The Very Best Mac Antivirus in 2021

By Damjan Jugovic Spajic December 25, 2020

The long-held belief that Mac computers are immune to everything from ransomware to spyware is being contradicted by craftier hackers and sneakier viruses. Today, Macs need an antivirus.

Luckily, software developers are keeping up with these transformations and have come up with many reliable antiviruses. To help you find the appropriate Mac security software, we’ve compiled a list of the best Mac antivirus options on the market.

  • High detection rate
  • User-friendly UI
  • Multiple devices supported
  • Some features are limited on OS X
Price $29.99/year
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  • Fast scan
  • Untethered VPN
  • Fair pricing
  • Confusing pricing plans
Price $39.99/year
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  • Lightweight
  • High test scores
  • Free for home use
  • Vulnerable to phishing
Price $41.99/mo
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  • Blocks adware
  • Safe shopping and banking
  • Automated backups
  • Limited free VPN
Price $29.99/year
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  • Free trial available
  • Dual product license
  • Fair pricing
  • Lacks some features on Mac
Price $39.99/year
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1. Kaspersky Internet Security

" Best Antivirus for Mac Overall "

  • Licenses:
    1-10
  • VPN:
    Yes
  • Renewal period:
    1-2 years
  • Key features:
    Privacy protection, webcam hijack protection, safe money browser

Things we liked / disliked:

  • High detection rate
  • User-friendly UI
  • Multiple devices supported
  • Some features are limited on OS X

Things we liked / disliked:

  • High detection rate
  • User-friendly UI
  • Multiple devices supported
  • Some features are limited on OS X
  • Licenses:
    1-10
  • VPN:
    Yes
  • Renewal period:
    1-2 years
  • Key features:
    Privacy protection, webcam hijack protection, safe money browser

When talking about cybersecurity, one name stands out among the thousands of vendors. Kaspersky was founded in 1997, and the Russian-based company has since been creating some of the best software in the world. Whether it’s an antivirus for a PC, MacBook, or smartphone, you’re guaranteed a top-notch product. That’s why we’re putting it at the top of our list.

Kaspersky Internet Security is more than just a popular product. It’s one of the best tools for detecting viruses on Mac. Its OS X version is incredibly user-friendly, with clearly labeled buttons for each of the features. Among the best Mac antiviruses, Kaspersky really stands out thanks to that UI design. Just because it’s a cybersecurity product, doesn’t mean it has to be intimidating, right?

User experience aside, this antivirus packs quite a lot of nifty tools in its digital toolbox. A dedicated phishing protection add-on can be installed on a browser, working in conjunction with the antivirus app to keep you safe while browsing. If you make a lot of online transactions, you can safeguard your activities with the Safe Money module. This tool will check every financial website you visit and verify the address with its HQ, notifying you about any unsecured places.

If you’re a parent, this is the best antivirus for Mac thanks to its parental control features. These enable you to block and filter online content, ensuring that your children don’t end up in the wrong corners of the internet. On top of that, there’s an optional Kaspersky Safe Kids upgrade that adds a lot of extra tools for protecting your child, including locating the child’s device.

Other features include webcam protection, which prevents unauthorized access to your Mac’s camera. But when it comes to Mac, the best antivirus shouldn’t just block access to your webcam, it should obfuscate your IP. That means, it should include a VPN. Every version of Kaspersky antivirus comes with a free VPN. Unfortunately, it’s more of a trial version, as it comes with a 200MB daily cap unless you pay up for an upgrade. Finally, there’s an integrated firewall that can catch and stop any intrusion attempt.

Kaspersky Internet Security is also a great value proposition. You get an affordable multi-platform app with all of the aforementioned tools and multiple licenses.

2. Norton 360 Deluxe

" Best Value Mac Antivirus "

  • Licenses:
    5
  • VPN:
    Yes
  • Renewal period:
    1-2 years
  • Additional features:
    dark web monitoring, password manager, parental controls, cloud backup, safe web, smart firewall

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Fast scan
  • Untethered VPN
  • Fair pricing
  • Confusing pricing plans

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Fast scan
  • Untethered VPN
  • Fair pricing
  • Confusing pricing plans
  • Licenses:
    5
  • VPN:
    Yes
  • Renewal period:
    1-2 years
  • Additional features:
    dark web monitoring, password manager, parental controls, cloud backup, safe web, smart firewall

Another popular Mac antivirus comes from a company that’s been in this business for a long time. Norton AntiVirus was launched in 1991 and has since been holding its own against Kaspersky and other competitors. It’s an incredible piece of software that improved over time, providing more than just the basic antivirus protection to millions of computers worldwide.

