10 best FREE anti-malware tools
Most probably, you have heard of cyber-crime and the mention of computer viruses in the course of exploring the Internet. You may also have lost important data because of corrupted files and experienced the frustration of data recovery process. In extremely unfortunate cases, others may have been victims of hacked accounts on Facebook and Instagram. Either way, the results of data loss or viral attacks were not pleasant. The culprit behind this unpleasantness is malware, which, thankfully, can be fixed. In this article, we seek to unravel various forms of malware, and how free anti-malware tools can help rid of such menace.
What is Malware?
Malware is short for malicious software. It is software designed by cyber criminals aimed at discreetly gaining unauthorized access to data stored in a network, server or computer. Cyber-criminals then use the data for their own gains or to destroy the recipient’s system or eliminate access to it.
Types of Malware
There are different types of malware developed by cyber criminals to serve specific purposes. There is malware aimed at mobile devices for instance, while the majority targets operating systems on laptops and desktop.
To operate, malware is introduced into the target host in the form of codes, scripts, phishing emails, etc. Moreover, it can sit in USB sticks, as well as CDs, and starts on whenever the storage device is immersed into the target. They include:
- Trojan horse code: It is among the easiest to execute and most commonly known malware. It gains entry into the target while disguised as a necessary download or update. It then captures, modifies or destroys the intended data – like system passwords.
- Spyware: These codes get into the host system for spying on the user’s computer or web activity. It can be used as a parental control tool to spy on children’s web browsing history, by political opponents or employers to monitor their employees’ computer activity.
- Ransomware: Intended to gain access to sensitive data which cyber-criminals demand payment not to publish or to destroy if not paid a ransom for the data.
- Adware: Disguised in the form of annoying advertisement pop-ups that the computer user needs to click to get rid of them. Often redirects the user into more clicking to get rid of the repetitive pop-ups.
- Botnets: Intended to corrupt a network of machines globally or in an intended target organisation to perform a number of functions such as steal data or block certain keywords/articles/content from being visible on search engines.
- Wiper malware: It is intended to delete or completely wipe out the intended target’s sensitive data so that the user cannot gain access.
- Other malware/codes include computer worms, scareware, cryptocurrency mining malware and computer viruses.
Types of Malware Scan
Most malware is disguised as legitimate codes and cannot be easily detected unless one runs a scan to fish them out. It is advisable to occasionally scan your PC or mobile device to avoid the frustration of compromised data. Consequently, some of the malware scans include:
- Website scans: Websites are potentially exposed to malware attacks and should be scanned as often as possible. It is advisable to set up automatic daily scans to spot malware and computer viruses aimed at sabotaging information or stealing vital data.
- Real Time and automatic scans on PCs: This antimalware software scans your operating system and reports on any identified malware. Real-time and auto scans also serve the function of destroying any of the harmful malware discovered during the scan. It checks on any incoming network data for viruses and blocks them from accessing your computer or server
Malware Prevention Measures
Any device that can access the internet is susceptible to malware infection. Whether it is a PC, Laptop or mobile device, there is always a potential threat from malware infection. One should exercise caution while using the internet by the following:
- Not opening suspicious Email or links as this could lead to phishing and data harvesting, by cyber attackers.
- Regularly updating the Windows Operating System and software
- Investing in strong antivirus programs
- Taking appropriate action on suspected threats as advised by the antivirus program
- Using firewalls
- Not installing unknown or illegally downloaded software
- Always use a secure web browser
- Not installing unverified applications on mobile devices
Protecting your system from malware is vital in safeguarding your data. However, investing in a stable antivirus or antimalware tools is also important because often times malware will still find ways to infiltrate your system despite caution. Below you’ll find a selection of top free anti-malware tools.
Best free anti-malware tools
Developed to offer a multi-layered security level to PCs by cleaning and keeping at bay all forms of malware currently known. Malwarebytes free version also easily gets rid of spyware by identifying and removing any suspicious files. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is effective for detecting and cleaning up infected drives from your computer. The free version is available after a 14-day trial.
