Anti-Virus Software for Macintosh

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This page presents some personal views from CATUG members about anti virus software (AV, AVS) for Macintosh.

The question

Hi All,
I know this was briefly discussed a short bit ago, but I still have some questions. I know having an Anti-Virus program on a Mac is kind of redundant, but for my PC friends who I may inadvertently send one to, I like having one. I have ClamX installed, but Sophos looks pretty good, also. Which would you all recommend, ClamX or Sophos, and why.

First answer

If it's just to keep you from inadvertently passing on virus-infected files, I would think it not worth putting too much effort into thinking over. Just use what you are using. ;-)

That's pretty much what I was thinking. But... IF a Mac virus ever DOES come down the pike, I'd like to be prepared.
What WOULD you recommend - just in case?

Nothing. Look. If a some sort of malware does come down the pike, the only real threat will be the first day, and nobody will be prepared, especially those who are depending on AV software, because they think they will be prepared--but they won't be. So, all you get with AV software is a false sense of security.

Jon Glass

Another short answer

For what it's worth, I use VirusBarrier X6 from Intego. I have had no problems with it at all. It has caught viruses on the flash drives of PC users when I was in seminary. And it does popup whenever a questionable website is clicked.

Rev. Rory A. Gillespie

A longer answer

There are two questions here. First, it is likely that you would hear about the first mac virus in plenty of time to download and install an AV app before becoming infected. It is even more likely that your antivirus of choice will cause other problems (memory, slowness, incompatibilities). People fear that a virus might knock out their internet, so it's good to have the AV downloaded, just in case. But If you can't reach the Internet because of a virus infection, then you won't be able to download the updated virus definitions either. To sum up, if you're trying to protect your own mac from potential virus infections, I recommend that you install an antivirus program only when there is a Mac virus in the wild, and not an hour before. You can keep the AV website in your bookmarks, if you want to.

The second issue, that of protecting friends' PCs, is an issue of following the golden rule. If you were a PC user who kept getting viruses because a Mac-using friend sends you infected attachments, what would you want your Mac friend to do? Having viruses trash your files and cripple your computer is not a laughing matter. Just because your computer is immune (the stronger brother), you are not free to mess up your friend's vulnerable computer (the weaker brother). Although, perhaps the golden rule would also suggest that you get them to switch to a Mac....

And yes, following the golden rule also means that if you drive a truck or SUV, you are morally obligated to drive extra carefully, so you don't kill people in lighter vehicles.

If your Mac is infecting friends' PCs, then yes, you should either install an AV application or help your PC friend to get a better AV.... If you get a Mac AV, make sure it's only scanning your email and the folders that are holding these infected files (downloads folder, email mbox, attachments folder, etc). Do not have it scan your entire hard drive.

Try ClamXAV, it's free.

Sophos looks like it's free too. I just looked at a couple videos on the Sophos website where they use fear tactics and twist the truth. They say that the number of mac viruses is increasing and that your mac is just as vulnerable as a PC. The only specific example they give is MacCinema, which is just a malicious DNS changer. They say that you couldn't possibly be able to know if an app is malicious, that's why you need Sophos. They forget to mention that you shouldn't be downloading and installing unknown apps, and that you should always google apps before installing them. The top 8 google search results for MacCinema are about its malicious nature.

Maybe Sophos's app does really work, but because of their deceptive marketing, I don't trust them. I'll stick with ClamXAV.


Update on ClamXAV: ClamXAV is no longer free, but $30 annually.

The bottom line


Being as kind as possible............ I'm imagining a few hundred readers of your question rolling their collective eyes.

This item has been asked and answered so many times in the past, I think there's a general reluctance to go over the topic again. I am guilty of some of the most humorous [read: sarcastic] posts on this point, so I'll be of little help.

It is my personal view that recipients of your emails -- which are HIGHLY unlikely to contain anything harmful -- are themselves responsible for their own safety. If they want to stop getting infected, they should buy a better computer or install the preventive software of their choice.

Analogy: If you drive a strong, sturdy vehicle and someone else drives a cheap, cheesy piece of unsafe junk, these are both choices you've individually made. If an accident occurs, it's not your responsibility to somehow have a "safer accident" that doesn't smush their cheap, cheesy vehicle into a ball of smoking, leaking tinfoil.

They made a choice.

PC users make a choice.

If you choose the festoon your Mac with anti-virus software so your PC friends don't have to make safe choices, that's up to you, but it is my personal view we are not ultimately responsible for their bad choice. All commercial versions of Mac AVS do the same thing: Make money for those who sell them. Freeware versions of AVS do absolutely nothing useful for the Mac owner, and have spotty support. You have your choice: Software that costs you money and does nothing, or software that is free and does nothing.


See also

External links

Download links and reviews at for:


The answers were posted by Jon Glass, Rory Gillespie, Aaron Hunyady and Drew Janssen on the Mac Ministry List on December 23, 2010. Neville Reid added info on ClamXAV pricing in 2015, then updated in 2023 and added two Apple links.