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Remove adware from your Mac: Malwarebytes put to the test

Stephan Wiesend

Malwarebytes anti-malware software specializes in Mac adware and can scan a Mac for malware in minutes.

EnlargeThe Malwarebytes software is available in versions for Mac and Windows.

Classic computer viruses that encrypt data or install Trojans, for example, are quite rare on the Mac platform. As current research by the AV-Test Institute shows, the Windows platform continues to be the main target of malware authors.

But that doesn't mean that Mac users are safe from malware or adware. In our regularly updated antivirus software comparison test, we therefore present the best antivirus software solutions for the Mac. Such a solution can be very useful, especially for professional users. For many private users, a complex and expensive virus scanner can usually not be justified. Software like Kaspersky or Bitdefender intervenes very deeply in the system, which can repeatedly lead to complications. In addition, Apple's Xprotect system already checks every download for malware.

What is very often found on many private Macs is so-called adware. These are small marketing tools from companies like Genieo that, after installation, redirect the browser to specific servers or collect data. Many users unintentionally install these tools themselves, for example by installing freeware or an allegedly free web service. Malwarebytes specializes in the detection and removal of these pests, also known as PUAs or Potentially Unwanted Applications. The software is available for Mac and Windows, the Mac version has a good reputation not least thanks to the company's good Mac blog. This was often the first to identify a still unknown Mac malware.

Fast malware check, background scanner for a fee

A complete scan of a Mac with conventional antivirus software can often take hours - each file is checked individually. Malwarebyte, on the other hand, searches specifically for certain Mac malware objects during a scan, so a complete checking process only takes a few minutes. This check often reliably detects all existing adware objects; the function is available free of charge. For from 40 euros a year, you can also activate a premium version. The difference to the free version: Only the paid version offers a background scanner that monitors the Mac hard drive in real time and automatically detects malware. Another function is an app blocker, which blocks all apps from certain developers - this blocks new apps from known malware authors. A similar protective function is provided by the gatekeeper function, which only allows apps from registered developers. Time-controlled full scans are also only possible with the premium version, the free version only supports manual scans.

The chargeable background scanner, however, left a mixed impression in our practical test. These so-called guards can slow down a Mac considerably. Good: In our Mac Mini 2018 with SSD, we did not notice any performance drops when copying or starting programs. However, the CPU load of the guard program is relatively high, the background program apparently activates itself every time the hard disk is accessed and briefly causes a high CPU load. Power-hungry programs such as a conversion with Handbrake were slowed down as a result, and the higher CPU load caused the Mac to warm up more quickly and higher energy consumption.

What to Know: The scanner is designed for Mac malware only. Windows malware is not recognized, and neither is Mac malware that is not active, for example in a subfolder. Even the download of an Eicar test virus (a test file for Windows antivirus programs) was not criticized. The "App Block" function, on the other hand, did not cause any loss of performance; both test functions can be switched on and deactivated individually.


If you want to quickly check a Mac for malware or adware, Malwarebytes is highly recommended. The free version is sufficient for this, the expensive premium version was only able to convince us to a limited extent. The background scanner caused too high a CPU load, the app block is also guaranteed by the gatekeeper function. The time-controlled scan, on the other hand, is a real advantage over the free version. In our opinion, the software can only replace a full-fledged virus scanner to a limited extent, so it does not recognize Windows malware.