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How to Scan Mac for Viruses for Free

Last Updated Jun 9, 2022
Mac Keyboard

Having malware on your computer can be scary. But at least then you’ll know it’s there, and you will find ways to remove them. But what about when you don’t know if they are there? How do you know?

With Macs, you do not need to splurge on antivirus software because you can follow certain steps to scan for free. To know how to scan for malware for free, read on!

Scan For Malware On Your Mac

There are a few ways you run a malware scan on Mac without paying for antivirus software. You can either use a scanner to comb through the whole system or go through it manually.

Scanning With A Antivirus Software

As most antivirus software requires a paid subscription to work, this is not much of an option when you have no plans to pay for it. However, there are still antivirus programs you can use to scan for free. For example, Malwarebytes has a free antivirus program that you can use to scan and remove any malware.

Scanning with these is not difficult. You just need to follow the in-app guidelines, and your Mac will be scanned for all malware. The additional benefit of using an antivirus program is that it can also help you remove any detected malware. Also, it is more thorough than doing it manually.

Scanning Manually

Scanning with antivirus programs is not the only way you can check for malware. Also, you can meticulously go through your Mac to check for any hidden malware. The ways to do these are:

  • Scanning Using Activity Monitor: The activity monitor of your Mac keeps a record of every running application and process. In Applications —> Utility —> Activity Monitor pathway, go to CPU and go through the running processes. Using the sorting options, check the top programs by CPU, memory usage, network usage and energy use. Any malware is likely to be near the top of these lists. Many legitimate programs have weird names in the Activity Monitor, so you should search on the internet to be sure if a strange-looking process or program is harmful or not.
  • Check your login items: This is another part of Mac where malware can hide. Malware in login items is especially dangerous because they start up with every launch of your computer. To check, go to System preferences —> Users and Groups and then to Login items. Here you can see every program that has the permission to start up automatically. Go through this list to ensure that there are no malicious programs there.
  • Check your Browsers: Malware can also disguise in the browser an extension. To start with, ensure that your browser landing page did not strangely change. Also, check all your browser extensions and remove any that are strange. All browsers have different ways to do this, and just checking the plugins and extensions for any suspicious programs is enough.
  • Check recent Installations: Another place to check is the list of all installed programs. To check this, open Applications —>Utilities—>System information. In the left column of the screen, select Installations. Here, you will see all the new and newly updated applications.
  • Check all applications: Rather than recent Installations, you should also go through all applications. To do this, go to the Applications folder and look through the list. Again, some legitimate programs might have weird names, so you shouldn’t just remove them without double-checking.

These can often be enough to find malware on your Mac. However, it might not do the whole job. This is because some types of malware can be hidden in parts of the computer that you can’t check. It is, therefore, best to use these manual precautions in conjunction with an antivirus program for scanning.

Mac’s Default Security Protocol Against Malware

Every modern Mac is equipped with XProtect, a program that secures them in the background by constantly checking for malware. This feature is very important because every type of malware known to the program will be unable to get into your computer.

However, as with anything, there are a few limitations. XProtect only scans against the viruses known to the program. This means that some newly developed malware can get into your Mac and wreak havoc before they get on the official Apple malware list. This is why it is always advised that you should take additional precautions to be on the safe side.


By combing through parts of your Mac like the activity monitor, login items, and browser extensions, you can detect malware hidden in the background. However, doing this might not be thorough enough to detect more stubborn malware. For this reason, if your Mac keeps showing symptoms of infection and you didn’t find any malware, you should use an antivirus program to scan it.

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