Best Mac antivirus programs

Do Macs get viruses? That question has plagued Mac user for years, but increasingly, the only answer to this question is “yes”. Malware targeting Mac user increased 400% in 2019 and likely even more in 2021. With Macs now targeted by hackers and bad actors, the best solution to protect your Apple device is still install Mac antivirus software. Mac viruses may be less common than Windows viruses, but they’re out there, and they’re increasingly wreaking havoc on Mac users.

To keep up with the growing demand for AV tools, a growing number of well-regarded AV software companies are now producing macOS versions of their tools.

We’ve lined up the details on each service below, but if you’re looking for the short version, these are the best Mac antivirus apps currently on the market based on our rating and review criteria (more on that below).

10 Best Antivirus for Mac:

  1. Intego Mac Internet Security X9: Our number one choice for Mac users. Intego only makes antivirus for Mac and it does it very well. Packed with great features and strong results from independent testing labs.
  2. Vipre Advanced Security: An excellent option for extended internet protection at a price that beats most of its chief competitors.
  3. Symantec Norton Security Standard: A strong option to consider based on proven effectiveness and exceptionally positive lab test results.
  4. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac: A solid option for Mac users. Very low CPU usage, high scores from independent testing labs, and billing practices that you can trust.
  5. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac: Another good option for Mac users. Bitdefender combines good value with excellent scores from the big testing labs.
  6. McAfee Antivirus: Produces a fully-featured Mac OS version, but mostly as a second-tier product to its Windows software.
  7. ESET Basic Cybersecurity for Mac: A strong performer that does try to push a few unnecessary add-ons at check out.
  8. Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac: A good entry at a low cost, but with some user-unfriendly billing practices.
  9. MacKeeper: A revitalized, decade-old Mac antivirus program with a highly flexible subscription model

Although all antivirus software work similarly from a security standpoint, most programs have unique features or methods of execution. 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 Mac.

Additionally, one of the largest concerns for Mac users 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.

How to choose the best Mac antivirus

When looking for the best Mac antivirus software, we judged options 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

Many fake or shady antivirus programs exist on the market that are designed 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 Mac antivirus apps recommended below are not only legitimate programs from reputable software companies but are 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 tests for Mac antivirus apps or did not have recent tests as of 2020.

Best antivirus for Mac

Based on our research, these are the best antivirus tools for macOS computers.

1. Intego

intego mac antivirus

Intego is the only provider on this list that specializes solely in Mac security. The result is a well-polished, effective and easy to use product.

In independent antivirus tests, Intego is among the top performers. Strong test scores combined with an abundance of useful features put it at the top of our list.

Intego also passed our review for billing practices. The company avoids significant upselling at checkout and only includes minimal extra add-on services. For $39.99, Intego attempts to compete with the other top-performing services on price and represents good value for money. (Note: The second-year goes to $84.99).

Testing lab results for Intego are mixed, but that’s actually a good thing. This company sells multiple versions of its antivirus software for Mac users, which is an unusual case since most companies only sell one version. Its most recently-reviewed software, VirusBarrier received high marks from AV-Test and AV-Comparatives for perfect malware detection. It received mixed reviews for performance but we are told a speed enhancement is in the works.

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

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.

Pros:

  • Perfect malware detection ratings
  • Excellent, consumer-friendly billing practices
  • No false positives in testing lab results

Cons:

  • Some impacts on system performance and processing speeds

Best Antivirus for Mac:Intego X9 is our #1 choice for Mac users. An effective and easy to use product that comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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2. VIPRE Advanced Security

VIPRE Advanced Security is one of several products that VIPRE Antivirus offers to macOS users. It’s a top-shelf antivirus application, sitting right behind the company’s more extensive Ultimate Security package.

We love VIPRE Advanced Security for a variety of reasons, starting with the price. At $54.99 per month ($19.99 with a first-year discount), it’s less expensive than the AV tools offered by more well-known companies like Symantec (Norton) and McAfee. And it does so without compromising on the available tools within the package.

VIPRE also passes our billing practice smell test with flying colors. The company offers a 30-day free trial without asking for payment information first, which is rare for AV providers. It also allows you to purchase the product with clear pricing and a completely transparent auto-renewal policy. You can even turn auto-renewal off at checkout.

This AV tool also has some of the best independent testing lab results you’ll find. AV-Test.org lists VIPRE Advanced Security among its certified Top Products, right alongside more the more popularly-used brands.

