Throughout the day, we keep visiting one website or another. We download tons of data from the Internet which opens up dozens of gateways for malware and viruses to sneak into your system.
Yes, every computer comes with built-in defense mechanisms, but an additional layer of protection can only help. Losing data because of malware is painful and a situation you’d probably prefer to avoid.
Accordingly, I’ll be telling you about the free and best anti-malware tools that you should use.
What is Malware?
Malware is a mixture of two words - malicious and software. It is a piece of code or a file that is typically delivered over the internet with the intent of causing damage to a computer, server, or network without the owner’s consent.
To get rid of these intruders, you need a malware detection tool - one that sniffs out every hidden code and removes it for good. It comes in many forms and can cause performance problems in your PC.
The different types of attacks include the following:
- Spyware - It is unwanted software that steals your internet usage data and other sensitive information. System monitors, Trojans, Tracking Cookies, and Adware fall under the category of spyware.
- Rootkit – This is malicious software that enables unauthorized users to access a computer and restricted software areas. It includes Antivirus disablers, DDoS attack bots, banking credential stealers, and key loggers.
- Adware - This software installs itself into your device without your consent. Adware is known to serve you unwanted advertisements and monitor your online behavior to collect marketing-related data about you.
- Ransomware - This is an emerging type of malware that blocks the user from their files or computer and then demands an anonymous online payment to restore access.
- Botnets - An abbreviation for robot networks, botnets affect a network of computers or devices that can connect wirelessly. The aim is to steal data, send spam, and DDoS attacks while accessing the devices and connections
- Malvertising - Cybercriminals inject malicious code into legitimate ad networks, thus affecting both small and large websites. These seemingly genuine ads are used to deploy ransomware, crypto mining scripts, and Trojans.
- Phishing Attacks - This fraudulent use of electronic communication (mostly emails) attempts to gain confidential and sensitive information. There are 6 different types of phishing - deceptive, spear, CEO fraud, vishing, smishing, and pharming.
- Trojan Malware - One of the longest-reigning malware, Trojans acts like a bona fide application that takes control of a computer. It is ideally designed to disrupt, damage, and steal data from devices or networks.
Now that you have an idea about the different types of malware, let’s proceed with exploring the best tools for protection.
List of Best Malware Removal Tools
There are so many malware removal tools that it can be hard to determine the right one. Fortunately, I spent months testing different tools to build a list of the best performers.
My list of top 6 malware removal tools includes:
- AVG ( Security Suite) - Full-fledged system security.
- Norton Power Eraser (Malware protection) - Deep cleaning of hidden files and malware
- Avast ( Security Suite) - Enhanced security and system performance
- Bitdefender (Antivirus)- Comprehensive protection against malware
- Trend Micro (Antivirus - Security)- Protection from malware and other viruses
- ZoneAlarm (Antivirus+Security)- 100% protection from viruses and malware
Comparison List of Top 6 Malware Tools
|Brand||Pricing||Features||Ransomware Protection||Malware Scan|
|AVG||Free/ Yearly||Fast, reliable, and extremely lightweight. Stops every type of malware.||Yes||On-Demand|
|Norton Power Eraser||Free||Wipes out threats that get past your antivirus, or that prevent antivirus installation||Yes||On Access|
|Avast||Free/Premium (Yearly)||Intelligent antivirus, smart scan, firewall, safe browser.||Yes||On-Demand/Auto schedule|
|Bitdefender||Free/Premium||Highest level of security and performance. Optimizable interface||Yes||On-Demand/ Real-time|
|Trend Micro||Free/Premium||Exceptional malware protection capabilities. Customizable interface||Yes||On-demand/ On Access|
|Zone Alarm||Free/Premium||Checks any suspicious files against a cloud database to ensure that even the latest threats are not missed||Yes||On-demand/ Real-time|
How to Remove Malware from Your Computer
If you notice that your PC is slower than usual, or pops-up irrelevant windows, or is doing something out-of-the-ordinary, the first thing that you should do is check for possible viruses or malware.
Here are the steps you can take to remove malware from your Windows PC -
- Start by disconnecting your computer from the Internet.
- Next, turn it off and boot it into the default Safe Mode.
