This is not a "I use OS X, 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?



5 Answers 5



It is open source and low resource consumption, but is not free.

There is also a free command line version available in brew, fink, and macports under clamav (less ugly). There is some minor configuration, but there are decent guides on the ClamAV site and here, for example.

  • 1
    But boy is it ugly!
    – glenstorey
    Commented Dec 10, 2010 at 9:08
  • 1
    You're not supposed to need to look at it. It works well.
    – gWaldo
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 22:03
  • 1
    +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
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 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
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 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. Commented Jul 17, 2015 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 http://www.av-comparatives.org/ for comparison between different programs. http://www.av-comparatives.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/mac_review_2013_en.pdf (Published last year)

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


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.

enter image description here

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.

enter image description here

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.

  • 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
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 8:46
  • According to that chart, both Avira and Sophos have the same score, 2.3. Since Sophos has a free Mac application (at least as of 2016 and I realise this was posted in 2015) it doesn't make Avira any better than Sophos (according to this Sophos chart that is.). Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 3:08
  • You've stated, "AV Comparatives... unaffiliated with any software publisher, making it an unbiased comparison." You are misinformed I'm afraid. AV-Comparatives is funded by ALL the AV software publishers, and therefore they are affiliated with them all. That doesn't necessarily invalidate their results, it just makes their results less compelling.
    – Seamus
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 22:28

Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition

  • 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
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 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
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 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
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 8:43
  • 1
    @forquare It was true when I wrote it, from the mouth of the developers.
    – tobylane
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 15:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .