Feature-packed Mac security and tune-up app misses some basics
THE BOTTOM LINE
MacKeeper offers security, privacy, and tune-up features, but it lacks essential protection against malicious and fraudulent URLs.
Per Year, Starts at $119.40
- There are numerous security, privacy, and performance options available.
- VPN with built-in security
- A single perfect lab test result
- On-demand malware scanning that is quick and accurate
- All-inclusive premium services are offered.
- There is no safeguard against malicious or fake URLs.
- Premium services are exorbitantly priced.
|On-Demand Malware Scan||Yes|
|On-Access Malware Scan||Yes|
|Malicious URL Blocking||No|
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Most Mac users now sheepishly concede that their prized machines are vulnerable to virus attacks. Although they are a more difficult target than a Windows machine, assaults do succeed, thus a Mac antivirus is essential. It’s even better if your security software offers more than just virus protection. MacKeeper comes with several security, privacy, and performance features. However, it lacks crucial functionality that we’ve come to expect in antivirus software, regardless of platform, such as protection against dangerous URLs.
The primary window of MacKeeper has a menu on the left side that is separated into sections for Security, Cleaning, Performance, and Privacy. A built-in chat assistance system is located on the right side. The Find & Fix option, which is chosen by default, has a large button to start a scan at the bottom of the screen, with a schematic of what will be (or has been) scanned taking up the majority of the screen. It’s a little crowded, but it’s manageable.
Since my last evaluation, the product’s look has altered somewhat. Cleaning used to be at the top of the priority list, but now it’s Security. Internet Security and Track My Mac were previously available under Security; now, Antivirus and Adware Cleaner are available. The large colored ring, whose quadrants used to indicate the state of those four primary feature groupings, has become more subtle. Instead of merely text, each quadrant now has an icon. These are primarily aesthetic modifications, but the result is nice.
A Checkered Past
If you’ve been in the Mac security scene for a while, you’re probably familiar with MacKeeper, and not in a good way. The firm used to be known as scareware, which meant that its free version reported phony faults to scare people into paying for a remedy. In 2014, the corporation was sued for these actions, as well as the actions of their out-of-control affiliates.
Clarion, the business that also produces the peculiar Clario antivirus for Mac, also owns MacKeeper. AppEsteem, a site dedicated to removing deceptive tactics by applications of all sorts, certified MacKeeper, which the firm requested and received. Of course, as the CEO of AppEsteem stated, firms that have never been accused of misleading methods do not require certification. Nonetheless, MacKeeper appears to have reined in those rogue affiliates and removed all traces of scareware activity.
How Much Does MacKeeper Cost?
MacKeeper was undoubtedly pricey at the time this review was published. It cost $16.95 per month, or $203.40 per year if you paid it monthly. Paying for a year at a time reduces the cost to $119.40 a year, which is the equivalent of $9.95 per month. You may also secure three Macs for $139 each year.
During the evaluation process, those list prices were modified. The reduced three-Mac annual pricing dropped to $83.40 at one time. The three-Mac option vanished overnight, replaced with a two-year license that was priced for $358.80 but was reduced to $118.80. The monthly list price also dropped from $16.95 to $14.95.
The cost appears to have leveled down in the weeks thereafter. One-year membership for one Mac costs $71.40 right now, and an upgrade to three Macs costs $89.40. Monthly pricing is possible, but at $10.95 per month, it adds up to a substantial sum over time.
Airo Antivirus for Mac and Intego are both on the expensive side, at $99.99 a year each, and Clario is about the same, but you get three licenses for each. True, MacKeeper is more than just antivirus; it also includes VPN protection, ad blocking, system cleansing, and more. However, Norton’s Mac software is a full-fledged security package, and your $104.99 Norton membership includes five cross-platform licenses, five no-limits VPN subscriptions, and 50GB of online backup storage. A single macOS antiviral license costs roughly $40 per year, which is a little more than half the price of MacKeeper.
McAfee AntiVirus Plus (for Mac) is particularly noteworthy. It costs $59.99 per year, which is significantly cheaper than MacKeeper’s three-license cost. With a single subscription, you can secure all of your family’s devices, whether they run macOS, Windows, iOS, or Android.
Of course, you can acquire free antivirus protection for your Mac. Free security for your Mac is available from Avira Free Antivirus for Mac, Avast, AVG, and Sophos Home Free (for Mac). Avast received near-perfect results from two separate laboratories, as I’ll explain below.
Some macOS security tools demand the most recent macOS versions, while others are OK with macOS versions that might be charitably described as antiquated. ProtectWorks AntiVirus (for Mac) is compatible with all versions of Mac OS X from 10.6 (Snow Leopard) to the present. MacKeeper is in the middle, requiring at least 10.11, much as McAfee and Vipre (El Capitan).
