I have used PCs for most of my life, and I am very aware of the fact that they can catch a variety of viruses. I have owned a MAC now for two years, and have enjoyed a pleasant (perhaps too pleasant) experience with it online. Lately, I have been hearing that MACs can become infected with viruses, which makes me wonder if I may have gained one. How would I know if I am infected?

I am assuming that the variety of viruses that you can get on a mac is far smaller than PC and that very specific activities and vulnerabilities fall within virus territory. Which of the following PC virus activities are currently seen in MACs:

  • Infection via USB flash drive insertion
  • Infection via auto-load CD/DVD
  • Infection via file copy (any source)
  • Infection via general browsing
  • Infection via image viewing (web / email)
  • Infection via email attachment opening
  • Infection vial web page viewing
  • Infection via network connectivity.
  • 2
    This is basically 3 questions. If we forget about the 'can a mac get a virus' question (as this is obviously yes, 2 seconds googling would get this.) I have edited this to be 'how would I know and what options are available.' Not a great question though, as the answers are all broadly similar to Windows, just different vendors/products - and as we don't do product recommendations the question may just be closed.
    – Rory Alsop
    Mar 20, 2014 at 14:01
  • Hoytman - I'd suggest re-reading the How to Ask page and the tour page to help you post questions that won't get closed.
    – Rory Alsop
    Mar 20, 2014 at 22:38

1 Answer 1


Yes, Macs can be infected by malware, too - just like basically any other computer system. They have been explicitly targeted by malware creators in the more recent years, which coincides with their gain in popularity.

The question on what options there are for cleaning such a system can get philosophical. Personally I would recommend you to reinstall the operating system completely from scratch. While even this isn't a guarantee for a clean system, everything short of that is just messing around and hoping.

I'm not familiar with Mac OS X at all, but there are definitely anti virus products, just like for Windows itself. Personally I'm not convinced that you actually need something like this, but it always comes down to how good you behave yourself.

  • "how good you behave yourself" is a dangerous comment. You can do everything correctly and still become compromised by a drive-by download, for instance. Mac's need protection, just like everything else.
    – schroeder
    Mar 20, 2014 at 15:16
  • Well and protection in form of anti virus products can give you a false sense of security, because it has been proven time and again that these products don't work on a 100 percent basis. I'm not saying that everyone should go without, but I do think that you can vastly decrease your attack surface by "behaving yourself". Mar 20, 2014 at 15:18
  • I completely agree, but despite the instances of failure (even if many) it is still better to have protection and to act properly than to do only one.
    – schroeder
    Mar 20, 2014 at 15:20
  • @schroeder OS X actually has fairly good protection against drive-by downloads: most browsers attach a quarantine attribute to files they download, and OS X's launch services won't open quarantined items without special checks & (depending on the item type) specific yes-I-meant-to-open-that confirmation from the user. But if you use, say, a p2p app that doesn't quarantine downloads (i.e. not "behaving yourself"), all bets are off... Mar 21, 2014 at 0:07
  • I'm not familiar with these "yes-I-meant-to-open-that confirmation" on Mac OS X, but at least in the case of Windows I would argue that they don't work as intended. People don't understand what is going on and are used to simply confirm anything in order for it go go away. I don't think you can explain to my mum why a simple picture doesn't need full adminitration privileges, especially when everything seems fine after having confirmed such a warning. Mar 21, 2014 at 0:12

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