5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2024

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021

Finding a trustworthy and free Mac antivirus isn’t easy. Many free antivirus brands often treat macOS as an afterthought and provide little protection beyond Apple’s built-in security features. Some antiviruses are effective but so slow that you just want to turn it off. Other shadier free antiviruses have intrusive data collection policies that put your privacy at risk.

To save you time and money, I tested and shortlisted the best 5 Mac antiviruses that are 100% free to download and use. While no free antivirus is perfect, every antivirus on this list offers excellent defense against malware and won’t slow down your Mac.

I especially liked Avira as it has real-time and ransomware protection, as well as optimization tools designed specifically for Mac. While you won’t have access to all of Avira’s premium features, the free plan does offer basic antivirus essentials. I highly recommend you try Avira for free on your Mac for an extra layer of protection.

Try Avira on Mac for free!

Quick Guide: Best Free Antivirus Software for Mac in 2021

  1. Avira — #1 free antivirus for Mac with near-perfect detection rates and premium features like real-time and ransomware protection.
  2. TotalAV — Offers excellent scanning tools and free firewall, but lacks real-time and ransomware protection.
  3. Sophos — Cloud-based antivirus offers real-time scanner, web protection, and parental controls, but requires a constant internet connection to run.
  4. Bitdefender — Easily detects and removes malware on Mac, but can’t protect you in real-time or against advanced cyberthreats.
  5. Malwarebytes — Fast virus scanner with malware removal tools, but that’s all it does.

How I Ranked the Top Free Antiviruses for macOS in 2021

I tested a range of different antivirus software packages to find the best ones that are free to use on Mac computers. I used my Apple MacBook Air with 1.1 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 processor to examine each antivirus using the following criteria:

  • Actually free to use — Some antiviruses that advertise themselves as free are actually just timed trials that ask for your credit card information or are secretly a money-back guarantee. I made sure that all of my chosen providers have free versions of their software that you never have to pay for.
  • Powerful antivirus engine — My team and I performed extensive tests to ensure each antivirus not only excelled at detecting malware and other security threats, but could identify Mac-specific malware too.
  • Extra features — I tested each software’s extra features and took their offerings into account when putting together my rankings. These include extras like parental controls, web protection, and firewalls, as well as Mac-specific features like Avira’s Optimizer tool.
  • User-friendly Mac app — I examined how simple each antivirus interface was to navigate for beginner and tech-savvy users alike.

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021

1. Avira — #1 Free Mac Antivirus for Advanced Malware Protection

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021

Key Features:

  • Excellent malware detection rates in real-time and scanning tests
  • Protects against ransomware, trojans, worms, adware, and phishing scams
  • Works on MacOS 10.15 (Catalina) and higher
  • Includes VPN (500MB free data/month), password manager, and browser extension
  • Free and paid plans available

Avira is the #1 free antivirus software for Mac. It comes with real-time and ransomware protection plus a range of value-add features. I rarely see such a comprehensive level of security, especially in a free antivirus.

My team and I tested Avira by deploying over 700 malware samples discovered in the previous 4 weeks on a test machine. Avira achieved a near-perfect malware protection rate of 99.96%, putting it in line with some of the best antivirus software on the market. This impressive security rate is made possible by Avira’s integrated cloud technology, which the company uses to keep its real-time scanner up-to-date on the latest threats.

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021
Smart Scan identifies tracking cookies and other files that could be slowing down your Mac

Avira’s Smart Scan not only checks your system for malware, but also looks for ways to improve your Mac’s overall performance. It took about 23 minutes to run a Smart Scan on my Mac. Unfortunately, the free version doesn’t allow you to fix every privacy and performance issue that Avira finds. While Smart Scan cleaned up over 2GB of disk space for me, I would have had to upgrade to delete the remaining files and tracking cookies on my Mac.

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021
I was quickly able to make a new password for my Twitter account using Avira

Many antivirus brands put useless extra features in their free plans (or don’t bother to include them at all), so I was pleased to find that nearly all of Avira’s extras add plenty of value. I especially like the Safe Shopping browser, which protects your online transactions and other activities. I was easily able to install the extension on Google Chrome (it’s also available on Opera and Microsoft Edge) and have it block ads, trackers, and other malicious activities across a wide range of URLs. Safe Shopping even successfully stopped all phishing links and targeted ads in my tests! Overall, it’s a great free tool that I highly recommend if, like me, you hate seeing the same advertisements appear all over your social media channels.

