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.
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.
Latest Security Alerts and Threats
— The checkm8 jailbreak method for iOS devices has been repackaged as the easier-to-install checkra1n, and attackers who get physical control of any model of iPhone from iPhone 4 through iPhone X -- such as during a border-crossing inspection -- can install malware or spyware. ADVICE: Don't let anyone else take your iPhone out of your sight. If they do, then reboot it when you get it back.
— The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned consumers to be wary of scams and malware campaigns, especially when opening email messages or when shopping online for the holiday. ADVICE: Shop only on known websites and check the URL and the lock icon in the address bar, and scan email attachments, even those from people you know, with the best antivirus software before opening the attachments.
— Facebook updated WhatsApp to fix a security flaw related to playback of video files. ADVICE: Make sure WhatsApp is fully up to date on your Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices.
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.)
Best antivirus program for Macs
The best antivirus program for Macs: light, fast, strong and easy to use
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
The best parental controls of any Mac antivirus product
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
The best feature set among Mac antivirus programs, including unlimited VPN service
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
If you want free Mac antivirus, this is the one to get
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 for large families
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
Another bargain for large families, but fairly sparse on features
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
Stick to the free version, which works well along with better AV software
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.