Do You REALLY Need a Mac Antivirus in 2024?

Tyler Cross
Tyler Cross Senior Writer
Updated on: May 6, 2024
Fact Checked by Katarina Glamoslija
Tyler Cross Tyler Cross
Updated on: May 6, 2024 Senior Writer

Short on time? Here’s the best antivirus for Mac in 2024:

  • 🥇 Intego : Includes an advanced malware scanner and a range of Mac-optimized features, such as a firewall, Wi-Fi protection, system optimization tools, backup tools, parental controls, and more.

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about whether Macs need antiviruses. Apple has a reputation for having top-of-the-line security, so there are many people who question whether you need an antivirus on a Mac device at all.

But Macs are not immune to viruses and malware, or any other kind of cyber threat out there. While Apple products have better built-in security than many Windows products, they’re certainly not perfect.

I started researching the different types of cyber threats that target Mac users. I wanted to get a definitive answer to a question that lingers in almost every Mac cybersecurity forum out there. And the answer is yes — Macs definitely need an antivirus.

I tested a heap of antiviruses to find the ones that offer the best protection for Mac. Intego is my favorite thanks to its perfect malware scanner, great firewall, and other useful features that build on a Mac’s native security to provide more comprehensive protection. Editors' Note: Intego and this site are in the same ownership group.

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Is It Possible for Macs to Get Malware and Viruses?

In short, yes. While Apple products have good built-in security features, they’re simply not immune to viruses and malware. It’s true that most cyber criminals target Windows, but recently many have begun targeting Mac products — which means that users need to be concerned with their safety more than ever before.

Contrary to popular belief, Macs are susceptible to many forms of malware, including:

  • Trojans. A threat that fools you into downloading it by disguising itself as a legitimate download.
  • Ransomware. Hackers obtaining personal information or files and forcing you to pay to get them back.
  • Adware. Software that causes numerous pop-ups and other issues. It’s not necessarily dangerous, but it can have significant impacts on system performance.
  • Cryptojackers. Hackers using your device to mine cryptocurrency for them — often they’ll attempt to steal any crypto wallets on your device too.
  • Phishing scams. When criminals impersonate other entities, like businesses, in order to trick you into giving them personal information.
  • Rootkits. Once downloaded, a rootkit gives a hacker full control of your device.
  • Spyware. Hackers will use these to spy on you, monitor your movements, and invade your privacy.
  • Potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). A PUP usually comes bundled with other (often free) software and contains a program or app you didn’t want. PUPs aren’t necessarily dangerous, but some contain spyware or other threats.

Apple Includes Security Features (But They’re Not Enough)

The security features that Mac offers are pretty good — they’re just not perfect. Apple includes a malware scanner and real-time protection that’s able to block most threats (though not as many as a good antivirus).

Mac has a range of built-in security features, like:

  • Apple ID 2FA. You can set up an additional form of verification for your Apple ID (a verification code sent to a trusted device).
  • Firmware password. Requires a password to start your Mac using alternative booting methods or using different Mac startup key combinations.
  • System Integrity Protection. Prevents the user and threat actors from tampering with important parts of the system by restricting the actions that installed software can perform on critical parts of the Mac OS. This prevents malicious apps from taking over important parts of your Mac.
  • FileVault. Encrypts sensitive files so only those with the decryption key can access them. This helps protect your private files if your Mac is lost or stolen.

But even with all that, Apple doesn’t protect you against every threat: for example, Mac doesn’t have dark web monitoring, a VPN, or a password manager. And while Mac does offer some basic parental controls, they’re nowhere near as good as those offered by the top antiviruses on the market.

Should You Install an Antivirus on Your Mac?

I strongly recommend installing a good antivirus onto your Mac. A premium antivirus will come with a flawless malware scanner that can find and remove all the threats listed above from your Mac device. It will also come with vital security features, like real-time protection to prevent any viruses or malware from getting on your Mac in the first place, plus great extras like network firewalls, parental controls, and more.

Intego is my favorite antivirus for Mac, thanks to its perfect malware detection and removal, and excellent extra features like parental controls and a smart firewall. But all of the products on my list will help improve your Mac’s security. McAfee has great web protections, and TotalAV has the best system optimization tools for Mac.

Quick summary of the best antiviruses for Mac:

  • 🥇 1. Intego — Best overall antivirus for Mac users in 2024 (includes lots of Mac-specific features).
  • 🥈 2. McAfee — Great antivirus with reliable web protection, a good firewall, and ID theft protection.
  • 🥉 3. TotalAV — Reliable antivirus with an easy-to-use interface + ad blocker (perfect for beginners).

Editors' Note: Intego and this site are in the same ownership group.

🥇1. Intego — Best Overall Antivirus for Mac

Approved by our experts
Intego
Approved by our experts
Most readers pick Intego
Malware detection rate
100%
Key Features
Mac system cleaner
Number of devices
Up to 5
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
intego.com
Editors' Note: Intego and this site are in the same ownership group.

