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5 Best (Really Free) Antivirus Programs for Mac in 2019

5 Best (Really Free) Antivirus Programs for Mac in 2019
Felicity Kay
Posted: September 26, 2019

If you’re a Mac owner, you might think that Apple products can’t be infected by viruses and malware and that you don’t need any antivirus software for your computer.

But you’d be wrong — although Windows devices are more at risk from serious hacks, Macs are continuously targeted by hackers, and the need to be protected is increasing all the time.

And, why pay for something when you can get it for free, right? Well, sort of…

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. With free antivirus software, you can expect to “pay” with annoying ads, limited features, or even a serious ransomware or phishing attack — which you won’t be protected against.

Best Free Mac Antiviruses of October 2019:

  1. Avira Free Antivirus for Mac
  2. Sophos Home Free
  3. AVG AntiVirus for Mac
  4. Avast Security for Mac
  5. Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac

Free Antivirus: What’s the Catch?

Antivirus providers really do offer their software for free — but there’s one huge catch:

You’ll get a watered-down version of their premium software, just so that when you really need it — like when your device has been seriously infected by a strong case of malware — you’ll be pushed into paying for the upgraded, premium features.

After all, when your device is already infected, you’ll do — and pay — anything to repair it, right?

That said, our top recommended free antiviruses provide a solid service that’s so good, you probably won’t want (or need) to upgrade. Our recommended free antivirus software:

  • Will keep you protected from everyday threats to your Mac device.
  • Will detect, quarantine, and remove any existing threats you might not have been aware of.
  • Will provide other add-ons you’ll wonder how you lived without, such as a VPN for extra online protection and email security.

In fact, many of the lesser-known, completely “free” antivirus programs on the market are actually viruses in disguise, just waiting for you to download them — and once they’re on your system, it’s already too late for your device. For this reason, we only recommend you market-leading, well-known, and credible antivirus software.

For more frequently asked questions about free antiviruses for Macs, jump to the bottom of this article by clicking here.

We’ve researched all 30 antivirus software designed for Macs on the market — software designed specifically for Mac computers — to find the best free products available to help you stay protected.

How We Rate the Best Free Antivirus for Mac:

  • Malware-detection. We meta-analyzed the scientific reports from the antivirus’s testing laboratories to ensure that all 5 of our chosen antivirus programs detected Mac-specific malware threats.
  • Extra features. We took into account all of an antivirus’s features to make sure that you’re getting a well-rounded product designed for maximum protection.
  • Installation. We checked out the installation process across various OS and devices, seeing the issues you might encounter as well as measuring the overall speed and efficiency of the process.
  • User interface. We looked at how both regular and tech-savvy users interact with the apps in order to make sure they are easy to use for both audiences — not too simple and not too complex.
  • Customer support. We contacted each product’s support teams and measured how long they took to respond, via chat, via email, and via phone. Did they solve our problem or just try to upgrade us to a more expensive plan?

1. Avira Free Antivirus for Mac — Best for Secure Web Browsing

Avira Free Antivirus for Mac — Best for Secure Web Browsing

Avira Free Antivirus for Mac is one of the most popular antiviruses on the market. Its best feature is its low-key real-time scanner — always running in the background — which detects and eliminates threats as they happen.

The free plan also includes Avira’s Browser Safety, a powerful security plug-in for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. It blocks unsafe websites and ad trackers, and it checks for hidden, malicious links in social networks and emails.

For even greater online protection, you can download Avira’s free Phantom VPN (which has a 500 MB data limit a month — only enough to watch a few hours of Netflix) to anonymize your browsing.

And the malware scans are easy to customize, schedule, and run. Avira found 99.8% of macOS malware in recent independent testing. In other words, Avira offers almost perfect protection.

The software is simple to install, but running a full scan can seriously impact your computer’s performance. It’s a good idea to run a full scan every week or so and run one or two quick scans every day to guarantee that your Mac stays protected.

What We Like:

  • High-quality real-time protection.
  • On-demand scanner allows you to schedule scans and updates.
  • Scans websites, social networks, and emails for threats.
  • Great anti-malware results from independent testing labs.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Only supports macOS from 2017 or newer.
  • Full system scan is slow and slows down computer.
  • Only support is a community forum.

Bottom Line:

Avira Free Antivirus for Mac is the product for you if need to keep your Mac malware-free while you’re browsing the web. It does so both with its real-time scanning tools and online protection features, and it is one of the best free options out there for online security. The biggest disappointment is how slow the scans are and how much they impact system performance.

Get Avira Free Antivirus for Mac

2. Sophos Home Free — Best for Free Parental Controls

Sophos Home Free — Best for Free Parental Controls

Sophos Home Free is the best option for parents, giving you peace of mind that all of the websites your children visit are age-appropriate.

