If you've got a Mac and are wondering whether you need an antivirus (AV), or which Mac antivirus you should choose, you've come to the right place. Here, we reveal the best antivirus for macOS in 2018.

Last year, huge organisations including the NHS were hit with the WannaCry and Petya ransomware attacks, highlighting the seriousness of computer security. The good news is that if you take steps to keep your machine patched and up-to-date and install a good security software product you have nothing to worry about.

Our current top pick is Intego Mac Internet Security X9, but you can find the whole list and read more about them below.

Do Macs need an antivirus?

Plenty of Mac aficionados will tell you that Apple computers are inherently secure and don't require protection. We'd argue that they are wrong - or a bit overconfident, at least.

Macs are generally more secure than their Windows brethren for two reasons. On the technical side, macOS is a Unix-based operating system. As a Unix-based operating system macOS is sandboxed.

It's like having a series of fire doors: even if malware gains access to your Mac, it is unable to spread to the heart of the machine. Macs are not unhackable, but they are more difficult to exploit than Windows PCs.

The second reason is that, right now, there are far fewer Macs than there are Windows PCs. Fewer targets, and these are harder to hack. Is it any wonder that cybercriminals focus on the Windows world?

However, Macs are not entirely safe, and as they grow in popularity and cybercriminals become smarter and greedier, the risk is increasing.

A report from Malwarebytes in March 2018 shows that Mac malware grew more than 270 percent in 2017, and new threats identified in the first two months of 2018 indicate a similar pace of malware development.  As a result, cyber security is more important than ever, and a good antivirus is the best place to start if you want to stay safe.

This is one of several in-depth Macworld articles dealing with Mac security. General advice can be found in our Mac security tips; and those who have been hit by a malware attack should try how to remove Mac viruses.

How we test antivirus

In order to test the antivirus options you'll find listed below, we took a VMware Fusion virtual machine running macOS 10.13.3 with 4GB of RAM and downloaded ten notable examples of Mac malware collated by Objective-See: BadBunny (worm), Clapzok (virus), FileCoder (ransomware), Inqtana (worm), KoobFace (worm), Macarena (virus), MineSteal (password stealer), Renepo (worm), WeaponX (rootkit) and XcodeGhost (virus).

Our testing involved both scanning for these viruses via a full system scan (or equivalent) and then extracting each virus from a password-protected archive, so that they seemed to appear afresh on the system. The latter tested the real-time scanning of the apps.

In all our tests the viruses simply stayed in the Downloads folder and we didn’t attempt to obfuscate them or their locations. Notably, the system wasn’t infected with these viruses. They were simply present on the system.

The tests we performed are intended to be indicative but weren’t scientific.

Having created a suitably dirty virtual machine, we then created a snapshot that was used to restore from in order to test each antivirus app from the same infected starting point.

The downside of using a virtual machine for testing is that measurements of the time taken to scan can’t be stated accurately. The quirks of a virtual machine simply add too many variables. However, we’d expect the figures to be within the right ballpark and indicative of a worst-case scenario.

Below we look at most of the biggest names in antivirus protection. We can think of only one big company that’s not present here and that’s McAfee. This is because they only offer enterprise-level protection for Macs, intended to be administered by an IT department.

Several of the antivirus apps here came with optional extras of all kinds as part of the deal but we were focused on the antivirus protection.

Most apps reviewed here required a kernel module to be installed in order to effect always-on virus scanning. In macOS High Sierra the use of third-party kernel modules is blocked by default unless the user chooses to allow the kernel module. We were keen in each installation of the apps reviewed here to see how the installation routines handled this hurdle.

Best antivirus for Mac 2018 reviews

1. Intego Mac Internet Security X9

Intego Mac Internet Security X9
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  • Reviewed on: 12 February 18

Viruses detected: 10/10

Intego's Mac Internet Security X9 is our pick of the bunch, making it the best antivirus for Mac 2018.

Installation is smooth, but you won't get instructions on how to authorise the necessary kernel module during installation which is a bit of a shame. A scan takes 30 minutes, which is also slightly less than some of the others reviewed here.

But we found that Intego did its core job better than any other antivirus apps we reviewed here: it caught all 10 of our viruses. We also liked that both scheduled and real-time protection are activated by default, and you can turn off the identification of non-Mac malware to avoid false alarms.