- It detects and removes the infection from spyware, botnets, Trojan horses and other infections
- Very easy to use and has straightforward instructions that can be easily followed
- Enhances real-time protection against infection when used with antivirus
- Prevents against phishing and spamming attempts by malicious emails and websites
- Unlike another antivirus, it operates more swiftly to remove unwanted programs without leaving any footprints
- Does not operate singly and needs reinforcement from antivirus software
- Cannot be automatically scheduled to carry out malware scanning
- Most of the features quickly expire prompting you to update to the paid version
Tips: In case you love having a backup on the go, this anti-malware can be carried on a USB and run it on USB. Take advantage of the highly flexible Command Line Interface (CLI).
Cool Features: Its chameleon technology makes it undetectable by malware hence cannot be altered or modified. Comes with a unique Junkware Removal Tool (JRT) that works to thoroughly sweep away all traces of malware and viruses.
Verdict: Malwarebytes effectively ‘bites off’ any popup ads that can easily spawn your computer. With this program, Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) are instantly deleted and removed from the system. While running Malwarebytes, we didn’t notice any PUPs, it brings a professional feel to the way one uses their PC.
Bitdefender is an antivirus that combines the functionality of combating computer viruses and malware infections. It works best on Windows 10 Operating System. Bitdefender is identified as thorough security software that is notably lightweight and includes a couple of interesting proactive features to combat malware.
- Provides a mean package that comes with all the necessary security features
- Scan your machine in one prompt or select to drag and drop individual files or folders into the home screen to scan them
- Suspicious programs are automatically quarantined
- Effective for computer and server protection
- Almost negligible performance impact in the background
- Upon getting acquainted, you can easily opt to upgrade and get the paid version which comes with a free antivirus as well as additional features
- Requires internet connection to run a scan
- Has a longer set-up process, which lengthens the installation time.
Tips. If your computer is infected, take advantage of the powerful 30-day trial version to clean malware before relying on the free version.
Cool Features: The automatic quarantine feature arrests all suspicious files without you having to deal with them. Thus, can be your go-to, install-and-forget security engine.
Verdict. We enjoyed running Bitdefender mainly because of the low system performance impact. It scores highly in its effectiveness as free anti-malware software. However, it can be quite difficult to figure out all the functions and new users can quickly become frustrated with the availability of few options on offer.
This kit is useful for scanning, detecting and cleaning harmful viruses, spyware, keyloggers, adware and other malware on your PC. Comes with a portable version, meaning it can be carried on a device like a USB drive. Has a relatively faster speed when compared to other anti-malware tools of the same scope.
- Very effective in destroying malware with a 90% success rate and a claim from the developers that the scan engine arrests and removes each and every malware.
- The monthly release of newer versions of Emsisoft Emergency kit ensures that it is not easy to modify or replicate it thereby making it more secure
- It is compatible with all Windows versions
- Emsisoft’s BlitzBlank enables the engine to scan your PC, detect and destroy malware before the virus can actually load
- Easily carried by hardware resources
- Not useful as a protection tool against infection, it is rather effective as a counteractive tool against malware.
Tips. Users can take advantage of the custom scan feature to decide what or what not to remove, in case you’re a noob, you can opt for default scan settings that will automatically carry out a full scan according to the engine’s capabilities.
Cool Features. Emsisoft has an added advantage of being a perfect combination of two antivirus and anti-malware technologies – hence it presents an almost seamless end product that is highly efficient.
Verdict. We ran Emsisoft and initially had time to select the files and programs to be scanned. The scan engine works quietly in the background. Later, we shifted to manual selection – which still works but takes a lot of time and proved to be taxing. Thus, when using Emsisoft, it would be best to use manual side. The anti-malware scores highly in malware detection and cleaning out malware from a PC.
