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The best free antivirus platforms for Mac in 2020

Jon Martindale
·6 min read

If you’re a Mac user, you probably love the sleek desktop experience and how easy it is to use and understand. However, it can be a challenge to find an antivirus platform to protect your Mac because so many options are only compatible with Windows.

The good news is that there are plenty of antivirus solutions offered to Mac owners — you just need to know where to look. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best free antivirus platforms for Mac in 2020 — so you can protect your operating system from here on out.

Malwarebytes Free

Malwarebytes for Mac
Malwarebytes for Mac

Windows users have long turned to the Malwarebytes free version as a backup for always-on malware software. The Mac version started as an adware removal tool, but as of today, it’s also a full-fledged tool for protecting your machine against other forms of malware. Plus, it’s just as effective in MacOS as it is in Windows, a fact that’s aided by the team’s constant research on current threats. In fact, the company identified the first Mac malware threat in 2017!

Using the app couldn’t be easier. Just select Scan, and the software quickly alerts you to any malware infection — often when other software misses something. Like the Windows iteration of the free version, though, this is not an always-on solution and is thus more suited for performing deep scans and ridding yourself of particularly pernicious threats like the fake Adobe Zii malware.

There are scheduling and proactive blocks, but these features expire after two weeks in the free version. You need the premium version for live protection, which starts at $30 for one year on a single Mac.


Avast Security

Avast for Mac
Avast for Mac

Avast Security for Mac is one of the most popular security suites available, and it’s easy to see why. It’s effective and free for noncommercial use, providing on-demand tools for quickly performing full-system malware scans. It also sifts through specific email threads, attachments, and various web activities. It even offers drag-and-drop scanning for individual files and phishing protection, along with the ability to scan external drives and attached volumes.

The app’s interface is straightforward and self-explanatory. It features a navigational pane on the left that consists of five primary buttons and a real-time graph that aggregates shield activity and allows you to quickly check the overall stats of your Mac.

If privacy is particularly important, you may want to keep in mind recent reports that Avast does collect and sell customer web browsing data. And while Avast does admit to doing so, the company also maintains that it does not collect names, email addresses, or contact details. Users have the option to opt-out of sharing their data.


Sophos Home Free

Sophos Security for Mac
Sophos Security for Mac

Straddling the line somewhere between necessity and excess, Sophos offers all the basic utilities you expect from quality antivirus software, and a whole lot more. It has on-demand, scheduled, and custom scans for specified files, folders, and drives, along with additional tools for deleting and quarantining any software Sophos deems a potential threat.

The software incorporates real-time protection features that quarantine unknown files exhibiting suspicious behavior. Although the app tends to scan slower than most, it’s fairly lightweight. It non-obtrusively performs vital background tasks while barely leeching or exhausting your system’s resources.

Despite its robust feature set, Sophos manages to cram all this functionality into a compact interface. Initiating a full-system scan can be done directly from the top of the main menu, and you can configure exemptions quickly from easily navigable menus. The malware definitions also are constantly updated, ensuring the app is never without the latest knowledge of potential threats. It’s one of the most hands-off antivirus apps on the market, and as such, sits among the best.

The free version includes ransomware monitoring, webcam protection, and live support options, but all of these expire after 30 days. You’ll need to get the $45-per-year premium version to keep these features.


Bitdefender Virus Scanner

Bitdefender for Mac
Bitdefender for Mac

Built upon the company’s award-winning antivirus engine, Bitdefender Virus Scanner features a host of scan options, allowing users to quickly perform deep scans of the entire system or target specific locations. If granted, it even provides an option for scanning critical locations — such as launch agents and the entire system library — allowing users to bypass lengthier scans when pressed for time.

This antivirus client automatically updates with Bitdefender’s hourly malware definitions before scanning, while providing a quick means for blacklisting specific locations from system scans. It attempts to disinfect and quarantine suspicious files, and though the feature is not unique to this software, it can also quickly search for malware within various archives and file types (PDF, PKG, ZIP, RAR, etc.).

From the home screen, users can choose four different scanning options, in addition to an update button and a View
Quarantine button. It’s all very easy to understand and use.


Avira Free Antivirus

Avira for Mac
Avira for Mac

Avira strikes a nice balance between ease of use and quick access to advanced utilities, ultimately rendering basic system scans just as simple to execute as those that are scheduled and file-specific. The software includes standard spyware and adware protection, along with the ability to intercept harmful websites and block tracking. If it finds an infected file or folder, it can repair or delete the problem. It can also scan USB devices for any potential dangers.

Avira’s full-feature interface uses a left-hand navigation bar for viewing the system’s status, scheduling tasks, and viewing past quarantine history, among other options. This antivirus will provide you with up-to-date information about threats. It’s resource-heavy but capable enough when looking for automation, scan history, and other advanced features.

Avira differs a little from the other options we recommend. This tool uses more system resources, and you will have to sit through a lengthy installation process when you get started with Avira. Updating the software can also take some time. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker when considering the nonexistent price tag and its thorough antivirus engine, but it’s an unfortunate downside.


Bonus option for a little extra protection: Antivirus Zap

Antivirus Zap
Antivirus Zap

If you don’t mind spending a few bucks on affordable software, Antivirus Zap is also a worthy download. This Mac security app offers a quick scan that searches likely places for viruses, plus a full scan that takes longer and checks out your whole system. You can use Zap to perform a scan of specific folders and locations if you think there might be a virus in your system.

But the extra options are where Antivirus Zap really becomes handy. It offers a “browser restore” option that will automatically remove your extensions, cookies, and caches, essentially cleaning out your browser to help remove any problems and speed things up. It can also scan Windows Boot Camp partitions, external networks, and other systems that you may use on your Mac — and want to protect as a result. Zap is very easy to use, thanks to its simple and intuitive interface.

$7 from iTunes App Store