Install Antivirus Software

If this book were about PC maintenance, one of the first steps would have been to install antivirus software. For Windows users, malicious software (or malware) has become epidemic in recent years, leading to untold grief and loss of time, money, and data. Among the varieties of malware are viruses (and their close cousins worms and Trojan horses), spyware (programs that spy on your computer usage, collecting sensitive personal data), and pop-up ad programs. Luckily, very little malware runs on Mac OS X: as of the time I wrote this, I could count on one hand the programs of this sort that have been found "in the wild."

Even though Mac users have been fortunate so far, we would be wrong to assume our computers are immune to infection. Sooner or later, someone is bound to come up with malicious software that does serious damage to Macs, and when that happens, those with enough foresight to have installed antivirus software will be much more likely to continue merrily with their work while the rest of us struggle to restore our systems.

A Conversation about Periodic Maintenance Tasks

Should you worry about running the periodic maintenance tasks at all? The experts had this to say:

Kirk McElhearn: This is one of my bugbears. In very few cases are these routines essential and, with all due respect, I think it's excessive to suggest otherwise. Too many users think that these routines can solve problems; I've never seen a case where this is true. At bestunless you use the locate commandthey're placebos. They can clean out some log files, but again, only in some cases (if you run a server) does this make much of a difference.

Andy Affleck: I've found that the real advantage to running these tasks regularly is the log rotation. When I ran them manually I saw some space gains on my disk. It wasn't huge, but it was noticeable.

Dan Frakes: I agree with Andy: for most people it won't help much, but it will clean up log files. And if you use locateor the free GUI equivalent, Locator ('s useful to have the locate database updated regularly.

Chris Pepper: Right, and remember, the locate database is as relevant to SSH or a BBEdit shell worksheet as it is to Terminal.

Joe Kissell: I use locate all the time, so this is a big deal to me. For what it's worth, updating the locate database is one of the weekly script items. All three script types (daily, weekly, and monthly) rotate certain logs. The daily tasks also back up your NetInfo database and delete certain "scratch" files, such as temporary files used when you send faxes. The monthly tasks include generating reports of system usage for each user.

Furthermore, many kinds of malware spread via email, so you could unwittingly serve as a carrier by forwarding messages containing viruses to your Windows-using friends.

Your best defense is to load antivirus softwareand keep it up to date. Developers release regular updates (to handle the latest threats), and you must be certain to configure your preferences to download them automatically as soon as they appear.


Although having antivirus software is better than not having it, and having up-to-date antivirus software is better still, there are no ironclad guarantees. A particularly wily virus might still sneak by. So you should still exercise caution, and especially avoid opening iChat or email attachments from unknown sources.

Antivirus software available for Mac OS X includes the following:

  • ClamXav (; free)

  • Intego VirusBarrier X4 (; $70)

  • Norton AntiVirus (; $50)

Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups. Industrial-Strength Techniques
Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups. Industrial-Strength Techniques
Year: 2004
Pages: 144 © 2008-2017.
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