10 of the best free malware removal tools

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best-free-malware-removal-tool

Unless your system is completely isolated from the internet, your system is likely to face a wide range of threats from different types of malware.  Regularly scanning for malware is a necessary practice to protect confidential and sensitive data. However, understandably, many are reluctant to pay a premium for enterprise-class features which are not required.  Fortunately, there are many free malware removal tools available on the market.  Here, we’ve identified ten of the best free malware and virus removal tools currently available.

Viruses are no longer the only malicious software threat.  Consequently, the majority of antivirus software available on the market is also able to remove a wide range of malicious programs.

However, while similar, some differences exist.  The primary purpose of anti-virus software is prevention.  Anti-virus software will aim to prevent virus-inflicted files from compromising a system.  Anti-malware software, also known as a malware removal tool, will typically seek to root out and destroy any malware already on a system.

Related: What are the different types of malware?

Note: “antivirus” is a commonly known term amongst consumers.   Consequently, many brands have continued to use this term to describe their product despite actually offering much more extensive protection.

How to choose malware removal software

Many of the top-priced products include a wide array of features, such as password managers, backup software and VPN services. Many of these bundled enterprise-class features come at a premium.  In most cases, an all-encompassing security solution may not be required, and free malware software will suffice.

However, there are key features to look for when choosing suitable a free malware removal software program:

  • Effective detection & protection – Robust scanning engine for real-time protection against different types of viruses and threats.
  • Performance – Low impact on system resources. Anti-malware software should use system resources efficiently, working in the background seamlessly
  • Device coverage – For simple administration, anti-malware software should be available for multiple devices, such as Windows, Linux, iOS and Android.
  • Affordable/Cost-effective – Plenty of anti-malware tools claim to be free. However, these are often free trials, typically for 30 days.
  • Ease of use, documentation & support – User-friendly interface, regular malware detection reports and threat alerts.

Most free anti-malware software is capable of achieving the basics, such as scanning for and removing malware. However, it is worth remembering that paid anti-malware software will always have advantages over free malware removal tools.  Features such as customer support, ransomware protection, anti-phishing features, etc., will come at a premium.

Note: In exchange for free software, some anti-malware and anti-virus software providers may ask for non-personal information for advertising purposes.

Ten of the best free malware removal tools

We’ve done all the hard work for you. Our tech team have trawled through hundreds of potential products and reviewed each of these tools to identify 10 of the best free malware removal tools available.

All the software we assessed were for Windows-based systems and included free online support, typically in the form of online FAQs & forums.

Malware Protection
Email Scans
Website Blocking
Secure Browser
Password Manager
Malware Reversal
Scan Scheduler
System Impact
Adaware Antivirus Free
Moderate
Moderate
Avira Free Antivirus
Moderate
Light to moderate
Avast Free Antivirus
Moderate
Moderate
AVG AntiVirus Free
Moderate
Moderate
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
Very Good
Light to moderate
Comodo Free Antivirus
Good
Light to moderate
eScan Anti-Virus Toolkit
Good
Minimal
FreeFixer
Good
Minimal
Kaspersky Security Cloud Free
Excellent
Basic
Minimal
Norton Power Eraser
Good
Minimal

Note:  Microsoft’s own Windows Defender is provided as part of Windows 8 and later versions.  Windows Defender provides excellent protection against both against viruses and zero-day malware attacks, and therefore sits amongst the best free anti-malware software.

Adaware Antivirus Free

adaware-free-malware-removal

Malware protection: Moderate
Email scans: No
Website blocking: No
Secure browser: No
Password manager: No
Ransomware reversal: No
Scan scheduler: No
System impact: Moderate

Adaware’s free malware removal software is a reliable option if you have a virus problem and need immediate action. While not as advanced as the paid versions, you still get the ability to scan all downloads before they have the opportunity to compromise your system.  You also get real-time blocking of malicious processes and infected files.

