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This is not a "I use OSX, do I need Anti-Virus?" question.
I am looking at comparison and user opinion of existing AV products.
I know I can avoid most (if not all) threats by being careful on the sites I visit, and the emails I download. But I need an anti-virus, for a variety of reasons - mostly to prevent my Mac as a carrier for viruses. (Many friends' USB drives turn out to be infected).

I was looking for the "Best" of the anti virus software out there.

I am looking prominently at anti-virus. "Internet Security" and the like are not important, and would try to avoid them if it would save money or not make my mac slower.

By "Best" I mean the best combination of detect-rate (or whatever that is called) and performance. I don't intend to run it always in the background. Maybe I would do a onetime scan of my system and hard drives, and then it would be mostly on a need basis, especially on USB drives/portable hard disks of friends.
So primary objective: High Detect rate

I have used Norton Antivirus for Mac and Virus Barrier (got this with one of those software bundles sometime before, not the latest version) and had problems with both. Both sometimes hog my CPU, and somehow "lock" my USB drives preventing me from Ejecting it (I had to force eject them or just pull them off from the port) (thought off late Norton seemed a little better)

Ok, thats a long one. But my question is simple: What anti-virus do you recommend for the Mac?


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I dont think it is a duplicate. I was looking at comparison of available products. The other question just lists them. Can someone explain? (Editing this question) – Nivas Nov 28 '10 at 16:48
OK, since the other question wasn't a comparison, I'm going to reopen – Kyle Cronin Nov 29 '10 at 17:14

5 Answers 5


It is free, open source, and low resource consumption.

A command line version is also available in brew, fink, and macports (less ugly).

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But boy is it ugly! – glenstorey Dec 10 '10 at 9:08
You're not supposed to need to look at it. It works well. – gWaldo Jan 21 '11 at 22:03
+1 ClamXav. Not only is it low in resource consumption, but it doesn't hook into the bowels of your system like Norton and VirusBarrier will do. I've used all three, and both Norton and VirusBarrier not only slowed down my Mac but also cause kernel panics (equivalents to Windows' blue screen of death). (I would have +1'd your response and added this as a comment, @mankoff, but I have a brand new account with no points, so I'm not allowed to +1 or make comments. :/) – Merchako Jan 24 '11 at 8:43
+1 I’ve used ClamXav for years now across many OS X machines. I don’t find it resource intensive and happily run it all the time. I seems to reliably pick up files and quarantines them as per my preference. – forquare Jun 21 at 8:44
Formerly free of cost, but now is an inexpensive commercial product. See vendor explanation. Please update Answer; StackExchange blocks my attempts to do so. – Basil Bourque Jul 17 at 16:19

I've personally used Sophos (Standalone version) and found that it causes high-memory utilization and some other file-system issues. (Updates on this one will bring your internet speeds to minimum).

I find avast! much better. It's free and covers most basic of the environments. The only caveat is the the first scan takes longer (~55 min for me).

I've also tried Avira, and I rather liked it. I've been using this for some time now and I gotta say it's very fast and easy to use.

Check this study by for comparison between different programs. (Published last year)

Almost forgot about the Bitdefender. It is one of the best rated AV tools.

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The best free anti-virus software for OS X is Avira if you consider the software which has the least impact on system performance to be the best.

This is based off of a comparison of anti-virus softwares which was published on Sophos' website.

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The original publication conducted by AV-Comparatives is available as a PDF download here. It is a test of the impact of internet security software on system performance, unaffiliated with any software publisher, making it an unbiased comparison.

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According the the tests, there is 1 other application which is better than Avira; Eset, but they do not offer a free version of their software. They do offer a free 30-day trial and a yearly subscription service of $39.99 for one computer.

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The OP isn’t fussed with “internet security”, so these benchmarks seem irrelevant? And somewhat unhelpful where the current forerunner isn’t even included on the chart… – forquare Jun 21 at 8:46

Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition

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I've never used Sophos for Mac, but I've seen Sophos do nasty and stupid things to Windows Servers, where arguably much more engineering energy is spent. I wouldn't... – gWaldo Jan 21 '11 at 22:02
Thanks for your answer, Cavin! Can you please add more information? How does Sophos answer the OP's question? Don't just give a one-line answer; invest some time into the site and explain why this software is the right thing for the OP. – daviesgeek Aug 18 '12 at 6:17

2015 edit: No longer accurate, see other answers.

ClamXav is hard-written to never scan some files such as mp3. This made it entirely useless for me, as I was scanning music downloads. I found (but do not currently use) Panda to be the best, on Mac and Windows. It's effective, and in tests is one of the least-bogging-down. Betas are often free, and cross platform.

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As a casual reader, it would have been great for the down-voter to explain himself. Now I don't know if there's supposed to be something wrong with what he said about Clam or Panda. – Sparky Nov 14 '11 at 22:41
I’ve just down voted this as I’ve found it not to be true (or more validation is needed from @tobylane). Using ClamXav I’ve just scanned a folder with MP3 files in and the scan status returned the same as other files (OK). If they were being skipped I’d have expected it to report as such? – forquare Jun 21 at 8:43
@forquare It was true when I wrote it, from the mouth of the developers. – tobylane Jul 17 at 15:38

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