Intego is my favorite antivirus for Mac in 2024 — it managed to find and remove 100% of malware during my tests. It also lets you run scans on external drives or iOS devices, which makes it a great tool for protecting your other devices too.

When I ran a full scan, it only took about an hour, which is faster than most antiviruses. And since Intego uses file-caching technology that skips over previously scanned files, subsequent scans are much faster. After the scan, Intego can also repair any files that have been damaged by malware. That said, during my tests there were a few that it failed to recover.

Intego also comes with some other great features, including:

  • Smart firewall.
  • Mac system cleaner and organization tools.
  • Parental controls.
  • Emergency access.
  • And more…

Intego’s smart firewall, NetBarrier, is the most advanced firewall for Mac and a huge improvement on Mac’s native firewall. It can automatically detect what network you’re using and adjust rules based on that. It also offers a lot of customization options for advanced users, letting you set rules for every program on your Mac device. I also really like how NetBarrier alerts you to apps or background scripts attempting to make internet connections and gives you the option to block or allow these connections.

I also really like Washing Machine, Intego’s system cleaner and optimization tool. When I tested it out on my old Macbook Pro, it was able to clear up 3 GB worth of junk, and- it only took about 10 minutes to do so. Intego also clearly explains the Washing Machine scan results, so you don’t need to worry about accidentally deleting important files.

Intego has several affordable plans to choose from. The cheapest plan, Mac Internet Security X9, gives you basic antivirus protection, web protection, and the firewall for $19.99 / year. The more advanced plan, Mac Premium Bundle X9, costs $34.99 / year and gives you the rest of Intego’s features, including Washing Machine and parental controls. Both plans can cover 1, 3, or 5 devices and come with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try them out risk-free.

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Bottom Line:

Intego has a malware scanner with a 100% malware detection and removal rating, as well as a slew of extra features that have been optimized for Mac. It includes real-time protection, an excellent firewall, great parental controls, cleanup and optimization tools, and more. Intego’s plans are affordable and come with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full Intego review

🥈2. McAfee — Great Antivirus With Excellent Web Protection

Malware detection rate
100%
Key Features
Great web protection
Number of devices
Unlimited
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
mcafee.com

McAfee provides comprehensive security for Mac users, including a great malware scanner and some of the best web protections I’ve tested. When I tried it out, a full scan took me about an hour, which is on par with Intego, and it caught 100% of my sample malware. The quick scans were also pretty effective and only took a couple of minutes.

The only drawback with McAfee was that its scans slowed my MacBook down a bit — but you can easily schedule scans for when you’re not using your computer, so this isn’t a big deal.

McAfee has features like:

  • Network firewall.
  • Real-time protection.
  • Web protection tools.
  • VPN.
  • Password manager.
  • And more…

McAfee WebAdvisor for Mac helps to block phishing sites, exploit scams, and browser-based cryptojackers. It compares websites you’re accessing against a massive directory of known phishing sites, preventing you from falling victim to phishing scams. It also has a Secure Search mode, which lists the safety rating for websites you visit.

McAfee’s macOS firewall works great, even on its default settings — though if you’re an experienced user, it’s customizable, too. While you can simply set the firewall to block suspicious activity and leave it alone, you can also add custom rules for each Wi-Fi network you use. Overall, it’s an improvement on Mac’s built-in firewall.

McAfee has several plans, starting at $39.99 / year with McAfee Plus. This plan covers 5 devices and offers malware protection, web protection, a password manager, identity theft monitoring, and a firewall. The Advanced plan ($89.99 / year) offers unlimited device connections, plus parental controls (on the family plan), credit monitoring, and identity theft coverage. All of McAfee’s plans can also be used to cover Windows, iOS, and Android devices, so you’re not limited to Mac, and they come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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Bottom Line:

McAfee offers a good and reliable antivirus engine that scored highly during my tests. It comes with great web protection, a good firewall, comprehensive parental controls, and more. McAfee’s Mac antivirus offers a significant improvement over Apple’s security features, and it has several affordable plans that come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full McAfee review

🥉3. TotalAV — Reliable Antivirus Perfect for Beginners

Malware detection rate
99.60%
Key Features
Beginner-friendly apps
Number of devices
Up to 8
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
totalav.com

TotalAV is a reliable antivirus that’s especially easy to use — which makes it a great option for beginners. It has an intuitive dashboard that requires no technical knowledge at all to use, plus simple-to-navigate extra features.

When I tested TotalAV, it caught almost all the sample malware on my Mac (over 99% of them), which is pretty great. However, its real-time protection failed to catch a couple of simulated zero-day attacks — in contrast, Intego’s real-time protection worked flawlessly.