Intego Mac Internet Security X9 costs £39.99/USD$49.99 for a one-year subscription but is currently reduced to £31.99/$39.99 for the first year.

Read our Intego Mac Internet Security X9 review.

2. Norton Security for Mac

Norton Security for Mac
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  • Reviewed on: 13 February 18

Viruses detected: 10/10

Norton is one of the oldest names in antivirus, with some of us at Macworld first encountering its products more than 30 years ago.

Norton Security Standard for Mac installation is relatively quick, although there was no warning from the app itself about the third-party kernel extension required for most antivirus packages, which could cause some concern for newcomers.

Following installation, two Safari plugins are recommended: Safe Web to stop you from visiting bad sites, and Identity Safe to manage your passwords.

The app is unobtrusive, with automatic, always-on protection enabled by default (you can change it to scheduled scanning if you prefer). The scan was quick, and missed just XcodeGhost, which was later identified in a separate scan (a result that's better than many of the alternatives in this round-up).

Norton Security retails for £49.99/USD$69.99 for a single Mac. Step up to £59.99/$89.99 and you can protect up to five devices, or £79.99/$109.99 for up to 10, which can include Windows PCs and smartphones as well as Macs.

You can get further discounts by buying a two-year licence. There is currently a special introductory offer for new users, meaning you can get 50% off.

You'll find Norton's Standard, Deluxe and Premium options available to buy here.

Read our Norton Security for Mac review.

3. Sophos Antivirus for Mac

Sophos Antivirus for Mac
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  • Reviewed on: 13 February 18

Viruses detected: 10/10

If you’re a home or non-commercial user then Sophos Home has one huge appealing factor compared to others we've reviewed: It’s free of charge.

A caveat to the free version is that some of its Premium features will expire after 30 days. For free you'll get the real-time antivirus, parental web filtering, web protection from known malicious sites and remote management.

But if you want advanced real-time protection, advanced ransomware protection, privacy protection, live email and chat support and up to 10 devices, you can upgrade to Premium for £32/US$40 per year.

Sophos Home is mercifully minimalist, with absolutely no application window included. Instead it uses notifications from the menu bar icon to enable you to commence virus scans or monitor the scan progress. Scan results are viewed on a cloud-based web page.

All ten of our test viruses were found by Sophos Home, but not all were deleted, requiring some manual deletion as a result of the lack of an app window.

If you don't mind a little DIY detection, there's little doubt that Sophos Home offers great value.

Read our Sophos Antivirus for Mac review.

4. Avira Antivirus for Mac

Avira Antivirus for Mac
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  • Reviewed on: 14 February 18

Viruses detected: 9/10

Installation of Avira Antivirus for Mac is easy, but the full scan is slightly longer than some of the other offerings reviewed here at 30 minutes.

A completed scan resulted in a dialog box that reported a number of infections, but it didn't tell us what they were, or where. However, only one of the viruses was missed, the illusive XcodeGhost.

Interestingly, you can also scan for games and "joke apps," helping parents a chance to control what happens on their kids' computers. A USB storage device scanner is available too.

You can add a scan schedule, and the user interface is admirably compact and clutter-free. 

Plus, if you only need Avira Antivirus for one computer and are prepared to forgo scanning of USB devices, you can actually get it for free, so that's pretty great!

Get the 5-device Internet Security Suite here, or the free version of Avira Antivirus for Mac here.

Read our Avira Antivirus for Mac review.

5. Antivirus Zap for Mac

Antivirus Zap for Mac
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  • Reviewed on: 14 February 18

Viruses detected: 9/10

Antivirus Zap is a bit different from the other antivirus options listed here. It's available through the Mac App Store at a one-off cost of £9.99/US$9.99, where it's incredibly highly regarded.

Installation is very easy thanks to the Mac App Store availability, and a scan was very quick, missing only one out of ten of our test viruses.

Unusually, none of the viruses found are deleted or quarantined. Instead you'll be shown a list of those found and you can select and delete them from within the app.

The downfall of Antivirus Zap is that there is no on-demand protection. You can't rely on Antivirus Zap running in the background to protect your Mac. Instead, you will need to scan on demand.

There are a few bugs, but catching nine out of ten of our viruses is impressive compared to some of the other offerings we've tested, and it's much cheaper too.

Read our Antivirus Zap for Mac review.

6. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac

Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac
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  • Reviewed on: 4 April 18

Viruses detected: 10/10 (two missed during first scan, though)

Installation of Kaspersky Internet Security is a little tricky at first, as you need to choose the version right for your operating system. But once you've determined which you need, you'll find setup quick and easy.

Scanning was among the slowest we've tested, but it did manage to delete or quarantine eight out of ten of our viruses, spotting the remaining two during further scans.

We'd be lying if we said the missed viruses and slow scanning didn't concern us, but features like Safe Money for protecting online payments win back some of our favour.

Kaspersky Internet Security is £39.99/$39.99 per year for one device, and available to buy here. This contains additional features like privacy and online payment protection, and if you want just the virus scanning then Kaspersky Anti-Virus is available for £24.99/$24.99 per year.

Read our Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac review.

7. ESET Cyber Security for Mac

ESET Cyber Security for Mac
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  • Reviewed on: 14 February 18

Viruses detected: 9/10

ESET is one of the oldest antivirus names around. Its Cyber Security offering offers quick scanning capabilities, but there were four viruses of the ten in our test that "could not be cleaned automatically." However, you'll be offered an easy manual delete option to resolve this problem.

ESET managed to catch and remove almost all of the viruses we used for testing, missing just XcodeGhost.

We were impressed by ESET's prompt to update our macOS (an iTunes update was available), we liked the concept behind the email scanning functionality (although we're not entirely sure it works as well as ESET says it does), and the scan scheduler is handy.

Overall, there's a lot to like in ESET. Despite the confusion in reporting, it caught nine out of ten of our viruses and it has a great price, too.

You can get ESET Cyber Security for £29.99 for one device and for one year. If you'd like to try before you buy, a 30-day trial is available too. Buy ESET or get the free trial here.

If you're based in the US, you'll find the same software available for $39.99 here.

Read our ESET Cyber Security for Mac review.

8. Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac

Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac
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  • Reviewed on: 15 February 18

Viruses detected: 10/10 (but four were ignored)

A well-known name in the computer security industry, Trend Micro's Antivirus for Mac is quick to install, offers ransomware protection and offers a brilliantly speedy full scan.

During our tests, Trend Micro found all of the viruses we threw at it, but strangely it chose to ignore four of them and further re-scans proved to be equally unsuccessful.

That said, we like the fuss-free simplicity of Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac's interface, but the lack of a reliable full scan makes it hard to recommend this above others in this group test.

UK Mac users can buy Trend Micro antivirus for Mac for £49.95 here.

US users can buy it for $39.95 here.

Read our Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac review.

9. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac
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  • Reviewed on: 15 February 18

Viruses detected: 7/10

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac includes ransomware protection, a VPN and a plugin for Safari in addition to the usual antivirus features to protect your Mac.

It's easy to install, and a full scan is incredibly quick to complete. There's an always-on scanner called Autopilot available too.

The downside is that Bitdefender only found seven out of ten viruses we used in our testing. Confusingly, the scan reported even less than this, suggesting it had found three viruses despite detecting and deleting seven.

So while we love the fuss-free approach of Bitdefender and its exemplary scanning speed, there's no getting past the fact it missed three of our virus samples during the scan.

UK Mac owners can buy Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac here. There is also a free 30-day trial if you want to try before you buy.

US Mac owners can buy Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac here.

Read our Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac review.

10. Total AV

Total AV
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  • Reviewed on: 9 March 18

Viruses detected: 6/10

Total AV is nice and cheap at £19.95 for the first year, but at that lower price you're sacrificing some of the protection offered by the more expensive options mentioned here.

You will, however, get a System Boost tool for pruning startup programs and uninstalling apps, a Disk Cleaner tool to scan for duplicate apps, and an ad-blocker for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. A VPN and password manager are available as paid-for extras, too.

The always-on protection doesn't work as advertised, but when the app is open you can manually scan your Mac for viruses. 

It's worth noting that there is an automatic renewal of £99 for the second year if you sign up for the first year for £19.95, so it's important to watch out for that.

Read our Total AV review.