Reviewed
January 2015
by ConsumerSearch
Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac

Best antivirus software for Macs

Pros
  • Blocks both Mac and Windows malware
  • Easy to install
  • Lets you schedule regular, in-the-background scans
  • Live updates keep the app current
Cons
  • Minimalist interface seems too bare to some
  • Not the easiest on system resources

Bottom line

Macs aren't immune to bugs, and can play host to viruses that can also be passed on to Windows machines. The good news is that you can protect your Mac for free. Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac works well enough in tests that experts say there's no reason for most home Mac users to buy paid antivirus software. Its ability to schedule regular scan is something that's missing in most Mac antivirus software, and is a major plus.

Breaking it down

Set up and use

Easy-to-install, minimalist design. Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac is a free antivirus program, downloadable from Sophos.com. Installation is a breeze, testers say. Tom's Guide, where Sophos is an Editors' Choice pick, completes the task in less than two minutes. That site's Jill Scharr notes that the user interface is simple, but that's fine because there's not a lot to figure out here. "It doesn't try to be stylish or hand-holding, but relies instead on the simplicity of its offerings to ensure users don't feel lost or confused." AV-Compartives.org isn't sure that's entirely successful. "We feel the program's minimalist user interface would be fine for experienced Mac users who have some understanding of antivirus software," they say. Among the features they feel are necessary but missing are a status display. One negative is in the possible impact on system performance. Testing at AV-Test.org puts Sophos in the second tier of products in that regard, while Tom's Guide finds system impact to fall in the middle of the Mac antivirus products it tests.

Features

You decide how often to scan. Sophos has two features that are missing on most Mac antivirus software: It blocks both Windows and Mac malware (so you won't pass infections to your Windows friends), and it lets you schedule regular scans (to occur silently, in the background). Of course, you can also scan your entire Mac (or just specified files, folders or drives) at any time. Or, you can set Sophos to scan every file you try to open (including emails and USB drives). If the file is malicious, Sophos will stop you from opening it. Sophos also includes a web security filter. It stops you from visiting malware-infested websites, and it blocks any malware that you download from the Internet.

Performance

Blocks both Mac and Windows malware. Protection is strong, but just how strong is a matter of who is doing the testing. AV-Comparatives.org peppers Sophos with 65 malicious Mac apps ("a substantial part" of in-the-field Mac malware from the first half of 2014) and 500 "very prevalent" Windows malware samples. Sophos catches every single one. Moment-by-moment updates mean the app's knowledge base never grows stale. Testing at AV-Test.org isn't as impressive however. Sophos performs better than the industry average, but is beaten by some other products.

Where To Buy

Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Reviews

1. AV-comparatives.org

This independent lab tests eight antivirus programs on a Mac running OS X Mavericks. Testers benchmark against 65 Mac malware samples (not blocked by Mavericks), and Sophos blocks them all. Testers then try 500 Windows malware samples and Sophos detects all of those, too. Sophos is judged highly effective, though some worries about the "minimalist" interface are expressed.

Review: Mac Security Review, Editors of AV-Comparatives.org, Aug. 29, 2014

2. AV-Test.org

Sophos is benchmarked against other Mac antivirus products in this AV-Test.org report. It performs well, though it's not at the top of the class. Virus detection rates exceed industry averages, but fall just short of 100 percent, and it finishes toward the bottom of the pack in terms of system impact.

Review: Mac OS X in the Crosshairs – 18 Malware Scanners Put to the Test, Markus Selinger, Sept. 18, 2014

3. TomsGuide.com

Sophos Anti-virus for Mac is an Editors' Choice pick at Tom's Guide. Despite the middle of the road testing at AV-Test.org, Jill Scharr still describes "across-the-board protection" as strong. The interface is clean and intuitive, albeit a bit lackluster. The ability to schedule scans is a major plus.

Review: Sophos Antivirus for Mac Home Edition Review, Jill Scharr, Sept. 15, 2014

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