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Do I need antivirus software on my Mac?

MacBook Pro with a cup of coffee and iPhone
MacBook Pro with a cup of coffee and iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

Do I need antivirus software on my Mac?

Best answer: Though Windows malware doesn't affect Mac devices, it's easy to unknowingly send these threats to PC-using colleagues, family members, and friends. During our testing, we used live malware and saw that the protections that come with Mac devices don't always stop them. Several threats are disguised to look like legitimate Mac programs and often sneak in through email messages and network connections. Luckily, a good antivirus program can stop them while keeping your Mac safe.Staff pick: Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac (opens in new tab) ($60 at Bitdefender)Tech support recommended: Malwarebytes (opens in new tab) ($40 at Malwarebytes)Free Mac antivirus: Avast Essential Security for Mac (opens in new tab) (Free at Avast)

How do I know if I have malware on my Mac?

testing mac av

testing mac av (Image credit: Briana Scroggins/ Future Plc)

If you start to notice weird advertisements popping up in strange places on popular websites like YouTube, you might be infected. These ads tend to feature adult content or claim that a virus has been detected on your device and will often appear in places that you don't normally see ads.

You may also discover that your personal email or social networking sites are sending out messages that you didn't write. If this happens, you should immediately change your password to stop any more messages being sent from your account.

If your Mac just isn't responding the way it should, you might have malware planted into your system somewhere. If it takes much longer for your Mac to wake up than it used to, there may be something lurking in the shadows.

You won't always know if you have a virus. Technology has improved for the bad guys just as much as it has improved for the good guys. There are viruses out there that are smart enough to know how to hide deep in your system and work constantly to keep you from noticing it, all while performing malicious attacks. And once you're infected, it super easy for other devices connected to your network to become infected, too.

While you may think you don't need antivirus protection on your Mac, it's more important than ever now that Apple has grown so popular. Even if you use a limited, free version of a program, you'll be doing yourself a favor.

How can I protect my Mac right now?

The Mac operating system includes a number of security tools that help keep adware and malware off your computer, including default restrictions on opening apps from unidentified developers. If you stick to only downloading apps from the Mac App Store and are good about staying away from seedy websites, you can keep your computer secure from most virus issues.

In fact, Apple's security tools are why you'll hear many old-school Mac users say that you don't need anti-virus protection. The Mac is locked down well right out of the box.

However, there is more to protecting yourself than just avoiding bad apps and websites. You never know when you are going to pick something up that could create havoc on your Mac or on somebody else's PC. That's why, for added protection, you should think about getting antivirus software.

Nicole writes for multiple Future Publishing brands covering topics from antivirus to kitchen appliances to SAS. She has over 15 years of research and writing experience, including eight years of testing and reviewing consumer products. Nicole earned bachelor’s degrees in both English and Political Science with a focus on empirical research. In her spare time, Nicole serves on several school councils and volunteers for a local arts board.