AVG is a subsidiary of Avast and has been in operation since the 90s. It is well known for strong antivirus software programs. AVG malware removal must be fully installed on the machine to use the services and as an anti-malware tool. AVG employs cloud technologies to scan the attachments and computer drives for malware.
- According to the AVG statistics, the tool works to block an average of 4-million threats on any single day
- Provides real-time protection and works unnoticed on the background
- It is compatible with most systems like Windows, Mac and Android
- Easy to install and use and utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI) to warn users of threats as soon as they picked up
- Very effective as a malware protection tool against several types of malware, spyware, ransomware, Trojan and others
- Not very effective for anti Phishing purposes
- The user has to manually monitor the tool to keep it updated as it does not have an automatic ability for this function
Tips. Use AVG’s real-time protection feature that uses cloud scanning to get an early warning on threats before they can be uploaded and saved into your cloud or device memory.
Cool Features. Not only works overtime to protect your system but also covers internet activity thus, AVG can be used to scan emails for viruses, malware, ransomware etc.
Verdict. The effectiveness of AVG Scans and repair coupled with the ease of use makes it a popular antivirus for most beginners and for basic computer usage. The free version also offers a slower but Deep Scan option that combs through every crevice in your machine to get rid of spyware. AVG is worth using especially for those with basic computer knowledge.
Spybot offers a counteractive solution to spyware and adware by detecting and removing malware from a Windows system. Spybot introduced the first adware in the industry by picking it out soon after establishment in 2000. It additionally acts as a guard against future attacks by malicious software. Mostly understood by professionals and advanced users who have an excellent understanding of malware.
- The full version is relatively cheaper in comparison to other antivirus packages available, hence when you finally decide to upgrade to paid version, the cost won’t leave a big dent in your pocket
- Easy to use with a single click action enough to get rid of malware, spyware and ransomware
- Offers immunisation against future malware attacks – i.e. works as a system protector.
- The Spybot free version does not scan for viruses
- It is slow in scanning and updating
Tips. It is best to use Spybot together with an antivirus for the best results. Also be on the lookout to avoid the fake versions in circulation.
Cool Features. It is possible to set up automatic scanning schedule hence you can rely on Spybot to continuously carry our deep scans without the need to follow-up. With Spybot, you can also scan autoplay devices on your machine.
Verdict. Spybot Search & Destroy anti-malware did an above satisfactory job in identifying and fixing malware, spyware and adware on our system. We discovered that it worked more as a system repair tool as opposed to the protection feature we expected. Thus, Spybot is not the number one recommendation for system protection.
This is a malware protection tool developed for the Windows operating system and has been in operation since 2005. A new version is released monthly as an update. The tool must be used together with a trusted antivirus program as advised by the developers.
- Works to check for an extensive list of the different types of malware and removes them from the system
- If there is no malware detected, the malware removal tool works silently in the background
- It is portable and can be downloaded and stored on a USB Flash for use whenever needed
- Can perform 3 types of scans, that is; quick scan, full scan and customized scan
- Cumbersome to use since the machine must be restarted in order to fix any detected malware
- Does not offer real-time protection since it does not stay running all the time
Tips. Should best be used in conjunction with other antivirus tools because it does not stay running in the background and need to be manually started.
Cool Features. The tool automatically removes any active malicious software detected with just a click of the restart button.
Verdict. It is effective for malware detection and cleaning up but cannot guarantee total protection if used alone – most effective if used together with another antivirus. This is a major concern though because one can never fully rely on Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool for a thorough job protecting their system. Hence, the program has a low rating/score based on failure to offer solid stand-alone protection in real time.
An easy-to-install free anti-malware tool developed to combat the activities of ransomware for all users. This software operates by detecting and destroying malicious ransomware aimed at sabotaging your sensitive data in Windows systems and servers.
- According to the company, the program is developed by elite, former military cyber-security experts who bring their knowledge
- Claims to offer 99% protection against ransomware strains including the likes of NotPetya, Bad Rabbit and WannaCry
- Easy-to-install features that enable detection and prevention in real time.
