Five Free Malware Removal Tools

Category: Security

Nothing is perfect, especially in the realm of malware removal tools. In the ever-escalating arms race between malware authors and defenders of civilized computer users, the advantage shifts from one side to the other constantly. You may have the top-rated security and disinfection suite, but one day some clever new species of malware will defeat it. Here's what to do when that happens to you, a friend, or family member...

Reinforcing Your Security Defenses

If your first line of defense fails, you need to call in allies. An infection that one anti-malware program cannot erase (or even detect, sometimes) may be dealt with effectively by another Internet security tool. Even if it doesn't happen to your computer, you may be the person that friends and family call upon when their computer gets fouled up by a virus, spyware, rootkit, or botnet. It's good to have several alternatives to your main anti-malware program on hand, up to date, and ready to come to the rescue.

Of course, nobody wants to pay tens or hundreds of dollars per year for subscriptions to multiple programs they rarely use. Fortunately, there are capable free options. Previously, I've recommended Five Free Anti-Virus Programs, which I recommend for every-day always-on protection. In this article, you'll find five free anti-malware tools that I recommend for your “last resort” toolbox. Use them when you suspect something may have snuck in, or when helping others.

Free Malware Fighters

But before I get into these useful tools, a word of warning: be careful of any free software that is not distributed by its developer but only through “trusted partner sites” such as C|net’s Download.com, Tucows.com, and other freeware supermarkets. Invariably, such packages are loaded with what I call “foistware,” deceptive installation routines that trick the unwary into installing things they don’t want or giving up personal information they should not. You can get a clean copy of the free program you want, without strings attached, but you must read every installation screen carefully and click only when you are certain of what clicking does.

Foistware is getting downright Faustian in its perfidy. I saw one last week in which the “Decline” button indicated you were declining to decline the toolbar that was offered. Yes, “decline” meant “accept.” See my related article DOWNLOAD ALERT: Foistware Warning, and pay particular heed to the section titled CNET/Download.com: A Six-Part Horror Story.

You’re welcome, foistware developers and distributors.

Update Your Malware Removal Toolkit

1) The claim to fame of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (MBAM) is that it specializes in finding and removing malware that standard antivirus programs miss. The program is small, easy on the system resources, and highly rated by independent anti-malware software evaluation researchers. I've written about in my related article Is MBAM Enough Security? Unfortunately, the MBAM home site diverts downloaders to CNET's Download.com, so pay attention during the download and installation processes.

2) The Sophos Virus Removal Tool detects and removes a wide variety of malicious software, including viruses, spyware, and rootkits. If you think your current antivirus may have let something slip by, do a scan with this tool. It'll work alongside your existing antivirus software, so there's no need to uninstall what you have now.

3) SuperAntiSpyware sounds like a Mario Brothers character, perhaps a clue that its target market is gullible kids who will blithely click on anything. It comes in three editions: free for kids and home users; a Professional Edition that includes real-time protection and scheduled scanning; and a Portable Edition that doesn't need to be installed on the infected machine. SAS has had a loyal following for a decade, and a good reputation for finding and eliminating viruses, spyware, rootkits, keyloggers, and other types of malware. To its credit, this program doesn't pass you off to a third-party download site, and installs cleanly.

4) ComboFix is an advanced tool that should be used only by techie types. In the hands of the average non-technical user, ComboFix can do more harm than good. ComboFix generates a rather large and technical log file listing the locations of suspect files, altered registry keys, and other problems. The user is expected to manually correct the problems that could not be automatically removed. One wrong deletion and your system may not boot. This tool is powerful, but better suited for uber-geeks, not ordinary mortals. Sadly, though, the prominent "FREE DOWNLOAD" button in the center of the ComboFix website is designed to trick visitors into downloading a different (paid) program. You have to search a bit for the free ComboFix download link.

5) Windows Defender Offline runs from a bootable CD or USB drive, so it can help in cases where your computer is so badly fouled up that it won't even start. WDO is the only program here that does its job well, doesn't try to tempt you with unwanted toolbars, and doesn't try to upsell you on a paid version. It’s distributed by Microsoft, so maybe they figure they've got enough of your cash already. See my full review of Windows Defender Offline.

Do you have a favorite go-to tool that you call upon when helping friends clean up an infected computer, or when your first line of malware defense is breached?