Key VIPRE features:

VIPRE Advanced Security has a wide selection of targeted tools to help secure your files and online identity. With this package level, you’ll get

  • Cloud-enabled security
  • Advanced active malware scanning that employs machine deep learning to understanding and predict the behavior of known and zero-day threats
  • Protection against ransomware spam
  • Application patching
  • Extra-secure firewall

Need just a bit more? Consider exploring the Ultimate Security package that VIPRE offers. It includes everything you’ll find with Advanced Security, plus features that are increasingly indispensable in today’s online world, such as a webcam and microphone blocker (more important than ever with so many of us teleworking these days) and a dark web scanner that will alert you if your personal information ends up for sale on dark web marketplaces.

Pros:

  • Perfect speed and usability ratings
  • Low cost compared to popular brands
  • Protection against malware, ransomware, and other web-based threats

Cons:

  • Some of its best features are only available through the Ultimate Security package

Read our full review of Vipre Antivirus.

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3. Symantec Norton Security Standard

symantec norton mac antivirus

Norton’s tool lands rather low on the list primarily because of the price. While it’s well rated by AV-Test (offering perfect scores in malware protection, performance, and false positives), like McAfee Total Security, Norton Security Standard has an introductory price that’s cheap at $34.99 but shoots after the first year. Year two and beyond, Norton Standard costs $84.99 per year for each covered device.

Key Norton features:

Norton Security Standard uses the same tool for Windows and Mac computers, meaning it doesn’t have a pared-down version for Mac users. You’ll find high-level anti-malware detection and removal, alongside a few other nice-to-have features, including:

  • Phishing protection
  • Automatic updates
  • Free 24/7 customer support

If you opt for the Premium version, you’ll also get cloud back-up, and multiple-device coverage (including mobile devices). Some of the higher-tier features don’t work on Mac, however, including Norton Family, meaning you’re probably best sticking with the Standard version.

Norton’s billing practices also leave a lot to be desired. When you go to purchase the product, you get a pop-up window that tries to get you to buy additional software as a bundle. The only way to get past this screen and get to the regular checkout is to hit the “X” in the corner of the pop-up. If you click the regular links to proceed in the window, you’ll be headed toward the checkout with the add-ons in your cart.

Finally, auto-renewal is not just forced, Norton does not provide any easily spotted information on its auto-renewal policies at checkout. This makes it far too easy to sign up without realizing you’ll be getting not only an auto-renewed subscription but a far higher price once the auto-renewal hits in one year. If you do sign up for Norton Security Standard, be sure to turn off auto-renewal your account settings.

Pros:

  • Well-known and respected brand
  • High level of anti-virus protection

Cons:

  • High price compared to competitors
  • Forces auto-renewal

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

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4. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • Android

Website:  www.Kaspersky.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 Days

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 its service for a relatively cheap $39.99 per year for the first year.  That covers 3 devices. The second-year and beyond price shifts to $74.99 per year.

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. 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.

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).

Pros:

  • Top-level performance results
  • Consumer-friendly business practices
  • Fairly priced with good features

Cons:

  • Priced higher than some competitors

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

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5. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • Android

Website:  www.Bitdefender.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 Days

Romania-based Bitdefender is a growing name in the industry. Bitdefender and Kaspersky are effectively similar options for Mac users, even coming in at the same price of $39.98 per month for 1-year coverage of one computer. That covers up to 5 devices. The second-year and beyond annual subscription price is $89.99.

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.

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

In previous tests, Bitdefender fell slightly behind Kaspersky in performance tests, but that’s no longer true. Stats from both AV-Test and AV-Comparatives show this software to hit all the right marks for performance, usability, and importantly, threat detection. Bitdefender’s tool identifies 100 percent of the Mac malware it comes across in the wild, including zero-day malware.

What worked against Bitdefender was the fact that the company attempts to sell users three additional add-on services at checkout, tries to get you to purchase a subscription for three computers at the outset, and does not allow you to de-select auto-renewal for your subscription until you’ve already clicked “buy”. 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.

Pros:

  • Perfect testing lab results
  • Good consumer-friendly billing practices
  • Fairly priced compared to the competition with great features

Cons:

  • Pushes some additional software at checkout

Read our full review of Bitdefender Antivirus (for Windows)

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6. McAfee Total Protection

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android

Website:  www.mcafee.com

McAfee doesn’t end up high on our list, but this product does sell a Mac version for its Total Security software. It’s lower on our list, however, because there are no current testing lab results for this software for 2018-2019. The most recent results, as of this time of writing, are from 2017.

