Malwarebytes' free app for macOS has been a suitable way to clean malware out of your MacBook since 2015, but does its paid version offer enough to make you want to plunk down cash?
While it offers the standard features of any decent antivirus suite, Malwarebytes' detection skills have not been independently verified, and other Mac antivirus products provide a lower system impact.
Malwarebytes' best feature is a superfast system scan, the quickest in the field. But due to the lack of independent test results, we can't include it among the best Mac antivirus software.
Malwarebytes for Mac Premium costs and what's covered
Malwarebytes for Mac Premium costs $39.99 per year for a single system and runs on macOS 10.10 Yosemite or later. Additional system licenses are available for $10 per year each, up to 10 licenses total.
You'll get a 14-day trial of Malwarebytes for Mac Premium when you download and install the free Malwarebytes for Mac. The latter program is a terrific cleanup tool, but don't count on it to prevent malware infection – it simply removes adware, malware and potentially unwanted programs that have already made it onto your Mac.
Malwarebytes for Mac, free or Premium, uses rule-based detection tactics to hunt down malware, looking for specific characteristics and behaviors of malicious software. It also uses traditional signature-based malware scans.
Neither of the independent antivirus testing labs whose results we normally rely on, AV-Test (in Germany) and AV-Comparatives (in Austria), have tested Malwarebytes for Mac Premium since at least the middle of 2017.
Avast Free Mac Security, Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac and Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac tied for 100% on AV-Comparatives' June 2019 tests, while Avast, Bitdefender, Kaspersky and Norton 360 Deluxe all earned 100% marks on AV-Test's April/May 2019 Mac study.
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Security and privacy features
Malwarebytes for Mac Premium keeps things simple and standard, with a no-frills package that's focused on fighting malware. That means it's missing the search-monitoring browser extensions you get with other solutions, the email-monitoring in Avast and the parental controls of Kaspersky.
Personally, I find that OK, as I don't need anything more, and all that other stuff always feels like overkill. But if you're looking for Malwarebytes to keep someone else's system safe, and they're not tech-savvy, this may not be enough.
Performance and system impact
Malwarebytes for Mac Premium created a medium-size impact on system performance, which we assess by running our custom Excel VLOOKUP benchmark test that matches 60,000 names and addresses on a spreadsheet. Our test machine was a 2017 MacBook Air with a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i5 CPU and approximately 54GB of data stored on a 128GB SSD.
With Malwarebytes for Mac Premium installed on our MacBook, and no active scans running, the VLOOKUP test finished in an average of 3 minutes and 40 seconds, 5 seconds more than without any antivirus software installed. That's a passive system hit of 2%, which may be hard to notice.
Still, other antivirus products' passive system impacts ranged from 5% (Sophos Home Premium) to zero percent (Bitdefender), placing Malwarebytes in the middle of the spectrum. Still, this is overall great news for Mac users: Most of the time, you'll never notice that you've got antivirus software running.
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You would be more likely to notice the slowdowns created by Malwarebytes' active scans. During full-system scans, the VLOOKUP test finished in an average of 4 minutes and 41 seconds, for a sizable performance dip of 31 percent. That's not as bad as McAfee AntiVirus Plus' 47% fall (the worst offender), although it wasn't as good as Sophos' 7% full-scan system hit.
Malwarebytes' full-scan completion time is a shockingly short 16 seconds, almost 3 hours less than Sophos' 2-hour and 56-minute time, and also shorter than middle-of-the-pack entrants like Kaspersky (41:20) and Norton (25:49). This is likely due to the program indexing the system and analyzing only files that have changed since the previous scan.
Malwarebytes for Mac Premium is a well-laid-out app that places scan buttons up front for ease of use. Whether you click its menu-bar icon or open the app itself, Scan Now is immediately presented as an option, which isn't always the case with other programs.
The main window of the Malwarebytes app presents your current status. A big green check mark and a message confirming "You're protected" signals that everything is OK.
A side menu provides easy-to-read details such as the most recent scan time and confirmation that the program has downloaded the latest info on potential malware. Even better, a click of each option automatically refreshes each check. Below that, you get direct access to scheduling scans.
On the left, much like most antivirus apps, you'll see a menu with the standard sections. Scan shows you the results of your last scan, Quarantine shows you any files Malwarebytes isolates for your protection and Reports is a running list of scans and other changes.
Under Settings, you can change the default option for dealing with potentially unwanted programs — such as adware — as it defaults to slamming offenders in the Quarantine.
Installation and support
To install Malwarebytes for Mac Premium, you open https://www.malwarebytes.com/mac/ and click Free Download. After its installer file lands on your system, and you click through the normal process, you'll get prompted to click through a few buttons in the Security section of System Preferences to grant Malwarebytes access to your system.
After you've installed the system, you get a 14-day trial of Premium with the option to pay and upgrade at any time during that period. If you don't, you won't retain the ability to keep your system safe with Malwarebytes' passive antivirus scanning — you'll retain only the option to run on-demand scans.
The free version of Malwarebytes for Mac makes a nice complement to other brands of antivirus software, as it won't conflict with them and will often find adware or unwanted (but legal) software that other products may ignore.
Malwarebytes doesn't require that you restart your system after installation, and the whole process took a couple of minutes, which is standard.
Malwarebytes provides tech support via live chat, available from Monday through Friday, from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. It doesn't offer paid phone support.
Malwarebytes for Mac Premium provides a lot of what we like — such as fast scans and low system impact — but it still feels incomplete. Other paid offerings offer special features such as parental controls or email protection, whereas Malwarebytes just scans, and even there, its protection against malware is unproven.
Our advice: Let the 14-day trial period run out and keep the free Malwarebytes for Mac to work with another brand's antivirus software. Overall, Malwarebytes for Mac Premium is an option for those looking for a hands-off solution, but Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is the best Mac antivirus program, free or paid.