How does Antivirus work when I’m using Boot Camp and Parallels?

Chris December 22, 2011

I have a MacBook Air and plan to use it to run a couple of business “Windows Only” programs. I plan to load Parallels, then two Windows based softwares. Do I need to put an antivirus software on the MacBook Air and will it cover the Mac OS and Windows OS concerns? The Air only has a 128GB Drive so I don’t want to use up any more space than needed. Any tips will be appreciated.

  1. Mike
    December 22, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    As James already pointed out the potential of catching an infection on Mac OS X is minor (of not zero). Right now I can only think of 3 spreading malwares (scareware), all of them require you to manually run an installer and input your password. They have already been addressed by Apple via the built-in malware protection respectively the Security Updates.

    Do you need an Anti Virus application for Mac OS X? 
    Only if you are paranoid, download and install software from unknown sources and you don't care about the performance decrease.

    Will it cover Mac OS X and Windows OS?
    Some of them are capable to detect Windows malware but they won't protect a Windows installation within a virtual machine, so NO.

    Personally I would only install an Anti Virus software within the virtual Windows system and only if you use it for general internet usage (emails, downloading and testing software, ...). 
    If you run 2 or 3 selected applications within Windows which are not used to download random stuff from the internet I don't think any AV is necessary.

    Since you are using your Mac for business I think it's a courtesy question.  If you regularly exchange files with Windows users a cross-platform Anti Virus could enable you to "warn" partners in case they unknowingly forward infected files.

  2. Anonymous
    December 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    parallels is just like running windows on a windows machine. if you install antivirus on a normal windows computer, then you should install it on parallels  also. VM is just as susceptible to viruses, spyware, etc as if it
    were on a physical PC. the protection software you decide to use, one
    thing to keep in mind, it may need to be disabled temporarily to successfully
    load other software.

    then if you dont surf on the net or use peer to peer, then perhaps you dont have to install, this is of course your decision.

    to check MAC you can use 

    Parallels Plesk Panel Anti-Virus Powered by Kaspersky

  3. James Bruce
    December 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

    You only need AV software inside the virtual windows machine. No piece of AV software will cover both different OSes, but your VM will safely contained, and it's highly unlikley OSX will ever get a virus despite the silly media reports you might read. As you say , 128gb is a small amount to waste on uneccessary software. I would just download the free microsoft security essentials for windows side. 

    A better solution would be to make a backup image of the VM as soon as you have it set up nicely, and store on an external drive or something. That way if anything did happen, you could just nuke the entire VM, and revert to the original (assuming you've saved you're data somewhere else of course). 

    • Mike DeGeorge
      July 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      I agree with everything except your statement about OS X. While it's unlikely you'll get malware(rather than viruses), it's still very possible.