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How to Scan Your Mac for Viruses and Stay Safe

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Computer viruses are at a point between boring, everyday events dating back to the ’70s and sci-fi-inspired monsters that will haunt us in our new information-driven world.

One may wonder, “Do I need an antivirus to protect my Mac?” The reality is that all computers, even Macs, are vulnerable to malware (short for malicious software). While Apple takes many security precautions, the security of your Mac depends on your knowledge of how to scan for and remove viruses.

Whether you want to figure out how to remove viruses from MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or iMac, learning how to keep your information safe is a necessary and easy thing, with the help of advice from industry professionals.

What is a Mac virus?

Most of us are used to recognizing a virus by its atrocious appearance and design and its alarming name. However, not all viruses take the surprise and scare approach to infiltrate your Mac. The newest adware might take the form of an Adobe Flash Player installer, but of course, it’s not what it sounds like. Not only does it trick you into thinking it’s something as ordinary as Flash, but the installed adware pretends to be a virus scanner. It informs you of fake issues and encourages you to fix them by providing sensitive information.

Viruses can also take the form of Microsoft Office files (e.g., Excel sheets, Word documents), Adobe Photoshop extensions, as well as music and movie files that you download from BitTorrent or other file-sharing programs. But the most common file format that a virus takes is .dmg because Apple created it to help install legitimate software on your computer. One of the things you should do to protect your Mac is to keep an eye out for .dmg files that appear when you try to install something. If you ever try to download something that’s supposed to be an image, music, movie, or document, but you get a file .dmg — it’s the high alert if we talk in terms of viruses. Do yourself a favor and delete that file immediately.

Be Aware of Mac Virus Sources

When we talk about a Mac infected by a virus, you probably think that the attacks must have originated in a remote and unknown place. But the truth is that many viruses come from our friends, family, and colleagues, who unfortunately are the primary victims and are now unintentionally transmitting their viruses to you.

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A widespread malware from 2017 was inserted into a Word document — a Mac Word file, not a PC one. In 2018, Apple discovered flaws in its Intel processors that could also cause two types of hazardous virus infections on Macs. It’s crazy to think that even iPads and iPhones can be infected by malware.

How to check if you have malware?

Scanning for viruses and other malware removal methods should be automatic and active, almost always in an ideal world. You can feel safe if you scan your Mac once a week. Fortunately, there are several ways to make sure you’re as protected as possible.

An excellent start to scanning your Mac for viruses is to check if you have apps installed that you don’t recognize:

  1. Go to the Applications folder via Go > Apps in the Finder or use the Shift + Command + A shortcut.
  2. Review the list and remove unknown apps.
  3. Then empty the Trash.

The second step you should do is to check for browser hijackers and extensions with adware:

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences. Check if the url of the homepage is set up correctly and correct it if necessary.
  2. Then, go to the Extensions tab and uninstall the ones you don’t recognize, as they could be spying on you, collecting your private data, and sending it to their malicious websites.

How to Scan Mac for Viruses

Why is it important to check for viruses on your Mac? If a computer virus were the only thing to consider, this world would be a more straightforward place. Malware, adware, spyware, malicious files, worms, trojans, phishing software, you name it, you should check it out. The old way of thinking was that because there are more PCs than Macs in the world, hackers would focus on the former rather than Macs. But we are no longer in the 2000s. In fact, in 2018, Apple climbed to the fourth position in laptop sales. This means that Macs are no longer mere shiny boxes designed for fun and entertainment.

Not only do we manage our business on Apple devices and different versions of macOS, but we also store family photos, send sensitive information, and thanks to cloud computing, every device is in sync. Unfortunately, this means that your Mac could be a much juicier target than a PC in some offices.

1. How to run a Mac virus scanner and prevent viruses from stealing your information

It is a common mis misrous to think that viruses only infect innocent, ignorant, or technologically illiterate people. The stigma is that hackers take advantage of people when they take advantage of behavior in reality.

Our basic behavior with Macs is that we expect Apple and our apps to have done all the security homework for us. In truth, each user has to control their way of using their Mac.