When it comes to security, Norton is at the forefront of the industry. The antivirus holds certificates from two independent research labs, confirming its status as one of the top apps for detecting malware. For example, the AV-Test institute awarded it with the highest possible score of 18.0, meaning it offers the best virus protection. Just two other apps on our list managed to clinch this score.

Phishing protection is a major part of Norton 360 Deluxe and one of the most important protection tools for your Mac. In tests, this antivirus managed to block nearly 100% of phishing attempts. Since phishing is platform agnostic, it’s good to know that Norton’s engineers are working hard on detecting any dangerous emails and links.

Another prominent feature is the firewall, which automatically recognizes and blocks any incoming traffic from unsecured networks. This is probably the best antivirus program for Mac if you’re changing locations frequently. The integrated firewall also protects you against known OS vulnerabilities and exploits.

You get a lot of extra features with the Deluxe version of Norton 360. For example, a password manager that syncs your data across Mac OS, Windows, iOS, and Android devices. Meanwhile, Norton Clean helps you free up space on your computer by removing junk and deleting residual files. For us, the biggest bonus in this offering is the VPN, which has no bandwidth limits.

Norton 360 Deluxe doesn’t look like an affordable antivirus for Mac at first glance because it costs more than Kaspersky, for example. But the subscription allows you to protect your Mac and four additional devices at the same time. Each of those devices gets access to the VPN without any data caps. Considering how expensive VPN software can get, this is a great deal. You might be looking for a more customizable pricing plan. But those subscription models can be overwhelming, and there’s no reason to make the purchasing process so complicated.

3. Sophos Home

" Best Free Mac Antivirus "

  • Licenses:
    3
  • VPN:
    No
  • Renewal period:
    1 year
  • Key features:
    Web protection, AI threat detection, remote management, parental website filtering. free trial

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Lightweight
  • High test scores
  • Free for home use
  • Vulnerable to phishing

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Lightweight
  • High test scores
  • Free for home use
  • Vulnerable to phishing
  • Licenses:
    3
  • VPN:
    No
  • Renewal period:
    1 year
  • Key features:
    Web protection, AI threat detection, remote management, parental website filtering. free trial

Sophos is the name you’ll most likely encounter if you’re looking for the best free Mac antivirus. The British company has been at the forefront of the cybersecurity industry for more than three decades, creating some of the highest-rated software on the market. Therefore, its primary focus has been on enterprise-level solutions. You can get the same top-rated technology for your own iMac or MacBook with the home edition of its highly acclaimed antivirus. Best of all, it won’t cost you a dime.

Sophos Home offers a free antivirus that has an incredibly simple installation process. You just set up an account, and you can log in on up to three devices. This is a popular antivirus for Mac for that very reason. Nobody likes to spend hours setting everything up when a simpler, more streamlined alternative exists. 

So what exactly do you get with this lighter version of Sophos’s antimalware suite? First of all, the app is easy to navigate and comes with certified antivirus protection. In lab tests, Sophos passed with flying colors, smashing 98% of the malware it encountered and blocking 99% of malicious websites. It scored higher than many other popular antivirus apps. Considering that very few apps record a perfect 100% detection rate, Sophos’ scores are compatible with the best Mac antivirus.

As expected, the Home version of this app isn’t jam-packed with features and additional protection tools. But there are a few notable assets to check out. There’s a simplified parental control filter with more than 20 categories of content that you can choose to block or warn users about. This filter supports all the major browsers, like Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, meaning there’s no special setup needed. Compared to previous Mac antivirus reviews, the list of features is pretty short. But this is sufficient for households that only need the basic tools to protect their computers and laptops against viruses.

It’s also important to remember that Sophos Home is a free piece of software that you can download straight from the manufacturer’s website. One account lets you use it on three devices. For more advanced protection, consider upgrading to Premium for $42.62/year. You can test the Premium version for 30 days absolutely free, and Sophos offers a money-back guarantee with each purchase.

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4. Bitdefender

" Best Mac Antivirus for Beginners "

  • Licenses:
    1-5
  • VPN:
    Yes
  • Renewal period:
    1-3 years
  • Key features:
    protection for all browsing, Time Machine Protection, Safe Files, cross-platform detection, Autopilot

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Blocks adware
  • Safe shopping and banking
  • Automated backups
  • Limited free VPN

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Blocks adware
  • Safe shopping and banking
  • Automated backups
  • Limited free VPN
  • Licenses:
    1-5
  • VPN:
    Yes
  • Renewal period:
    1-3 years
  • Key features:
    protection for all browsing, Time Machine Protection, Safe Files, cross-platform detection, Autopilot

Before it started working on the best Mac antivirus software, Bitdefender was well-known among Windows users for its reliable antivirus. The original version was also popular due to the abundance of features, intuitive interface, and smart design. Let’s see how its transition to Mac OS is going.