With Sophos’s Parental Website Filtering, you have the option to block inappropriate websites that your kids might otherwise visit. Sophos also offers a really good Web Protection feature, which immediately stops you (or your kids) from accessing dangerous websites that contain malware.

One of the coolest things about Sophos is that it lets you manage systems remotely, so you can secure you and your family’s devices from a web interface anywhere in the world.

Sophos Home Free offers a real-time antivirus feature that fully protects you against malware, viruses, and ransomware. The antivirus offers 100% protection against Mac-specific malware. That’s the same level of guaranteed protection you’d get from big names such as Avast, McAfee, and Kaspersky.

The installation process is quick and easy, although you do have to provide personal information name and email address — before you can download the program.

What We Like:

  • Excellent parental controls.
  • 100% malware protection.
  • Solid real-time protection.
  • Protects up to 3 devices.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Privacy Protection, Ransomware Protection, and Malicious Traffic Detection reserved for paid users.
  • Have to register for a Sophos account before installation can begin.
  • Scans can be a little slow.

Bottom Line:

Sophos Home Free offers excellent real-time scanning and malware detection tools. The free version protects up to 3 devices and includes remote management and advanced parental controls, making it a great option for families.

Get Sophos Home Free

3. AVG AntiVirus for Mac — Best for Simple Protection

AVG AntiVirus for Mac — Best for Simple Protection

AVG AntiVirus for Mac is a simple but powerful antivirus program. If you’re looking for something easy and effective, this is what you want. It won’t weigh your system down with anything unnecessary, and the real-time antivirus protection AVG offers is top quality.

There are also lots of great scanning options to choose from. There’s a Deep Scan to check your entire system, a File Scan to check .zip files, shared folders, and external files, and a Mac Scan which checks typically vulnerable areas on your Mac where malware likes to hide. AVG also offers a PUA Scan (Potentially Unwanted Application) to check for things like spyware and adware.

Since Avast owns AVG, the two applications use the same malware-detection technology. Unsurprisingly, AVG — just like Avast — scores top marks in the latest Mac security independent testing.

AVG AntiVirus for Mac doesn’t offer many add-ons in this free product. It does, however, come with an “Online Protection” tool that blocks dangerous websites, downloads, and email attachments.

The setup is easy. Likewise, the user interface is simple to use. However, the program uses lots of resources, so the full system scans can slow down your Mac and take several hours to complete.

What We Like:

  • Excellent malware protection.
  • Helpful Online Protection tool to secure web browsing.
  • Automatically updates its virus database.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Slows down your computer more than competitors.
  • Customer support available to paying users only.
  • Doesn’t allow you to schedule scans.

Bottom Line:

AVG AntiVirus for Mac is the perfect choice for those looking for a “set-it-and-forget-it” antivirus. It doesn’t have any advanced add-ons — such as VPNs or parental controls — but its malware scanning technology is the best there is.

Get AVG AntiVirus for Mac

4. Avast Security for Mac — Best for Universal Protection

Avast Security for Mac — Best for Universal Protection

 

Avast Security for Mac is one of the best free Mac antivirus programs because it offers you complete protection for absolutely no money. It provides real-time protection, and it comes with a full-system malware scan that goes deep into every file on your computer. Its detection rates are top of the industry, and its user-interface is simple and straightforward.

One great thing is that it allows you to schedule and run custom scans — targeting specific files, folders, and removable drives. You can also drag and drop specific things you want scanned like individual files and removable hardware.

There are other impressive features, too. Avast’s Web Shield blocks dangerous websites and eliminates ad tracking while the Email Shield scans your emails for malicious attachments. Also, the Wi-Fi Security Scan checks your network — and all connected devices — for vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.

Avast Security for Mac detected 100% of macOS (Mac Operating System) malware in independent testing, a phenomenal result for a free antivirus.

But, a word of warning: Be careful when downloading the free plan for Mac. Avast aggressively tries to sell you expensive add-ons, such as its own Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. It gets very annoying very quickly.

What We Like:

  • Doesn’t affect your device’s system performance.
  • One of the fastest full system scans we tested.
  • Allows you to schedule and run custom scans.
  • 100% malware-detection rates.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Features such as Ransomware Protection are only available on Avast’s paid plans.
  • If you need any support, you can only use Avast’s FAQ Knowledge Base and forum.
  • Aggressive marketing tactics to get you to upgrade.

Bottom Line:

Avast Security for Mac is a great free antivirus for Mac. We like the additional free features — such as the Web and Email Shield — which protect you from phishing attempts and give you real-time protection. But Avast pretty clearly just wants you to upgrade to their paid plan.

