, but it works in their favor in our eyes by making the company far more trustworthy.

Additionally, Kaspersky does not try to upsell you on checkout with services you don’t really want or need. If you’re trying to purchase the least expensive option, you’re given a pop-up recommending that you upgrade, but this is easy to ignore. Beyond that, Kaspersky only includes one add-on at checkout, their Extended Download Service (EDS).

Their $4.95 Extended Download Service gives you the option to download the program again sometime in the next two years if you lose it or need to install it on a new computer. This service is designed to prevent you from having to re-purchase the software in the case of a system crash or hard disk error, which you can utilize even after the 1-year subscription period. (As someone who recently lost paid software downloads as a result of an unexpected system crash, I can personally vouch for the necessity of such a service.)

Key Kaspersky Features:

Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac includes your standard malware detection and removal options, as well as some unique features, including:

  • Parental content filter
  • Protection against webcam spying
  • Scanning for secure websites

You’ll likely find Kaspersky to be a fast, secure, fully-featured option for Mac computers. Based on independent lab tests and our own review of their billing practices and features, we consider Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac a top-notch service for Mac users.

Read our full review on Kaspersky Antivirus (for Windows).

Runner-up: Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac

bitdefender mac antivirus

Romania-based Bitdefender is a growing name in the industry. Bitdefender was a very close second to Kaspersky, with the only key difference between these two antivirus programs being system performance ratings. Staying competitive with the other major antivirus programs for Mac, Bitdefender costs $39.99 per year for one computer.

Bitdefender scored equivalently to Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac in both the AV-Test and AV-Comparatives detection tests. With a perfect 100% from both labs, Bitdefender provides high-quality, reliable threat detection against both known and zero-day malware.

Performance was the key area where Bitdefender fell behind its competitor Kaspersky. The Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac software increased both file copying and download speeds by several seconds in AV-Test performance tests. Download speeds, in particular, suffered the worst while Bitdefender was running.

What worked against Bitdefender more strongly in our eyes was the fact that the company attempts to sell users three additional add-on services at checkout. Unlike Kaspersky, which provides a one-time cost service through its Extended Download Service, Bitdefender attempts to push a few other services that would add to your yearly subscription price. We do believe these services have value, but it’s always preferable for them to be included with the rest of the program instead of tacked on as add-ons.

Bitdefender also tries to get you to purchase a subscription for three computers at the outset. You’ll need to make sure you select “1 Mac” from the drop-down menu and do NOT select the button to have Bitdefender set up the software for you. (Having Bitdefender install the software for you is not necessary.) Additionally, Bitdefender does inform users about auto-renewal, but does not give you the option to change your auto-renewal options until you click “buy.” At that point, you’ll need to click the somewhat less-than-conspicuous “Auto renewal” link under the product name and then click on “Disable auto renewal.”

You can manage to easily purchase Bitdefender without adding onto the final price, you’ll just need to be a bit more crafty about it than with Kaspersky.

Key Bitdefender features:

Bitdefender comes fully loaded with expected and standard antivirus removal features but includes some unique options, such as:

  • Time Machine Protection that protects your data backups (a beneficial hedge against increasingly troublesome ransomware)
  • Autopilot feature which covers all aspects of your internet and security
  • Safe Files feature, which allows you to protect selected files against encrypting malware, such as ransomware

Bitdefender comes in second primarily due to pushing a bit more add-ons at the checkout than we’d prefer but makes for a solid program with a large number of options.

Read our full review of Bitdefender Antivirus (for Windows)

Additional Mac antivirus options

Intego Mac Internet Security X9

intego mac antivirus

In its defense, Intego was only slightly behind the top two performers (Kaspersky and Bitdefender) in independent antivirus tests. Intego also passed our review for billing practices, avoiding significant up selling at checkout and only including minimal extra add-on services. For $39.99, Intego attempts to compete with the other top-performing services on price and does a good job of making itself worthy of attention in the pack.

