Updating Sophos Antivirus for Mac 9

I wanted to talk about scanning a Mac for malware (I could say ‘virus’ but I don’t want to start the ‘there are no viruses for Macs’ argument.

A virus is a certain type of Windows malware that is commonly and incorrectly used – by those not-in-the-know – for different types of malware.  You may hear a friend say ‘I have a virus on my computer’.  Maybe, if it’s Windows but probably not.  Chances are it’s a Trojan or something else.

I’ll discuss malware in another post (maybe).

Anyway, before I can mention scans I should mention your antivirus has to be up to date.  It’s a waste of time to run a (possibly lengthy) scan and find nothing because the scanner wasn’t up to date.

All antivirus software needs to be up to date.  Generally speaking, the way it works is that you download and install the main scanning software and then that software has to connect back to a server (provided by the company that sold you the software) for regular updates.

You configure the software with an address to contact, a user name and a password and small signature files are downloaded.  When the antivirus software runs these signature files tell the main scanner about all the latest malware.

New nasties are being passed round the internet all the time so if you’re out of date you’re unprotected.  If you see antivirus software as a prophylactic then you have just torn a big hole in it.

So it’s important to update.  As I have Sophos Antivirus 9 installed I thought I would share the process of updating.

Sophos Antivirus for Mac 9 (or SAV 9) has signatures called IDE files and Sophos seems to release them around the clock – 24/7.  Compare that to McAfee who only releases daily and you may think it is excessive if you’re on a slow connection or have a download cap.  Not really, these files are tiny.

How to update SAV 9

Click on the Sophos shield in the menu bar and then click ‘Update Now’


A status window appears and shows the progress.  The screen grab below shows the initial download immediately after installing SAV 9 and yes, it is large.  It’s as big as the original installer download for SAV 9.  However future updates will be small.


Tip: If the download process seems to have hung, reboot your computer and try again.  Otherwise wait for an off-peak time when internet speeds will improve.

Once the download has completed the status windows shows you the Last Updated date and time.


During the update the computer can slow down a bit.  Hence closing other applications and leaving the computer alone for a bit will help.  Don’t sit there screaming that the download is taking forever when you have Hulu or Netflix streaming on another computer.

Reminder: if it gets stuck reboot the computer and wait for a quieter time.

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