Secure Your Mac with Free ClamXav Virus Checker
So after years of using a PC and running daily antivirus scans and weekly malware scans, you finally decided to switch to a Mac. You have a right feel safe knowing there are currently no viruses attacking Mac OS X (compared to the one million viruses and trojans that affect PCs), but there are still vectors of attacking your Mac through macros in documents and software vulnerabilities in your browser or other applications. Take a minute to review your antivirus options for your Mac.
Paid antivirus options for OS X offer background, on-access and behavior scanning, but most of these applications are designed for businesses and enterprise customers, and are not suitable for individual consumers. If you use your Mac on a school or business network, chances are IT has already insisted you install one of these applications. Symantec offers Norton AntiVirus for individuals, but there's no reason to pay $50 for it when ClamXav virus checker offers similar features for free. ClamXav is built on the open source ClamAV antivirus toolkit, originally designed for email scanning, but adapted for file scanning in ClamXav.
The latest version of ClamXav is supported for Intel and PowerPC Macs running OS X Tiger (10.4) and Leopard (10.5). There's also an up to date, but unsupported version available for Panther (10.3) and an old version available for stubborn Jaguar (10.2) users. After installing and running ClamXav, you will be asked to install the ClamAV antivirus engine. Do so, then take a look at the user interface and head to the preferences. ClamXav has several features that rival paid alternatives:
- Folder Sentry
- Configure ClamXav to scan certain folders in the background. Useful if you have a download folder that you want ClamXav to automatically scan before you open downloaded files. Folder Sentry can also scan inserted disks (external hard drives, flash drives, CDs, network drives, etc.)
- Schedule Weekly Scans and Updates
- Users can schedule scans and updates to run on any combination of days each week. The truly paranoid may want to enable a scheduled scan, but most users will find it sufficient to scan monthly, or when they're feeling suspicious.
- Email Scanning
- Configure ClamXav to scan email and attachments from Mail.
- Finder Integration
- By dropping a plugin in your "../Library/Contextual Menu Items" folder, you can right click on a file or folder and, under the "More" option, scan it with ClamXav.
- Scanning Filters
- Prevent ClamXav from scanning files with certain filenames, or tell it to scan only those files.
- Utilizes Growl Notifier
- Growl is a utility that allows other applications to provide users with pop-up notifications. It's highly customizable, and many OS X applications make use of it. I highly recommend you check it out.
After you've configured ClamXav, choose what to scan. If you want to scan your entire computer, go to the root directory and press command (the keyboard button next to space, which has an Apple logo on older Macs) and "a" to select all folders and files. ClamXav displays a progress bar and provides details in the report window. Mark Allan, the developer, has been optimizing ClamXav, but it still takes quite a while to scan everything, so be patient.
Remember that antivirus scanning is only one part of maintaining a secure computer. Update your applications regularly, especially your web browser (funny, I just got a notification that Firefox 3.0.2 is out), and run Software Update from the Apple system menu to make sure you have the latest OS update and security patches. A firewall blocks many unwanted network connections, so consider enabling your Mac's built-in firewall. Finally, if you visit questionable sites or frequently use P2Pservices, you should probably use PeerGuardian to block connections to undesirable computers.