What we liked:

  • Award-winning software to protect against common forms of malware
  • Real-time protection against viruses
  • Scan downloads to protect your system against threats

Adaware’s Free edition doesn’t block dangerous websites or scan email attachments on arrival – although an on-demand scan could address the latter. While forums and FAQs are provided, these are unlikely to be much of a help if you get stuck.

Adaware is a reasonable no-frills antivirus and malware removal solution but maybe underpowered as a primary line of defence against malware. Adware Free will operate perfectly well as a second opinion scanner, running alongside another antivirus program.

Avira Free Antivirus for PC

Malware protection: Moderate
Email scans: No
Website blocking: Yes
Secure browser: No
Password manager: Yes
Ransomware reversal: No
Scan scheduler: Yes
System impact: Light to moderate

Avira Free Antivirus is a multi-award-winning product, regularly scoring highly with independent testing labs. Avira’s product focuses on malware protection, without excessively utilising system resources.  Features, such as a password and firewall manager, and browser extensions, are available for free from the Avira website.

What we liked:

  • Scores above the industry average for malware detection
  • Browser extensions to warn of malicious websites, tracking cookies and ad blocking
  • Wide range of advance features such as firewall manager and password manager
  • Identification and removal of potentially unwanted programs (PUPS)

The application uploads copies of suspicious files to Avira’s servers for analysis, anything identified as dangerous is added to the malware-signature updates.  This process may include the collection of system profiles, usage habits and browsing histories.

The software is supported by including ads and some of the advanced add-ins while free, are trialware. By default, you are signed up to email notifications – opt-out requests can be emailed.

Avira’s antivirus offering stands out due to its list of features and advanced add-ins.  It also scores well due to its performance and low resource consumption.

Avast Free Antivirus

avast-free-malware-removal-tool

Malware protection: Moderate
Email scans: Yes
Website blocking: Yes
Secure browser: Yes
Password manager: Yes
Ransomware reversal: No
Scan scheduler: Yes
System impact: Moderate

Avast Free Antivirus is more akin to a security suite than a basic malware protection and removal program.  This anti-malware tool, not protects against viruses and malware, but also helps spot scam emails, avoid fake websites, firewalls your data, and includes an unlimited password manager and a Wi-Fi network scanner.

What we liked:

  • Offers plenty of free add-ons such as password manager and Wi-Fi network scanner
  • Browser extensions to warn of malicious websites

This product’s malware scanner compares scanned files and applications to a database of known malware and looks for signs of an infection. Any suspicious data is uploaded to Avast’s servers for analysis.

While a wide range of features are available, many of these are add-ons, albeit free.  For example, the Chrome and Firefox security extensions for blocking known malicious websites and web trackers and examine webmail attachments, must be downloaded on their own.

The application seems to take its time to perform a system scan, slowing down the system during this activity.  While it has peformed commedably against “widespread” known malware, its performance against zero-day threats over a two year period was less than desirable, leaving its malware protection at moderate at best.

In the news in early 2020 for selling, through a subsidiary, anonymised user behavioral histories, Avast has always made clear what it was doing and allowed users to opt out, it has ended the practice due to the bad publicity.

The free program includes many useful features, such as a Wi-Fi scanner and a password manager.  While this is benefical, the software falls short on protection and performance.

AVG Antivirus Free

avg-free-malware-removal-tool

Malware protection: Moderate
Email scans: Yes
Website blocking: Yes
Secure browser: No
Password manager: No
Ransomware reversal: No
Scan scheduler: Yes
System impact: Moderate

Developed by AVG Technologies, a subsidiary of Avast, AVG’s underlying malware detection engine is shared among all AVG and Avast Windows antivirus tools.  AVG Antivirus Free offers barebone software which scans email, files and memory for known malware, spyware, phishing, and blocks known malicious websites.

What we liked:

  • Includes real-time security updates, scans for both malware and performance issues
  • Blocks unsafe links, downloads, & email attachments
  • Easy-to-use and customisable software

AVG’s malware engine provides adequate protection. Sharing the underlying malware protection with Avast, AVG’s detection rates were virtually identical to its corporate sibling. While AVG scored well in independent tests, other products have scored higher.

