Occasional prompts to convince you to upgrade to the paid version
Lacks the ransomware, phishing, and fake website protection built into the paid product
AVG Antivirus for the Mac is a basic but effective free security program that will protect you from viruses, spyware, and malware. Though it lacks the advanced features of paid antivirus products, it handles the core tasks cleanly and seamlessly.
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Though so many antivirus and security products charge annual subscriptions, there are still free options out there with little or no strings attached. The freebies typically offer more basic or limited protection, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth using. One such product that fits the bill is AVG Antivirus for Mac. Designed to block viruses and spyware, AVG offers real-time and on-demand scanning to prevent malware from infecting your Mac.
If you are happy to pay there are plenty of options – see our Best Antivirus for Mac round up – but, for a free program, AVG covers all the bases, blocking viruses and malware from websites, downloads, and email attachments. AVG can scan applications and files on your Mac for potential threats and automatically remove them. Running in the background, the program’s Resident Shield tool checks out every file you open or save to make sure there’s no hidden malware inside. An auto-update feature keeps AVG up to date with the latest virus definitions to combat any new threats lurking about.
Installing AVG Antivirus is quick and convenient. After it’s nestled on your Mac, the software alerts you to update certain options in System Preferences (known as System Settings in macOS Ventura) to enable the real-time and on-demand scanning. But the process itself is simple; just click a Fix all button, and the program takes you directly to the necessary screens and shows you exactly how to enable the right options. When you’re done, AVG confirms that you now have basic protection.
AVG’s dashboard is clean and uncluttered, showing you the right amount of information. You can see that your computer, your web browsing, and your email are protected. You’re told if the virus definitions are up to date. And from the dashboard, you can run a manual live scan.
The live scan first checks to make sure that your virus definitions are up to date. Then it scans your folders and files for viruses and malware and finally lets you know whether it discovered any malicious content. Running the scan on my Mac uncovered no malware but AVG did highlight three “advanced” issues, specifically two folders vulnerable to ransomware, my network not being monitored for threats, and my system being vulnerable to fake websites through DNS hijacking.
Unfortunately, resolving any of the advanced issues would have necessitated an upgrade to the paid flavor of AVG, a prospect that costs $2.49 per month for a one-year subscription, $2.39 a month for a two-year subscription, or $2.29 a month for a three-year subscription, albeit with a generous 60-day trial offer. Free products typically try to convince you to upgrade to the paid edition, so I didn’t mind the sales pitch. But just be aware that the smart scan will try to encourage you to upgrade each time you run it.
From the dashboard, you can also check other features of the software to make sure they’re enabled. The real-time File Shield scans every file you copy or open on your computer. The Quarantine feature shows you any malicious files that have been blocked and isolated from the rest of your system. The Web Shield blocks unsafe files and downloads from the internet. And the Email Shield puts the kibosh on malicious email attachments.
A menu accessible from the dashboard will take you to a Statistics screen that shows you how many scans have been run, how many files scanned, how many malicious files and email attachments blocked, how many websites checked for threats, and other details.
Another menu choice takes you to the Preferences screen where you can configure the various features in AVG Antivirus. For example, you’re able to make sure that automatic updates are enabled, that AVG starts when you sign into your Mac, and that you’re notified when virus definitions are updated. Here, you can also control the behavior of the program, choosing whether infected files should automatically be quarantined, whether the on-demand scan should check Time Machine backups and archives, and which files you may want to add as exceptions so that they’re excluded from scanning.
AVG Antivirus proved capable and effective at stopping malware. The software easily caught the various EICAR test files I threw at it, including the eicar.com file, the eicar text file, and the eicar zip file. (But even here, the program initially tried to coax me to upgrade to the paid edition.) In a June 2022 review, AV-Test gave the software its top marks for malware detection and usability. A review from October 2022 by AV-Comparatives awarded AVG Antivirus for Mac a grade of 100% for malware protection.
As a free security product, AVG Antivirus for Mac lacks the ransomware and phishing defenses and other advanced features found in paid products. But the program is cleanly designed, easy to use, and effective at thwarting malware. If you just need basic protection, you won’t go wrong here.