Free malware removal tools
Malware is a serious problem, and if you download free software it's all too easy to end up with a malicious program on your PC that presents a threat to your personal data or system integrity.
Not all antivirus software comes with a specific malware scanner, and because malware doesn't behave like a virus, it can easily be missed. To identify and fully remove malicious software, you need a tool that's designed specifically for the job.
Note that you should only have one antivirus program installed at a time, but the rest of these tools are ideal supplements for your main security suite.
1. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
The most effective malware remover, with deep scans and daily updates to find the latest threats
If you suspect a malware infection, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware should be your first port of call. It’s updated daily with the latest threats, and
The first time you install Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, you’re given a 14-day trial of the premium edition, which includes preventative tools like real-time scanning and specific protection from ransomware. After two weeks, it reverts to the basic free version. This won’t stop you falling victim to a malware attack in the first place, but thanks to Malwarebytes’ regular updates,
Last year, Malwarebytes bought Adwcleaner, which – as its name suggests – targets and removes annoying programs that hijack your browser by changing your homepage, resetting your default search engine, or adding unwanted toolbars. It’s also available free, and along with Anti-Malware, is a great addition to your malware-removal toolkit.
Download here: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
2. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
Prevention is better than cure, and Bitdefender delivers both in one slick package
If you’re thinking about replacing your antivirus software, check out Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition. It has a dedicated anti-malware engine to help you avoid an infection in the first place, and effectively mops up any existing problems.
One of BitDefender’s best features is the ability to scan files or folders that look a bit suspicious by simply dragging and dropping them onto its home screen (it might be a good idea to do this with your Downloads folder if you’ve noticed some funny business lately). Any unpleasantness detected by the anti-malware engine will be swiftly quarantined, and can be disposed of at your leisure.
BitDefender is unobtrusive, but its Protection Shield will alert you to any malicious attempts to compromise your system. All in all, it’s an excellent foundation for your anti-malware arsenal.
Download here: Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
3. Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+
Ad-Aware can replace your main antivirus or work a supplement to eliminate brand new malware
Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ is another great option if you’re building an anti-malware toolkit from the ground up. It includes a virtual environment where suspicious programs can be analysed to see if they behave like malware (a technique known as heuristic analysis). This means you’re always protected from new malware – even if you’re the very first person to be affected and the malicious program isn’t yet in Ad-Aware’s database of known threats. The malware can then be safely contained and removed.
All this happens quietly in the background, and can be suspended temporarily if you want your processor’s full power for a gaming session.
Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ can also scan downloads before you install them, helping prevent malware infestations in the first place by filtering their most common point of entry.
If you already have an antivirus program you trust, you can opt to install a version of Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ without real-time scanning, so it won’t cause conflicts and can work as a security supplement instead.
Download here: Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+
4. Emsisoft Emergency Kit
Portable malware removal that’s perfect if you’ve been assigned the role of home tech support
If you’re called in to help a friend with a malware infestation, Emsisoft Emergency Kit is the tool for you. It’s a portable app, so you can keep it handy on a USB stick, or your cloud storage service of choice (it’s only 591GB, though it does generate log files, which will take up a little extra room).
Like any malware removal tool, Emsisoft Emergency Kit has a database of current threats, and the PC you’re cleaning needs an internet connection so the software can check for updates.
Once it’s updated itself, it scans the PC for threats and quarantines anything it finds to stop it doing further damage to your system. After a quick reboot, the files will be deleted.
Download here: Emsisoft Emergency Kit
All-round protection from malicious software that gives you full control over manual scans
The free edition of SUPERAntiSpyware detects all forms of malicious software – including adware and spyware – and removes every trace quickly and efficiently.
If you suspect that a particular file might contain malware, you can submit it to SUPERAntiSpyware’s threat labs, where its behavior will be analyzed. It’s not as fast or convenient as tools that scan files using a virtual machine, but is a good option if your system is low on resources.
You can also control which types of file are scanned, whether SUPERAntiSpyware should follow shortcuts, and whether it should check inside ZIP archives – very handy if you’ve downloaded a program in an archive and want to check it before extracting the contents.
Scans must be performed manually, but SUPERAntiSpyware’s granular control makes it a great choice for more confident users.
Download here: SUPERAntiSpyware