Q&A July 2013

These questions were asked at the July meeting:

  • Do I need to install an anti-virus or Internet security program on my Mac?
  • I’ve run a disk speed benchmarking program on my 2009 iMac, what results should I expect?
    Q. Do I need to install an anti-virus or Internet security application on my Mac?

A. We recommend that Mac users do not need to install security or anit-virus applications. No viruses (malicious programs which spread without user interaction) are currently known on the Mac. There are a few trojan and malware programs which try to trick you into installing them but these can generally be avoided by using good internet security practices, We’ve included some suggestions below. PC Advisor has an article explaining why Macs are rarely affected by Malware and don’t need anti-virus products.

On-line security good practice suggestions:

  • Be wary of e-mails which ask you to open attachments or link to web sites even if they appear to be from friends or companies you know.
  • If a software installer or a prompt for your administrator password appears unexpectedly cancel the prompt and do not enter your password.
  • If you think a prompt for an upgrade or install might be genuine, still close it. Instead use the Check for Updates feature within the application if it has one or go to the official web site for the product and download the update from there.
  • Where possible download software from the Mac App Store.
  • For software which is not available on the App Store, take care to make sure you download it from the developer’s official web site.
  • Avoid unofficial software web sites and in particular pirated software.
    Mac Rumors has a useful Mac Virus/Malware FAQ article which covers this topic in more detail and includes further security tips.

If you would none the less like to run anti-virus software or are concerned about passing on Windows viruses (which don’t affect the Mac) to friends (for example by forwarding an e-mail that may have a Windows virus attached) a free option is the open source ClamXAV. This can scan your system for Mac and Windows viruses and trojans and scan new files as they are created. While ClamXAV is available in the Mac App Store, the version from the developer’s web site is more fully featured.

Q. I’ve run a disk speed benchmarking program on my 2009 iMac, what results should I expect?

A. Hard drive performance results can vary quite a lot based on the particular drive, computer and also how the test is performed (for example the size of the file and the testing program used). The person who asked this question had used Blackmagicdesign Disk Speed Test which is available on the Mac App Store. As a rough idea, the maximum throughput you should expect on a 7200RPM 3.5” hard drive of the type fitted to the iMac is about 120MB/s (this is from a review of one of the recommended drives on StorageReview.com) however this is in ideal conditions (the slowest performance noted on the same drive is about 60MB/s) and with a modern 2TB drive. Older and smaller drives will tend to be slower.

If you’re concerned your hard drive is running slowly then the ideal way to benchmark it would be to compare your results against someone with a similar system.