How to Remove Viruses & Malware From Mac in 2024

Sam Boyd
Sam Boyd Chief Editor
Updated on: June 20, 2024
Fact Checked by Katarina Glamoslija
Sam Boyd Sam Boyd
Updated on: June 20, 2024 Chief Editor

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 aren’t obvious, 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 important to scan your Mac regularly with an antivirus program, even if you don’t think there’s any malware on your computer — malicious programs 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 the steps below. These steps will also show you how to protect your computer from future threats in 2024.

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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:

  • A comprehensive anti-malware engine. This is able to detect 100% of malware files installed on your Mac.
  • Real-time protection. This feature actively monitors your computer and stops any malware you try to download or install.
  • A secure firewall. A firewall monitors inbound and outbound network traffic and blocks untrustworthy connections.
  • And more…

Once your chosen antivirus is installed, 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.

Step 1. Install an Antivirus for Mac and Identify Any Viruses

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.

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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 will be moved to a secure quarantine folder. You can now go through each flagged file in your quarantine folder and check for any false positives, or (and I recommend this option to all but advanced users) you can trust your antivirus and delete all files flagged as malware.

Step 2. Remove Malware and All Other Infected Files

Once all malware has been removed from your Mac, you need to restart your device. 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.

Note: If your antivirus is still flagging malware on the second scan, you need to repeat Step 2 until your malwre scanner can scan your entire computer without finding any malware.

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:

  • Ensure real-time protection is enabled. With real-time protection enabled, your antivirus will intercept malware before you can download or install it.
  • 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.
  • Protect your wireless network and IoT devices with strong passwords. Use a good password manager that can securely generate, encrypt, and store strong passwords for your online accounts, home network, and IoT devices. I recommend 1Password because of its simple interface and great extra features.
  • 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.
  • Allow Apple to auto-update apps downloaded from the App Store. To do this, navigate the App Store’s Preferences and turn on auto-update. This prevents apps from becoming vulnerable to the latest malware threats. Bitdefender also offers a vulnerability scanner for Mac that can scan your computer for outdated software.
  • Regularly back up your important files. 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.

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:

  1. Turn off your Mac.
  2. Press your Mac’s Power button to turn it back on.
  3. When you hear the start-up tone, hold Shift on your keyboard.
  4. 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:

  1. Turn off your Mac.
  2. Press your Mac’s Power button and hold it down.
  3. The Apple logo will eventually appear, with a message saying that if you continue holding down the Power button, you’ll boot into startup options.
  4. When you boot into startup options, select Options, then Continue, to access recovery mode.

If you have an older Mac:

  1. Turn off your Mac.
  2. Press your Mac’s Power button to turn it back on.
  3. Press Command + R on your keyboard.
  4. Keep holding the Command + R keys until you see the Apple icon appear alongside a spinning gear progress indicator.

Note: If you’re unsure whether your Mac is an older or newer model, check by going to the Apple logo > About This Mac. If the chip type is listed as M1 or M2, you have a Mac with a newer Apple Silicon chip — if it says Intel, you have an older model.

What to Do if Malware Has Blocked Your Device (& You Can’t Run an Antivirus Scan)

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. Again, if this method works, run a scan with your antivirus when your computer boots.

If neither method works, you can access Disk Utility from Recovery Mode. You’ll be able to use Disk Utility to reformat your Mac’s boot drive and remove any malware.

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 format your boot drive:

  1. Click on your Mac’s system drive.
  2. Click Erase.
  3. Return to the recovery options, and click on Reinstall macOS.
  4. Follow the instructions to reinstall macOS.

What Else Can You Do to Protect Your Mac?

There are a few more security recommendations for Mac you can use to protect your macOS device.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

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 / System Settings, but I also strongly recommend you set up 2FA for all of your online accounts that support it.

Get Phishing Protection

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, but dedicated antivirus solutions like TotalAV usually offer the best web protection.

Install a Password Manager

Password managers generate secure passwords for your accounts, store all of your accounts in an encrypted vault, and provide convenient auto-filling, so you don’t have to memorize dozens of unique and random passwords. Top password managers like 1Password also provide built-in 2FA code generators, password vault auditing tools, and much more.

Start Using a VPN

You should also protect your browsing data and online activity with a secure VPN (like ExpressVPN). VPNs encrypt web traffic, change your IP address, and prevent web trackers, hackers, government censors, and ISPs from monitoring you online, safeguarding against data theft and network-based attacks.

Best Antiviruses for Mac in 2024

Quick summary of the best antiviruses for removing viruses & malware from Mac in 2024:

  • 🥇 1. Intego — Best overall antivirus for removing viruses and malware from Mac in 2024.
  • 🥈 2. TotalAV — Easy-to-use antivirus for Mac with some great system tuneup tools.
  • 🥉 3. Norton 360 — 100% antivirus protection for Mac, plus great additional features.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if your Mac is infected with a virus?

If you notice your Mac is running slower than usual, showing unusual pop-ups, or 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 2024.

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 should install decent virus protection. If you’re worried about dangerous websites, choose an antivirus program with strong web protection.

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 to grow). If you’re running macOS in 2024, you need antivirus protection.

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 getting 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 2024. I recommend Intego’s virus protection for Mac, but there are great Mac antivirus alternatives available as well.

Best Antiviruses for Removing Viruses & Malware from Mac in 2024 — Final Score:

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About the Author
Sam Boyd
Sam Boyd
Chief Editor
Updated on: June 20, 2024

About the Author

Sam Boyd is a Chief Editor at SafetyDetectives, specializing in antiviruses and password managers. He has years of experience writing, reviewing, editing, and optimizing blog articles, and he has researched and tested hundreds of cybersecurity products since joining the SafetyDetectives team. When he isn’t exploring the latest cybersecurity products, he enjoys chilling out with video games, watching sports, and exploring new parts of the world with his family.

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