In AV-Test detection tests, Intego scored a perfect 100%. The antivirus fell behind competition only slightly in the AV-Comparatives test, scoring a 99.6%. That .4% is not significant enough to cause any concern but is lower enough to place it below the top options.

Intego did noticeably worse than the top performers when it came to the AV-Test system performance test. When measured against the reference point, Intego added nearly 40 seconds to the file copying test. In a synthetic test that involved computing MD5 sums for a set of files locally, Intego increased the operation time by 17 seconds in comparison to when no antivirus was running. Av-Test results showed that Intego had a fair impact on system performance when running.

However, those who may be interested in Intego will find the company’s consumer-friendly billing and the software’s features to be top-notch, despite the system performance drawbacks. Before you even click “buy,” Intego’s preset option pushes the lowest price point: 1 computer, 1 year. After clicking buy, Intego only tries to push two more one-time purchases: an Extended Download Service similar to Kaspersky’s, and a backup DVD.

Intego’s service automatically renews. However, the company never offers up that information at checkout, which works against putting it higher up on our list.

Key Intego features:

Intego offers up a full suite of options for Mac users. While including the now-standard malware screening tools one might expect, Intego also provides the following features:

  • Software built from the ground up with for Macs (not based on Windows architecture)
  • Location-based firewall
  • Anti-phishing

If you only go for the base version of Intego’s Mac Internet Security X9 software, you’ll not likely get the full effect. The base software is somewhat limited in what it offers. However, if all you’re looking for is a basic malware protection software without all of the bells and whistles, the basic X9 package from Intego is a good bet.

ESET Basic Cybersecurity for Mac

eset mac antivirus

Slovakia-based ESET has several versions of its antivirus software for Mac users. The simplest, cheapest option, Basic Cybersecurity, is just that: basic. For $39.99 (the same price point as the other competitors on this list), ESET provides two key benefits: protection against malware, and (limited) protection against ransomware. ESET makes our list as it does offer sound protection, but it’s far from the best, hence its bottom position in the rankings.

ESET performed well, but not splendidly across the two independent lab tests that we referenced. In the AV-Test detection results, ESET effectively detected 98.4% of the malware sent its way. Although not particularly low by any account, it’s not the perfect scores that we saw with the other three options above. ESET performed better through the AV-Comparatives test, detecting 99.6% of the installed viruses. Nevertheless, the other software options here ultimately did a better job, even if the differences were slight.

In its favor, ESET proved to do a better job in the AV-Test system performance tests. ESET came in stronger than Intego on this end, eating up far fewer system resources. There was only a 2-second increase in time when measured against the AV-Test file copying test, and only a 6-second time increase when conducting a download while ESET Basic Cybersecurity was running. ESET also performed far better than Intego on the MD5 test, adding 39 seconds when measured against the reference test. The ESET Mac antivirus software did not do as well as our two top choices but still had only marginal system impact.

ESET did not perform as well in our billing practices analysis as the other providers. The company does try to push more add-ons at checkout than the other options on the list. However, it also is upfront about the auto-renewal policy. At checkout, you’re given the option to purchase a backup DVD, a personal firewall, or parental controls. The backup DVD is not cheap at $9.95, and the parental controls and firewall are bundled together as if they are one service (they really shouldn’t be), for an extra $20. They’re certainly pricey, but it’s easy to avoid choosing these, they’re certainly pricey.

In ESET’s favor, you can select to auto-renew your subscription near the end of the checkout process. Yes, it would certainly be preferable for ESET to inform users of the auto-renew earlier. Nevertheless, it’s a positive aspect for the company that they do allow this to be turned on or off before you finalize payment.

As stated, ESET Basic Cybersecurity for Mac is fairly bare-bones. It provides solid protection but does not include anything in the way of additional features that aren’t easily found using competing applications. Nevertheless, if something “basic” is all you need, ESET might be what you’re looking for.

Budget friendly option: McAfee AntiVirus

mcafee mac antivirus

McAfee doesn’t end up on our ranked list, yet this is one of the better options for those looking to reduce how much they’re paying for antivirus protection. With a 50% off offer from the regular $49.99 per year price, Mac users can utilize the well-known service from McAfee for $24.99 per year.