Get Avast Security for Mac

5. Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac — Best for Quick Detection

Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac — Best for Quick Detection

Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac gives you 3 basic but detailed scans to choose from. One of the best options is the program’s Critical Locations Scan — looking in places like temporary files, mail documents, and downloads. There’s also the option to do a “Deep System Scan” of the entire Mac and a “Custom Location Scan” of only select places as well.

Bitdefender issues virus signature updates every hour, which means that Virus Scanner for Mac always checks for the very latest malware.

According to the latest testing, Bitdefender protects against 100% of Mac-specific malware, which again, is amazing for a free product.

The installation process is straightforward and the interface — which displays your security status and recommendations — is easy to navigate. Since the program has a low system impact, it won’t slow down your Mac, especially when searching only specific folders.

But don’t expect anything other than basic detection from this free Bitdefender product. While it might be good at detection, it’ll hassle you to upgrade to a paid plan.

What We Like:

  • Multiple scan options.
  • Excellent malware protection scores from independent labs.
  • Easy to install.
  • Doesn’t slow down your Mac.
  • User-friendly interface.
  • Email, live chat, and phone support.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Doesn’t provide real-time protection.
  • No browsing or email protection.

Bottom Line:

Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac is excellent for scanning your entire system or specific files, giving you great flexibility with your scan. However, there’s no real-time protection — you’ll need to initiate the scans every day to keep your Mac protected. It’s only here to give you a taste of what the paid Bitdefender plans can do.

Get Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac

FAQ — Mac Antivirus Software

Can Macs get viruses?

There’s a good reason why the myth that “Macs don’t get infected” continues. By design, the Mac operating system is less vulnerable to viruses than Windows.

Mac is based on the Unix operating system, which is sandboxed. This means that even if malware somehow ends up on your Mac, it won’t be able to spread. Also, the chances of malware infecting your device in the first place are slim. Apple’s built-in Gatekeeper function stops you from downloading apps that haven’t been approved by Apple.

But that doesn’t mean you’re immune from problems just because you’re on a Mac. There are all kinds of other serious threats that you need to be protected from, like malware, ransomware, spyware, adware, and phishing attacks.

As more and more people use Mac computers, more and more hackers develop new ways of attacking those Mac computers — leaving you vulnerable to cybercrime.

Are free antiviruses for Mac safe enough?

It depends what you mean by “enough”. If you want basic protection against the most common threats, then yes. All of the 5 products listed here will protect you from viruses and malware. But they won’t necessarily protect you from other threats like ransomware, spyware, and adware.

If you’re looking for serious protection, you will need to upgrade to a paid plan. You can check out the best premium antivirus software for Mac in 2019 here.

Can I just use a free online virus scanner and not download anything?

You can, but you shouldn’t. Most of these online programs which offer free virus scans scare you into thinking your computer has malware — even though it doesn’t — and then force you to download their product to “remove” it.

It’s better to download a reputable antivirus program from the beginning so you don’t accidentally infect your computer with spyware or ransomware from an online virus scanner.

Why do these companies offer free antiviruses?

It depends. Many companies like to give you a taste of their premium product so that you’ll realize how valuable their product is and ultimately subscribe to their paid plan. Some companies will even offer free trials of their premium plan so that you can really get a sense of what “full protection” looks and feels like.

There are also companies who realize that cybersecurity is important, and they want to give each person the ability to stay protected in order to guarantee their online safety. All of the companies on our list are committed to protecting each one of its users, regardless of whether or not they’re a paying customer.

Which Mac Operating Systems (OS) do these antiviruses protect?

In general, most antivirus products will be available for OS X 10.10 and later. There are certain instances where newer Macs and operating systems benefit from better service. For instance, our top free antivirus for Mac, Avira, is only available for OS X 10.13 and later.

As a rule, it’s always a security issue to not have the latest OS running on your computer. One reason Mac offers updates is because there are vulnerabilities that hackers can break into on older, outdated operating systems. Make sure your computer has an updated OS, and make sure your antivirus is compatible with your system.

Always check with the antivirus company before downloading to guarantee that the software will work as intended.

Bottom Line:

Out of all the antivirus products on the market, our extensive testing has concluded that Avira offers the best free virus protection for Macs in 2019. While Avira is amazing, it’s helpful to remember that basic protection only protects against basic threats. You can’t put a price on keeping you and your data secure. Extra features like ransomware protection and priority support can make a big difference in staying safe. For more details on all the features of the best antivirus products on the market, check out our top recommended premium antiviruses for Mac here.

 

Transparency and Trust – We pride ourselves on being the only site where users can freely contribute and share their reviews on any antivirus with other community members. When you visit an antivirus site we link to, we sometimes get affiliate commissions that support our work. Read more about how we operate.