How to remove viruses and malware from Mac

Macs are as susceptible to malware and viruses as Windows computers. Although there was a belief that Apple is foolproof to infections, it is no longer true. So, knowing how to prevent any threat and respond to it promptly is a must. Luckily, you’ve landed in the right place, as we’ve prepared a Mac malware removal guide for you.

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How to remove malware and viruses from Mac

Regardless of the type of malware, there are common ways to remove malware from Mac — manually or automatically. Here is how to get rid of malware on Mac. 

How to remove virus from Mac automatically

The Mac virus removal is better with a dedicated app. We recommend using CleanMyMac X. It can identify thousands of malware threats, including adware, spyware, ransomware, worms, and cryptocurrency miners. If CleanMyMac X finds something suspicious, it will offer immediate removal. Here’s how to perform a full system scan:

  1. Download CleanMyMac X (free download) and open the app.
  2. Go to Malware Removal tab and click Scan.
  3. If there is any malware, click Remove. Otherwise, you will get a clean bill of health.
  4. If any malware has found its way onto your Mac, it has been safely removed. 
Quick tip: Disconnect from the internet and back up data

If you suspect that your Mac is infected with malware, disconnect from the internet and stay offline as long as possible. It may help prevent the further spread of infection and the loss of data since the virus won’t connect to its command and control server. 

Most of the malware removal steps below do not require internet connection, so disconnecting it is an additional precaution. Another thing you should do is back up data so that you won’t lose any of it in the process of removing malware. In fact, it’s a good idea to turn on automatic backups if possible. Now, let’s move to manual virus removal.


How to get rid of malware on Mac manually

1. Use Activity Monitor

If you know which app on your Mac is malicious, you’re halfway through the problem. First, close the app and then root it out from the system processes:

  1. From the Finder, go to Applications > Utilities and open Activity Monitor.
  2. Locate the problematic app in the list of processes.
  3. Use the [x] button from the toolbar to quit it.

Now, go back to your Applications and move the app to the Trash. Immediately empty the Trash.

This method is simple, but for the best malware removal results, you’d have to invest a bit more time. There are still parts and pieces of the virus app scattered around your system folders. It’s a bit like killing a dragon that regrows its head after you’ve chopped it off. So, how to remove malware from Mac completely? Uninstall apps.

Tip: Do a quick search for malware-infected .DMG files within your Downloads. The potential culprits could be recently downloaded files, especially media-related ones. Delete them and empty the Trash.

2. Boot into safe mode

Sometimes, malware can make your Mac so slow that it’s impossible to do anything. Booting it into safe mode may help. It prevents loading certain software and only runs essential apps and processes macOS needs. 

Boot into safe mode on an Intel-based Mac:
  1. Restart your Mac and press and hold the Shift key as your Mac starts up.
  2. When the login window appears, release the Shift key and log in.
  3. You should see “Safe Boot” in the upper-right corner of the screen.
Boot into safe mode on a Mac with Apple silicon:
  1. Restart your Mac and hold the power button.
  2. Release the button when you see the startup options.
  3. Select your startup disk, then press and hold the Shift key and click “Continue in Safe Mode.”
  4. Log in to your Mac. You might need to log in several times.

3. Uninstall suspicious apps

If you’ve inadvertently downloaded an app that turns out to be a virus, you need to uninstall it immediately. There are a couple of ways to do this. Here’s the hard way:

  1. Go to your Applications folder and drag the app to the Trash.
  2. From Finder, Go > Go to Folder, type ~/Library and look in the Application Support folder for any files related to the app and drag those to the Trash.
  3. Look in the other folders in ~/Library, especially Launch Agents and Launch Daemons, and remove any .plist files related to the app from there.
  4. Repeat Step 3 for the main Library folder (/Library).
  5. Don’t forget to reboot your Mac — until you do, all these files are still in memory.

As you can see, manual app removal requires quite a lot of effort. Fortunately, there’s an easier way to get rid of apps — use a specialist tool designed for the job. CleanMyMac X, a Mac cleaner app we recommended earlier in the article, has one such tool. It’s the Uninstaller module that can quickly and completely delete apps along with the files they have scattered all over the system. Here’s how to use it: 

  1. Open CleanMyMac X. 
  2. From the sidebar, click Uninstaller > View All Applications.
  3. Select the app you want to remove. Note that there is the Suspicious tab in the middle pane, and it can be of use when you’re hunting for malware.
  4. Click Uninstall. You can also check the Leftovers tab to see if there are any residual files of the apps you’ve deleted from your Mac in the past.
     

Done! CleanMyMac X has now removed unneeded and suspicious apps from your Mac without you having to look for leftover files in the Library folder.

4. Reset and verify browser

Malware usually targets web browsers, so resetting each of those you have installed on your Mac is a sure way of removing malicious software. We’ll show you how to do it for three most popular browsers: Safari, Google Chrome, and Firefox.

How to reset Safari
  1. Open Safari Settings (in the main menu) > General.
  2. Double-check Homepage. 
  3. Go to the Search tab.
  4. Double-check the selected Search engine.
How to reset Chrome
  1. Open Chrome Settings (from a three-dot icon).
  2. Go to Reset settings.
  3. Click Restore settings to their original defaults.
How to reset Firefox
  1. Open Firefox and click three horizontal lines.
  2. Click Help and choose Troubleshoot mode.
  3. Click Restart > Refresh Firefox.
  4. Confirm the refresh.

For all browsers, macOS will verify them by itself — no involvement on your part is needed.

5. Clean up extensions to remove adware and viruses from Mac

If you’re looking for how to delete malware from Mac, you should also check extensions in every browser you use.

Safari
  1. Go to Safari Settings > Extensions.
  2. Select an extension and click Uninstall.
Chrome
  1. Open Chrome and click the 3-dot icon in the upper right corner.
  2. Select Settings and choose Extensions from the menu that appears.
  3. Choose any extension you don’t recognize and click Remove.
Firefox
  1. Open Firefox.
  2. Click the 3-line (hamburger) icon at the top right corner.
  3. Select Add-ons and themes.
  4. Click the Extensions tab and find any you don’t recognize.
  5. Click the ellipsis and select Remove.

6. Remove Mac malware from your Login Items

Most adware or spyware will try to sneak inside the bootup process. The good news is that you don’t have to be a magician to prevent this.

  1. Go to the Apple menu > System Settings > General.
  2. Open the Login Items tab. Now, use the “—” sign to disable all the suspicious apps that you’ll find. Restart your Mac for the changes to take place.

If malware removal has failed

Below are a few more ideas to help you remove malware from Mac:

How to prevent malware from getting onto a Mac

So, now you know how to get rid of virus on Mac. If you want to learn how to prevent malware, we’ve prepared a few basic tips:

  • Install a trusted antimalware and antivirus software.
  • Closely read all dialogue boxes.
  • Get a reliable password manager app and use passphrases instead of passwords.
  • Browse anonymously and whenever possible, browse only secure websites — those starting with https://
  • Create an “emergency” bootable external drive for your Mac.
  • Avoid clicking suspicious email links, especially if you don’t identify the sender, and don’t open any suspicious email attachments.
  • Avoid downloading software or data from an unfamiliar website.
  • Don’t click strange adverts or pop-ups that appear on websites.

Tip

You can prevent some malware attacks from happening by disabling JavaScript in your browser. Although it may break certain web pages, your browsing will get more secure.

To disable JavaScript in Safari:

  • Go to Safari Settings > Security.
  • Deselect Enable JavaScript.

    How to protect Mac from malware

    Now, as we’ve described how to prevent malware, we want to focus on some protection tips. We’ve covered that in more detail in this article, but here are a few pointers.

    Create a new user profile

    Usually, viruses are attached to a particular user profile on your computer, and so they control your admin profile. Creating a new user on your Mac can help escape the virus. 

    1. Go to the Apple menu > System Settings > Users & Groups.
    2. Click Add Account and type in your admin password.
    3. Follow the on-screen instructions to create a new user. Make sure it is an administrator account. 

    Now, move your important information from one user to another. Do this:

    1. Open the Finder > Go > Go to Folder...
    2. Paste in this: /Users
    3. Copy the needed files from your old user account to the Shared folder.

    Run regular scans

    Another best practice is to develop the habit of running checks using a dedicated cleaner app. If you’re too busy to perform system scans, the app we mentioned earlier, CleanMyMac X, comes with a background scan and malware monitor tools. They not only check your system for malicious activities but also react to any active threats and let you remove them right away.

    Here’s how to bring Mac virus and malware protection to a whole new level:

    1. Install and open CleanMyMac X (free download here).
    2. Navigate to the Menu app by clicking the iMac icon on the menu bar.
    3. Go to Preferences (gear icon at the bottom right) > Protection.
    4. Make sure that all three boxes are selected. 
    Protection

    Keep your macOS up to date

    New OS releases come with security patches, which may help prevent infection. So, head over to System Settings > General > Software Update and check if any update is available. While there, enable automatic updates.

    System Preferences - Software Update

    As you can see, there are many different ways to remove a virus from a Mac, depending on how badly infected it is and what kind of virus it is. The main thing to remember is if you suspect your Mac is infected, don’t worry; it can be fixed. Hope your Mac stays virus-free, and may you never click those scary Mac alerts again.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is malware?

    The term “malware” is a broad term for all unwanted intrusions. Common types of malware you can encounter on Mac are download managers, backdoor infections, spyware, keyloggers, botnet, Trojans, ransomware, and potentially unwanted apps (PUAs).

    Can a Mac get malware?

    Mac computers have long been considered virus-free. They are indeed secure, but as the Apple security features have improved, so has malware. Macs are mostly attacked by adware and PUAs, which macOS has no counteraction against. 

    How do I know if my Mac has a virus?

    Here are some tell-tale signs that your Mac may have been affected by a virus or malware: unexpected Mac reboots and freeze-ups, a sudden drop in performance, apps starting for no reason, an increased amount of pop-ups and ads, new apps installed without your permission, and an unexplained change of browser settings (such as search engine or homepage).

    Why is malware dangerous?

    Malware may put your private and sensitive information at risk, not to mention that it significantly slows down your Mac. In the worst cases, it may result in financial loss and identity theft.