Is XProtect Good Enough to Keep a Mac Safe?

Apple and Mac computers have a strong reputation for being safe and secure. Many factors went into building that reputation. One of them is the built-in security tools such as XProtect, but some may say that their reputation is really due to a strong marketing campaign.

Either way, your Mac does come with built-in security and XProtect is one of the very important pieces of the system. So, is XProtect good enough to keep a Mac Safe? Or do you need a 3rd party security tool to do the job? 

The quick answer is: XProtect can keep your Mac safe, but there are some factors you’ll want to consider.

My name is Eric and as a software engineer and long-time computer enthusiast, I know the importance of keeping your computer safe and free from viruses and malware. Built-in security such as XProtect makes things easy and I can show you how it can make your computer safe.

Keep reading below and we will discuss some of the factors that you should consider when trying to decide if using just XProtect is good enough to keep your Mac safe or if you need to consider using a 3rd party virus and malware scanner.

What is XProtect?

XProtect is part of your Mac’s built-in security. It performs antivirus functionality by detecting and removing any files or applications that it determines to be a virus or malware. XProtect defends your system from malicious software. It works in macOS 10.15 or later and checks for malware and viruses whenever the following takes place.

  • An app is first launched.
  • An app has been changed.
  • When XProtect signatures are updated.

XProtect runs in the background which means that you won’t even see it running but it is there to protect you from the latest malware 

Can XProtect Protect Your Mac

So, what most people want to know is, can XProtect keep your Mac from getting a virus or malware? For the most part, it can but this is a difficult question to answer. After all, no software can keep your system completely safe. 

With that being said, Macs are known for their great security and some even say that Macs don’t get viruses or malware. Is this true? Of course, it’s not. All systems, no matter who they are made by, are vulnerable to malicious actors, and Macs are no different.

The thing is, in the past, Macs have been targeted much less than PCs because there are so many more PCs out there and PCs are used in so many more environments and applications. It makes sense that the largest percentage of viruses and malware target PC systems.

This is something that Apple has definitely taken advantage of and used as a marketing tool to be able to say that Macs are less likely to be victims of viruses and malware. The truth is, that malicious software targeting Macs is on the rise and this is definitely something to think about.

This does not mean that XProtect can’t keep your Mac safe. In most cases, it can and it does but since it’s not Apple’s main focus, it may not be as extensive as 3rd party companies whose only goal is to prevent viruses.

So, XProtect is good enough in most cases, it may not be as good as some 3rd party applications. XProtect does work with other system security tools on your Mac to help ensure its safety and if you take steps as well, you may be ok with just using XProtect.

In the following sections, I’ll discuss some of the other tools XProtect works with to help cover all the bases and what you can do to make sure XProtect and the other built-in tools do their jobs the best they can.

Working with other Mac Security Tools

XProtect will help to prevent your Mac from getting viruses and other Malware and it does a pretty good job, but it is not alone. It works alongside other built-in tools to keep your system safe. 

Your Mac has its own firewall to help keep out intruders. It also uses encryption and other methods such as Executive Disable (XD), Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), and System Integrity Protection. These processes run in the background and prevent viruses from accessing your data and critical files.

As for protection against malware specifically, your Mac has 3 layers of protection, two of which incorporate XProtect.

1st Layer

The first layer helps to prevent the download, launch, and execution of Malware. The App Store or Gatekeeper combined with Notarization creates a preventative layer in which your Mac tries to stop malicious behavior before it can even get started. 

2nd Layer

The next layer of protection takes place if and when malware does make its way onto your Mac. Gatekeeper, XProtect, and Notarization all work together to quickly identify it, block it, and prevent it from spreading. They also begin the process of remediating any systems that may have been affected by it.

3rd Layer

If malware manages to successfully execute on your Mac, XProtect will try to fix any damage that has been done to your system and get it back to normal operations.

Along with these 3 layers of protection, Apple updates your Mac daily with new virus definitions and information. This means you don’t have to wait for the next macOS update or security patch to have the latest in virus protection.

As you can see, overall, XProtect provides good quality virus and malware protection, especially when you consider the other security features that work alongside it. 

For most users, it will do the job especially if you take some of the measures described in the next section to ensure your computer is secure.

Ways to Ensure Your Built-in Mac Security Does Its Job

If you want to get the best protection out of XProtect and the other Mac security tools, there are some things you can do to help ensure they are performing at a top level.

1. Restart Your System Often

Even though Apple updates your Virus and Malware definitions daily, restarting your Mac helps those new definitions take effect and ensures XProtect will scan your system with them. Restarting your system will help to make sure your system is protected.

2. macOS Updates

Don’t put off doing macOS and security updates. We often get busy and don’t want to do these when we first see them. By putting them off, we are leaving our systems at risk since they may have important security updates. Try to install them as soon as possible.

3. Make sure the Firewall is Enabled

Your Mac comes with a built-in firewall. It can prevent unwanted intrusion into your system. Make sure it is enabled by going to System Settings, then Network, and then Firewall, or you can just search for Firewall in the System Settings search box.

Once you are there, make sure your firewall is enabled.

4. Use Encryption

Encryption won’t keep viruses and malware off of your system but it can help to protect your data when there is a breach. Go to System Settings, and then Privacy & Security. Look for FileVault and make sure it is turned on.

5. Regularly scheduled backups

Make sure you use Time Machine to back up your system on a regular basis. Time Machine makes it easy and it will allow you to restore your system to a point in time before any viruses or malware were introduced. This is always a good safety measure.

6. Use Caution

As with any system, use caution with websites that you visit, files and apps that you download, emails with attachments, and any other suspicious activity. No one can completely prevent malicious attacks but being cautious about what you do goes a long way to helping.

Advantages of Using 3rd-Party Security Software

Many will suggest using a 3rd-party virus and malware tool. These can be great and may work better than XProtect if you are willing to go that route. Below are some advantages you will gain by using a 3rd-party tool.

3rd party companies are focused on finding and removing viruses and malware. Apple has many other issues and priorities to worry about. It’s not a knock against them, it’s just not their main objective, whereas 3rd-party virus and malware companies have their main focus on finding and removing them.

They also have frequent updates. While Apple only updates your virus and malware definitions once a day, 3rd-party companies may do updates multiple times a day as they are constantly on the lookout for the latest malware.

3rd-party software may also have better tools to repair the damage if anything gets through. XProtect can do this but again it’s not Apple’s main focus, so other companies may have tools that are better at resolving these issues.

Disadvantages of Using 3rd-Party Security Software

There are also disadvantages to using 3rd-party solutions and many will advise against using them. For many, there are concerns about their effects on system performance. External virus and malware scanners are known to slow systems down and this can be a huge negative.

Some are also concerned with privacy issues and 3rd-party software. Depending on what country the company that develops the app comes from, it may have the right to access your data. While many don’t have issues with this, it can be a big concern to others.

The cost can also be a disadvantage. You will most likely need to pay for a quality virus and malware scanner and while it may be worth the cost, XProtect is free and works as well as many other tools out there.


In my opinion, XProtect is good enough to keep your Mac safe. It’s the only virus and malware protection that I use on my system and I have never had any issues. There may be better tools out there that have more up-to-date definitions and better tools but XProtect is just fine for most users.

I hope the information above has helped you to decide if XProtect is good enough to keep your Mac safe. As usual, let me know if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you.

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