What we do have to go off of, however, are the Windows test results. McAfee offers the same tool for Windows and Mac, but there may be differences in how it works with both operating systems. As for the Windows results, Total Security received 3 stars from AV-Comparatives (its highest score), while it got perfect scores from AV-Test as well. This means perfect scores for malware detection, no false positives in the tests, and very little system impact. It even has a “Top Product” stamp from AV-Test.

Key ESET features:

Total Security from McAfee offers the same features across both Windows and Mac versions, including:

  • Ransomware protection
  • File shredder
  • Mobile app for iOS
  • File encryption
  • Standard anti-malware and antivirus tools

The biggest problem with McAfee is its pricing and its billing practices. McAfee almost always has “deals” posted on its site, so the price you pay upon renewal is going to be quite a bit higher than what you pay at checkout today. Additionally, Total Protection’s base price is high for individual devices – $79.99 per year for 1 license, which is about twice the price of some competitors. However, you’ll get a 1st-year discount that takes that down to $34.99.

McAfee also pushes its highest-priced security package, at $109 per year, so you’ll have to scroll around its product pages until you find the 1- or 5-device plans.

Furthermore, McAfee implements auto-renewal automatically. You can’t turn it off at checkout, so if you don’t want to auto-renew you’ll need to remember to go into your account settings and turn it off after purchasing the product.

You’ll find that McAfee Total Protection is a great option for those who want a more powerful tool for Mac OS with as many features as Windows users typically get to enjoy. However, you’ll need to be wary of the billing practices.

Pros:

  • A large number of features.
  • Designed well for MacOS.
  • Highly-rated by independent testing labs.

Cons:

  • Higher price than competitors.
  • No option to turn off auto-renewal at checkout.

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

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7. ESET Cyber Security (Basic)

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 $49.99 (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 lower position in the rankings.

ESET performed well in recent AV-Test detection results. The software detected 100% of the malware sent its way, while it had somewhat lower, but still good performance scores (system impact). AV-Comparatives did not test this option, so we put it lower on our list.

Key ESET features:

For Mac users, ESET’s software has limited features, but does include:

  • Software built from the ground up with for Macs (not based on Windows architecture)
  • Anti-ransomware protection

If you opt for the pro version, you’ll also get firewall protection and parental monitoring tools to keep your kids safe online.

The ESET Mac antivirus software did not do as well as our two top choices but still had only a marginal system impact.

Where ESET performed the worst in our billing practices analysis 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. You can select to auto-renew your subscription near the end of the checkout process. However, it’s cheaper than many competitors. You can purchase a two-year license for just $79. 

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.

Pros:

  • Highly effective at identifying malware
  • Allows users to deselect auto-renewal at checkout

Cons:

  • Pushes add-ons at checkout

8. Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac

trend micro mac antivirus

With a perfect score from AV-Test and a near-perfect score from AV-Comparatives, Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac is a good potential option for Mac users.

AV-Test gave this option an 18/18, with perfect scores in the protection, performance, and usability (false positives) categories. In lab tests, it detected 100% of tested malware samples, had only a minimal amount of performance impact for system processing, and sent back no false positives.

The software performed less admirably in recent AV-Comparatives tests, as it shot back over 40 false positives in the lab tests. That said, AV-Comparatives gave Trend Micro 2 out of 3 stars, making it overall a suitable option to consider.

Key Trend Micro features:

Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac offers high-level antivirus protection, as well as other key features:

  • Safe browsing (block suspicious sites automatically)
  • Webcam safety feature to prevent unauthorized access to computer cameras
  • Ransomware protection

Trend Micro’s Mac software is also priced equally to the top options, at $39.95 (first-year pricing) for protection on 3 devices. The second-year price for the Interner Securit package shifts to $79.95.

Unfortunately, Trend Micro gets a big strike against it for its billing practices. You won’t much information about auto-renewal when you go to purchase, and you have to go digging into the FAQ’s to learn how to turn off auto-renewal. You can only turn off the automatic subscription renewal service after you’ve signed up by going into your user settings on Trend Micro website.

Pros:

  • Well-rated and accurate virus removal

Cons:

  • A notable number of false positives in some lab test results
  • Forces auto-renewal and makes it difficult to remove auto-renewal

9. MacKeeper

mackeeper best antivirus for mac

Owned by Clario Tech Limited, MacKeeper doesn’t have the name brand pedigree of a McAfee, Norton, Bitdefender, or Kaspersky, but it can certainly hang with them in every aspect that we rate for Mac antivirus apps.