- Cannot be automatically updated
Tips. Can be used to bypass the ransomware that would otherwise be missed by traditional antivirus software tools.
Cool Features. Developed to offer full real-time protection against even the types of malware that has not yet been discovered before. Picks up unique ransom binaries and fully identifies and cleans them out.
Verdict. We installed this software and in less than 6 minutes, it was working to fully scan the machine. Cybereason is an effective tool for protection against ransomware invasion. Finally, we were pleasantly surprised of how effective the tool is given that it is not highly exposed in the industry.
Developed to run a full scan upon prompting, Zemana works by detecting and storing file fingerprints on a cloud server after deleting them from your computer. This free anti-malware program uses negligible hard drive space and can be used together with other similar tools.
- Highly optimized and lightweight and works without leaving any footprints on your PC
- Quick and easy-to-install with straightforward features for use
- Offers real-time protection against malware infection
- Scans and cleans up pesky add-ons and extensions on your browser while also detecting and destroying Trojans
- Does not have a free version, therefore, one needs to pay for annual usage for every computer that is using the software.
Tips. For best results, it should be used alongside another antivirus as an additional security tool.
Cool Features. Does not keep any virus definition on the computer but eliminates everything, wiping away every footprint! It has a built-in scheduler that one can program to run every time the PC is booted, daily, weekly or at set times.
Verdict. Zemana utilizes few resources and yet conducts Full Scans. Since it was never developed to be the first line of defense this anti-malware is very effective to compliment other antivirus software. We think its helpful in the sense that it seamlessly works with our other antivirus tools and lives to fulfill their claims.
Lightly coined as the best virus removal tool currently available, Comodo antivirus combines the functionality of antivirus plus free anti-malware. The tool is the product of the Comodo Company, which has been in operation since 2001. It is compatible with most operating systems and detects different types of malware.
- Scores highly in AV tests for virus and malware detection
- Has proof of capabilities in the form of battle-tested and proven technology
- Comodo has the best technology that works to provide Endpoint Security and can work against complicated threats.
- Automatic operation sometimes interferes with legitimate programs
- Use of implied protection can block outbound files wrongly identified as malware by the tool
Tips. The Comodo Antivirus package can be used in its entirety to successfully identify and get rid of the constantly changing cybersecurity threats. The anti-malware software comes with the malware removal services, this can help in getting used to and trusting one brand for a thorough job.
Cool Features. One of the few to have an ‘all-in-one’ type of service in the form of Comodo Internet Security that offers Default Deny Approach, Defense+ Technology, Advanced Firewall Engine for Enhanced Security and others.
Verdict. Comodo provides users with a mature, full package. Overall, we enjoyed testing it out because of its ease of use combined with the advanced operation features. When looking for a serious and effective tool for malware detection and protection, Comodo is sure set to deliver.
Avast is an antivirus designed to offer real-time protection against malware threats by scanning and detecting potential threats on your system. At the same time this tool is relatively lightweight and usually displays its ransom findings before files can be encrypted. Furthermore, Avast free antivirus comes with the rare and highly-sought after intelligent threat-detection feature.
- Scores highly in malware detection
- Easy-to-install and use, and most importantly is lightweight and easily optimized
- Compatible with most operating systems including Android for smartphones
- Comes with many ads and pop-ups which can be distracting and time-consuming.
Tips. Can be used in combination with another tool for example Malwarebytes. Since Malwarebytes scans once it has been prompted, the system won’t be weighed down by this combination.
Cool Features. The Avast gaming mode prevents popups and interruptions to your game sessions.
Verdict. Actually, it didn’t take a lot of time installing Avast the free antivirus tool. It also came with a host of other security-related tools as well as handy utilities (which we found surprising since this was a free version on trial). At the end of the day, it was easy to understand that the ease of installation and usage, as well as the added real-time protection features, make Avast popular among basic users including gamers.
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