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How to tell if your Mac has a virus

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How to tell if your Mac has a virus
If you didn't think anti-virus software was needed on your Mac, think again. Growing threats have made all computers susceptible to viruses and malware - including those with macOS. While Apple's software has traditionally done a great job of protecting devices, adding another layer of defense is useful if only for added peace of mind.

There are sure signs your computer has become infected and steps you can take to make sure the machine is better protected in the future.

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Signs you might have a problem

Infected machines give off different red flags to indicate when there is a problem. Your computer probably won't show every sign, but at least a few of them. 

These include:


  1. The clearest sign that a virus might have hit your computer is that it's running much slower than usual.
  2. A surprising change to your web browser's homepage could be another sign that something has happened. New toolbars in Safari would also suggest there's a problem, Houston. 
  3. Unexpected ads or security alerts popping up could be another sign. Adware clicks are peskier than outright dangerous, but they need to be swatted nonetheless. 
  4. Being unable to open files or system settings on your Mac is a major sign things aren't quite right. 

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What you can do

If you're convinced your computer has malware, there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot and hopefully resolve the issue.  The first step depends on whether you already have an anti-virus software package installed. If you do, run a system scan immediately and see if it detects a problem. Make sure the software is using the latest update. If not, be sure to install it. If malware has been detected, follow the directions for removal from your anti-virus software provider. 

Without anti-virus software installed, there are other troubleshooting steps you can take. After performing each, reboot your computer. 

First, take a look inside the 'Applications' folder on your Mac and look for unknown software titles. Delete these apps by dragging them into 'Trash', then right-clicking and selecting 'Delete Trash'.

You should also delete everything in the 'Downloads' folder. It's here where you'll find files downloaded from the internet. 

Next, take a look at the login items on your computer. Go into 'System Preferences', click 'Users & Groups', and choose the 'Login Items' tab. Uncheck any item that looks suspicious. 

Finally, go into the 'Safari' app and choose Safari > Preferences from the menu bar. Choose the 'General' tab and check the 'HomePage' listing. Is it correct or a site you didn't add? Change the 'HomePage', as needed. Additionally, in Safari > Preferences, click on the 'Extensions' tab and make sure these are the ones you installed. Delete the extensions that don't look right. 


Last step

If you're still having issues with your Mac, it's time to contact Apple support for additional troubleshooting. Steps may involve the company remotely examining your computer to visiting an Apple retail store. 

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Best Mac antivirus software of 2021

Sure, Apple machines are still targeted less than their Windows counterparts, but they can still be infected - and the risks are increasing, which is why you need protection. Every Mac antivirus product in this list has been chosen because it's especially designed to protect Mac systems and has scored highly at identifying and removing viruses and malware. 

The macOS operating system is based on Unix, which is sandboxed, meaning it can be very difficult for viruses to do any damage. Think of them as locked in a little box from which they can’t escape, no matter how hard they try. This means that you will need specific Mac antivirus software - whether that be the very strongest paid-for protection or a free download that we've picked out at the bottom of this guide - that's been designed to work with the unique demands that macOS has.

1. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac

SPECIFICATIONS: Maximum devices covered: 3Stand out features: Online banking and web protection, Time Machine protection, multi-layer ransomware defenses.

2. Intego Mac Internet Security X9

SPECIFICATIONS: Maximum devices covered: 5Stand out features: Intelligent firewall, anti-spyware protection, online privacy protection.

3. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac.

SPECIFICATIONS: Maximum devices covered: 3Stand out features: Stand out features: Secure browser, highly configurable virus scans, webcam hijacking protection.

4. Norton 360 Deluxe.

SPECIFICATIONS: Maximum devices covered: 5Stand out features: Intelligent firewall, cloud backup, VPN.

5. Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac

SPECIFICATIONS: Maximum devices covered: 1Stand out features: Social media protection, email scam filtering, parental controls.

6. Clario

SPECIFICATIONS: Maximum devices covered: 6Stand out features: VPN, identity theft protection, secure browser.

7. Avast Premium Security

SPECIFICATIONS: Maximum devices covered: 10Stand out features: Ransomware Shield, Wi-Fi intruder alerts, web protection.

8. ClamXAV

SPECIFICATIONS: Maximum devices covered: 9Stand out features: Adware blocking, Time Machine protection, ransomware defenses.


Mac antivirus: what’s the effect on performance?

Most of us believe that virus protection software has a negative effect on performance, but chances are it’s much less negative than we think: in their tests, AV-Test found that there was no measurable performance drop when using providers like ClamXav, MacKeeper, Kaspersky or Norton.

There was a measurable difference with Sophos and Trend Micro (two per cent of additional system load), and with ESET and Bitdefender, which added around four per cent to the overall system load.

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