MacKeeper’s December 2020 AV-Test results prove that fact. It earned a perfect score (6 out of 6) in every AV-Test lab test category: Protection, Performance, and Usability. By comparison, AV-Test gave Intego a 5.5 in Protection and Performance in its December 2020 test. To be fair to MacKeeper’s competitors, the industry average protection score is 100%, and MacKeeper’s results on that end were 99.7%. Still, that means in real-world usage, MacKeeper finds and protects users against practically every malicious software attack.

If you’re doing some additional research before pulling the trigger and signing up, don’t let MacKeeper’s 2014 class-action lawsuit impact your decision. The suit accused MacKeeper of tricking users into paying for unnecessary fixes. However, the lawsuit, which was settled for $2 million, occurred before Clario purchased MacKeeper in 2019.  Since 2018, Clario has heavily updated the software and shifted the marketing and operation toward better transparency and consumer-friendly business practices.

Key MacKeeper features:

The MacKeeper antivirus software has been around since 2010. After purchasing the software in 2019, Clario added numerous updates to its functionality. MacKeeper’s best features include:

  • Real-time antivirus protection with an overhauled engine
  • Anti-spyware (also protects webcams and mics)
  • Ransomware detection and mitigation
  • ID theft protection
  • Private VPN
  • Ad-blocking and anti-tracking

MacKeeper also takes a slightly different pricing approach from its competitors. It offers four subscription levels, from 1 month ($14.95) to 24 months ($118, billed every two years), with discounts applied for longer-term subscriptions (up to 66% for annual subscribers). You pay more for the flexibility ($14.95 x 12 = $179), so we recommend the longer-term subscriptions unless you’re looking for something very short term.

Most other AV providers only utilize annual subscriptions, and many make it difficult to cancel that annual subscription, leading to auto-renewal shock once the subscription withdrawal hits. The monthly subscription option helps mitigate this, as well as automated emails prior to subscription withdrawals.

Pros:

  • Extremely well-rated in independent lab tests
  • Low-cost and flexible subscription options
  • High-end tools that come included for the price
  • 100% money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Does not allow auto-renewal to be turned off at checkout
  • Limits users to 1 license (one computer install) per account
  • Does not offer multi-license plans

Mac antivirus FAQs

Not sure where to start with Mac antivirus software, or need help navigating your purchasing process? Here are some frequently asked questions about Mac AV tools.

Can I use a free antivirus for my Mac?

You can certainly use free antivirus for a Mac computer. In fact, we have an article covering free AV tools for Windows and Mac computers. That said, free AV tools are usually feature-limited, and some may carry malware themselves if you're not careful.

Do Macs have built-in antivirus?

Yes, Mac has built-in antivirus software. The built-in Mac antivirus app is called XProtect. However, Apple is notorious for failing to update XProtect as frequently as it should. XProtect is also designed primarily for blocking and removing potential malware from downloaded programs but doesn't perform adequately against malware hiding in files that walk the line of safe/not safe, such as adware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPS). If you're comparing it to Windows Defender, the Windows built-in AV tool is leaps and bounds better, but both lack advanced, complex system protection tools.

Will running antivirus affect my PC’s performance?

Many AV tools consume a significant amount of system resources, specifically CPU and RAM. Utilization of both will increase while you run scans on your computer, and depending on how much, it will cause other apps to lag. We recommend setting your scans to run at times when you're not using your machine and allow for 1 or more hours, depending on the size of your filesystem and your computer's specs.

Will a VPN be included with antivirus software?

Not all Mac antivirus apps include a VPN. Check the full app details on the provider's page to determine if a VPN is included, or which package might include a VPN option. However, most will include only a limited VPN even when available. We recommend you instead use a separate, dedicated Mac VPN designed specifically for Mac computers. Dedicated VPNs have more server locations, faster servers, and offer better anonymity and security. 

Are there any antivirus free trials I can use

There are several antivirus free trails available through Mac AV providers. Vipre, for example, offers a free trial of its software, as do others on our list. Some providers do not offer a free trial but do have a money-back guarantee that covers a certain amount of time post-signup (usually 30 days).

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 Vulnerabilities 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, Macs make up a very small percentage of computers getting viruses, this has more to do with a 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.

Further reading: