Short on time? Here’s how to remove viruses & malware from Mac:
- 1. Install an Antivirus & Run a Scan. Run a full system scan after downloading and installing a high-quality antivirus program (Intego is the best).
- 2. Remove Viruses & Malware. After scanning your disk, your antivirus will place any malware files in a secure quarantine folder. Delete any unsafe files.
- 3. Stay Protected. Use a high-quality internet security package to protect yourself from future infections (again, Intego is the best).
To safely remove viruses and malware from your Mac, you should use a trustworthy antivirus program. That’s because malware can hide in areas of your Mac’s hard drive that you can’t access, duplicate itself, and disguise itself as legitimate applications.
You should never try to remove malware from your Mac manually because this can cause your computer to stop working.
It’s also important that you scan your Mac regularly with an antivirus program, even if you don’t think there’s any malware on your computer — malware files like spyware, rootkits, and cryptojackers can passively steal your data, access your system, and run on your disk without you noticing.
Scanning your computer regularly with a high-quality antivirus program is easy. All you need to do is follow our below steps. These steps will also show you how to protect your computer from future threats in 2022.
Step 1. Install an Antivirus for Mac and Identify Any Viruses
First, download and install a high-quality antivirus program for Mac. Intego is my favorite Mac antivirus, as it offers perfect malware detection rates in addition to several other well-designed features, including:
- Comprehensive anti-malware engine — Able to detect 100% of malware files installed on your Mac.
- Real-time protection — Actively monitors your computer and stops any malware you try to download or install.
- Secure firewall — Monitors inbound and outbound network traffic and blocks untrustworthy connections.
- And more…
Once your chosen antivirus is installed, run a full system scan of your computer. Unplug any portable storage devices from your computer before running a full system scan. Doing this prevents malware from copying itself onto your storage device.
Then, run the full system scan to completion, allowing it to quarantine any malware threats. Do not stop a malware scan before it’s completed. Only proceed to the second step when your antivirus notifies you the malware scan is complete.
Step 2. Remove Malware and All Other Infected Files
When your antivirus software scans your computer, it will flag any malware it detects. This malware is moved to a secure quarantine folder. You must now go through each flagged file in your quarantine folder and delete any malware.
However, malware scanners do sometimes incorrectly flag safe files. These flagged files are called false positives. Whitelist any false positives instead of removing them. If you can’t decide which quarantined files are dangerous, ask your antivirus’s customer support team for confirmation before deleting any files.
Once all malware has been removed from your Mac, you need to restart it. This prevents any malware still running in your system memory from causing damage. Then, run a second full disk scan to catch any malware that might have avoided detection during the first scan. This scan shouldn’t take as long because most malware scanners only look for new or recently modified files when running consecutive scans.
Once the second malware scan is finished, the quarantine list should be empty. You can now move on to step 3.
Step 3. Keep Your Device Protected From Internet Security Threats
You’ve now removed all malware from your Mac. However, you should keep your antivirus running and ensure that you’re following good security practices so you don’t get hacked in the future.
First, navigate into your antivirus’s settings and ensure real-time protection is enabled. With real-time protection enabled, your antivirus will intercept malware before you can download or install it.
You should also enable phishing protection in your antivirus’s settings. This protection stops you from accidentally giving your personal information to cybercriminals who are using malicious websites disguised as trusted businesses.
Next, your wireless network and IoT (internet of things) devices need to be protected with strong passwords. Dashlane is an excellent password manager that can securely generate, encrypt, and store strong passwords for your online accounts, home network, and IoT devices.
If you’re not an advanced user, you should only download applications from Apple’s App Store. Apple has pretty strict standards for its app store, and even though some bad programs like fleeceware do get through Apple’s filters, Apple’s App Store is a lot safer than most third-party software vendors.
You should also navigate the App Store’s preferences and ensure auto-update is enabled. This allows Apple to auto-update apps downloaded from the app store, preventing them from becoming vulnerable to the latest malware threats. Bitdefender also offers a vulnerability scanner for Mac that can scan your computer for outdated software.
Finally, regularly backup your important files to prevent data loss or ransomware attacks from locking you out of them. Macs include a built-in feature (Time Machine) that allows you to do this. Intego for Mac also includes a backup tool, which has a lot of cool options for file backup that Mac’s built-in Time Machine lacks, including the ability to backup your entire operating system and files, enabling you to transfer your Mac to another Mac device.
Best Antiviruses for Mac in 2022
🥇1. Intego — Best Mac Antivirus in 2022
Intego is the best antivirus for Mac in 2022. During my testing, its malware scanner detected all of the Mac-specific malware on my MacBook Pro — including hard-to-find malware samples like rootkits and ransomware that my Mac’s built-in protections didn’t detect. And because Intego offers real-time malware detection, it was also able to block all of the test files I tried to download onto my Mac, before they could infect my system.
Intego is also built to run natively on M1 Macs, so it runs much more efficiently than competitors that can only run on Apple silicon with Rosetta 2 support.
Intego comes with several powerful features, such as:
- Secure firewall.
- Ransomware protection.
- Parental controls.
- System optimizer.
- File backup.
Intego’s additional features are really useful — its secure firewall automatically changes its settings based on location (at home, work, or on public Wi-Fi) and is able to detect and prevent a wide range of network attacks.
I also really like Intego’s parental controls, which are much better at detecting unsafe websites and inappropriate content than macOS’s built-in parental controls. Intego’s system tune-up and file backup tools are also really helpful, offering a range of customization options that make them more useful than the similar tools built into macOS.
Intego offers its anti-malware scanner in 2 different plans — Mac Internet Security X9 only includes anti-malware and firewall protection, so it’s a good option for users on a budget at just $24.99 / year. However, I think most users should invest in Intego’s Premium Bundle X9, which includes all of Intego’s additional features like parental controls, system tuneup, and file backup for only $29.99 / year. You get a 30-day money-back guarantee with all Intego products.
🥈2. McAfee Total Protection — Best for Additional Security Features
McAfee is an excellent antivirus for Mac with some great additional features. It scored a perfect 100% malware detection rating in my testing, detecting computer worms, trojans, ransomware and more.
However, McAfee doesn’t run natively on Apple’s new M1 chip (you have to use Rosetta 2 to run McAfee on Apple silicon, which means that there is some processing lag while Rosetta translates McAfee’s Intel-based programming to Apple’s proprietary hardware). Intego is fully optimized for all macOS devices.
While it may be a little laggy, McAfee does include a ton of excellent extra features, such as:
- Secure firewall.
- Wi-Fi monitoring.
- Identity theft monitoring.
- Parental controls.
- Password manager.
- And much more…
McAfee’s firewall and network monitoring tools are excellent — they automatically provide protection against network-based attacks, and alert you if any unusual device activity happens on your Wi-Fi network.
I also love McAfee’s web protections, which blocked unsafe websites in my testing more accurately than Chrome or Safari’s built-in protections. McAfee’s VPN and password manager are both pretty good, too — but they aren’t as good as standalone security tools like ExpressVPN and Dashlane.
McAfee Total Protection offers the same features for all plans (except for parental controls), but you can upgrade plans to cover more devices. The Plus plan protects up to 5 devices for only $39.99 / year. The Premium plan covers an unlimited number of devices for $54.99 / year, while the Advanced plan ($89.99 / year) adds enhanced identity theft monitoring tools. The Premium and Advanced family plans also include excellent parental controls All McAfee products include a 30-day money-back guarantee.
🥉3. TotalAV — Best for Easy-to-Use System Tune-Up Tools
TotalAV is an intuitive malware scanner for Mac that has some really good optimization tools. TotalAV scored a 99% malware detection rating in my testing, just behind McAfee and Intego — but its cloud-based scanning technology meant that it didn’t slow down my system as much as McAfee’s did (although TotalAV also relies on Rosetta 2 to run on the new M1 Mac microchips).
TotalAV provides some good extra features, including:
- Web protection.
- Secure firewall.
- System optimization tools.
- Ad blocker.
- Password manager.
TotalAV’s system optimization tools are really good — they can remove junk files and unused browser cookies, uninstall programs, and also help improve your Mac’s startup speed. I also like how TotalAV provides optimization tools for iOS devices (a feature Intego lacks).
TotalAV also provides the best antivirus + VPN bundle in 2022, with a no-logs policy, fast connection speeds, and good streaming and torrenting support. TotalAV’s VPN isn’t as good as standalone competitors like Private Internet Access, but it’s a good value bundled with TotalAV’s other features.
TotalAV offers 3 pricing plans. The Antivirus Pro plan only costs $19.00 / year, but it doesn’t include a VPN. Internet Security is my favorite plan, covering 5 devices and offering unlimited VPN data for only $39.00 / year. Total Security covers up to 6 devices for $49.00 / year, but it only adds a bad password manager and ad blocker, so I don’t recommend it for most users. All TotalAV plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee.
What to Do if Malware Has Blocked Your Device (& You Can’t Run an Antivirus Scan)
If more dangerous malware has blocked your Mac and it won’t boot, you have two options:
- Start your Mac in safe mode and run a virus scan.
- Start your Mac in recovery mode and either:
- Restore a previous backup.
- Reinstall macOS.
- Reformat your disk.
To boot your Mac into safe mode, follow these steps:
- Turn off your Mac.
- Press your Mac’s power button to turn it back on.
- When you hear the start-up tone, hold Shift on your keyboard.
- Keep holding Shift until you see the Apple icon appear alongside a spinning gear progress indicator.
If your Mac successfully boots into safe mode, you can start your antivirus program and run a virus scan to remove any malware threats preventing your computer from starting.
However, if this method doesn’t work, you can try starting your Mac into recovery mode:
If you have an M1 Mac:
- Turn off your Mac.
- Press your Mac’s power button and hold it down.
- The Apple logo will eventually appear, with a message saying if you continue holding down the power button, you’ll boot into startup options.
- When you boot into startup options, select Options, then Continue, to access recovery mode.
If you have an older Mac:
- Turn off your Mac.
- Press your Mac’s power button to turn it back on.
- Hold down the CMD and R key on your keyboard.
- Keep holding the CMD and R key until you see the Apple icon appear alongside a spinning gear progress indicator.
Try both methods if you’re unsure whether your Mac is an older or newer model. Either way, once you’re booted into recovery mode, you’ll have the option to access Mac’s Time Machine, reinstall macOS, or access Mac’s Disk Utility. Try restoring a backup from Time Machine first, as it automatically backs up your entire disk drive regularly. If you’re able to boot your computer after restoring a backup in Time Machine, run a scan with your antivirus program by following our steps.
If this doesn’t work, you can try reinstalling macOS. However, reinstalling macOS doesn’t remove your personal files and data, so it won’t remove the malware. Again, if this method works, run a scan with your antivirus when your computer boots.
If neither methods work, from Recovery Mode, you can access Disk Utility. You’ll be able to use Disk Utility to reformat your Mac and remove any malware.
Important Note: Reformatting your Mac will delete all of your personal files, so only use this method as a last resort. Before you erase any files, try to back them up. If you can boot into your Mac via safe mode (but can’t remove the malware), you can use Time Machine to backup any of your files onto an external hard drive. However, make sure to scan any files before backing them up to ensure they don’t have malware.
Here’s how to reformat your hard drive:
- Click on your Mac’s system drive.
- Click Erase.
- Return to the recovery options, and click on Reinstall macOS.
- Follow the instructions to reinstall macOS.
Other Mac Security Recommendations
There are a few more security recommendations for Mac you can use, including:
- Enabling 2-factor authentication (2FA) for your Apple ID.
- Utilizing anti-phishing tools.
- Installing a password manager.
- Installing a secure VPN (such as ExpressVPN).
2FA-enabled accounts ask for both your password and a second form of verification before you can log into your account, so that even if your password is breached, your account can’t be broken into. The second form of verification can be a time-based one-time password (TOTP), 2FA USB tool (such as YubiKey), or biometric scan (like a fingerprint scan or facial recognition).
You can enable 2FA for your Apple ID via the System Preferences, but I also strongly recommend you set up 2FA for all of your online accounts that support it.
For phishing protection, you want an advanced web shield that can block deceptive phishing links, as well as exploit attacks which can be used to hack your system using malicious web scripts. Safari has pretty good built-in phishing protection, but dedicated antivirus solutions usually off the best web protections. McAfee and TotalAV both have good anti-phishing protections.
You should also install a password manager — password managers generate secure passwords for your accounts, they store all of your accounts in an encrypted vault, and they provide convenient auto-filling so you don’t have to memorize dozens of unique and random passwords. Top password managers like Dashlane and 1Password also provide built-in 2FA code generators, password vault auditing tools, and much more.
You should also protect your browsing data and online activity with a secure VPN (for example, ExpressVPN). A secure VPN will encrypt your web traffic and change your IP address, so web trackers, hackers, government censors, and your internet service provider can’t monitor you online. This can also stop hackers from stealing your data and launching dangerous network-based attacks against your machine (such as man-in-the-middle and backdoor attacks)
Frequently Asked Questions — How to Remove Viruses & Malware From Mac
How do you know if your Mac is infected with a virus?
If you notice your Mac is running slower than usual, is showing unusual pop-ups, or is crashing more frequently, then chances are you have a virus. You may also notice that you have new toolbars in your browser or your browser is getting redirected a lot. But some types of malware run silently in the background, and you may not know if your system is infected.
That’s why the best way to ensure your device is malware-free is to scan your computer using a reliable and high-quality antivirus scanner. A high-quality antivirus scanner will analyze every file and folder on your Mac and quarantine every dangerous file — including viruses. You can follow our steps and use an antivirus program like Intego to scan your entire disk drive.
Can a Mac get viruses from websites?
Yes, Macs can get viruses from websites, which is why you need to be really careful when browsing the web. Browser-based exploit attacks are getting more and more common in 2022. Macs can even download Windows-based viruses and carry them onto Microsoft PCs via removable storage devices, emails, or network transfers. That’s why you must install decent virus protection. If you’re worried about dangerous websites, choose an antivirus program with strong web protection (McAfee is a good choice).
Why do Macs get fewer viruses?
Macs get fewer viruses because they have a much smaller user base and more built-in safeguards. As most computer users use Windows-based machines, cybercriminals target them more frequently as it’s more profitable to do so.
That said, Macs do get viruses (and they’re getting more and more every year as the macOS user base continues growing). If you’re running macOS in 2022, you need antivirus protection. If you notice anything unusual on your Mac, scan your computer following our above steps.
Do you need virus protection on a Mac?
Yes, you do need virus protection on a Mac. While Mac-based viruses are less common, there are still millions of Mac users that get hacked every year (a number that has been steadily growing throughout the last decade). Ransomware attacks, data breaches, cryptojackers, spyware, and browser-based exploit attacks have all been developed to target Mac users in 2022. I recommend Intego’s virus protection for Mac, but there are great Mac antivirus alternatives available.