Getting Started With MacKeeper
MacKeeper was installed fast on my test Mac. It began scanning the Mac immediately after installation. When I last looked at MacKeeper, I discovered that the scan uncovered issues but demanded money before fixing them. For a more pleasant experience, I paused the first scan and activated the product with my license key.
I conducted the scan one more after activating the product. It didn’t take long, and it revealed a slew of issues that needed to be addressed. Security, Privacy Cleaning, and Performance are the four quadrants that appear in the scan window. Following the scan, the Security quadrant presented a red warning that real-time virus protection was not turned on, stating that “it is a requirement on Macs.” I agree, but why isn’t it enabled by default? I also learned that the scan identified no adware or PUAs on the security information page (Potentially Unwanted Applications).
I went through the other quadrants before going for the main adjustment. Under Cleaning, MacKeeper claimed that it was able to restore 1.2GB of useful disc space by removing garbage files, duplicate files, and “app remnants.” There were two obsolete programs on the Performance tab, but no “useless startup items.” Submitting email addresses for a data breach scan and turning on the StopAd component were among the privacy tips.
I completed the scan after reviewing the results and selected the large Fix Items Safely option. I’m sure that ordinary people would just scan, correct, and go on with their lives.
After the automatic portion of the scan was completed, MacKeeper recommended a few further steps. It didn’t activate real-time protection by default (why would it?) So, following the program’s instructions, I took care of it. It walked me through the process of granting access permissions to MacKeeper’s antivirus component (something that happens with every macOS antivirus). It stated that I should provide the product with complete disc access (another standard requirement). Finally, it instructed me to install the StopAd ad blocker in both Chrome and Safari.
With that, I was virtually at the app’s highest level of security. All that was left was to set up ID Theft Guard. Below, I’ll go into ID Theft Guard in further depth.
It’s worth noting that the browser addons are ad-blocking only. MacKeeper, unlike Bitdefender, Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, Norton, and other rival programs, does not attempt to redirect the browser away from malware-hosting or fraudulent (phishing) sites. It also doesn’t flag potentially unsafe links in search results.
Good Lab Scores
When I review Windows antivirus software, I use a library of real-world malware samples that I gather, curate, and analyze myself to do hands-on tests. To help in my testing, I employ several hand-coded tools. It’s a good system, but when I’m testing on a Mac, it’s completely worthless. My apps don’t operate on Mac OS X, and I don’t have any Mac-specific virus. As a result, the results of independent testing labs become increasingly significant.
When I last checked, neither of the labs that I follow for reports on macOS antivirus programs had MacKeeper in their test findings. AV-Test Institute, on the other hand, included it in their most recent round of testing and gave it the highest possible score. For safety, performance, and usability, products can receive up to six points apiece, and MacKeeper earned every one of them. Avira, Clario, and Norton received all 18 points as well.
Currently, over half of the compounds, we track do not appear in either set of test findings. McAfee, Sophos, and Vipre Advanced Security are among them (for Mac). Those three have shown up in one or more previous test results, and they might show up again. The test subjects in the laboratory are often shuffled.
I also keep track of AV-Comparatives’ Mac antivirus results. Only six programs were included in the most recent survey, and five of them, except Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac, received a flawless score of 100 percent. Avira is the only product I monitor that has perfect results in both labs right now.
Scans and Malware
When the antivirus scan was part of the four-part scan indicated above, I couldn’t determine how long it took, so I did a separate scan. It completed the task in seven minutes, faster than any other current solution save Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus (for Mac), which took less than three minutes. With an eight-minute scan, Clario got close.
In addition, various products may have different definitions of a thorough scan. The scanning duration for current products is roughly 25 minutes on average, while ClamXAV (for Mac), F-Secure, Kaspersky, and McAfee all took more than 40 minutes. We just don’t know what they did with their additional time.
As previously said, I do not have a macOS malware collection to evaluate, although most Mac antivirus programs do their utmost to remove any Windows malware they find. These objects can’t infect the Mac, but removing them eliminates the possibility of the Mac acting as a carrier.
I put a USB drive into the Mac and transferred a folder containing my current Windows examples. When I accessed the folder, MacKeeper’s real-time protection didn’t kick in, so I moved it to the Custom Scan window. MacKeeper rapidly eliminated 83 percent of them, matching Kaspersky’s detection rate.
That’s good, but there have been a lot of items that have been done better. Webroot was able to remove 100% of the Windows malware samples, whereas F-Secure and Clario were only able to remove 89 percent.
