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How to Check Your Mac for Viruses – 6 Tips

Although many believe that Macs are immune from viruses this is a misconception. Reports of malware and other virus infections are on the rise, so it makes sense to be vigilant when using your Mac. A simple click on a wrong link and all sorts of issues can arise.

Over 2020 and 2021 three predominant forms of malware and viruses were identified:

  • Silver Sparrow– This was detected on over 30,000 devices including those that ran the new M1 chip.
  • ElectroRat– This beauty successfully stole data from cryptocurrency wallets.
  • XCode Spy– This spy steals passwords, data, folders, and location details.

If you notice any of the following, it could be a sign that you need to take steps to protect your device:

  • Slow and sluggish performance.
  • Ads pop up all the time and you see billions of them with every site you visit.
  • General strange behaviour.
  • You see messages about security alerts without running scanning software.
  • You can’t access personal files and you have received a ransom note stating you have to give the hacker money to get access to your files.

Anything like this is a sign you have malware or a virus.

Malware, Viruses, What’s the Difference?

There is a difference between malware and viruses and both are to be avoided at all costs. In essence, the difference is as follows:

  • Malware – This term refers to malicious software that changes settings and performs other unauthorized tasks on your Mac. This can include tracking keystrokes, obtaining unauthorized network access or broadcast your location. 
  • Viruses – Viruses attach themselves to files and programs and tend to attack your device. In fact, virus is an acronym for Vital Information Resource Under Seize.

So what is the best way to check your Mac for viruses and or malware?

Prevention is Better than Cure

The nefarious types that wrote the malware code to put on your Mac use clever psychological manipulation techniques to get you to download the files. Watch out for these as you can give away important personal information or trick you that something is wrong with your Mac and you need an app to put things right.

Keep vigilant when surfing and you should avoid installing the virus in the first place. 


You may like reading: Spilled Water on Your Macbook Air or Pro? – Expert Care Tips

Check Your Apps

If you think you have a virus start by checking the apps folder. It could be a recent one you installed especially if it didn’t come via the app store. So:

  • Finder, Applications folder.
  • Scan the folder and delete the ones you suspect are causing issues. Drag these to Trash.
  • Finder, Go, Go to Folder.
  • Type ~/Library in the popup window.
  • Remove any related files to the apps you’ve dragged to Trash
  • Make sure to completely uninstall the programs on macOS with tools like CleanMyMac X

Check Your Mac for Viruses Using Activity Monitor

There are instances where you have to stop the malware from running before you can remove it. This is where Activity Monitor helps a lot:

  • Applications, Utilities, Activity Monitor.
  • Scan the list of apps and identify ones that consume high CPU or memory usage.
  • Click X to close the apps.
  • Use Finder to locate corresponding file names. Drag these to Trash.
  • Empty Trash.


Like rogue apps, rogue extensions are also an issue. They can cause all sorts of issues when you’re trying to browse. To remove rouge extensions is browser specific. So:


  • Safari, Preferences.
  • Under the General tab, check the preferred Homepage. If it is one you didn’t choose, change it back.
  • Under the Extensions tab, look through the list and Uninstall ones you didn’t put there or feel are causing issues.


  • Chrome, Windows, Extensions.
  • Go through the list of extensions and click Remove on ones you don’t recognize or have a bad feeling about to uninstall them.


  •  Firefox, Firefox menu, Preferences, Extensions & Themes.
  •  Go through the list of extensions. Ones you think need removing, click the three dots and click 

Purge Your Downloads Folder

Malware has a way of hiding in your Downloads folder, such is the nefarious nature of its creators. Go through your folder and anything you want to keep move elsewhere, and anything that’s left send to Trash.

To do this, go:

Finder, Downloads.

Select all files, right click and select Move to Bin.

Empty Trash.

Login Items That Have no Place in the Universe

If you think the malware comes to life when you start your device, it could be lurking in your login items. So:

  • Apple icon, System Preferences
  • Users & Groups, Login Items tab.
  • Select any that look suspicious and click the minus sign to remove them.

TimeMachine to the Rescue

If all else fails you can restore a backup from the days when your device was peachy and the sun shone brightly in the sky. To do this, do the following:

  • Connect your external TimeMachine backup drive.
  • Finder, Applications, Utilities, Migration Assistant.
  • Select “from a Mac, Time Machine backup, or startup disk” option. Click Continue.
  • Choose the TimeMachine backup you want and click Continue.
  • Select the items you want to transfer to your device and click “Continue to start the transfer”. Put on Netflix, Disney + etc as this can take several hours.

Once it is done your Mac should work just fine.

Precautions to Avoid Viruses and Malware

If one round of virus removal is enough for you, try these precautions to keep viruses and malware at bay.

  • Keep your Mac updated– This has numerous benefits not least because you’ll have the latest Apple malware database.  Go: Apple menu, About This Mac, Software Update. – If you have an update install it.
  • Download from trusted sources– If you’re downloading from outside of the app store be extra vigilant. You can easily download a virus or malware so watch out for scams and ask yourself does this provider seem legit. Any doubts, don’t download.
  • Hang up on fake calls– If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from Apple telling you your device is infected hang up! Apple doesn’t make calls of that nature so you’re talking to a nefarious so and so.
  • Anti-Virus software– If you haven’t already, install anti-virus software. A little research goes a long way so get a good one.

For more information on virus spotting, see Apple Support.