Two Free Antivirus Programs For Mac OS X

macantivirus1   Two Free Antivirus Programs For Mac OS XAs Mac OS X users will tell you, Apple computers are far less likely to contract a virus than Windows based PCs. This is not, however, because OS X is a virtually¬†impenetrable¬†operating system, but rather because the meager¬†market share¬†of Mac computers makes them less appealing targets. The entire point of many viruses is to harvest data and create networks of “zombie” computers, so it doesn’t make sense to target OS X.

That does not mean, however, that OS X viruses don’t exist. They are rare, but they are possible, and can be just as damaging as Windows viruses when they do pop up. Also, OS X machines can pass on viruses that target Windows machines unknowingly.


To protect yourself (and your friends using Windows computers) you of course will need an antivirus for Mac.

PC Tools – iAntivirus for Mac

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The strange irony of the name aside, iAntivirus is one of the more popular antivirus options currently available for Mac OS X. It is made by PC Tools, a company responsible for products I have previously recommended such as PC Tools Free Firewall for the PC.

If there is any one thing I’ve¬†consistently¬†noticed about PC Tools it is that they put a high value on an easy to use and understand interface. The PC Tools iAntivirus software is simple to install and does not require that you make any¬†decisions.

Once installed, a crosshair icon appears as a menu extra in the upper right. Clicking on it will let you open the program proper, but even then you’ll find only two options staring back at you. One is the option to scan your Mac and the other is the option to turn protection on or off.

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The rest of the program’s options can be accessed by clicking on Preferences after opening the menu extra icon, but there aren’t many options to choose from. You can examine any items that are in quarantine, change the automated virus scan schedule, and view the history of the actions iAntivirus has taken. That’s it.¬† iAntivirus does not include advanced features like a phishing filter, nor does it include firewall software. It is an antivirus program for the Mac, plain and simple.

Choosing such a minimalist design is a bold move for a mostly Windows oriented company, but it feels¬†appropriate. Of course, the downside to this is obvious. With so few options there is very little that you can do to change settings that you don’t like. If you want an antivirus that depends more on user control, read on.

ClamXav

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ClamXav is a different kind of beast. It is a free antivirus program that is based off ClamAV, an open source antivirus engine for UNIX machines. ClamXav is largely the work of one developer who works on the program regularly and provides it free of charge.

This is a valiant image – the lone programmer working for nothing to provide his OS X¬†compatriots¬†with antivirus protection – but it shows in the program’s overall usability. The first thing you’ll notice about ClamXav is that the installation processor is a bit confusing. You have to install the program into the Applications folder, but then an installer front end appears when you launch the program, and there is some kind of plugin to install as well. It isn’t rocket science, but it is more complex than it needs to be.

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Once launched you’ll find that the interface’s basic functions are simple, but the more in-depth options (such as those in the Preferences menu) can be hard to understand. The program makes up for this by providing a buffet of features. An exclusions system lets you place certain files outside the jurisdiction of ClamXav so that you don’t waste time scanning files you know are safe. The scheduling software lets you choose the parts of your system you want to have scanned. Finally, ClamXav has a feature called Sentry that actively monitors folders of your choosing for viruses.

All of these advantages aside, ClamXav does feel a little out of place. Mac OS X is about simplicity and ease of use, but neither of these traits seem to have been a part of ClamXav’s design. Instead, the program serves as a reminder than Macs, simple though they may, uses UNIX as a foundation. But if creating antivirus exclusions by writing regular expressions is up your alley (or you even understand what that means) ClamXav is worth a look.

Conclusion

ClamXav and iAntivirus couldn’t be more different. While ClamXav is a detailed, customizable antivirus for Mac, targeted towards users who know more than the average bear, iAntivirus is a simple program that¬†sacrifices¬†user control at the altar of usability.

The¬†decision¬†here is not difficult. If you consider yourself a Mac power user, and you don’t mind acknowledging the UNIX foundation of OS X, ClamXav is for you. But if you think a UNIX just might be a male unicorn you’re probably better off with iAntivirus.

Which one do you prefer?

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10 Comments -

Guest

This is just not true. There are NO viruses for Mac OS X. Sure, somebody can create one, but that doesn’t mean it could actually be installed, much less gain root privileges. It has nothing to do with the “meager” market share of Mac OS X (10% and climbing), which translates to more than 35 million users.

M.S. Smith

No Mac OS X malware is known to have caused significant damage or significantly spread. That doesn’t mean no malware exists, however. There were reports earlier this year of a Trojan that spread through iChat.

No security is perfect if a concentrated effort to breach security is made. I think the reason you do not see concentrated effort against Macs is because Mac OS X isn’t widespread. Why bother trying to make botnets on OS X when there are millions of XP computers to feast on?

Your chances of being hit by a virus on OS X are small, but better safe than sorry. These programs don’t seem to effect performance and they’re free.

Anonymous

Keep drinking that iKoolaid buddy.

M.S. Smith

No Mac OS X malware is known to have caused significant damage or significantly spread. That doesn’t mean no malware exists, however. There were reports earlier this year of a Trojan that spread through iChat.

No security is perfect if a concentrated effort to breach security is made. I think the reason you do not see concentrated effort against Macs is because Mac OS X isn’t widespread. Why bother trying to make botnets on OS X when there are millions of XP computers to feast on?

Your chances of being hit by a virus on OS X are small, but better safe than sorry. These programs don’t seem to effect performance and they’re free.

nizbot

Keep drinking that iKoolaid buddy. <face palm=””></face>

Anonymous

Rather than comparing them on their user interface, how about comparing them in their quality? Are there any real-life and heuristic tests to find which antivirus performs better?

M.S. Smith

Not as far as I’m aware, otherwise I would have.

I suspect that iAntivirus would actually be more effective, since it is offered by an actual company that has staff to release updates, while ClamXav is basically one guy’s project. But without objective testing, it is hard to make a concrete judgement.

M.S. Smith

Not as far as I’m aware, otherwise I would have.

I suspect that iAntivirus would actually be more effective, since it is offered by an actual company that has staff to release updates, while ClamXav is basically one guy’s project. But without objective testing, it is hard to make a concrete judgement.

Renew Antivirus Support

It’s good that there are free anti virus for Mac OS because thus far there are no cheap price for any Mac Stuff and software. Take Kaspersky Antivirus for Mac OS for example is triple the price KAV windows version. This is ridiculuous

Invisible_Jester25

It’s a good idea, whatever system you use, to have antivirus installed. There’s always the off chance something COULD happen, and there’s absolutely no reason to play Russian Roulette with your data. Just because it’s a rare occurrence doesn’t mean it can never happen. Would you take a shower in a severe thunderstorm just because it’s rare to be struck by lightning?