I looked for a way to book a scan but couldn’t locate it right away. I discovered it under Preferences, titled Regular Scan, after some research. Every 24 hours, MacKeeper does a scan. You can’t adjust the timetable; the only options are to turn it on or off. It’s great that it’s turned on by default.
Bonus Features for Security and Privacy
MacKeeper may install the StopAd ad-blocking plugin in Chrome and Safari, as previously mentioned. Separate from the antivirus, it also includes an Adware Cleaner. But the benefits of security and privacy don’t end there.
ID Theft Guard
Is it possible that your email address has been compromised as a result of a data breach? Enter it into the ID Theft Guard scanner to find out. However, you can’t just look up break data for any old address. To access full results, you must input a confirmation number issued to the tested address to establish that you possess it.
I comprehended why that confirmation is necessary after seeing the scan findings. You not only receive a list of accounts that have been hacked, but you also get to view the password that has been disclosed. Allowing people to look at passwords for accounts they don’t control isn’t a good idea.
The breach description in some cases pointed to a specific website, such as LinkedIn or IObit. Other breaches were characterized as collections or combination lists culled from a variety of sources. Others were given the moniker “Sensitive Source.” The findings were very comparable to those of Safe Me’s Dark Web Exposure study, even down to the phrasing in the definition of vulnerable sources. I’m guessing both items are based on the same third-party research. Safe Me discovered all of the same breaches as MacKeeper, plus a few more that weren’t on MacKeeper’s list.
Change your password right away if your website has been hacked! It’s not as simple with combinations and sensitive sources. If you identify the password that was leaked, you should change it anywhere you’ve used it, using a new password for each site. This task necessitates the use of a password manager.
Once you’ve resolved all of the issues, mark them as resolved and tell MacKeeper to keep an eye on the email address for any future breaches. This stage must be completed to get an “Excellent” status on the main screen.
Private Connect VPN
MacKeeper includes an integrated VPN, which is rather impressive. When you use a VPN to access the internet, all of your communications are routed over an encrypted channel to the VPN server you choose. This prevents anybody from eavesdropping on your online traffic, even the nefarious proprietor of the coffee shop network you’re using.
Furthermore, your internet queries appear to originate from the server rather than from your IP address. This protects you from trackers trying to figure out where you are, and it may even allow you to access stuff that isn’t available in your country. It’s worth noting that utilizing a VPN to view geo-restricted content might violate your terms of service. This practice is frowned upon by Netflix in particular. Finding a VPN that works with Netflix may take some time, and even then, a provider that works one day may be prohibited the next.
I was initially perplexed when I saw the list of accessible servers. I saw several US locations in the Pacific Northwest, followed by one in Canada, more US locations, Mexico, and so on. After a few periods of reflection, I discovered that the list is sorted by distance from my current position. Is it significant that Miami, Colombia, Ireland, and Norway are all within a few hundred miles of me?
MacKeeper now has 296 server locations across 50 countries, according to the business. With so many options, I’d like the list to be more structured. How about generating submenus by nation or, in the United States, by state, instead of a single scrolling list with roughly 300 entries?
On the bright side, MacKeeper has several sites in South America and one in Africa, both of which are frequently underserved by VPN networks. Several VPN-unfriendly countries, such as China, Russia, and Turkey, also have servers. I also spotted a tiny number of servers designated “(P2P)” in New York and the Netherlands. That suggests that P2P isn’t allowed on the various other servers, however, I couldn’t locate any confirmation.
MacKeeper leases the server network from “a large player in the VPN area,” according to my corporate contact, but MacKeeper is “contractually not authorized to say who.” I noticed a hint, a reference to VPNWholesaler.com while scrolling through the seemingly infinite list of third-party credits. However, neither I nor PCMag’s VPN specialist Max Eddy had heard of it. Private Connect, I discovered, employs the OpenVPN protocol, which we believe is the finest option.
Because Private Connect is a Mac-only app that can’t be purchased separately from MacKeeper, there isn’t a separate review for it. It is simple to use, as I can attest. Simply select your server (or allow the VPN to do it) and turn it on. There aren’t any other options. Advanced features such as a kill switch or split tunneling are not available. However, the majority of consumers do not understand or require them. MacKeeper’s VPN protection is a welcome feature.
No More Track My Mac
When last reviewed, MacKeeper included a feature called Track My Mac. You could log in to your MacKeeper account and locate a lost or stolen Mac. I found it to be wildly inaccurate in testing, placing the Mac as much as 10 miles from its actual location.
The company removed that feature a few months ago—no big loss, based on my experience. The MacKeeper blog includes instructions on how to use the Find My app that’s built right into macOS, which makes more sense.
