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Best Free Antiviruses for Mac (2023) — Are Any of Them Good?

Katarina Glamoslija Katarina Glamoslija
Updated on: February 1, 2023

Short on time? Here’s the best free Mac antivirus of 2023:

  • 🥇Intego. It’s the best macOS antivirus out there — detecting and removing all viruses and malware and ensuring that all Macs stay fast, clean, and optimized. It’s not 100% free, but it has a risk-free 30-day trial (no credit card needed) and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Most antivirus brands that offer free products usually make you “pay” in some way — with intrusive ads, limited features, and serious vulnerabilities that leave you and your Mac unsecured. And there are also free antiviruses that are actually spyware in disguise, designed to steal user data.

That’s why it’s important that you find a product that has been extensively tested and that is guaranteed to offer at least a basic level of protection without compromising your cybersecurity. I’ve researched and tested all major antivirus software designed for Macs to find the best 100% free products available to help you stay protected.

And while there are a handful of decent free Mac antiviruses, they all have frustrating limitations. If you’re looking for comprehensive internet security protection, and you don’t want to fall victim to things like ransomware or advanced malware attacks, you’ll need to invest in a paid antivirus. I recommend Intego, which won the #1 spot on our list of the best paid antiviruses for macOS in 2023 and is available for a month-long free trial.

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Quick summary of the best free Mac antiviruses in 2023:

1.🥇 Intego — Best for Overall macOS Protection in  2023

1.🥇 Intego — Best for Overall macOS Protection in  2023

Intego is my favorite Mac antivirus in 2023 — it has perfect Mac-specific malware detection rates, provides a wide range of useful extras that improve upon Apple’s built-in security, and is super easy to use. While Intego’s not 100% free, it comes with a 30-day free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee. This gives you plenty of time to use Intego and see if it’s the best choice for you.

Intego’s firewall is a big improvement over Mac’s built-in firewall. It automatically changes security settings based on whether you’re using your home network, work network, or a public Wi-Fi. This ensures your online safety at all times.

Intego also comes with a good system optimizer. It finds and removes old, unused, or duplicate files and also helps you organize all of the files and apps you have on your Mac.

There’s also a personalized backup tool that lets you schedule when you want to back up specific files and folders, but what I love most about this feature is that you can back up your entire system — including your version of macOS.

Parents will also be happy to discover that Intego offers comprehensive parental controls. In addition to blocking inappropriate content, the parental controls also include anti-predator alerts, keystroke tracking, and detailed activity reports.

Intego doesn’t yet have a mobile app, but you can connect your iOS device to your computer to scan for viruses and other online threats. Alternatively, you can take a look at our list of the best internet security apps for iOS and Android.

Intego has several plans to choose from. At $19.99 / year, Intego Mac Internet Security X9 includes real-time malware scanning, anti-phishing protection, and a firewall, but that’s pretty much it. Users who also want Intego’s system optimization, backup tools, and parental controls should check out the Mac Premium Bundle X9, which costs $34.99 / year and covers up to 5 devices.

Bottom Line:

Intego provides the best virus and malware protection for Mac devices, and it also comes with a good range of extras that are all significantly better than Apple’s built-in protections. Intego caught all of the malware samples in my testing, and its firewall, system optimization tools, backup tools, and parental controls all worked flawlessly. While Intego’s not completely free, it has a risk-free 30-day trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee, giving you 2 whole months to test all of its features and see if it works for you.

Download Intego Now (Free Trial)

Read our full Intego review here

2.🥈 Avira Free Antivirus for Mac — Advanced Virus Scanner + Decent Free Extras

2.🥈 Avira Free Antivirus for Mac — Advanced Virus Scanner + Decent Free Extras

Avira Free Antivirus for Mac provides lightweight cloud-based malware scanning, as well as more free features than any other brand on this list. These include real-time protection, intuitive system tuneup tools, a surprisingly good password manager, and even a VPN!

Avira’s anti-malware scanner detected 100% of the malware files in my testing, including viruses, spyware, trojans, and ransomware. And because it’s cloud-based, Avira’s malware scanner runs smoothly in the background without any interruptions — I was able to run programs like Photoshop and Ableton Live with no slowdown, even during full system scans.

Avira’s free plan also comes with the Browser Safety extension, which blocks unsafe websites, ads, and ad trackers — this extension is excellent at blocking phishing sites, but I was particularly impressed with its ability to block annoying YouTube ads and unwanted pop-ups.

I also like Avira’s Phantom VPN, which has a strict no-logs policy, provides secure servers around the globe, and is fast enough for uninterrupted streaming. However, the VPN has a 500 MB monthly limit, which is only enough to watch a few hours of Netflix. If you want a good VPN for macOS users, check out our list of the best free VPNs for Mac here.

