Updated April 20th, 2020.
Did your Mac’s home page change all by itself? Do you see new items in your browser’s toolbar? Did you get a pop-up message telling you to call an 800 number, or your Mac will be erased? Are your searches being handled by some weirdo website? If so, your Mac may be infected with adware or malware. It’s easy to remove, so let’s do it.
UPDATE 7-12-2019: Has it all of a sudden become impossible to send email from your Mac, using your email ending in mac.com or me.com? This article might solve your problem too.
The best way to remove adware and malware is with a free program called Malwarebytes for Mac. Malwarebytes has long been a player in the PC world, where problems of this sort are worse, and now they are here to clean up our Macs.
Click this link to begin the free download, direct from the Malwarebytes website. (Note: Malwarebytes requires macOS 10.10 or higher. If your Mac is on an older system you’ll have to clean things up by hand. Ask me for directions.)
Tip: avoid downloading Mac software from anywhere other than the developer’s own site or the Apple Mac App Store. Many sites with promising names (i.e.,Download.com, MacUpdate.com) are loaded with adware and malware, and while you may get the software you want, you may also install a bunch of junk along with it. This is how stuff “all of a sudden” appears on your Mac, “all by itself.”
Running Malwarebytes is easy: launch the program, click on Scan, and wait. It takes just a few minutes to scan your machine. If you’re clean, it will say so:
If your Mac is not clean, Malwarebytes will show you what was wrong, and offer to get rid of it. The way they do it is they ask you to “Confirm” the items they’ve found. What you’re really doing is “confirming” that you want to get rid of the bad stuff. In my experience, there are no judgment calls when it comes to confirming: check all the boxes, and then click “Confirm.”
Technically, you aren’t deleting the items. You’re putting them into “Quarantine.” You can click on the Quarantine tab at the left of the Malwarebytes window and see what Malwarebytes has placed there. You might notice that the names of the items in the Quarantine folder sometimes have names like “megabackup” and “Advanced Mac Cleaner.” The names are very misleading– they make it sound as if these are good things. They’re not: If Malwarebytes says it’s malware, it’s malware. Get rid of it.
Malwarebytes offers you a free 14-day trial of their premium service. After that, Malwarebytes nags you for payment. In my opinion, you will be just fine with the free version. You can go to the Settings and tell the program that you want to keep using the free version rather than run in “Premium Trial Mode.” In my experience, you have to tell them twice– the setting does not stick the first time.
(The paid version does its work proactively, watching for bad stuff and either stopping it outright, or scanning for it on a specified schedule. The free version only works when you tell it to– you open the program, you click Scan, you click Start Scan.)
If you want free, scan-when-you-say-so anti-malware software, get Malwarebytes. If you’re going to pay for anti-virus software, I’d recommend Intego’s Virus Barrier instead. Malwarebytes still shows signs of being PC-oriented as many of its prevention features are Windows-only. Intego has been a Mac developer for many, many years, and it shows.
Use the promo code “INTEGOSECURE30” and get 30% off anything in the Intego Store:
Advice: If I were you, I’d run Malwarebytes today to see where you stand. Accept the free trial but convert your account to the free version. Run it whenever you think things aren’t working properly. And get Intego’s Virus Barrier if you want to “set it and forget it.” You can certainly do both.