It’s hard finding a truly free Mac antivirus out there in today’s crowded cybersecurity market. Most antivirus brands simply offer you a basic free product and annoy you to upgrade to their premium product. They usually make you “pay” with intrusive ads, limited features, and serious vulnerabilities which leave you and your Mac unsecured.
Many other free antiviruses are actually spyware, trying to trick you into giving over access to your computer’s resources so they can steal your information. That’s why it’s important that you find a product which has been tested extensively and 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 on the market — software designed specifically for Mac computers — to find the best 100% free products available to help you stay protected.
If you only need simple scanning and basic malware protection, you only need a free antivirus. But if need to keep your important info secure 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. If that’s the route you’re going, I recommend Intego or TotalAV, both of which offer amazing macOS protection at a cheaper price than most other competitors.
Here are my picks for the best free Mac antiviruses in 2020:
- Sophos — #1 pick for 2020.
- Avira — Comes with real-time malware protection and it’s easy to set up and use.
- Bitdefender — Lightweight software. Does some great quick and easy Mac scanning.
- Malwarebytes — Only malware scanning and removal.
- TotalAV — Great tools for cleaning and optimizing Mac performance.
Update 2020: Our top Mac antivirus provider, Intego, replaced its free plan with a “free trial“, so I’ve taken it off this list. But Intego really offers some of the strongest macOS protection out there. It’s frequently updated, builds upon Apple’s native security features, and is relatively inexpensive. If you don’t want to deal with the hassles and limitations of a free antivirus, a low-cost premium antivirus like Intego is always a good option.
How I Rated the Best Free Antivirus for Mac:
- Malware-detection. I performed extensive stress-testing and analyzed scientific reports from all major antivirus testing laboratories to ensure that all 5 of my chosen antivirus programs detected Mac-specific malware threats.
- Extra features. 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.
- Installation. I checked out the installation process across various macOS versions and devices, seeing the issues you might encounter as well as measuring the overall speed and efficiency of the process.
- User interface. I looked at how both regular and tech-savvy users interact with the software in order to make sure they are easy to use for both audiences — not too simple and not too complex.
- Customer support. I contacted each product’s support teams and measured how long they took to respond, via chat, via email, and via phone. Did they solve my problem or just try to upgrade me to a more expensive plan?
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut:
- Intego. Intego is #1 on SafetyDetectives’s list of the best antiviruses for Macs in 2020, but unfortunately they only offer a free trial and no free product. You can still download the free trial, and test out the best Mac protection on the market.
- Norton. Norton is without question one of the best all-around antiviruses out there. I especially love that their security suite is incredibly powerful and really effective in providing guaranteed Mac protection. But Norton doesn’t have a free Mac program, so I can’t include them on this list.
- Kaspersky. Kaspersky’s Internet Security for Mac is a great product with lots of features for Mac users that go beyond typical antivirus protection. But, unfortunately, they only offer a free trial. But you can always download the 30-day free trial, clean your Mac of malware, then return it before the trial is over.
- Avast/AVG. Avast has allegedly been selling users’ browsing information for several years. As such, we no longer recommend Avast or any Avast company (like AVG) on our site. You can read more about our decision here.
1. Sophos Home Free — Best for Overall macOS Protection & Free Parental Controls
Sophos Home Free is a compact and lightweight Mac antivirus. It’s web-based, so most features are controlled from the Sophos Home online dashboard — great for people with limited space on their Mac.
It’s also the best free Mac antivirus option for parents. With Sophos’s Parental Website Filtering, you have the option to block inappropriate websites that your kids might otherwise visit. And Sophos also has 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 the online interface from anywhere. I was traveling outside of the country when I tested Sophos, and I was able to quickly log into my dashboard from the other side of the world!
Sophos Home Free offers a real-time antivirus feature that fully protects against malware, viruses, and ransomware. The antivirus also offers 100% protection against Mac-specific malware. That’s the same level of guaranteed protection you’d get from big names such as Intego, 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.
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.