Avira also provides one of the best free password managers on the market, with unlimited password storage, biometric logins, and a built-in TOTP (time-based one-time password) authenticator.

On the other hand, Avira’s free system optimization tools are pretty basic. They include only a junk file cleaner and an application uninstaller. And unlike Intego, Avira doesn’t offer parental controls on any of its plans (you can check out our list of the best free parental controls here).

Upgrading to Avira Prime ($59.99 / year) brings you a heap of extra features, including unlimited data with the VPN, password security auditing and data breach monitoring with the password manager, advanced system optimization tools, and coverage for up to 5 devices across all operating systems. All Avira yearly purchases come with a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

Avira is the best 100% free antivirus for Macs. It provides lightweight real-time malware scanning, good anti-phishing protection, an excellent free password manager, and a decent VPN. The malware scanner blocked every malware file in my testing, and the web protections blocked both phishing sites and annoying ads. Upgrading to Avira Prime adds a VPN with no limitations, additional password manager features, and coverage for up to 5 devices.

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Read the full Avira review here>

3.🥉 TotalAV Free Antivirus — Good Antivirus Scanner & Limited Mac Speedup Tools

3.🥉 TotalAV Free Antivirus — Good Antivirus Scanner & Limited Mac Speedup Tools

TotalAV Free Antivirus has an excellent on-demand virus scanner. It uses a white-label version of Avira’s anti-malware engine, so I wasn’t surprised that TotalAV had near-perfect malware detection rates in all of my tests. It’s is also very fast, lightweight, and it doesn’t cause any system slowdown.

TotalAV also comes with limited Mac cleaning and device optimization tools — they’re available for only 2 days after you download the program. These tools include:

  • Duplicates and junk file scanning and removal.
  • Tracking cookie cleanup.
  • Boot organizer to improve startup times.
  • Easy-to-use application uninstaller.
  • Cached browser files cleanup.

Fortunately, TotalAV runs a system cleanup scan immediately after downloading, so this one scan can clean your computer of years of junk files. When I tested the optimization tools, TotalAV found over 1,000 junk files on my Mac and nearly 2,500 browser cookies that were impacting both my Chrome and Safari browser, which improved both my system and browser speeds.

TotalAV’s free plan is good for malware scanning and removal and cleaning your device of unwanted files — but it lacks real-time protection and other important cybersecurity protections. To fully protect your Mac, take a look at TotalAV’s low-cost paid plans, which start at $19.00 / year and add real-time protection, a VPN, a password manager, and a lot more. The free plan comes with a 7-day free trial of the premium features, and all purchases are backed by a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

TotalAV Free Antivirus is a decent on-demand malware scanner with some neat system cleanup tools that you can use for 48 hours after download. TotalAV’s anti-malware engine detected almost all of the malware on my disk, and its system cleanup tools removed nearly 3 GB of junk files from my test MacBook. If you want a comprehensive internet security solution for your Mac, take a look at TotalAV’s excellent paid plans.

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Read the full TotalAV review here>

4. Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac — Excellent Cloud-Based Malware Scanning (But Not Much Else)

4. Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac — Excellent Cloud-Based Malware Scanning (But Not Much Else)

Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac is a powerful, cloud-based anti-malware scanner that performs on-demand scans, but it doesn’t provide real-time protection. Bitdefender gives three scans to choose from. One of the best options is the program’s “Critical Locations Scan”, which scans the parts of your Mac where malware is most likely to be found, like downloads, temporary files, and cached files. There’s also the option to do a “Deep System Scan” of the entire Mac or a “Custom Location Scan”, which scans specific files or folders.

During all of my malware tests, Bitdefender scored a perfect 100% malware detection rate, detecting all of my Mac-specific malware samples, including the ones that most competitors failed to catch. Like Avira, Bitdefender’s scanner is also cloud-based, meaning it won’t slow down your Mac, not even during CPU-intensive processes like video editing or streaming.

Bitdefender’s free virus scanner is a good quick fix if you’re worried about your Mac’s performance and you think you may have a malware infection. But it’s not a long-term security solution, as it lacks essential cybersecurity protections, such as real-time protection, web protections, a VPN, a password manager, and all of the other features that make Bitdefender Total Security ($35.99 / year) one of the top internet security suites on the market.

Users who want to get Bitdefender’s unlimited-data VPN should take a look at Bitdefender Premium Security, which costs $59.99 / year and adds a full-featured password manager and coverage for up to 10 devices. All Bitdefender plans are covered by a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac is an excellent cloud-based anti-malware scanner that’s great for detecting and removing malware from your device. However, other than the scanner, Bitdefender’s free plan doesn’t have any other features — it lacks real-time protection, anti-phishing protection, device optimization tools, a VPN, etc. Users looking for an all-around cybersecurity suite for Mac computers should take a look at Bitdefender Total Security, which covers up to 5 devices, or Bitdefender Premium Security, which adds a VPN with no limitations, a fully-featured password manager, and coverage for up to 10 devices.

