App of the Week: Sophos Anti-Virus Home Edition

Since I began to be a techy, I’ve always been security conscious. So when I got a Mac going into college, even after hearing all the things about Mac’s being virus-free, I started looking for ways to secure my Mac. After going through Snow Leopard’s security options, updating it to the latest version, etc, I began to look for anti-virus programs. There are many paid solutions, some excellent and others I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. But I knew there had to be decent free stuff, and I found some. But they all lacked something, either in power, or protection, or some other flaw in their design. And when I decided to look just once more, Sophos came out with their free Antivirus for Mac Home Edition. I haven’t looked back since.

Sophos is known as Mac security company, and are usually the people you’ll find releasing information about new Mac security flaws and malware, though they do Windows as well. They’ve had a several paid solutions for awhile, and a few free products. As of several months ago, they released their Home protection for Mac and I love it. But wait, why do you need an anti-virus for Mac? One, we’re seeing more Mac malware of late, but also the trickle down effect is also a major factor (basically you’re Mac could get a Windows virus, and accidentally pass it to a Windows user, even though your Mac isn’t affected by the virus).

First of all, it’s light. I have never seen it hog memory while running in the background; it uses less memory on average than Mac’s Mail app does. You can set up background scans to run whenever and wherever you want. I’ve only seen it eat resources when I’ve manually told it to run scans, but its background scans are seamless. You can also tell it to scan the whole hard drive, as well as specific folders on the drive. So if you’re worried about email downloads, you can tell it to have a special scan specifically for that.

It updates every day on a schedule, but you can also tell it to manually update from the menubar icon, which I must say blends in very well with the menubar theme. Updating manually will give you pop up window telling you the update status, but it stays on top of the other windows if you try to navigate away. The auto update preferences are a little strange in that you can only set how often Sophos check for updates, but not specific times. So I have mine set to update once a day, but I had to set it at 10:00 am because I couldn’t manually tell it to update at that time.

Sophos will also give you desktop updates for any errors or viruses found on your computer, but you can also set it up to email you for threats and errors detected. It isn’t the easiest set up in the world; you enter in the recipient and the sender of the email, but you also have to give it the outgoing email server name (the SMTP). If you have an email account with a popular service like Gmail, AIM, etc., it’s pretty simple. But if you don’t know the server name for service providers, like Comcast, AT&T, etc., it might be a little trickier to set up. Still, this could be especially useful in homes with multiple computers and one techie (if you don’t here a frustrated scream first).

Sophos gives you on-access scanning, which is a fancy way of saying it scans new items as they’re downloaded and written to your system. You can turn this off for better performance, but I don’t recommend it. You can have Sophos scan network attached volumes, as well as archives and compressed folders, though this will take more time to scan.

Overall, Sophos has been my free anti-virus choice for Mac for awhile now, and I highly recommend it to everyone, but especially those who interact a lot with other Windows or Mac machines on a regular basis. It’s pretty simple to set-up, and is really straight forward in all of its preferences. I would like to see better support for mail clients, such as link or download scanning in Mail or Thunderbird, but otherwise it seems like a good and stable free solution for securing your Mac. UPDATE: Although it isn’t going to be implemented in the near future, I have been informed by Sophos themselves that mail-client integration is being considered as an option for them. Sophos Antivirus will however still scan any mail attachments you download and will quarantine them (if harmful) as they are being downloaded.

You can download it at:

And if you have any apps you’d like to recommend for review, security based or otherwise, let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email at You can check me out on Youtube and follow me on Twitter. Just hit the 2 big buttons on top for either way, or go to the websites and look me up. Thanks!

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