2. Avira Free Antivirus for Mac — Best for Easy to Use Antivirus & Browser Security Features
Avira Free Antivirus for Mac is one of the most popular free 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. I navigated to a few known dangerous websites and Avira quickly popped up telling me to stay away each time.
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 100% of macOS malware in my tests, which is impressive when compared to other brands. The software is simple to install, but running a full scan impacted my computer’s performance, so it’s not the best for already slow systems.
Avira Free Antivirus for Mac will help keep your Mac malware-free while browsing the web. It does so both with its real-time scanning tools and online protection features, and it’s 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.
3. Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac — Best for Quick Detection
Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac gives 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.
As we saw in our Bitdefender review, 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.
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.
4. Malwarebytes for Mac (Free) — Efficient Antivirus Scanning and Removal, But Not Much Else
Malwarebytes has been a leader in cybersecurity on Apple platforms for years now. While the Malwarebytes for Mac free offering is very minimal, it’s a strong malware cleanup tool with different scan types for different security needs.
The antivirus scanning for Mac is really all you’re going to get from this free product, so it’s a good thing that it caught 100% of my test files. There are two scans options for free users, a Threat Scan and Custom Scan. Threat Scan will search the places where Mac-specific malware typically hides out, while Custom Scan can be customized to just check one specific folder or your whole disk drive.
This is a pretty limited product — it won’t let you schedule scans and it won’t perform active scanning, either. If you want full-featured antivirus protection for your Mac, you’ll have to upgrade to Malwarebytes Premium (read the full Malwarebytes review here).
Malwarebytes for Mac’s free version is about as streamlined as an antivirus software can get. It will scan your system and remove Mac-based malware with really impressive consistency, but it won’t do much else. Every download of the free version includes 2 weeks of the Premium software, so you can get a taste of the active scanning, scheduled scans, app testing, and automatic updates that paid customers receive.
5. TotalAV Free Edition — Easy To Use Mac Cleaning & Performance Optimization Tools
I was impressed with TotalAV’s range of Mac cleaning and device optimization tools. They include:
- Duplicates and junk file scanning and removal.
- Boot program organizer to improve startup times.
- Easy-to-use application uninstaller.
- Browsers manager to improve browser speed.
All of the features were really fast and easy to function when I tested them. The software found over 1,000 junk files on my Mac and nearly 2,500 browser cookies that were impacting both my Chrome and Safari browser. My Chrome browser had been working really slowly for a long time and froze regularly, and after I removed all the junk browser data using TotalAV’s Browser Manager feature, it immediately worked so much faster!
TotalAV’s free version also includes antivirus scanning functions — both a quick scan and full system scan. The results were good, as the full scan detected 95% of the threats in my Mac malware samples folder.
TotalAV’s free version for Mac is great for the easy-to-use device optimization features. The free antivirus scanner works well, detecting almost all of the malware files on my Mac. Unfortunately, real-time protection is a premium-only feature. However, I do rate TotalAV highly for it’s easy-to-navigate user interface, which makes it perfect for beginner users who want to clean and speed up thier Mac.
Mac Antivirus Software — Frequently Asked Questions
🤔 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.
Find yourself a Mac antivirus that fits your specific needs.
💪 Are free antiviruses for Mac good 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 product. And this is exactly the trick antivirus companies are using. They offer a very basic free antivirus that’s only giving you simple protection. When you realize you need something more powerful, you already have their product installed on your computer, so you think “I’ll just upgrade to the full version”. By that time, you no longer want to do research and compare brands to find the best product. Instead, you just upgrade whatever free antivirus you already have installed.
I think you shouldn’t make this mistake. If you care about your files, your emails, and your privacy, you should check out the complete list of the best antiviruses for Mac and select the best product for you, even if they don’t offer a free version to upgrade from.
🤷 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 get a sense of what “full protection” looks and feels like, and then they’ll make you pay the upgrade cost to keep your system secure.
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, my 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.
Get the Mac Antivirus That’s Right for You
Out of all the antivirus products on the market, my testing has concluded that Avira offers the best free virus protection for Macs in 2020. 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.