Download Bitdefender for Free

Read the full Bitdefender review here>

5. Malwarebytes for Mac (Free) — Decent Antivirus Scanning and Removal

5. Malwarebytes for Mac (Free) — Decent Antivirus Scanning and Removal

Malwarebytes for Mac (Free) comes with good malware detection and removal capabilities. Users can choose from several scan types, including “Threat Scan” and “Custom Scan”. The Threat Scan will search the places where Mac-specific malware typically hides, while the Custom Scan can be customized to just scan one specific folder or your whole disk drive.

In my testing, Malwarebytes detected around 90% of the malware on my disk, including very tricky files like rootkits that can usually escape detection. Malwarebytes is a good option if you have malware on your device and need to quickly disinfect your Mac computer. But apart from the scanner, Malwarebytes’s free plan doesn’t come with any other features.

Users can also download Malwarebytes’s free Browser Guard browser extension, which protects against malicious sites, phishing sites, ads, and trackers. The extension is available for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari.

Malwarebytes Premium adds real-time protection, ransomware protection, and web protection, whereas Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy also includes a VPN. Malwarebytes’s plans start at $37.49 / year, and there’s a 14-day free trial of Malwarebytes Premium included with the free Mac software. All purchases are backed by a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

Malwarebytes for Mac (Free) is a good malware scanner, but it doesn’t provide any additional protections. Malwarebytes offers 2 paid plans: Malwarebytes Premium, which adds real-time protection and web protection, and Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy, which also includes a VPN.

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Read the full Malwarebytes review here>

Comparison of the Best Free Mac Antiviruses

Antivirus Free Trial of Premium Version Starting Price Real-Time Malware Protection Extra Features Money-Back Guarantee
1.🥇 Intego 30 days $1.67 / month
(premium only)
Firewall, system optimization, backup tools, parental controls (premium only) 30 days
2. 🥈 Avira $59.99 / year for Avira Prime Yes Anti-phishing, limited password manager, limited VPN 60 days
3. 🥉 TotalAV 7 days $19.00 / year
(premium only)
Limited system optimization 30 days
4. Bitdefender 30 days $35.99 / year for Total Security
(premium only)
None 30 days
5. Malwarebytes 14 days $44.99 / year for Premium
(premium only)
None 60 days

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How to Choose the Best Free Antivirus for Mac

  • Malware detection. A good Mac antivirus needs to provide perfect or near-perfect malware detection rates. I performed extensive stress-testing by downloading over 900 Mac-specific malware files to my MacBook in order to test each program’s full disk scanning, and all of the brands on this list detected most (or all) of the malware samples.
  • Minimal slowdown. An antivirus may slow down your system, especially during a full system scan, making it difficult or even impossible to use your device normally. But all of the antiviruses here are lightweight, so you’ll hardly notice they’re there.
  • Extra features. Many antiviruses nowadays come with a wide range of extras for additional cybersecurity protection, but free Mac antiviruses are usually very limited. Still, I took into account all of an antivirus’s features to make sure that you’re getting a well-rounded product designed for maximum protection.
  • Ease of use. Mac antiviruses need to be intuitive and simple to use, both for beginner and advanced users. All of the products I recommend come with well-designed Mac apps and all of their features are easy to find and use.
  • Customer support. If you ever encounter a problem with your antivirus, you need to be able to get professional support to quickly resolve your issue. All of the best free antiviruses for Mac have good knowledge bases and a decent range of customer support options.

DOWNLOAD INTEGO NOW (FREE TRIAL)

Risks & Disadvantages of Using a Free Mac Antivirus

The free antiviruses on my list are all from trustworthy companies, and they will all provide you with some basic protection. But even the best free products come with some frustrating limitations. For example, every product on my list aside from Avira lacks real-time protection, meaning that they can’t properly protect your Mac from malware between scans.

And bear in mind that the products on my list are the best of the best when it comes to free tools. Most “free” antiviruses have intrusive ads, offer extremely limited features, and can even infect your Mac with spyware or adware. So if you must go for a free product, always ensure it’s from a reputable company like the ones on my list.

macOS does come with some pretty good built-in security protections. However, while these free tools are better than nothing, they certainly can’t protect you against more advanced threats like spyware and ransomware, which a premium Mac antivirus like Intego can.

What’s more, with free products, you miss out on all the useful extra features that a premium antivirus can give you. For example, Intego has excellent Mac-specific parental controls, Avira’s paid plans offer advanced system optimization tools, and TotalAV’s premium plans come with the best antivirus-bundled VPN on the market.

