Certified for Mac protection by an independent testing lab. Scans on demand, on access, and on schedule.
No web-based protection against malicious or fraudulent sites. Mediocre detection of Windows malware.
- Bottom Line
An independent lab verifies that ProtectWorks AntiVirus can keep your Mac safe from malware, but it lacks some useful features found in competing products.
Long-time Macintosh users fondly remember the days when they just didn't worry about ransomware, malware, and other such threats. Mac antivirus? Who needs it? The truth is, all Mac users do, because modern malware writers find the Mac platform a fine target, if not as easy to attack as Windows or Android. ProtectWorks AntiVirus aims to protect your macOS devices without getting in the way. It doesn't include the vast collection of bells and whistles found in some Windows-centered antivirus program, but it does provide basic protection.
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As with most Mac antivirus utilities, installation is quick and simple. You can choose a 30-day trial with full functionality, copy in a registration code, or click a link supplied in your purchase verification email to register.
While ProtectWorks does include real-time protection, its main window is all about the scans. Panels at the left let you scan the whole computer, scan your personal files, scan a specific location, or set up scheduled scanning. A status panel at the right lets you know that protection is enabled, and notifies you if you need to deal with found malware. Simple!
Pricing and OS Support
Quite a few Mac antivirus programs cost just under $40 per year, or $20 more for three licenses. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac, ESET, and Kaspersky fit this model. ProtectWorks is a little different. You pay $44.99 per year for a subscription, but that gets you protection for three macOS computers.
Pricing goes much lower, and also much higher. At the low end, Avira Free Antivirus for Mac and Sophos are completely free. In the other direction, Norton costs $89.99 per year for five licenses, and a three-license subscription to Intego will run you $99.99 per year. To be fair, these are both are actually full security suites, offering more than just antivirus protection.
If you're fortunate enough to have a thoroughly modern Macintosh, operating system support isn't an issue. You keep upgrading to the latest, and the antivirus makers keep supporting the latest. But if you're stuck on an old version, ProtectWorks can still help you out. Like ESET Cyber Security (for Mac), it supports macOS versions all the way back to 2009's version 10.6, Snow Leopard.
Malware Protection Scores
Independent antivirus testing labs around the world tend to focus on Windows malware and Windows security products, but some of them extend their testing to the macOS platform. Both AV-Comparatives and AV-Test regularly report on Mac-centered testing, but only AV-Test includes ProtectWorks.
Like most tested products, ProtectWorks proved effective enough in testing to earn certification from AV-Test Institute. However, there are degrees of success. Bitdefender, Intego, Kaspersky, and Norton handled 100 percent of the Mac malware samples, while ProtectWorks squeaked by with 94.6 percent, the lowest among certified products.
AV-Test's research team also challenged each product to detect and eliminate Windows malware. That may seem odd, but most Mac antivirus products (including ProtectWorks) promise to keep your Mac from possibly passing along malware to other devices on the network. Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac and Sophos, among others, managed a perfect score in this test. ProtectWorks caught just 20 percent of the Windows samples. That's better than Intego's zero percent, but it's still not so great.
Not all unwanted programs are actively malicious. AV-Test ran a separate evaluation using Mac-focused potentially unwanted applications, or PUAs. Several programs aced this test, among them Symantec Norton Security Deluxe (for Mac) and Bitdefender. The 85 percent score earned by ProtectWorks is on the low side.
Windows Malware Protection
Many antivirus utilities offer two levels of scanning. The quick scan looks for active malware and checks for traces in system areas that are frequently infected, while the full scan examines the entire computer. ProtectWorks doesn't bother with a quick scan, since the product's real-time protection should take care of any active malware. A full scan of the Apple MacBook Air 13-Inch I used for testing took 29 minutes, which isn't bad. The current average is a bit over 40 minutes.
Most of the products I've reviewed include scheduled scanning. You can schedule ProtectWorks to run a scan every day, week, or month. If the system isn't on at the scheduled time, it scans at your next login. You can also set it to scan after each malware definition update.
For a real-world test, I copied my collection of Windows malware to a USB drive and plugged it into the Mac. ProtectWorks immediately started scanning it and fairly quickly reported finding malware. After this scan, 43 percent of the samples wound up in quarantine. The average for current products is 64 percent detection, so this is a little low. Sophos Home (for Mac) eliminated 100 percent of these samples, while Intego managed just 18 percent.
On the quarantine page, I found that I could delete any item, remove it from the list, or remove all items from the list, but I didn't find a way to delete all items. As I went through, deleting them one at a time, ProtectWorks crashed. After restarting it, I managed to delete all of the items and clear the list.
What's Not Here
One great way to protect against malware is to ensure it never even reaches your computer. Most of the Mac antivirus utilities I've reviewed watch the websites you visit and warn you away from malware-hosting sites. They also steer you away from sneaky phishing sites, frauds that try to steal your login credentials for sensitive websites. In my hands-on antiphishing test, Bitdefender led the pack. Like Intego, ProtectWorks doesn't attempt to block access to malicious or fraudulent sites. You'll notice in the table below that McAfee AntiVirus Plus (for Mac) also has no scores here—that's because a Safari update earlier this year neutralized its website-filtering component. With the next update, McAfee will be back on the boards.
Other bonus features found in some competing products aren't as central as filtering dangerous websites. Norton, Intego, and McAfee offer a firewall along with their antivirus protection. Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, Sophos, and Trend Micro include varying degrees of parental control. I don't fault ProtectWorks for sticking to the main job, which is defending against malware.
ProtectWorks AntiVirus defends your macOS devices (up to three of them) against malware, and does a good enough job that an independent testing lab certifies its protection. However, it lacks the web-based protection found in most competing products, and its numeric malware protection scores came in well below some competitors. It's a decent product, but you can do better.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac earned top scores from both testing labs, as did Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac. They came in first and second place in my hands-on antiphishing test, and they both offer significant security features beyond antivirus basics. These two remain our Editors' Choice Mac antivirus utilities.
Neil Rubenking served as vice president and president of the San Francisco PC User Group for three years when the IBM PC was brand new. He was present at the formation of the Association of Shareware Professionals, and served on its board of directors. In 1986, PC Magazine brought Neil on board to handle the torrent of Turbo Pascal tips submitted by readers. By 1990, he had become PC Magazine's technical editor, and a coast-to-coast telecommuter. His "User to User" column supplied readers with tips… More »
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