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Do you use public WiFi? Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt the connection between your laptop and the network. Shimo is an excellent VPN management app that will help you with this part. By using it, information (whether confidential or not) won’t be able to be sent to any malicious program lurking on your Mac, and hackers on your network won’t be able to decrypt anything you’re working on.

Speaking of encryption, Macs that have OS X Lion or later come with the option to encrypt their hard drives using FileVault 2. Although encryption won’t prevent viruses from infiltrating your computer (for that, you’ll need a scanner), it would still be beneficial to prevent viruses from stealing your information. To turn on FileVault:

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Select Security & Privacy
  3. Go to the FileVault tab
  4. Choose Turn on FileVault

2. Keep your Mac safe and virus-free

The signs that something is wrong with your Mac are slow processing memory, reduced disk space, heavy CPU usage, and a reduction in network speed. Unfortunately, viruses don’t reside in an easy-to-find place like your computer’s desktop. They can be integrated into an app, especially your favorite web browser, where they find it easier to control what you’re seeing and keep track of what you’re typing. If you’ve noticed that some strange websites sometimes take over your search bar, it’s a sign that your browser has been hijacked. Other applications can also become corrupted or infected, especially if they have weak security systems. Another example could be an email app you use or an open-source app that hasn’t gotten security patches lately.

If you think one of your apps is infected, removing it entirely and downloading it again would be a typical reaction. Often this works, but there are more straightforward solutions available. Clearing the app cache should always be your first step, and if there are hidden files, consider deleting them as well.

To remove the cache of any application and remove Mac malware from the Library:

  1. Use the Shortcut Shift + Command + G to Go to Folder
  2. Type ~/Library/Caches and choose Go
  3. Delete any files within the folder

If you’re not sure you can delete cache files manually, use an app like CleanMyMac X:

  1. Open CleanMyMac
  2. Go to System Junk and click Scan
  3. When the scan is finished, choose Review Details
  4. Select User Cache and choose the caches you want to delete.
  5. Click Clean
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In addition, CleanMyMac now features a malware removal feature, the use of which should become your weekly habit.

  1. In CleanMyMac, choose the Malware Removal tab
  2. Click Analyze
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions. Hopefully, it should say that your Mac is clean most of the time.

Unfortunately, not all viruses are easy-to-find files that are somewhere on your computer. Sometimes they are root certificates that intercept your passwords and messages and send a copy of them to hackers. To effectively protect yourself from this, only download apps with valid developer certificates. What are these? It’s hard to know, but Apple created a feature that could help you in this.

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Select Security & Privacy
  3. Under Allow apps downloaded from: Select App Store and identified developers

You’re now closer to being protected against malware. But the truth is, simply avoiding viruses isn’t enough. It would be best if you were proactive — it’s time to get a virus scanner.

3. Scan viruses like a pro

If you want to have complete security for your Mac, there is no better tool than CleanMyMac X, which can quickly scan the latest viruses, malware, spyware, and more. Open the app regularly and click the Smart Scan option to inspect your Mac for suspicious activity, in addition to other suggested features for optimizing and cleaning old files.

Removes viruses from Mac completely

Using a tool like CleanMyMac makes getting rid of viruses of all shapes and formats very easy. After the scan, it tells you what it has found and gives you the option to delete it all entirely in that very instant. In addition, it offers you all kinds of excellent utilities to optimize the performance of your Mac.

As we’ve mentioned before, hackers who want to steal your information don’t choose you specifically but instead attack your behavior. So, with this in mind, change your behavior when using your Mac in potentially unsafe ways. Accept that viruses come and go, all the time and in many different file formats. If a virus infects you, it’s not the end of the world.

Equip your computer with encryption tools (such as FileVault and a VPN), so your information can’t be stolen. It would be best if you also had a good dose of skepticism when downloading files. But most importantly, download the professional apps that give you the most utility, like CleanMyMac or Shimo — all of which are available on Setapp for you to try for free. So do a scan now and check the results.

Alternatively, you can also use Kaspersky Total Security. You can also read: Best Antivirus for Mac: Best Options in 2021 – TechRechard


Shubham is a prolific writer who has contributed many detailed tutorials for A tech enthusiast and avid Apple fan, Shubham has shared his knowledgeable work with other many popular tech sites like Business Magazine, Thrive Global etc.

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