The Update Tracker component is classified as a speed booster by MacKeeper, but I see it as a security tool as well. Malware writers are always looking for security flaws in macOS and popular apps, while security experts are continually developing and releasing fixes to address those flaws. You risk having your Mac hacked if you don’t apply all available security fixes.
When you select to remedy discovered problems, MacKeeper does an update check as part of its four-part scan, and it immediately downloads any needed updates. You may also conduct a separate update scan. There is a setting that allows you to exclude certain apps from updates, but I can’t think of a valid reason to do so.
Performance Enhancing Tools
MacKeeper has a suite of performance-enhancing features in addition to security. The Update Tracker has already been suggested as a security feature. It also ensures that your apps are up to date and working at their best.
The Memory Cleaner claims to improve speed by releasing any RAM that isn’t in use. You may perform a fast cleaning, check memory use information, or discover how much memory each program is taking by clicking. In today’s era of strong CPUs and abundant memory, I’m not sure this is required.
Run a Login Items scan to discover what processes start up when your Mac boots up. Any that MacKeeper determines to be “useless” is automatically disabled. Any that aren’t locked by the system can be disabled manually. This type of startup management capability is popular in Windows security software, but not so much in macOS security software.
The first four-part scan found no login entries, but when I ran it on its own, it found ten. MacKeeper owned half of them, which were locked to prevent any alterations. I didn’t think any of the others deserved to be kicked out.
Cleaning Up Your Mac
System cleansing has nothing to do with security except to remove evidence of your computer and internet activities from prying eyes, yet it’s a typical feature of Windows security suites. In a variety of ways, MacKeeper assists you in keeping your Mac clean of unwanted files.
Safe Cleanup’s goal is to remove only garbage files, as the name says. It should never delete anything critical when you run it. It runs automatically during a full system scan, as do many of the other capabilities of this software, but you may also start it manually.
It takes a little more expertise to use the Duplicates Finder. True, you don’t need several copies of the same data files, but when you clean up, make sure you leave the sole surviving duplicate where you expect to find it. MacKeeper claims to retain originals and only remove copies, however, I’d go through its recommended activities first.
A solo scan, like the Login Items scan, discovered far more than the four-part scan. The complete scan revealed 47 groups of duplicates, each with two to four identical files, where the install-time scan found and eliminated only one duplicate file. All of the duplicates discovered were either photos or scripts. Norton 360 Deluxe (for Mac) checks for duplicates as well as identical files like 720p and 1080p versions of the same movie.
It’s not always easy to remove files from a Mac. You can just drag certain programs from the Finder to the trash. Others need the use of a specialized uninstaller. You can’t always be certain you’ve removed all traces of software. Smart Uninstaller from MacKeeper solves this problem by locating and eradicating any remaining traces. It discovered 32 files to delete on my test machine, saving 14.9MB.
Those lingering remnants might be a real issue. I couldn’t get MacKeeper to properly install at first. MacKeeper loaded without a hitch when a tech support employee went in and manually cleaned away a tonne of remnants from previous antivirus installs. Smart Uninstaller would have probably identified much more if it hadn’t been for the manual cleanup.
Premium Services is the only option from the left-rail menu that I haven’t addressed. When you select this option, you’ll be prompted to conduct a free system checkup with the assistance of a live chat support person. If you decide to subscribe, you’ll be able to access Premium Services to fix any tech issue on any device.
With a Premium Services membership, you can get support on any tech issue, including tweaking your Mac to the max, app support, and help setting up new devices, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with unlimited support calls. The Premium Services page of the company’s website lists a wide range of issues they’ve fixed, from acquiring a voice-controlled microwave to setting up a computerized embroidery machine.
What’s the catch? The checkup is free, but correcting issues needs a membership, which costs $696 per year or $58 each month. McAfee’s Concierge Techmaster Gold service is comparable, however, it costs only $179.95 per year. Trend Micro’s Ultimate Services Bundle costs roughly the same as McAfee, but it also includes a five-license subscription to Trend Micro Maximum Security, which would cost $89.95 per year if purchased alone.
Other security businesses provide premium assistance at various tiers, all for a fraction of what MacKeeper charges.
Go With a Proven Winner
Beyond simple antivirus protection, MacKeeper provides a wealth of security, privacy, and performance options. However, it lacks expected capabilities like limiting access to harmful and fraudulent URLs, and it is more expensive than alternatives with a track record.
In the world of Mac antivirus, we’ve found three solutions that deserve our Editors’ Choice award: Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac, Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac, and Norton 360 Deluxe (for Mac). One of the two laboratories gave them all a perfect score. Not only do they all include antivirus, but they also have a lot of other functions. All three are less expensive per device than MacKeeper.