As with Avast, the malware scanner compares application and files to known malware, uploading any suspicious files to AVG’s labs for analysis.

AVG’s corporate sibling has more goodies. Whilst not leading the market, AVG AntiVirus Free is one of the better malware removal tools on the market.  However, its heavy system impact during scanning, means it’s not quite the best.

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

bitdefender-free-anti-malware-tool

Malware protection: Very Good
Email scans: No
Website blocking: Yes
Secure browser: No
Password manager: No
Ransomware reversal: No
Scan scheduler: Yes
System impact: Light to moderate

Lightweight and minimalistic, Bitdefender Antivirus Free offers durable basic protection against all malware.  Bitdefender doesn’t provide any advanced features and tools.  Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition uses the same technology as the company’s paid software,  providing effective protection against the worst malware.

What we liked:

  • Powerful detection and removal of all types of malware
  • Advanced threat defence – behaviour-based monitoring, and blocking of threats
  • Anti-Phishing & Anti-Fraud – blocks malicious sites, protecting against phishing and spam

There’s no password manager, no quick scans and no scan scheduling.  However, the lack of features is more than made up by superb malware detection, thanks to the highly-rated Bitdefender malware-detection engine.  Similar to other software here, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition uploads suspicious files to Bitdefender’s lab for analysis to identify anything dangerous.

Bitdefender Antivirus Free offers nothing but essential protection. It should be on your shortlist of malware removal tools if you are looking for robust and reliable software which can run on autopilot.

Comodo Free Anti-Malware BOClean

Malware protection: Good
Email scans: No
Website blocking: No
Secure browser: Yes
Password manager: No
Ransomware reversal: Yes
Scan scheduler: Yes
System impact: Light to moderate

Comodo’s free malware removal product comes equipped with impressive security features, such as Infection Defense+, which blocks suspicious programs from further access at all crucial checkpoints, and Auto-Sandbox which isolates potentially harmful programs in a restricted environment minimising impact to the rest of the system.

What we liked:

  • Default Deny Protection – prevents files from entering the system until proven to be harmless
  • Containment – separating suspicious files and running them in a segregated environment
  • Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS) – comprehensive monitoring to prevent malicious attacks

Comodo Free Antivirus hasn’t been assessed by many of the independent testing labs. Still, where is it has been assessed, it has achieved a 100% protection rate.

The software lacks web filtering, meaning any malicious URLs are not blocked.  However, the auto-sandbox containment should segregate even the latest, undiscovered threats.  Also, with the KillSwitch Repair option, you can see if any malware has changed any crucial system files, such as HOSTS file, DNS settings, Explorer policies and more, which can all be restored to default with a click.

This application is a very powerful malware and virus removal tool with some unusual and advanced features.  With the secured browser, Comodo seems to be extremely keen to set Yahoo! as the default home page, new tab and default search page on all browsers installed on the system.

eScan Anti-Virus Toolkit

escanav-malware-removal-free

Malware protection: Good
Email scans: No
Website blocking: No
Secure browser: No
Password manager: No
Ransomware reversal: Yes
Scan scheduler: No
System impact: Minimal

As a no-frills scanner and malware removal tool, eScan Anti-Virus Toolkit takes up almost no systems presence.  Not requiring an installation process, this program can be run from anywhere, including a USB flash drive.  The eScan toolkit is ideal for viruses, spyware, adware and any other malware removal and for removing the “after-effects” of malware infection.

This malware removal utility scans systems completely, removing any detected malware, including background illegal sniffers or tools like Spyware, Adware, Keyloggers etc.  eScanAV Anti-Virus Toolkit (MWAV) also lets you see the network activity and provides reports.

While the interface may look a bit dull, it is functional and simple to understand. The eScanAV Anti-Virus Toolkit offers various scan options, such as scanning the memory, installed services, registry or particular folders.

These days, just to be doubly safe, eScan Anti-Virus Toolkit can be used as a second opinion malware scanner complementing other antivirus software.  Being portable, the eScan Anti-Virus Toolkit can be kept on a separate flash drive just in case malware obstructs any access to programs.

