Why and How to Scan a Flash Drive for Viruses on a Mac?

Last updated on November 18th, 2022 at 07:58 am

As a MacBook owner, you likely rely on cloud storage and other digital means to exchange or store files. Backing up data on iCloud is also quite common.

Having said that, there are instances when you might need to mount a flash drive on your computer. The problem with that is that there are no guarantees about the security of a flash drive.

In some instances, you might encounter an error message telling you that macOS cannot verify that this app is free from malware. If an operating system cannot always be certain about how safe an application is, it is to be expected that the same thing applies to external storage devices, particularly when they come from other people.

Scanning the Flash Drive for Viruses

It is important to know how to scan a flash drive for viruses on a Mac so that you can avoid potential malware attacks on your macOS.

Sure, you could argue that macOS is quite secure as an operating system and that it should detect and prevent potential threats even if they come from a third-party peripheral. However, there is no telling what might be on the flash drive, so it is better not to risk it.

Make sure that there is reliable antivirus software on your MacBook. Once you mount the flash drive, the antivirus should detect potential threats and warn you about them. That should be the first line of defense.

Why and How to Scan a Flash Drive for Viruses on a Mac

If everything seems okay after inserting the flash drive, you need to move to the next step, which is scanning files on the drive before copying them to the MacBook. It is recommended to scan every single file. Even if you do not plan to copy certain contents of the drive, it is still better to confirm that everything is in check.

Provided that the scan shows clean results, you can then copy the files and paste them to your MacBook. Just to be sure, you can then scan the files while they are on a Mac just to be extra safe.

The Signs That the Drive Is Not Safe

Besides your antivirus warning about potential threats, there are other signs indicating that there might be something wrong with the flash drive.

For one, the drive might not mount properly. Of course, that could be a technical issue rather than a problem related to malware, but do not discard the possibility.

Another example is having to wait for the files to transfer for too long. If your computer is performing properly and there are no technical problems with the drive, files should take a reasonable amount to transfer from the peripheral to the computer. If the process is too slow, you are probably better off trying again after canceling the file transfer. In case the problem persists, you might be better off not using the flash drive.

What Might Happen If You Are Not Careful?

Suppose that you do not bother heeding the warning signs and still use the flash drive. It infects your MacBook. This spells trouble for you and the device, as there are quite a few potential risks you have to consider.

1. Poor Computer Performance

The first potential problem could be lackluster computer performance. Even insignificant malware can cause serious problems with the device’s speed. You will notice that it takes longer for the computer to load after restarting it. Certain applications might not load or crash in the middle of your session.

Random background processes that you cannot shut down via Activity Monitor might start popping in as well. And the longer you leave the malware threat unattended, the more it will snowball.

2. Data Loss

Some cybersecurity threats affect computer files in ways that you cannot imagine. Corrupted data, for instance, might not seem like that big of a deal because you might be able to restore files to their previous version.

But what about viruses that straight up delete files? Can you count on recovery software to help you in such a case? Unlikely, and it is no secret that many computer users do not bother backing up their files, which would be a decent safety net.

3. Access to Sensitive Information

It is also worth noting that you risk exposing sensitive information if the computer gets infected with malware.

Passwords that you use for social media, various online forums, stores, and other pages are accessible to hackers if they know what they are doing. And it is not like you can figure out a potential information leak immediately and change your passwords. No, it might be hours or even days before you become aware of the situation, which would be too late.


All in all, it is crucial to be mindful of potential cybersecurity risks. Whether you are transferring files from a flash drive to your MacBook or doing another activity on the computer that presents potential risks, be smart and take the necessary precautions.

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