Two other extra features that are worth your time are the free password manager and optimization tools. Avira password tool is a great option if you don’t already use a manager, as it has 2-factor authentication and lets you store an unlimited number of passwords. Meanwhile, Avira’s optimization tools let you improve your overall Mac performance by scanning your system for redundant files and other clutter that may be slowing your system down. While it’s disappointing that Avira makes you download a separate app to use these features, it’s not really an issue given the optimization benefits they provide.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed with Avira’s Phantom VPN. While it offers decent speeds and no-logs security, you only have access to 1 server and are restricted to 500MB of monthly data. This means it’s only good enough for occasional web browsing. That being said, you can use Avira’s free antivirus to protect your Mac from a wide variety of threats. You won’t find another free antivirus that offers the same level of overall security and value as Avira.

2. TotalAV — Powerful Free Malware Scanner on Mac With In-Built Firewall

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021

Key Features:

  • Advanced virus scanner with excellent malware protection rate
  • Protects against spyware, trojoans, worms, adware, and phishing scams
  • MacOS 10.9 (Mavericks) and higher
  • Includes free firewall and limited access to optimization features
  • Free and paid plans available

TotalAV’s free Mac software is an excellent security option — as long as you don’t mind dealing with some pesky upsell requests. TotalAV also includes some useful extra features, but lacks Avira’s premium extras such as real-time protection and password management.

In tests, TotalAV achieved 100% malware detection and registered just 8 false positives, which is well below the industry average. Combined, these results make TotalAV one of the most secure antiviruses on the market and a great tool for keeping your Mac safe from online threats. However, the lack of free real-time protection is definitely something to keep in mind, as you won’t have automatic security unless you decide to upgrade to one of TotalAV’s paid plans.

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021
All of TotalAV’s features are easy to find thanks to its clean app interface

TotalAV offers 2 different antivirus scanning options with its free version: quick scan and full system scan. I was very impressed with the quick scan, as it took just a few minutes to complete and presented me with a detailed summary upon completion. The report not only breaks down whether any malware or PUPs (potentially unwanted programs) were detected, but also if you have any tracking cookies or other security risks.

TotalAV’s app doesn’t always mark which features are free or paid, so I had to work it out for myself. To save you time, I can tell you that only the firewall is available for free users. Unfortunately, the free version doesn’t include the Startup Programs optimizer, Browser Manager optimizer, and Disk Cleaner tools. Instead, you’ll only be able to access these for 2 days before being prompted to pay for them.

While I appreciate being able to try these features free of charge, I’m frustrated by the lack of clarity over which features are actually free. Upon first glance, each one of the aforementioned premium features looks like it’s free to use. It was only after I used them that TotalAV alerted me to the 2 day trial window. I would prefer if TotalAV didn’t hide this information from users, but I still think the features are worth using in a trial capacity if your Mac is in need of a performance boost and cleanup.

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021
TotalAV hides which features are actually free to use

TotalAV has excellent malware protection and a very easy-to-use Mac app, but the lack of real-time protection leaves your Mac vulnerable. Despite this issue, TotalAV is still a great free antivirus service and I highly recommend it to novice users who are looking for no-hassle Mac security.

3. Sophos — Best Free Mac Antivirus for Families (Includes Parental Controls)

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021

Key Features:

  • Supports MacOS 10.14 (Mojave) and higher
  • Excellent defense against Mac-specific malware
  • Includes real-time and ransomware protection
  • Extra features include parental controls and web protection
  • Free and paid plans available

Sophos is an excellent security option as it’s one of the few free Mac antiviruses to offer real-time and ransomware protection. This makes it a must-try in my opinion, especially considering it’s a cloud-based app that will barely impact your system performance.

Sophos offers just a single malware scanner but this wasn’t a big issue as you can choose between “fast” and “deep” scans. However, if you’re an advanced user, you may dislike this streamlined approach and lack of customization options.

In tests, Sophos detected 100% of mac-specific malware and 98% of overall malware threats — an excellent score that falls just short of Avira. Sophos uses Artificial Intelligence Threat Detection to continually update its online threat database, ensuring that you’re always protected against the latest malware. On my Mac, scans took about 6 minutes to complete. While running scans manually just takes a few clicks, you can schedule them to run weekly or even daily. Combined with its real-time detection capabilities, I appreciated how automated Sophos’ security functions are.

Sophos Home Free also includes a few extra features, including:

  • Parental controls
  • Web protection
  • Remote management for up to 3 devices
5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021
All of Sophos’ filtering options are clearly laid out

Located under the “Web Filtering” tab, Sophos’ parental controls allow you to easily set up content censoring based on a variety of criteria, such as gambling or adult websites. I tested web filtering out by checking off the “block” column for the gambling and weapons categories. I was pleased to find that when I tried to access websites with gambling or weapons content, Sophos blocked them all!

