Give your Mac a health check with ClamXav

When your Mac starts behaving strangely and not as it usually does, it makes you wonder whether it might have some sort of malware on it, such as a virus, Trojan or even a type of adware. It is rare for Macs to be infected, but it is not unknown, so when my Mac started playing up, I had to check it out and downloaded ClamXav.

If you think Apple kit is safe from hackers and malware, you should read The Mac Security blog. However, unlikely it may be, it is always worth checking your Mac occasionally and especially if it isn’t working as it should.

The reason why my Mac was misbehaving turned out to be a bug in OS X, but that’s another story. (Yes, Macs have bugs as well as the odd virus or two, they aren't perfect by any means.) Here’s how to check your Mac with ClamXav. I got it direct from the website, but it can also be found in the Mac App Store (UK / US).

Download the ClamXav.dmg file from and double click it to open it. Drag the file to the Applications folder. Also drag ClamXav Engine to the Applications folder so if you ever want to remove the app, you can, without hunting around for ways to delete it.

ClamXav anti virus for OS X

Open from the Applications folder. You will see a security message asking if you are sure you want to open it. Click Open. If you have any problems opening it, go to System Preferences, Security and Privacy, and on the General tab under Allow apps downloaded from select Anywhere.

The first time you run ClamXav, you must install the anti virus engine. Ignore the View Instructions button (it’s for programmers) and click Install. When the installer appears, just click the Continue button.

Install ClamXav anti virus for OS X

After installing the engine, return to ClamXav and you will see the following two messages. New threats are constantly appearing, so it is important to download the latest virus definitions. Click Check Automatically and Update Now.

Update ClamXav anti virus definitions

You can scan the Mac’s disk drive immediately after the updates, but you might want to configure some of the options first. Go the the ClamXav menu and select Preferences. Select Exclude files and use the plus button to add zip (and I aded bz too).

ClamXav preferences

The reason for this is that scanning the contents of zips is very time consuming if you have a lot of them. I archive work into zips and have a lot of them, so I always tell anti virus software to ignore them. Malware inside of a zip cannot execute and you would have to extract the contents to open any of the apps and files it contained. Then is the time to scan it, not while it is still locked inside the zip.

Select your home folder on the left and click Start Scan in the toolbar. The time it takes to complete is obviously dependent on the number of files you have and the speed of your Mac. It could take minutes or hours.

Deal with Mac viruses using ClamXav

After scanning, any viruses are displayed. Windows viruses, which don’t work on Macs, are often found attached to emails, so don’t immediately panic if you see that malware is found. You don’t want to pass on malware to your Windows-using friends, so right click them and select Reveal in Finder and delete them, or use the Delete File menu option.



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