It's more than just viruses, trojans, or worms that can infect your PC or computing devices - there's a host of other malware that can seek to use, abuse, and otherwise detrimentally impact them.
Malware could be anything from spyware or keyloggers that aim to steal your financial information, to hacks that take over your computer to join a botnet for anything from email spamming or crytocurrency mining. Infamously there is now an increased danger of ransomware that aims to shut you out from all your files unless you make an anonymous payment to unlock them.
Whichever form it takes, malware is unwanted and toxic. However, even with the best anti-virus protection it's possible for some form of malware to slip through your defences and undermine your computer.
This is where some form of malware-removal can become essential, allowing you to scan your files and isolate any potential malware residing in them - and remove it. The warning is that malware is often very difficult to remove, so you need to ensure you have the best removal tool available.
Here then is a selection of the best in malware removal, and should hopefully help address, correct, and clean up any malware infection you may have experienced.
- Worried about ransomware? Check out these free anti-ransomware software tools
- Installing the best free VPN is another way to stay protected
- Want your company or services to be added to this buyer’s guide? Please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org with the URL of the buying guide in the subject line.
Best free malware removal software - at a glance
- Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
- Adaware Antivirus Free
- Emsisoft Emergency Kit
- Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool
The best malware removal software available right now is: Malwarebytes Premium
If you're suffering from a malware infection and free software isn't getting the job done, Malwarebytes Premium could be the silver bullet you need. It uses heuristic analysis to identify new strains of malware, cleans up existing infections, helps protect you from phishing scams, and helps stop you downloading further malicious software in the future, including ransomware.
The most effective free malware remover, with deep scans and daily updates
If you suspect a malware infection, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware should be your first port of call. It’s updated daily, so you can trust it to identify and remove new threats the minute they appear.
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 has to be activated manually, but is still a top-notch security tool. We recommend running it at least once a week to check or any nasties that you haven't noticed, or if you notice that your web browser has suddenly started acting strangely (likely a result of adware).
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 security toolkit.
Prevention is better than cure, and Bitdefender delivers both
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 mop 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 malware removal 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.
Adaware can replace your antivirus or work an anti-malware supplement
Adaware Antivirus Free 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 Adaware’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.
Adaware Antivirus Free can also scan downloads before you install them, helping prevent malware infestations in the first place by filtering their most common point of entry.
Best of all, if you're just looking for a way to boost your existing antivirus software, Adaware's installer lets you choose a version without real-time scanning that won't conflict with other antivirus tools.
A portable app that’s perfect if you’ve become the family tech support
Operating system: Windows
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 591MB, 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.
All-round protection from malware that gives you full control over scans
Operating system: Windows
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.
The default Microsoft anti-malware remover
The Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) is a free anti-malware tool provided by Microsoft. The MSRT is normally downloaded with automatic updates, to run alongside the built-in Windows Defender AntiVirus.
However, for those users with automatic updates normally turned-off you can download the software directly.
The MSRT is updated once a month to deal with the most prevalant threats, namely posed by viruses, worms, and trojans.
If it doesn't detect anything it will run in quiet mode, but it if does a balloon alert will appear stating that malware has been detected and needs to be removed.
If you struggle to remove any problems with the MSRT, then you could also try the Microsoft Safety Scanner which is also available as a download.
This is also designed my Microsoft to detect and remove malware from Windows computers, but it intended to run in support of the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool.