Why Use Mac Antivirus Software?
Editor’s Note: Top Ten Reviews uses test results from the independent laboratory AV-Test as part of our review process for the best antispyware software. AV-Test looks specifically at detection and loss of performance on Mac operating systems, and it performs these evaluations several times throughout the year. We use the most current AV-Test scores available at the time of our review. It is possible that new AV-Test scores will be released after our review goes live on the site. We will consider these scores during our next review of the best Mac antivirus software.
The top performers in our review are Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac, the Gold Award winner; Norton Security Standard, the Silver Award winner; and Kaspersky Lab Internet Security for Mac, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top 10 antivirus software solutions for Mac.
Mac has been well-known for producing secure devices that don't need any added protections other than what is included with your computer or laptop. However, more and more malware creators are starting to target Mac users, creating a need for further, third-party protection. Mac antivirus programs are designed to work alongside the internet protections included with Mac devices, offering additional protection rather than an alternative solution. Additionally, Mac internet security programs offer more tools than antivirus software alone, including parental controls and internet filters that are useful for both Mac and PC users.
Another good reason to purchase a third-party antivirus solution is that, even though Mac devices are immune to many PC viruses, they still can be used as an avenue to spread malware to these devices through email, USB drives and instant messages. A Mac antivirus program, especially one designed to work on both Mac and PCs, helps ensure your outgoing messages and files are not infected with anything malicious that could potentially harm your friend's, family's or client's computer.
What We Discovered While Reviewing Mac Antivirus Software
For basic antivirus protection, one thing we specifically looked for was whether or not each program detects and protects against ransomware. Ransomware is a new malware threat that locks your computer so you are unable to access files or programs. The ransomware creator sends a message demanding a fee, or ransom, to allow you access to your computer again. This fee typically ranges from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, and often the creator skips out with the money without giving back access to your computer. Avira is one program in our Mac antivirus review that detects and blocks ransomware.
Here are a few other things we looked at while testing the best Mac antivirus software. You can also read several helpful articles on Mac antivirus software.
In order to determine the best antivirus for Mac, we turned to industry expert AV-Test, an independent laboratory whose sole focus is testing the security of internet security programs. In June 2016, AV-Test released its most recent findings for Mac antivirus applications. It looked at two important areas, detection and performance. This is similar to the evaluations it uses to test the best antivirus software for Windows.
It is important to note that Intego, a well-known Mac antivirus program, opted not to be tested by AV-Test. This is because it is preparing to launch a new version of its product and wishes to wait until the next round of testing in order to have the latest version tested. Because AV-Test data for it is not available, we did not include Intego in our top 10. However, you can read our past review of this product here.
To determine how well a product recognizes and blocks viruses, AV-Test exposes the test computer to all known malware threats. This is over 20,000 different viruses. Of the 12 Mac antivirus protection solutions AV-Test ran, only four detected all threats 100 percent of the time. These four include Bitdefender, our top-ranking product, and eScan by MicroWorld. ClamXav scored the lowest for detection out of the products we reviewed. However, it still did very well, scoring 90 percent.
The performance test looks at how much of your computer resources are lost as the antivirus program is running. For this test, AV-Test copied over 30GB of files and downloaded several test files to see how much lag the Mac antivirus program created. It used a reference point of a loss of 157 seconds for file copying and 89 seconds for downloads for a combined resource loss of 246 seconds. Bitdefender did the best, matching the standard file-copying performance loss and causing the computer to lag three seconds more while downloading applications. Dr. Web scored the lowest in performance, creating a lag time of 191 seconds while copying files and 1,196 seconds, or nearly 20 minutes, of lag while downloading a program. This means in order to achieve a high level of protection, Dr. Web must employ more of your computer's resources than most of the antivirus software.
In addition to detecting viruses, antivirus protection programs for Mac include additional tools and resources to help you detect and remove threats. For example, while the majority of malware attacks result from accessing a corrupted website, some threats are attached to email messages or transferred through USB files. The best antivirus software for Mac automatically scans both of these entry points for any threats and quickly neutralizes anything found without disrupting your work on your Mac device. While some programs come with just one or the other, ESET comes with both email and USB drive scanning.
If you use your Mac computer for playing games or watching videos, a gamer mode is important to have. This mode suspends certain functions, such as automatically scheduled scans and pop-up reminders, while you are playing or watching online. These functions typically interrupt you in ways that can either disconnect you from the program you are using or cause additional lag time. The best Mac antivirus programs detect when you are through playing and resume normal scans and reminder functions. Avast comes with a gamer mode.
Another important factor to note is how many licenses are included with your yearly subscription. Some programs give you only one license and allow you to choose a single computer, laptop or mobile device to protect. Others limit you to desktops and laptops, requiring the purchase of an additional or specialty license in order to also protect your phone or tablet.
Help & Support
Antivirus programs are fairly straightforward to install and use. However, there are times that good tech support is necessary, especially in the event of a new malware threat that may attack your computer. We gave extra credit to companies that have 24/7 telephone support so you can connect with someone for help at any time night or day. We also looked at whether live chat is available, since often this is a quicker and easier way to reach support personnel while you are on your computer. All of the programs we reviewed come with email support, but often it takes a minimum of 24 hours before your questions are answered. Sophos, in addition to standard tech support, has a community blog and idea forum where users can share their own experiences to help others with similar issues and questions.
Our Recommendations for Mac Antivirus Solutions
Although they are not infected quite as often as Windows PCs, Macs are certainly exposed and vulnerable to malware threats. In the course of our reviews, we looked at the detection and performance rates provided by AV-Test, the included tools, and the availability of tech support.
Bitdefender scored the best in both detection and performance tests. It includes all the important features we looked for, including gamer mode, and scans of email and USB ports. It comes with three licenses that you can use interchangeably with computers, laptops and mobile devices.
Norton Security scored above average in detection, though it lagged a bit more in computer performance. Its tech support is always available and highly effective in quickly identifying and resolving your issues. It comes with a single license that you can use for either a computer or a mobile device.
Kaspersky Lab includes ransomware protection, automatically scans both USB devices and incoming emails, and features a gamer mode. Its single license covers one device, and you will need to purchase a higher-priced product in order to protect mobile devices.