Yellow iMac on a desk by a window

Can Macs Get Viruses?

Dan King
Dan King

Table of Contents

While it is true that Apple Macs are generally more secure compared to other operating systems, such as Windows, they are not immune to viruses and malware. While the number of malware threats targeting macOS is relatively lower compared to Windows, YES - Macs can still be affected by malicious software under certain circumstances.

Be sure to check out our article Security Steps For Your Mac to find some additional steps you can take to secure your Mac or MacBook.

Why do Macs get more viruses than in the past?

Apple's Mac user base has grown steadily over the years. Macs are popular among professionals in creative industries such as design, photography, and video production, as well as among developers and enthusiasts who appreciate the macOS ecosystem and integration with other Apple devices.

Macs have gained particular popularity among certain segments of users, such as students, artists, and professionals in creative fields. Apple's focus on design, user experience, and seamless integration with its ecosystem has contributed to their appeal in these areas.

Historically, Windows has been the primary target for malware due to its widespread usage. The fact still remains to this day that Windows has a much wider audience than macs do.  However, as Macs have gained popularity, they have become more attractive to cybercriminals. While the risk is lower, Mac users should still remain vigilant and take appropriate security measures.

What Makes Macs More Secure?

Built-in Security Features

MacOS includes several built-in security features designed to protect users from malware. These features include Gatekeeper, which verifies the authenticity of applications before allowing them to run, and XProtect, which provides basic antivirus protection by detecting known malware.


While XProtect is not a standalone antivirus program, it provides basic protection against known malware threats. Here's how XProtect works:

  1. Malware Detection: XProtect scans files and applications downloaded from the internet or received via email, checking them against a regularly updated list of known malware signatures. If a file matches a known malware signature, XProtect will display a warning message to the user.
  2. Automatic Updates: XProtect is updated in the background automatically as part of the regular macOS software updates. This ensures that the system has the latest information about known malware signatures, improving its ability to detect and prevent malware infections.

Additionally, Safari, the default web browser on Macs, includes features such as intelligent tracking prevention and phishing detection to enhance online security.

Software Updates

Apple regularly releases software updates for macOS, which often include security patches to address vulnerabilities. It is crucial to keep your Mac up to date with the latest software versions to benefit from these security enhancements.

Steps Mac Owners Can Take To Avoid Viruses

Mac owners can take several steps to minimize the risk of viruses and enhance the security of their systems. Here are some practices we recommend to avoid viruses on a Mac:

Keep macOS Up to Date

Regularly update the macOS operating system and installed applications. Software updates often include important security patches that address vulnerabilities and protect against known threats.

Enable Automatic Updates

Enable automatic updates for macOS and other applications whenever possible. This ensures that you receive the latest security updates without having to manually check for them.

Be Cautious with Downloads

Download software, files, and attachments only from trusted sources. Avoid downloading files from unknown or suspicious websites, as they may contain malicious code or malware.

Use Official App Stores

Obtain software and apps from official sources like the Mac App Store or trusted developer websites. These platforms often have security measures in place to verify the authenticity and integrity of the applications.

Exercise Caution with Email Attachments

Be wary of email attachments from unknown or unexpected sources, especially if they prompt you to enable macros or execute files. Malicious attachments are often disguised as harmless documents, so it's important to remain vigilant and verify the sender's authenticity.

hacker hand stealing data from laptop top down
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash

Enable Gatekeeper

macOS includes a security feature called Gatekeeper, which helps protect against malware by verifying the authenticity and integrity of downloaded applications. It's recommended to keep Gatekeeper enabled and set to allow apps downloaded from the Mac App Store and identified developers.

Use Strong and Unique Passwords

Employ strong, unique passwords for your user accounts, including your Apple ID. Avoid reusing passwords across multiple accounts and consider using a password manager to securely manage your credentials.

Exercise Safe Browsing Habits

Be cautious while browsing the internet and avoid visiting suspicious websites or clicking on suspicious links. Implement a reliable web browser with built-in security features, such as Safari, and consider using browser extensions that provide additional security and privacy protections.

Consider Third-Party Antivirus Software

While Macs have built-in security features, some users may choose to install third-party antivirus software for enhanced protection. Look for reputable antivirus solutions designed specifically for Mac systems and keep them regularly updated.

Backup Your Data

Regularly back up your important files and data to an external storage device or cloud-based backup service. In the event of a malware infection or other issues, having backups ensures that you can recover your data without paying a ransom or losing valuable information.

While we are talking about backing up your data, check out our recommendations for Best External SSD Hard Drives For Mac.

By following these preventive measures and maintaining good cybersecurity practices, Mac owners can significantly reduce the risk of viruses and enhance the overall security of their systems.


While Macs are generally considered more secure, they are not invulnerable to malware. Macs can and do get viruses just as Windows machines do. Users should stay vigilant, keep their systems up to date, and follow best practices for online security to minimize the risk of viruses or other malicious software affecting their Mac computers.

Security Steps For Your Mac
Macs aren’t completely immune from malware, but Apple doesn’t make it easy for attackers. Here’s how to keep your Mac safe and secure.