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If you don’t think the virus threat to your Mac is dire enough to spend any money protecting against it, ClamXav will get the job done. It’s based on a well-established open source project (clamav), and provides a decent level of protection (thanks in part to daily updates of its virus definitions). It costs nothing to buy or update (though the author does request donations), so ClamXav is about as cheap as it gets.
For the price, it’s a pretty capable virus scanner. You can easily schedule scans via the built-in scheduler (though you should note that a scheduled scan failed to run when I intentionally put the Mac to sleep at the chosen time). ClamXav did a good job scanning my test system’s hard drive, finding all the malware we threw at it. The program wasn’t fast about it, though: It took more than an hour and a half to scan our 13GB application folder, which Intego VirusBarrier ( ), for example, scanned in 13 minutes.
Unlike other, more polished antivirus apps, ClamXav won’t keep track of which folders it’s already scanned, so re-scanning the same folder will take just as long the second time as it did the first. And while the useful ClamXav Sentry app will scan folders and files in real time, it only worked some of the time in my testing—occasionally it spotted a test virus file immediately, but other times it missed it altogether.
As you might expect from its price, ClamXav doesn’t have the polished look and feel of some of its commercial competitors. Its buttons and fonts aren’t what you’ve come to expect in a OS X app. Drag-and-drop scanning isn’t supported, so you’ll have to navigate through a dialog box each time you want to scan a folder.
If you want more information about malware the program finds, you’ll have to navigate to the Clamav homepage, where you’ll find a searchable database of virus information. Unfortunately, the data you find there may be light on details. A search for Leap-A, for instance, returned one line, simply listing “Trojan.Leap.A.” By contrast, Symantec’s Norton AntiVirus ( ) has a full page of Leap.A information, including screenshots.
Macworld’s buying advice
Despite its user interface issues and slow scanning speed, ClamXav will provide a good level of protection for the typical user, and you can’t beat its price. If you don’t want to spend the money on Norton Antivirus or VirusBarrier X4, ClamXav is worth considering, as long as you’re aware of its limitations and quirks.
[Macworld Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs MacOSXHints.com.]
EDITOR’S NOTE: This version of ClamXav is no longer available, as it’s been superseded by by 1.0.3, which we cover in this review.ClamXav wraps an OS X GUI around an open-source command line tool, which explains the brushed metal look and the small, non-standard buttons and fonts.