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Best Mac antivirus software 2020

(Image credit: Avast)
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After evaluating eight free and paid Mac antivirus products, we've chosen Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac ($40 per year) as the best antivirus software for Macs. It had a nearly invisible impact on system performance, and it caught all malware.

Avast Free Mac Security is our favorite free option, as it provided nearly perfect malware protection and an easy-to-use interface with an imperceptible performance hit. But Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac and Norton 360 Deluxe are better.

Despite what you might have heard, you do need an antivirus program on your Mac. Recent years have seen more Mac malware and adware than ever before, from Trojans to targeted attacks, supply-chain attacks like the XcodeGhost attack and even encrypting ransomware.

The best Mac antivirus software 2020 at a glance

  1. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac
  2. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac
  3. Norton 360 Deluxe
  4. Avast Free Mac Security
  5. Sophos Home Premium
  6. McAfee Antivirus Plus
  7. Malwarebytes for Mac Premium

Best antivirus program for Macs

Bitdefender 2020

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

1. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac

4.5 out of 5 stars -- The best antivirus program for Macs: light, fast, strong and easy to use

Perfect malware detection
Ransomware protection
Clean, easy-to-use design
Imperceptible system impact
Automatically installs VPN client, but unlimited costs extra
Hard-to-find tech support number

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac offers flawless malware detection and a nearly nonexistent impact on system performance. It also offers ransomware rollbacks, and a streamlined, easy-to-use interface places on-demand scans front and center. We wish that Bitdefender didn't nag us to buy extra VPN service, but other than that, it's nearly perfect.

Best parental controls

(Image credit: Kaspersky)

2. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac

4 out of 5 stars -- The best parental controls of any Mac antivirus product

Perfect malware detection
Useful privacy tools
Great parental controls
Heavy system impact during scans

Kaspersky Internet Security has perfect malware-detection rates, locks down your webcam, kills tracking cookies and offers the best parental controls among Mac antivirus programs. But the included password manager and VPN service are limited unless you pay extra, and the malware-detection engine takes a somewhat heavy toll on system performance during scans.

Best feature set

(Image credit: Norton)

3. Norton 360 Deluxe

4 out of 5 stars -- The best feature set among Mac antivirus programs, including unlimited VPN service

Excellent malware detection
Protects 5 devices
Low impact on system performance
Unlimited VPN service, password manager
24/7 technical support via phone and chat
Complicated interface
Rather expensive
Parental controls, cloud storage won't work on Macs

Norton 360 Deluxe has a ton of special features, including unlimited VPN service and a password manager. It also has a small impact on system performance, always-available tech support and, not least, flawless malware detection of both Mac and Windows software. You'll pay a lot for these luxuries, however, although the five-device license lets you spread out the cost. We also wish that the parental controls and backup software worked for Macs as well as PCs.

Best free Mac antivirus

(Image credit: Avast)

4. Avast Free Mac Security

3.5 out of 5 stars -- If you want free Mac antivirus, this is the one to get

Nearly no system impact in background
Phishing protection
Unlimited password manager
Scans email attachments for threats
Malware protection isn't perfect
Nags you to pay for extra features

Avast Free Mac Security's malware detection is good, if not perfect; the software includes a free, unlimited password manager; it has nearly no background system-performance impact; and it scans email messages and attachments. But you'll be nagged to pay for many of Avast's extra features, such as VPN service and a system optimizer. 

Most cost-effective

(Image credit: Sophos)

5. Sophos Home Premium

3 out of 5 stars -- Most cost-effective for large families

Covers 10 systems
Remote scan activation from online account
Ransomware protection
Parental website filters
Highest background system impact
Limited tech support
Untested malware detection

Sophos Home Premium can protect all of a large family's devices for a low price and stop kids from seeing objectionable websites. Its background system impact is more noticeable than its competitors', although nowhere near the system impact of some Windows antivirus products. We just wish we had some third-party lab-test data about the efficacy of Sophos' Mac malware scanner.

Fairly sparse on features

(Image credit: McAfee)

6. McAfee Antivirus Plus

3 out of 5 stars -- Another bargain for large families, but fairly sparse on features

Protects 10 devices
Low passive system impact
Unproven detection rates
Huge system slowdowns during full scans
Confusing interface

McAfee's 10-device license means you can support a whole family of Macs (and PCs and Android phones), but this program's lack of special features makes it hard to recommend for Mac users. Further, we don't have Mac malware-detection testing scores for McAfee, so its protection powers are untested.

Works well with better AV software

(Image credit: Malwarebytes)

7. Malwarebytes for Mac Premium

2.5 out of 5 stars -- Stick to the free version, which works well along with better AV software

Easy-to-use design
Superfast scans
Low system impact
No special features
Untested malware detection

Despite its fast scans and light impact on system performance, Malwarebytes for Mac Premium feels half cooked. It doesn't have many of the extra features its competitors offer, and because its malware-blocking skills haven't been evaluated, we don't know how good it is at protecting your Mac. You might want to let the Premium trial expire and instead use the free tier alongside better Mac antivirus software.

How we tested

To find the best antivirus for Mac desktops and laptops, we evaluate ease of use, interface and performance impact. We installed each AV program on the same Late 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina Display running macOS 10.12 Sierra. It was powered by a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7 processor and had 8GB of RAM and 70GB of data stored on a 512GB SSD.

We conducted our own tests based on how much each antivirus product affected our laptop's performance. To do this, we used our custom OpenOffice benchmark, which matches 20,000 names and addresses in a spreadsheet. We measured how long it took to run a quick scan and a full scan while the laptop crunched numbers in the background.

We assessed how easy each program was to use and the number of useful extra features it offered (including free add-on software). To gauge how effective each package was at stopping malware, we used the results of evaluations conducted by AV-Test, a well-regarded independent product-testing lab in Germany, and results from other tests conducted by AV-Comparatives, a similarly well-respected company in Austria. (Both labs also test the best Android antivirus apps.)

iOS antivirus apps

A lot of people want iOS antivirus software for their iPhones and iPads. The truth is that such software doesn't exist. Apple won't let third-party apps examine other iOS apps, or even inspect new apps as they're installed. Anything that claims to be antivirus software swiftly gets kicked out of the iTunes App Store.

Many major antivirus vendors, including F-Secure, McAfee, Norton and Trend Micro, do have "security" apps in the App Store. But these check web links for known malicious sites, locate lost devices or pretend to protect your privacy. None scans an iPhone for malware.

There has been real iOS malware that affects non-jailbroken devices, but it's very rarely cropped up. In each instance, Apple has pushed out a new version of iOS to stop the malware in a matter of days or weeks. Generally, if you keep your Apple mobile device updated to the latest version of iOS, you should be safe.