You’ll be greeted with some of Bitdefender’s most robust features during the installation process. Just be sure to enable ransomware repair and the Time Machine when offered. We also highly recommend enabling the cutting edge Traffic Light browser extension right off the bat. This gives you access to the full power of the best Mac security software without requiring you to tinker with the settings menu.

Just like its Windows counterpart, Bitdefender for Mac is designed with a built-in Autopilot mode, which spares you the hassle of having to make any security-related decisions. The software fixes critical issues and manages everything for you. It automatically adapts to the way you use your computer and occasionally offers recommendations for improving existing security settings.

Remember that Time Machine you were offered during the installation process. That’s the core of ransomware protection with the best Mac antivirus. Your Mac might be making regular backups, which is a good first line of defense against ransomware, but these files can still get corrupted. 

Once the option is enabled, Bitdefender defends those files against all attacks, giving you the ability to restore your system to its regular state even if you fall victim to a ransomware attack. It’s equally great against phishing attacks, scoring higher than many other world-class antiviruses. For safe browsing, Bitdefender uses a browser extension called Traffic Light, which intercepts, processes, and filters all Web traffic, protecting your computer against Mac malware.

The best antivirus app for Mac isn’t complete without a VPN. Bitdefender’s VPN, at least the one included with the antivirus, isn’t really designed for heavy lifting. Instead, you get 200 MB of traffic each day, with an option to upgrade. Granted, this is still better than some free VPNs on the market, but we feel that it’s a tad too limited, especially since the integrated version doesn’t offer a lot of servers.

So, let’s talk about the price. If you’re looking for the most affordable Mac antivirus and if you need malware protection for multiple devices, get ready to pay up. Bitdefender’s base price includes just one license with an option to upgrade to three licenses per account. You can reduce your annual cost by subscribing for more than a year, but you’ll still be looking at a higher price tag than with some of the other options on our list.

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5. ESET Cyber Security

" Best Mac Antivirus for Advanced Users "

  • Licenses:
    1-5
  • VPN:
    No
  • Renewal period:
    1-2 years
  • Key features:
    USB drive protection, system process monitoring, scheduling, and real-time protection, POP3 email scanner

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Free trial available
  • Dual product license
  • Fair pricing
  • Lacks some features on Mac

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Free trial available
  • Dual product license
  • Fair pricing
  • Lacks some features on Mac
  • Licenses:
    1-5
  • VPN:
    No
  • Renewal period:
    1-2 years
  • Key features:
    USB drive protection, system process monitoring, scheduling, and real-time protection, POP3 email scanner

ESET Cyber Security for Mac also known as the NOD32 antivirus is another great product on our best OS X antivirus list. It’s one of the oldest anti-malware programs. Naturally, it evolved from Windows-only protection to offering antivirus solutions for Macs. ESET even split its product into two categories, but your license now covers both of those, which is already a great value proposition. 

The core of this antivirus is real-time monitoring. You get to see your system status on the dashboard with links to repair problems if they arise. By running a Smart Scan, this antivirus checks your system drives and the computer’s memory, meaning that it can hunt down even the sneakiest of viruses. The tests confirm that this is the fastest Mac antivirus when it comes to scanning. It doesn’t take more than half an hour for a full system scan, which is very impressive. A quick scan usually takes half that time.

The company also understands that not everyone wants to rely on automated malware removal, and that’s why it allows users to schedule their own system scans. In addition, the software doesn’t rely on users to manually install a browser add-on. Instead,  ESET Cyber Security always checks browser pages and POP3 emails for any hazardous links. In fact, it’s the top rated Mac antivirus for safe browsing due to how quickly and efficiently it deals with phishing sites and malicious files.

Unfortunately, you won’t get access to too many cybersecurity features unless you sign up for the Pro version. With the standard version, you get Device Control for better handling of CD/DVD drives and USBs, an overview of currently active computer processes, and the ability to send any suspicious files to ESET for further analysis. Firewall and parental controls are available with the Pro version, which only costs $10 more than the $39.99 Essential package. 

Of course, the top antivirus for Mac doesn’t come cheap, and the base price only buys you a single license. However, it covers all platforms, so you won’t need to purchase additional licenses if you want to switch to a Windows or iOS. Each additional license will cost you an extra $10.