FreeFixer

freefixer-malware-removal-free

Malware protection: Moderate
Email scans: No
Website blocking: No
Secure browser: No
Password manager: No
Ransomware reversal: Yes
Scan scheduler: No
System impact: Minimal

A general purpose malware removal tool, FreeFixer will delete potentially unwanted software, such as adware, spyware, trojans, viruses and worms.  FreeFixer is rather aggressive in its approach, only offering a list of potential malware following a scan.

FreeFixer scans a large number of typical locations where unwanted software has a known record of appearing or leaving traces, including for example, the system programs, startup applications, browser’s plug-ins, and home page settings.

FreeFixer simply presents the scan results for decision as to whether a potential file should be removed and some settings restored to the default value. To determine whether a file should be removed, for each item in the scan result, FreeFixer provides a link to further information at FreeFixer’s web site.  Due to its aggressive approach, caution should be exercised when using FreeFixer. Inadvertantly deleting a legitimate file may damage the system.

Overall, FreeFixer will help clean files by deleting unwanted software that may infect a system.  Whilst heavy-handed, when used with care FreeFixer is a useful addition to a malware maintenance toolkit to remove stubborn malware.

Download FreeFixer

Kaspersky Security Cloud Free

kapersky-free-anti-malware-tool

Malware protection: Excellent
Email scans: Yes
Website blocking: Yes
Secure browser: No
Password manager: Yes
Ransomware reversal: Yes
Scan scheduler: Yes
System impact: Minimal

Replacing the old Kaspersky Free Antivirus, Kaspersky Security Cloud Free adds more tools in a straightforward package which focuses on the core security fundamental.  Beating 14 other competitors in the SE Labs‘ October-December 2019 Anti-Malware Protection report, Kaspersky Internet Security scored 100% accuracy in every test metric.

What we liked:

  • Award-winning full-scale malware protection with some suite-level features
  • Minimal impact on system performance
  • Unbeatable malware-detection engine

Using the same scanning engine as the paid-for version, this anti-malware softare quickly detects well-known and brand new malware. It provides malicious URL filtering, all without continually pestering you to upgrade to the full version.

By ditching features such as privacy protection and safe payment sandboxes, this free malware removal tool concentrates on providing powerful, unbeatable anti-virus and malware removal software for your system.

As with most free malware removal tools, only the most basic support is provided with Kaspersky Security Cloud Free, limited to online resources and the company’s forums.  However, its combined superior malware protection with a fast scanner that barely slows down the system, and award-winning anti-malware engine, means that this software should be at the top of any malware removal tools shortlist.

Norton Power Eraser

Malware protection: Good
Email scans: No
Website blocking: No
Secure browser: No
Password manager: No
Ransomware reversal: Yes
Scan scheduler: No
System impact: Minimal

Norton Power Eraser is a free virus and malware removal tool for Windows, which aims to remove deeply embedded malware from an infected system thoroughly. Utilising some of Norton’s winning security methods, this powerful malware removal tool comes as a compact portable executable which uses Norton Insight in-the-cloud application ratings to scan a computer system

What we liked:

  • Targets stubborn files and forcibly removes them
  • Small portable application which can be run in Safe mode.
  • Options to set up a network proxy, adjust log settings, multi-boot check, and perform a Rootkit scan.

Norton Power Eraser aggressively targets malware which impersonates legitimate applications, for example, fake antivirus software, as well as other scamware, crimeware, and malware that sometimes cannot be detected by other malware removal tools.

The software uses a cloud-based rating system for different applications, matching scanned files against a whitelist. During a scan, Norton Power Eraser marks files as either trusted, untrusted or unknown (suspicious).  Untrusted files are marked for deletion, while suspicious files are advised to be will uploaded to Symantec‘s servers to check it with virus definitions.

This aggressive method to detect threats can sometimes select legitimate programs for removal, and the scan results pages should be reviewed carefully before removing files.

With a targeted purpose, Norton Power Eraser is a powerful malware removal tool. It is advised to be used with extreme caution since the aggressive method it employs could result in several false alarms.

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