Unless you're already running the best antivirus software then there's always the danger of getting a malware infection.
It doesn't matter whether you're using a PC, Mac, Android phone, or even an iPhone - a vulnerability in your browser and/or or its plugins can serve as an attack root for malware into other parts of your system, even if those parts are not normally vulnerable to attack.
While using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help reduce the chances of malware infection, ultimately it is up to you as an internet user to ensure your device or machine - whatever it is - is already secured against a wide range of different malware attacks.
Luckily there are a lot of different vendors out there who can provide the security you need to defend against malware, and even better many of these provide both free and paid-for versions of their anti-malware software.
While the free versions will get the job done, paid versions offer more options for protection and are often worth the nominal fee that they cost. General internet security suites will commonly not just provide a shield against viruses and other malware but will also have malware removal options available in the event of an infection.
Here we'll list the best of both, starting with the best overall paid-for security suites for malware protection, even if a free version is also available - then we'll list the best free anti-malware software if you just want something to get by with.
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Best paid-for malware removal software-at a glance
- Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
- Avast anti-virus
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.
Anti-malware protection and removal
Avast offers one of the most competent internet protection suites out there. While the company is famous for providing free anti-virus software, it's worth noting that this now comes bundled with an anti-malware feature that uses behavioral monitoring to spot rogue programs.
What's even better is that not only are Avast's basic products free, but they are also available for mobile devices as well as for desktops, which makes Avast a particular ideal choice if you have multiple devices you need to check.
While the basic Avast service is second-to-none, the company also provides paid-for anti-malware software that takes this things, such as fine-tuning your PC to run better, to anti-ransomware software and secure file shredding.
For business users, there are paid-for internet security options to cover a range of needs and options.
For home users, though, the Avast free anti-virus should keep your PC very well protected, though do note you'll be periodically prompted to update for one of Avast's other services.
Solid malware protection for beginners and experts alike
Kaspersky Anti-Virus is a stripped-back security package that focuses on the core security essentials: its web filtering blocks dangerous URLs, an accurate engine detects and removes threats, smart monitoring technologies track and reverse malicious actions, and that's pretty much it.
Fortunately, what you do get works well. Incredibly well. We've consistently found Kaspersky to be one of the best at blocking malware, and removing it from an infected system. That’s without mentioning that this anti-virus tool has regularly received top marks at sites like AV-Comparatives.
The program is easy to use, as well. An impeccably-designed interface has just the right number of buttons and options – not too basic, but not complicated or intimidating either – and there are plenty of on-screen instructions to explain how everything works. Even a beginner will be at home right away.
Standout features include automatic scans, drive-by cryptomining infection prevention, and simplified security management.
If you just need accurate, reliable and consistent malware protection, Kaspersky Anti-Virus will serve you well.
Easy malware protection
F-Secure SAFE is a great collection of antivirus tools, and while it's a bit pricier than some of the other antivirus software on this best of list, the number of features you get certainly makes that high price tag worthwhile.
With F-Secure SAFE, you get the brilliant antivirus software from F-Secure, alongside banking protection for safe online shopping, family safety tools and a device finder that lets you track your lost Android or iOS device, and if needs be, remotely lock or delete it as well.
The package typically receives maximum marks for protection from AV-Test, and generally scores highly with AV-Comparatives. They also say it can generate significantly more false positives than most of the competition, but how that affects you will vary depending on how you use your computer.
The interface is a major advantage, as it's extremely easy to use, lightweight, and for the most part, you can just leave the app to work alone looking after your PC. The program has minimal effect on your system performance, and if you do need to intervene, you can generally solve any issues in a couple of clicks.
Available for Windows, Mac, and Android, F-Secure SAFE remains an appealing package: fast, lightweight, and able to run alongside many other security tools without conflict. Standout features include banking protection, Family Rules, and ransomware protection.
Strong malware protection software
Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security is a very capable package that's easy to use with above average anti-spam and an effective ‘Folder Shield’ module to block ransomware. And, it seems to get better as time goes on.