Web Protection is another useful feature that blocks access to malicious sites. During my tests, I visited websites known to host malware and Sophos prevented me from accessing them every time! Additionally, this tool includes something called Download Reputation, which warns you if you try to download a file with a low reputation. This is accomplished by checking the file against data collected by SophosLabs. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that Sophos includes Web Protection in its free plan, as it’s the kind of feature that antivirus companies typically charge you for.

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021
I found Sophos effectively stopped access to dangerous websites

Although I wish the software was a bit more customizable, I was very impressed with Sophos’ free Mac security overall.

4. Bitdefender — Basic but Effective Free Antivirus for Mac

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021

Key Features:

  • Near-perfect malware protection rate through advanced scanning engine
  • Protects against spyware, trojans, worms, keyloggers, adware, and phishing scams
  • MacOS 10.10 (Yosemite) and higher
  • Includes 3 virus scan types: critical locations scan, deep system scan, and custom scan
  • Free and paid plans available

Bitdefender Virus Scanner has no extra features in its free plan, but its core antivirus protection is so strong that it’s still one of the best free options available for protecting your Mac. Bitdefender’s antivirus engine achieved a 99.99% malware protection rate in tests, which places it alongside competitors like McAfee and Norton for some of the best ratings on the market. It does this by automatically uploading any new malware signatures to the company’s online testing lab for analysis. Bitdefender issues new signature updates every hour, keeping your security automatically updated in the process.

While Bitdefender’s free Mac utility is very easy to navigate, it’s also a pretty barebones app. The only options included are 3 types of virus scan: a quick critical locations scan, a deep system scan, and custom scans.

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021
Bitdefender is able to scan for malware and little else

The quick scan checks important locations that are vulnerable to malware attacks like your temporary files and downloads folder. This is a great option if you don’t have time for a full system scan, as it took less than 8 minutes to scan my Mac’s critical areas. While I would like to see Bitdefender provide a bit more information after each scan — you can only see time, date, action, and whether any threats were detected in the history tab — I appreciated that the scan worked in the background without slowing down my system performance.

Bitdefender doesn’t bombard you with upsell attempts, so you can enjoy its basic antivirus features without being bothered.

5. Malwarebytes — Detects and Removes Existing Malware on Mac for Free

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021

Key Features:

  • Fast scanning tool offers excellent malware protection rate
  • Scans for spyware, trojans, spyware, worms, rootkits, and other rogue applications
  • MacOS 10.11 (El Capitan) and higher
  • Includes 2 virus scan types: threat scan and custom scan
  • Free and paid plans available

Malwarebytes provides free malware scanning and removal tools for Mac, so you can easily identify any existing threats. This includes viruses, worms, trojans, adware, spyware, and rootkits. Unfortunately, the free version doesn’t have any real-time or ransomware protection. This means Malwarebytes can’t keep your Mac safe from advanced cyberthreats at all times. However, you’ll find the free tools are good enough to perform quick and thorough scans if you already know your Mac has been infected with malware.

Unlike most antiviruses, Malwarebytes doesn’t separate its malware detection into “quick scan” and “deep scan” options. Instead, you can run a Threat Scan or Custom Scan. Threat Scan searches areas of your computer that are more likely to be infected with Mac-specific malware, which means that it runs much faster than most antivirus scanners. The first Threat Scan I completed took just over 2 minutes, scanned 11,000+ items and detected a PUP that I was able to successfully quarantine.

5 Best (100% Free) Mac Antivirus Software — Tested November 2021
I was impressed with how quickly Malwarebytes performed scans on my Mac

There’s no real-time protection or additional features. However, as a basic free antivirus tool, Malwarebytes gets the job done.

Try Malwarebytes for free!

Top Antivirus Companies That Didn’t Make the Cut

Intego

My team and I rank Intego as the best antivirus for Mac in 2021 — it easily detects and blocks all types of malware, including Mac-specific strains. However, while Intego does offer a free trial for 30 days, I don’t think it’s worth using as you’re locked out of many basic features. For example, Intego will scan your Mac for malware but won’t remove anything unless you upgrade. If you want to use Intego in its full capacity, the best option is to try Intego with the 30-day money-back guarantee. This allows you to request a full refund within 30 days. I tested this myself and I easily got my money back in 10 days.

Airo

Airo is a Mac-exclusive antivirus with excellent malware detection rates. However, I’d advise caution when using its service. My team and I tested Airo for over a month but during this time, Airo’s product and pricing model kept changing. On top of that, all changes were poorly advertised. The only way to understand what Airo offered was to contact the customer support team. This doesn’t give me much confidence in the company’s stability or transparency — not ideal when an antivirus is meant to be a trustworthy line of defense that keeps you safe.