- Now, you want to run a quick scan using any of the tools listed above. Before that, you need to get rid of the temporary files
tip: use the Disk Cleanup utility tool that’s included in Windows 10 and above
- Open the scanner and scan your system for any signs of viruses and other malware. In most cases, the tool will be able to scan and delete threats, but some malware stays hidden deep (Bitdefender works well to uncover hidden viruses).
- Once you receive a confirmation that all threats have been quarantined, you can restart the system and get back to what you were doing.
Unlike Windows OS, not all tools are compatible with Mac. Still, most of the tools I listed above include some of the best removal for Mac as well.
Here’s a quick guide on how to remove malware from Mac:
- Get started by disconnecting your system from the Internet (ensure that you already have a removal tool installed).
- Next, boot your Mac by restarting it while pressing the Shift key.
- Once you are in Safe Mode, make sure not to access any accounts. Meanwhile, remove the temporary files and clear your system cache.
- Then, open the Applications menu and go to Activity Monitor. Check for any applications that are running and delete them from the Finder menu itself.
- Run the scanner to check if you missed any hidden viruses or corrupt files. Let the tool scan your device fully and get rid of the threats.
- Restart your Mac and double-check the browser settings (most malware will modify your browser homepage).
Malware Protection and Prevention
When examining the best anti-malware tools, you’ll notice that some are paid and some are free. While you need a real-time scanner to stay protected, prevention is even better than the cure.
If you stay wary of the indicators, you can avoid downloading malware in the first place. Here are some free protection tips that you should make a habit of following-
- Update your OS as and when they release new versions
- Use a secure network. (WPA or WPA2 encryption)
- Do not use an open Wi-Fi network if you don’t have Internet Security tools enabled
- Double-check the sender before downloading files over emails
- Download from reliable sources only (scan your files before installing)
- Avoid suspicious emails and links
- Turn the system’s firewall on
- Limit the privileges that you offer different applications on your device
- Install an Antimalware/Antivirus tool
- Update the tool so that all security updates and security patches are up to date
Regularly following these practices and taking preventative measures will help you stop malware in its tracks before it causes irreparable harm.
What Other Options Do I Have Other Than Malware Protection
All kinds of possible threats are lurking throughout the internet. Accordingly, you never know which of these threat types may end up in your hard drive. Based on my research on all of these protection tools, I recommend that you invest in something that gives your computer full-fledged protection.
In addition to malware removal, you can make use of an array of other handy tools and add-ons. Some of these options include password management, file backup, advanced firewall, customizable add-ons, and much more. Here are some additional protection features that will make a great addition to your digital armory:
- Security Suite - This series of software tools is designed to protect a user’s computer from viruses and other malware and is managed by a single system control panel.
- Firewall - Consider this additional layer of security on top of your device’s firewall to help screen out hackers, viruses, and other malware lurking on the internet.
- File Backup – A valuable and much-needed feature is automatic file backups. It is a good-to-have a backup feature handy if your system is attacked and compromised by malware.
- Password Manager - With so many websites and apps to access, we keep creating new accounts. An add-on password manager can help check the security/strength of your passwords while making sure they are stored safely.
- Web Blockers - One of the best add-on features is a web blocker because you don’t have to install any extension on the browser. This helps you stay away from malicious websites and links.
As more and more users migrate to mobile, the need for malware tools for smartphones is at an all-time high.
The Google Play Store and Apple Store take great pains to keep every possible malware out of their network. However, if you have somehow downloaded an infected app, your device will open up to a lot of security and performance issues.
In these cases, here’s what you need to do before running an Android or an iPhone scan:
- Shut down the phone and try narrowing down the issue
- Turn on the Safe mode/Emergency mode to filter out the infected apps
- If you’re able to locate the app, go to Settings > Force Stop/Uninstall
- Delete any remaining data/files from the File Manager
- Download a protection tool, scan for any files/apps that you’ve missed
- Quarantine the threats and restart the device
The choice of a malware protection tool depends on your needs. While tools like Bitdefender are free and offer the required protection for personal use, you can also opt for premium tools like Avast that offer a complete security suite. Even better, you can use a mixture of two free tools like combining AVG and Avast Free or Bitdefender and Power Eraser).
As always, the best measure is always prevention, which can be accomplished by updating your devices regularly and avoiding suspicious links and websites as much as possible.