After evaluating eight free and paid Mac antivirus products, we've chosen Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac ($40 per year) as our top pick. It had a nearly immeasurable 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 need an antivirus program on your Mac. That statement may cause some Apple users to argue or walk away, but recent years have seen more Mac malware and adware than ever before.
In 2012, the Flashback Trojan infected 600,000 Macs. In 2013, a targeted attack hit OS X developers at Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Apple itself. In 2015, the XcodeGhost attack poisoned hundreds of OS X and iOS apps. And in 2016, the first known piece of encrypting ransomware for Macs appeared.
How We Tested
To 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 in July and August 2017 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 in May 2017 by AV-TEST, a well-regarded independent product-testing lab in Germany, and results from other tests conducted in July 2017 by AV-Comparatives, a similarly well-respected firm in Austria.
Kaspersky Internet Security offers both the lowest system impact and some of the best malware-detection rates recorded. It even provides extra security features, including parental controls and options to lock down your webcam and stop websites from tracking your browsing activity. If you're willing to pay to protect your Mac from malware, Kaspersky Internet Security is the best option available.
Avast Free Mac Security caught 99.9 percent of all malware, packs in a password manager, barely leaves a smudge on system impact and doesn't charge a dime. If only it caught 100 percent of malware, as Kaspersky did.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is one of only a few solutions we tested that offers perfect malware detection. Further, its modern, streamlined interface places on-demand scans front and center. Bitdefender has dropped from first place, though, because its system-impact scores don't match the flawless marks posted by Kaspersky.
Norton Security Deluxe may offer excellent protection, but it charges more (after the first year) than its competitors do, without offering as many perks. Still, always-on-call customer support is a nice thing to have if anything ever goes awry.
For a free option, AVG AntiVirus for Mac is not too shabby, with its 99.9 percent detection rate and easy-to-use design. Unfortunately, other free competitors provide extras (Sophos with parental controls, Avast's password manager) that AVG does not.
With Sophos Home for Mac's simple interface and low system-performance impact, you'll barely realize the program is shielding you until you need it. Anyone with young children at home will find Sophos' parental controls useful, as they allow for remote scans and checks, and let you block sites by category. Sophos even keeps a log of when users try to reach banned pages. This program's major drawback, though, is its lackluster malware-detection rate.
Once our favorite, Avira Free Antivirus for Mac isn't in the lead any longer. That's because it is a hair shy of perfection in its malware detection, and fell behind in system-performance testing, earning some of the higher performance impacts recorded.
While McAfee's unlimited licenses mean you can support a whole family of Macs (and PCs and Android devices, too), this program's lack of special features (for a paid version) make it hard to recommend. Further, we don't have malware-detection testing scores for McAfee, so its protection powers are unproven.