TotalAV comes with a variety of good extra features, including:

  • Firewall.
  • VPN.
  • Password manager.
  • Ad blocker.
  • Web protection.
  • And more…

The Mac optimization tools worked great when I tried them out. The Junk Cleaner was able to clear up around 3 GB of files on my Mac, while the Startup Manager helped me organize my startup programs. There are several other features as well, like Application Uninstaller and a Browser Cleanup tool. While there’s nothing unique about TotalAV’s optimization tools, they work very well and are easy to use.

There is a free version of TotalAV, but it lacks real-time protection, so I’d recommend choosing one of TotalAV’s paid plans instead. TotalAV Internet Security comes with most features, including the unlimited VPN — it covers 6 devices and costs $39.00 / year. TotalAV Total Security ($49.00 / year) adds a password manager and an ad blocker and covers 8 devices. All of TotalAV’s plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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Bottom Line:

TotalAV is a reliable antivirus engine with robust extra features for Mac. It has an intuitive layout and simple-to-navigate dashboard that’s perfect for new antivirus users. It comes with an unlimited VPN, good Mac cleanup tools, a firewall, and a decent but limited free version. TotalAV has several affordable plans that come backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full TotalAV review

Quick Comparison Table

Antivirus Starting Price Firewall VPN Free Mac Version Money-Back Guarantee
1.🥇Intego $19.99 / year 30 days
2.🥈McAfee $39.99 / year Unlimited data (with automatic subscription renewals) 30 days
3.🥉TotalAV $19.00 / year Unlimited data (with TotalAV Internet Security and Total Security) 30 days

Editors' Note: Intego and this site are in the same ownership group.

How to Choose the Best Antivirus for Mac in 2024

  • Opt for an antivirus that has good malware defense. A quality antivirus should offer the ability to identify and eliminate various forms of malware, such as trojans, worms, and viruses. Each antivirus on my list has the capacity to detect and remove a greater amount of malware than the default scanner on your Mac.
  • Look for antiviruses with great features. What makes an antivirus stand out are the special features it comes with. For example, Intego contains a firewall, parental controls, and great Mac cleanup and system optimization tools. All the antiviruses on this list will have useful extra features to help keep your system secure and running well.
  • Look for speed and efficiency. It can be frustrating to wait through multi-hour scan times or try to work with features like a very slow antivirus-bundled VPN. I made sure the antiviruses on this list (and their features) work quickly and efficiently, so they don’t waste your time and so they can handle threats immediately.
  • Consider ease of use. Some antiviruses can require a lot of technical experience, so I made sure to look for antiviruses that were great for beginners. All the products on my list have intuitive UIs and won’t require any background knowledge to use, though advanced users will have access to plenty of customization options.
  • Hunt for good value. The antiviruses I included on this list all provide good value to their users — there’s no price gouging for important features or unreasonably pricey subscription plans. These products all offer affordable plans, and they come with free trials or risk-free money-back guarantees (and sometimes both).

Frequently Asked Questions

How to use an antivirus on Mac?

Using an antivirus on Mac should be a very simple process. All you have to do is go to your chosen antivirus website (like Intego) and download it onto your Mac device. An installation wizard will guide you through the process. Once it’s properly installed, sign in using your login information and you should be ready to use your antivirus.

Most users can rely on the antivirus’s default options, but more advanced users can tweak things to their liking, like adjusting their firewall settings.

What is the best antivirus for Mac?

Intego is the best antivirus for Mac that I’ve tested. Not only does it have a perfect malware detection rating; it also includes a lot of security features tailored for Mac, like excellent parental controls and the best Mac system optimization tools I’ve tried. It also includes a great smart firewall to protect you against network threats.

Can I use a free Mac antivirus?

The technical answer is yes, but I don’t recommend it. You’re just not going to get the same level of protection with a free product. Even reliable free antiviruses are missing important features (in TotalAV’s case, there’s no real-time protection). And there are many less reputable brands out there whose products offer very little protection and at worst can be outright scams. It’s important to make sure your free antivirus isn’t misrepresenting its malware detection score or attempting to download potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) onto your device.

If you possibly can, I recommend investing in a premium antivirus instead. My favorite one for Mac is Intego — it has flawless malware detection and great extra features (like some of the best Mac system optimization tools I’ve tried).

Best Antiviruses for Mac in 2024 — Final Score:

Our Rank
Our Score
Best Deal
1
9.4
save 60%
2
9.4
save $100
3
9.4
save 84%
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About the Author
Tyler Cross
Tyler Cross
Senior Writer
Updated on: May 6, 2024

About the Author

Tyler is a writer at SafetyDetectives with a passion for researching all things tech and cybersecurity. Prior to joining the SafetyDetectives team, he worked with cybersecurity products hands-on for more than five years, including password managers, antiviruses, and VPNs and learned everything about their use cases and function. When he isn't working as a "SafetyDetective", he enjoys studying history, researching investment opportunities, writing novels, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends."