How to Check Your Mac for Viruses and Malware

Most Apple fans are sure that viruses for Mac are a myth, but security researchers have successfully dispelled that belief (sorry Apple lovers).


It’s true that macOS does have special mechanisms that help users stay safe, but that’s only if you follow the Apple-only rule, which means:

  • Downloading apps from the App Store exclusively
  • Only using native Apple services
  • Avoiding third parties and free content at any cost

If you are a loyal Apple user, congrats - your Mac has an extremely low chance of getting infected.


But we don’t live in a perfect world, do we? Creating the ideal Apple working environment is pretty much impossible. Some Apple apps may not have the features you need, or you just don’t like the native apps or services. In addition, even if you avoid third parties, cybercrooks can still find ways to place malware on your Mac or steal your data using a macOS vulnerability.


So whenever you notice any unusual behavior on your computer, you need to ask yourself: does my Mac have a virus? Keep reading to learn more about viruses on Mac and ways to get rid of them.

Can Mac get viruses?

Yes. Unfortunately, Mac computers can also get infected. However, the Mac infection doesn’t look like the classic virus that gets into your computer and replicates itself until you have no free space.


Mac computers are protected pretty well against the classic viruses. However, there are other kinds of unwanted programs that can invade your Mac. What’s more, the malicious software on Mac is quite sophisticated, making it easier for you to fall into a trap.

Most common types of Mac infection

The word virus is commonly used, but it doesn’t cover other types of malicious elements, so let’s use a word with a broader meaning: malware, or malicious software. Here are some examples of malware that can find a way onto your Mac.


Trojan horse

A trojan horse, or simply a trojan, is disguised as a legit application or file. You may think that you have downloaded a free wallpaper for your Mac, but instead, you got something more ominous. Hackers use trojans for a number of reasons. It could be to attack computers or networks, to encrypt your data and demand a ransom, or to create a backdoor into the system for further intrusion.



Spyware watches your activity without you noticing. It then sends the collected data to the malware creator to use it for a variety of reasons: blackmail, identity theft, or stealing your credit card details. One example of spyware is a keylogger that records the keystrokes of the victim’s computer. The author of the keylogger receives this information and is able to access usernames, passwords, or banking information.



Ransomware encrypts your information and then demands a ransom in order to receive a decryption key or program to get your files back. As a rule, the creator of the ransomware demands the ransom to be paid in cryptocurrency which is significantly harder to trace than a bank transaction.



Exploit is a code often incorporated into malware that uses system vulnerabilities to break into your device and take control of it. You’ve probably heard of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities that were discovered in early 2018. These hardware vulnerabilities allow hackers to potentially steal all data from a computer.



Advertising software’s sole purpose is to show you various kinds of ads: from the ad sidebars in your web browsers to the random ads appearing on your desktop. Adware may not be so dangerous for your security, but constant pop-ups and redirections interrupting your work will drive you nuts. If you check your Mac for malware, any adware will also be listed in the scan results.

How Mac computers can get infected


Free downloads

We love new music and films, but many of us hate paying for it. Sometimes, free downloads seem like the best way out, but in reality, you’re making a huge mistake.


☝️ Free downloads are often coupled with all kinds of malware. So doing a virus check on your Mac after such a venture is a good idea.


Email attachments

Not only are spam emails annoying, but sometimes they can be dangerous too. 


Usually, malicious emails will urge you to open the attachment without even bothering to explain why you should open the file or why it was sent to you. If you see such an email, even if a sender seems to be your closest friend, don’t open the attachment. Give your friend a call or text to make them aware of the email that’s been sent to you. 


☝️ We don’t recommend replying to the email address directly, as the address can be hijacked and you will unknowingly talk to a cybercrook instead of your friend.


Unreliable apps or apps from unreliable sources

How do you know that an app is reliable? The first and most obvious sign is that the app is listed in the App Store. Apple thoroughly reviews every app that is available to be downloaded from the App Store, so getting the app from there will guarantee its reliability.


☝️ Not all apps that are listed in the App Store are reliable, though. If you are going to install an app outside the App Store, make sure you download it from the official website, not from a suspicious landing page that opened itself or from a questionable repository of free apps. We also recommend doing research on the app and its developer before downloading it.


Fake alerts on webpages

You might have heard of, or even experienced the fake Flash Player updates or fake virus alerts in your browser. Clicking occasional notifications and installing everything offered on suspicious webpages is a shortcut to infecting your Mac. 


☝️ Remember the trusted sources rule: download only from official websites and avoid unsafe ones.

How to know if a Mac is infected

The only way you can run a virus check on a Mac is via an antivirus scan. 


Keep in mind that no webpage, notification, or email can determine if your Mac is infected. If you see a webpage telling you that your Mac is infected with some kind of virus, don’t believe it. It’s just another scam, baiting you to click the link and install something bad.


Here are several common signs indicating that you need to give your beloved MacBook a virus scan.

  • Your Mac is slower than usual
  • You notice strange files, applications or toolbars you didn’t install
  • Your web browser homepage has changed on its own
  • You are bombarded with ads
  • You are locked out of some system or app settings

How to scan your Mac for viruses

If your Mac is showing some or all of the above signs, it’s time to run the antivirus scan.


The process of virus detection on Mac is quite straightforward:

  • Install the antivirus app
  • Open the app and run the scan
  • Wait until the scan is finished and check the results
  • Remove the threats and unwanted elements from your Mac

How to remove malware from your Mac


1️⃣Install antivirus software

The fastest, safest, and best way to remove malware from your Mac is to use specialized antivirus software. It is possible to remove malware manually, but we don’t recommend doing this unless you are a tech expert and know macOS like the back of your hand. To be fair, there are still some commonsense recommendations for regular Mac users to remove unwanted elements from the system.


2️⃣Remove unused apps

Open your applications folder and look thoroughly at every app that you have. Ask yourself if you remember installing the app, the purpose of installing it and if it is still relevant. If the answer is no, remove the app.


3️⃣Explore your web browser extensions

Similar to the removal of unwanted apps, open your web browser, go to the list of extensions, and make sure that you only have the ones you need. Some extensions can show you ads or track you, so it is good to know you are not keeping unsafe ones.


4️⃣Clean your downloads

Your downloads folder is a repository for all your downloaded files. Among the useful ones you need, there could be some rogue files, downloaded without your permission, and waiting for you to accidentally open them and run the malicious code. Move the files you need to other folders, delete everything else and, then empty your trash.


At Clario, we strive for a safe and pleasant online experience for every user. That’s why we’ve created our innovative app that combines technology with human intelligence and empathy. Subscribe to our product review and stay tuned for the latest updates.

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