Our Methodology for Identifying the Best Mac OS Antivirus

Malware Protection and Detection

Antivirus software is only as good as the degree of protection that it provides for your device. After all, what good is an antivirus if it cannot detect and protect against malware? For us, this is the most important parameter for choosing an antivirus for our Macs. Antivirus software that has a higher detection rate is better at protecting you against new threats, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. After all, more and more people are using iOS devices, including Apple’s smartphones, meaning they’ve become more and more targeted by hackers.

An antivirus must also have access to an up-to-date virus definition database. The best Mac antivirus app should, at least, have daily updates of the virus definitions and always keep tabs on the bad actors and the new variants being developed. Of course, automatic updates are a must.

We also take into account the variety of malware each antivirus is able to detect and remove. These days, it’s especially important to secure protection from ransomware, which has become one of the most common attack methods that can devastate computers and bank accounts. It goes without saying that the more types of malware the antivirus can detect and remove, the better.

Extra Features

Antivirus apps aren’t limited to just scanning and blocking digital nasties. Nowadays, the most secure Mac antivirus offers much more. Cybersecurity companies usually try to create all-in-one security solutions for businesses and home users. This not only provides better protection for your Mac, but it also improves the value of the product.

Some of the more common additions to antiviruses include firewalls, VPNs, and password managers. Parental controls are available, enabling you to protect your children from inappropriate online content and block certain websites on all your devices.

Licensing

Most people use multiple devices, and a good Mac antivirus must be able to accommodate users by offering appropriate subscription plans. At least, that’s the kind of a deal we’re hoping to find when reviewing the different software. We don’t have just one computer in our homes, not to mention if you’re a small business owner with a dozen Macs in your office. Obviously, the more licenses in a single subscription, the better. In addition, we value subscriptions that aren’t linked to one type of device. For example, you can buy an antivirus for Apple computers that can also be used for Windows PCs and smartphones.

Our top Mac antivirus list only includes software with multi-platform and multi-user licenses, usually configurable, so you can pick the exact number of licenses you need.

Price

While we absolutely appreciate it when an antivirus is more affordable than some of the competition, we also look at different discounts offered by the manufacturer. These can include discounts on multi-year contracts, combo deals, or promotional codes. Of course, the value proposition is the most important here. We’re primarily looking for a healthy balance between a nice set of features and a low enough price.

Our Picks: The Best Mac Antivirus Apps

  • Kaspersky Internet Security
  • Norton 360 Deluxe
  • Sophos Home
  • Bitdefender
  • ESET Cyber Security

FAQ

Do you need virus protection on a Mac?

Believe it or not, Macs are not immune to viruses. In just one year, the number of detections more than doubled. Some of these were even rated as the most dangerous threats. As such, it’s highly recommended to install the best antivirus protection for Mac if you want to be safe online. After all, it can protect you against potentially costly phishing and ransomware attacks.

Does Mac have antivirus built-in?

Yes, your Mac has an antivirus built-in. It’s called XProtect, and it’s a part of the bigger File Quarantine app. Originally added in 2009 with the release of Mac OS X Snow Leopard, this automated lightweight antivirus checks every file downloaded through Safari, Chrome, Mail, and iChat against its list of malicious apps. It automatically updates its virus definitions through regular system updates, so be sure to keep those on. But it doesn’t offer the same level of protection as the top antivirus software for Mac, and we recommend upgrading to a more advanced program.

Is Intego for Mac any good?

Yes, Intego for Mac is a good antivirus with decent protection against different kinds of threats. However, it’s a little expensive when compared to Kaspersky and Norton, which are both excellent alternatives.

Does Apple recommend antivirus for Mac?

Apple promotes itself as the most sophisticated and safest option on the market. But even Apple advises users to get some form of antivirus protection. At the very least, you can sign up for the best free antivirus for Mac. In fact, for more than a decade, Apple kept recommending antiviruses for desktop and laptop users. As the market share of Apple’s computers grew, so did the company’s frequency of advising users to install antiviruses, firewalls, and anti-spyware tools.

How do I check my Mac for malware?

On Mac, File Quarantine can be used as the most basic malware protection and detection tool. It can scan your Mac like any other anti-malware software. But it’s better to get the best Mac antivirus if you want the maximum level of protection for your computer. The pre-installed app is just a basic line of defense that can’t detect some of the more sophisticated threats.

Do you need Apple’s Antivirus to protect your Mac?

No, since there’s third-party software developed especially for Mac computers. Although it’s a huge company, Apple doesn’t have enough resources to cover each and every aspect of personal computing. That’s why there are a lot of independently developed Mac software, peripherals like external hard drives, cases, chargers, etc.

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