The only reason McAfee doesn’t make our ranked list above is that the major independent labs did not include this antivirus software on their most recent tests for Macs. However, they did include the Windows version. AV-Test offers up extremely positive ratings for McAfee’s Windows software. In their June 2017 tests, McAfee’s software received a “Top Product” stamp of approval from AV-Test, with a 100% malware detection rate for widespread viruses and a 99% for protection against 0-day malware.

AV-Test also gave McAfee a perfect score for performance, showing that McAfee performed better than most other antivirus software programs when it came to system impact and CPU usage.

What you’ll find is that McAfee offers a more limited package of services for Mac users, however. That said, the $24.99 per year price you’ll pay still includes a large suite of features as well as the high-level antivirus detection and prevention for Mac users. Combine this with the level of comfort that comes with a well-established brand and you’ll find that McAfee Total Protection is a great option for those looking to save money and avoid nasty viruses.

Read our full review of McAfee Antivirus (for Windows).

Not listed, but also good: Symantec Norton Security Standard

symantec norton mac antivirus

We left off Norton Security Standard from our rankings because it was only tested by one of the independent labs we referenced. However, Norton Security Standard performed exceptionally well in the AV-Test lab tests. That included a 100% detection rate and best-in-class system performance. If not for the fact that Norton Security was only listed by one lab we referenced, we would have ranked this one as true runner-up to Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac. In its favor is the fact that, like McAfee, Symantec Norton Security is also a household name with a solid and trustworthy reputation. The software is also slightly cheaper than the other options on the list at only $34.99 per year for one computer.

Read our full review of Norton Security (for Windows).

Why you need antivirus for Mac OS computers

You certainly aren’t the first to question the validity of the claim about Macs and viruses. “Can Macs Get Viruses and Malware?” asked DigitalTrends in a 2015 article. “The answer is definitely, yes,” Bitdefender’s Senior E-Threat Analyst, Bogdan Botezatu told the online magazine. “There have been incidents, and there will be more.” Botezatu’s statement may be a bit of an understatement.

In reality, Mac OSX is the 4th most vulnerable operating system, according to data from the CVE Vulnerabilties list. In truth, Mac OSX has more vulnerabilities than competing Windows operating systems, including older Windows versions such as Windows 7, 8, and even Windows Vista.

According to McAfee Labs, malware attacks on Macs rose a jaw-dropping 744 percent in 2016. Despite this increase coming primarily from bundled adware, the case against the mythological “virus-free” Mac grows stronger every day. Although it is true that, by percentage, Mac’s make up a very small percentage of computers getting viruses, this has more to do with smaller market share than Macs simply having better security.

NetMarketShare states only 3.52 percent of all computers are running Mac OSX. There are currently more computers running the nearly 20-year-old Windows XP operating system.

Still, there is some truth to the claims. Mac OSX operating systems are sandboxed, meaning that it’s harder for a virus to spread throughout your system if it does contract a computer virus or malware. Additionally, the tools necessary to create malware for Macs are not as readily available or as easy to create as they are for Windows machines, making them less vulnerable because virus developers need more time and motivation to craft the malware.

From a larger perspective, however, Mac’s don’t so much avoid getting viruses as they are less likely to be targeted by hackers due to the low chances of actually turning a profit. Microsoft notes that there are 400 million Windows 10 users, there are also 100 million Apple users. The chances of turning a profit for a hacker are far higher when targeting Windows machines. Nevertheless, with 100 million Mac users, the opportunity is still there, and virus developers are increasingly taking advantage of Mac user complacency, especially as Apple’s devices grow more popular internationally.

Do you need antivirus protection for your Mac? The simple answer is yes. Every Mac user should have antivirus protection on their computer. The bigger question that comes to mind, then, is which is the best antivirus for Mac computers, and what should Mac users be looking for when shopping around for an antivirus program.

See also: Our top MAC VPN recommendations.