DOWNLOAD INTEGO NOW (FREE TRIAL)

Free Antivirus vs. Paid Antiviruses

With antiviruses, you really do get what you pay for. While free products like Avira, TotalAV, and Bitdefender certainly offer great malware scanners, they simply don’t have all the tools needed for comprehensive protection from online threats.

By paying a few bucks a month for a premium antivirus, you’re getting way more than basic malware protection. Premium antiviruses offer tools like password managers, VPNs, parental controls, and more, which all work to ensure your online life is completely protected. Norton even offers $1 million insurance coverage for victims of identity theft, meaning that even if the worst happens, you’re fully covered. A free antivirus just can’t offer this level of protection.

Opting for a premium product will also get you access to better customer support. Free products don’t generally have live chat or phone support, whereas paid products do. This is super helpful if you have an issue that needs sorting quickly. That said, the best premium antiviruses are really intuitive and simple to use, so you shouldn’t need customer support too often anyhow.

Overall, in my opinion, it’s well worth paying a few dollars to protect yourself online. You can read more about the best paid antiviruses for Mac here — they all have affordable plans and offer free trials and/or money-back guarantees (Intego has a 30-day free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it risk-free for 2 months and make sure it works for you).

DOWNLOAD INTEGO NOW (FREE TRIAL)

Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut:

  • Norton. Norton is one of the best all-around antiviruses out there, and it offers a 60-day money-back guarantee on its Norton 360 plans (which include Mac protection). It’s one of my favorite antiviruses for Mac, providing extras like a VPN, a smart firewall, and much more. But Norton doesn’t have a free Mac plan, so I couldn’t include it on this list.
  • McAfee. McAfee has an excellent Mac scanner as well as a ton of extra security features that build on top of Apple’s security features, but it neither offers a free product nor a free trial.
  • MacKeeper. MacKeeper is an incredibly intuitive antivirus program designed specifically for Macs. It’s also very good at detecting malware. But its free plan is very limited — in order to actually fix all of the problems it finds, you’ll have to subscribe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Macs get viruses?

Yes, absolutely. While macOS contains some great built-in security protections, these protections aren’t enough to keep you safe from serious cybersecurity threats like spyware, adware, ransomware, and phishing attacks.

Just because you’re being careful online, it doesn’t mean your network and your devices aren’t vulnerable to a wide range of attacks. That’s why it’s so important to get a high-quality Mac antivirus like Intego, which comes with features like real-time malware scanning, web protection, and network protection.

Are free antiviruses for Mac good enough?

Not really, no. However, they can be good tools to remove malware from your disk, and Avira even offers real-time protection to keep your Mac protected after you’ve cleaned up your system.

But paid antivirus software provides better malware scanning, network protections, web protections, and helpful extras like parental controls, VPNs for online privacy, and disk cleanup tools to keep your device running smoothly. Intego is a Mac-only internet security suite that contains a ton of excellent features to keep you (and your family) safe online.

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

You can, but you really shouldn’t. Most of these online programs that offer free virus scans scare you into thinking your computer has malware — even though it doesn’t — and then force you to download the product to “remove” it. Even worse, many online virus scanners are actually exploit kits in disguise. Don’t risk it.

It’s much safer to just download a reputable antivirus software that comes with a free trial, like Intego.

Why do these companies offer free antiviruses?

It depends. Many companies lure users with promises of amazing features, and then put all of those features behind a paywall in the actual app (unfortunately, even some of my favorite antiviruses, like TotalAV, are guilty of this kind of upselling).

Brands like Avira (which provides tons of free internet security tools) seem to think that providing genuinely high-quality free products is an investment in their user base. I’m sure I’m not the only user that downloaded a free Avira app or plug-in, realized the company makes excellent software, and became a customer.

Free stuff on the internet is never really free (you either pay with your data, or are forced to watch ads, or your device gets infected with spyware or adware, etc.), which is why it’s usually better to just pay for the services that you consider to be valuable.

Here Are the Best Free Mac Antiviruses in 2023:

Rank
Overall Score
Best Deal
1
9.4
save 60%
2
9.0
save 40%
3
9.4
save 84%
4
9.6
save 62%
5
8.0
save 25%
About the Author
Katarina Glamoslija
Katarina Glamoslija
Head Content Manager
Updated on: February 1, 2023

About the Author

Katarina Glamoslija is Head Content Manager at SafetyDetectives. She has nearly a decade of experience researching, testing, and reviewing cybersecurity products and investigating best practices for online safety and data protection. Before joining SafetyDetectives, she was Content Manager and Chief Editor of several review websites, including one about antiviruses and another about VPNs. She also worked as a freelance writer and editor for tech, medical, and business publications. When she’s not a “Safety Detective”, she can be found traveling (and writing about it on her small travel blog), playing with her cats, and binge-watching crime dramas.