Panda

Panda has a great free antivirus but unfortunately, it’s not available for Mac users (only Windows). This is particularly disappointing since Panda does offer an exclusive macOS plan called Panda Essential for Mac. Hopefully, Panda will extend its free plan to Mac owners in the future.

Avast/AVG

Avast and its subsidiary AVG are popular free antivirus products, but I can no longer recommend either. Unfortunately, it was discovered that Avast sold millions of its users’ private browsing data to third-party companies. Although Avast shut down its data-harvesting activities and now allows users to opt-out of data collection, I’m still highly skeptical about the company’s ethics. I don’t think it’s worth compromising your privacy when there are better free antiviruses for Mac to choose from.

Comparison Table: 2021’s Best Free Antiviruses for Mac

Malware Scanner & Remover  Real-Time Protection Ransomware Protection VPN Firewall
1. Avira
2. TotalAV
3. Sophos
4. Bitdefender
5. Malwarebytes

FAQ: Antivirus for Mac

Which is the best free antivirus for Mac?

There are several great free antiviruses for Mac, with Avira and Sophos standing out as the best available. Both provide excellent malware protection and valuable extra features. However, no free antivirus solution is perfect. Companies use them as a way to entice you to purchase their paid plans, which often come with more advanced security tools, customer support, multi-device coverage, and additional features.

If you don’t store a ton of sensitive data on your Mac, a free antivirus is a good way to boost your overall security without committing to a paid plan. But if you’re like me and use your Mac to store important financial documents, credit card information, and other personal data you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands, I recommend considering a premium antivirus like Intego. My team and I have thoroughly tested Intego and rate is as the #1 antivirus for Macs thanks to its strong Mac-specific malware protection. There’s no need to commit right away either, as you can try Intego free for 30 days using its money-back guarantee.

Do I really need an antivirus for my Mac?

Yes! Contrary to what you may have heard, Macs are vulnerable to malware and other security threats. While it’s true that the Mac operating system is generally safer than Windows, this doesn’t mean it’s immune to cybercriminals. Pairing an antivirus with your Mac’s built-in security is an excellent way to secure yourself against the latest threats. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to protect your Mac either. According to my hands-on tests, here are the best Mac antivirus brands that won’t cost you anything.

However, there are an increasing number of hackers developing Mac-specific viruses (especially as more and more people move to Apple). I’m a proud MacBook owner and I store a lot of personal information on my Mac. That’s why it’s important to me to protect my Mac against all strains of malware, including existing and yet-unknown threats. Intego is a low-cost premium antivirus exclusively developed for Mac, so you can be sure it will protect you against dangerous malware that other antivirus companies don’t focus on. You can even use Intego for free for 30 days using its money-back guarantee. I was easily able to request a refund and got my money back 10 days later.

Doesn’t Mac already have in-built virus protection?

Yes, Mac has very good built-in security against viruses and other threats but it’s far from foolproof. If you don’t want to take the risk — and there is a risk — then it’s worth looking into what a trusted antivirus package can do for macOS. The Mac operating system is based on Unix, a sandboxed architecture that allows applications to restrict access to OS resources. This means that even if your Mac is infected with malware, it’s less likely to spread to other areas of your system. The latest versions of macOS also have built-in antivirus software like XD (execute disable) and SIP (system integrity protection to prevent malware from changing critical system files. That said, there are still gaps in the macOS security and installing antivirus software can help make up for these shortcomings.

Are free antiviruses safe for Mac?

Yes, but it depends on the free antivirus you download. All of the free antiviruses on this list have been thoroughly tested and verified as safe products that won’t compromise your personal data. Unfortunately, there are many free antiviruses that can put you at risk. For example, Avast is a popular free service that was found to have harvested millions of its users’ private browsing data and sold it to third-party companies. Always do your research first to ensure you’re downloading a product that is trusted by security experts and regular users alike.

Don’t Put Your Mac at Risk — Protect It With a High-Quality Free Antivirus

Many Mac users overlook antivirus software in the mistaken belief that Macs don’t get viruses. However, even though Macs are generally more secure than Windows-based PCs, they are still vulnerable to cybercriminals. Pairing an antivirus with Apple’s built-in security can help cover gaps in your protection and there are some great free products that can do the job.

Unfortunately, even the best free antivirus is a poor alternative to premium software. You won’t get a full suite of security tools, extra features like performance optimization, and full access to customer support unless you use a paid service. If you want a full security package developed with Mac-specific malware in mind, I recommend Intego. It offers powerful real-time protection, excellent optimization tools, and support through live chat, email, or phone. You can try Intego for free for 30 days using its money-back guarantee to see if it’s worth paying for.

That said, if you’re currently not running any antivirus software on your Mac, you can download a free service like Avira for an additional layer of protection against basic threats.

See also

 

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