How good is it exactly? The top testing labs all rate it highly for protection, even though there’s a bit of disagreement on the details. In particular, AV-Comparatives says it gives a high number of false positives, which could be a real nuisance. On the other hand, AV-Test reports high levels of accuracy and no issues with false positives at all.
If there's a problem here, it's likely to be performance impact. PassMark's March 2019 Performance report assessed 14 security products on various performance-related benchmarks, and Trend Micro came towards the bottom part of the list.
Our experiences with the product are a little more reassuring: protection levels look similar to Bitdefender, false positives are only marginally higher, and the system itself doesn't slow down our system noticeably more than anything else.
Standout features include ransomware protection, advanced AI learning, email scam safeguarding, and Pay Guard.
We'd recommend running the trial for its full 30 days before you buy, then, to see if you notice any problems. But if you're unaffected, its high levels of detection and excellent bonus features make Trend Micro a good choice.
Best free anti-malware protection-at a glance
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
- Avira Free Security Suite
- AVG AntiVirus Free
- SpyBot Search & Destroy
- Emsisoft Emergency Kit
Best free anti-malware for your PC
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is the strong, silent type. This anti-malware software doesn't even ask questions when you install it – it just quietly gets on with the job of identifying and eliminating anything that poses a risk to your safety and security.
It watches out for apps behaving badly, scans links on the web to identify scams, and has proactive malware and spyware scanning that can detect threats nobody has encountered before. Plus the app boasts boot scanning every time you start your PC.
Ad-free, nag-free and hassle-free, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is a great product that runs quickly and silently while you get on with something more interesting.
Its comprehensive suite of tools to protect your PC makes Bitdefender the best free anti-malware software you can download today. It's all the protection you need in one handy package.
Powerful protection against malware
The Avira Free Security Suite provides one of the most comprehensive free security packages available on the internet.
As well as providing the standard anti-virus protection, the Avira Free security suite also provides a software updater, as well as scanning your network for vulnerabilities and helps you fix them.
There are also safe browsing and safe shopping options, as well as a system optimizer to speed up your PC which is normally charged for in other packages.
If that's not enough there's also a free VPN included for up to 500MB per month, as well as a password manager and privacy settings manager.
However, you actually have a choice of which features you want to install. This is a great plus as while the Avira suite is generous some users may want to run one or more features through a different suite.
There is an upgrade option, of course, but this is priced toward installation across 5, or 25 devices, and involves such features such as removing the VPN limit.
If there's one negative, it's that there's no anti-ransomware protection, but aside from that the Avira Free Security Suite is a very generous package indeed.
Another good defense against malware
If you're looking for anti-malware software that keeps quiet and won't disturb your work, be warned – AVG Antivirus Free is quite vocal with its notifications, and irks us from time to time with pop-ups telling us we've done something fantastic with regard to our online safety.
As an anti-malware app, though, it's very good. The dashboard is user-friendly, there's protection not just from downloadable threats, but from dodgy links too, and you can use your mobile to scan your PC remotely, which is pretty clever.
The paid-for Pro model has more security options - it has more robust download protection, offers data encryption includes a firewall - but the free version offers decent protection for most PC users.
An established tool against malware infection
SpyBot Search & Destroy is a veteran of the malware wars, dating back to the first adware in 2000, and while it doesn't scan for viruses – that's in the Home version, which is $13.99 (about £10, AU$20) – the free software does a decent job of finding and fixing adware, malware and spyware.
It's more of a system repair tool than a system protection tool, however, and you need to be careful where you get it from: there are fake versions in circulation designed to cause damage, not fix it. The version linked here is the real deal.
Focused malware-removal tool
Most security software tries to stop malware and spyware getting onto your system. Emsisoft Emergency Kit doesn't: it's the 911 call of security software, the app you use when your PC's been poked by something unpleasant.
It's designed to be portable – an anti-malware app you carry around with you on a USB stick – and its system requirements are tiny: just 200MB of RAM, so it'll run happily on any PC with 1GB memory or more. With two million malware signatures, Emsisoft Emergency Kit can restore almost any infected PC to rude health.