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Macintosh anti-virus software part 1

While currently something of an oxymoron, there’s a genuine case for running anti-virus software on your Mac. There’s not much in the way of genuine threats to the Mac OS in terms if virii but it doesn’t hurt to ensure you don’t pass anything nasty on to more vulnerable operating systems. Add in the very real possibility that a Mac OS threat will surface as the platform gains popularity and the need for Mac anti-virus becomes more compelling. We could all feel safe as Mac user’s but a smug attitude never gets much sympathy when it all goes horribly wrong.

So what are a Mac user’s options when it comes to anti-virus software? Unfortunately nowhere near as wide as a Windows user’s options, especially when it comes to free packages. I’ve had a search for what is available and focused on cost and compatibility. I don’t have a huge amount of free time since I work full time so I can’t run in depth performance comparisons. Any personal recommendations and experiences would be much appreciated in the comments.

NortonFirst up is Norton anti-virus. The Norton and Symantic names have been around as long as I can remember, and have a rather mixed reputation. I ran several versions of Norton anti-virus on Windows PC’s in the past and found the performance hit to be intrusive. The last couple of generations of Symantic’s products have focused on improving the performance, and version 11 for Mac is now available. The only review I could find of this product is at MacUser where it gets 3 out of 5, penalised for slow scanning and incomplete protection. Unobtrusive background scanning was praised, so there looks to be improvements in that area. Norton anti-virus for Mac is compatible with Mac OS 10.4.10 and later, and costs $49.95 to download from Symantic or £38.99 from Amazon UK.

SophosSophos Endpoint Security and Control is next up, and unlike Norton is aimed squarely at the enterprise and business market. No easily accessible web site for home users here. A 30 day trial is available after you have provided your details, but trying to get prices directed me to a list of resellers in my area. Buy-Sophos.co.uk was a bit more revealing, and quite obviously aimed at business users. The cheapest option for the Mac user is a five license pack at £106.40. I couldn’t fine any option to buy individual licenses, and the site only lists enterprise or small business as categories. Sophos amti-virus for Mac is compatible with Mac OS X 10.2.8 onwards.

McafeeMcafee is another long standing name in the virus protection field, but their virex product seems to have died a quiet death recently. Searching for Virex sends you to the Mcafee VirusScan for Mac page, and again this is a business targeted product. I downloaded the trial a couple of months ago and ran it in daily use. There were no problems problems found on the initial full system scan so I set the software to do a weekly scan and run the background monitor. Updates downloaded automatically without bothering me, so it was pretty much install and forget. The supplied uninstall script also ran without problems at the end of the trial. Buying online from Mcafee lists a price of £21.02, but there is a minimum order of 3 licenses so the lowest price is £63.06. Virusscan is compatible with Macs running Mac OS 10.4.6 or later.

In part 2 I will look at the other options I have found.

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