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Most recent comments on "Five Free Malware Removal Tools"

(See all 27 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

RandiO
24 Sep 2013

It maybe true that /combofix is truly good at what it supposed to do but I just HATE programs that haphazardly install themselves without any prompts to the user? This combofix.exe appears to install itself in the root of the boot drive. Using an expert level app is no biggy but such an app should duly (and at least;) allow user to select which HDD/SSD drives to scan and where to install itself. It would also be proper to show a little more status while doing its scan. I can't tell if it is truly running or just locked up. I typed this whole reply while waiting for it to tell me something... anything! My experience with this program is a very negative one. Maybe the problems I had with it are due to the fact that I am using Win8Pro or whatever. Suffice it to say that I would not even recommend this utility to an advanced user. No program, no matter how free it is, should be this crude. I could not even get it to uninstall itself ("combofix /uninstall") and I am glad I had traced the installation using Revo Uninstaller. What is a "Qoobox" anyways??????


Posted by:

Maurice Lampl
24 Sep 2013

What no comment about ExterminateIt???
http://www.exterminate-it.com/


Posted by:

Daniel
24 Sep 2013

All of these are easy to use except Combo Fix. One should be very clear about what it does and especially HOW it does it before proceeding. It could end up making you lose lots of hair. :-)

It's powerful but it really is a tool of last resort. Once you master it though you'll feel like Supercomputerman. :-)


Posted by:

Doug
24 Sep 2013

I use the tools from Iobit. So, Advanced System Care, their Malware Pro, etc. They have deep understanding of Windows and Windows performance and keep me running in great shape.


Posted by:

RandiO
24 Sep 2013

@mauriceLampl post:
"Dear users please note that Exterminate It! is free to scan and detect the malware in your system. Malware removal is a paid feature.
You could request Free Exterminate It! Antimalware Trial Code here:
http://www.exterminate-it.com/trial-registration
Pasted from


Posted by:

my2cents
24 Sep 2013

Hey Bob: Love your stuff. Has always been very helpful...till now. This SuperMario software messed up two of my PCs. On the desktop unit, everything in Firefox turned to text only; no pictures anywhere. IE continued to work normally. On the laptop, I lost my transparent Quick Launch feature; it's now solid white. Both are W7, 64-bit machines. Advanced System Care cleaned up the desktop problem, still working on the laptop's problem. Both problems occurred right after SuperAntiSpyware install so I don't know what else to blame it on. Uninstalled the software. Again, thanks for the 99.5% great advice.


Posted by:

Ken
25 Sep 2013

SpywareBlaster doesn't remove spyware, but is supposed to prevent malware from being installed. I've used it for years, and don't think I've had any malware issues. It's free and is simple to use.


Posted by:

Luke
25 Sep 2013

Hey Bob,

You missed some of the best! Almost every anti-virus, etc., had an emergency disk available on line - free. I have six!!! Go to your search engine & search "rescue disk". Download & write to a CD. Most of them are written in linux(?) & will boot from the CD drive if you set the BIOS up correctly, you know, F1, F12, etc. One of them will let you set the boot order so it does so from the CD drive.


Posted by:

doug
27 Sep 2013

The best site for malware is www.bleepingcomputer.com. They have a huge array of programs and utilities for almost any viral issue on your computer. Malwarebytes is also a good secondary program to download as it provides protection in parallel with your existing virus protection. I personally use Kaspersky and have been very satisfied for over a year.


Posted by:

Nicolo
28 Sep 2013

Downloading it from www.ninite.com is also a safe and quicker way to get it done. Also, as Bob mentioned in a previous blog, it always gives you the most updated version. :-)


Posted by:

Jim
30 Sep 2013

Certain links I receive from known sources (e.g., a tracking number from UPS/FedEx) produce a popup from Panda Security telling me that the website the link points to is contaminated. In most cases, I know that the website is OK, but I can't get rid of whatever is producing this popup. I have tried all of the malware software cited in your recent article, including a full Windows Defender Offline scan, plus several others. Nothing seems to be able to find and destroy this nuisance. Any thoughts? Thanks.


Posted by:

TheRube
07 Oct 2013

Hello ALL!

First I want to say to say to Same DeSai that calling Mr. Rankin names is totally Rude and Disrespectful!
(Reading is indeed F-u-n-d-a-m-e-n-t-a-l!)
I don't have to say more.

Moving right along . . . I will also recommend the following sofware as a additional layer of security protection in the cyber-warfare that we are all locked into each and every time we go Online:

1. Comodo Cleaning Essentials

http://www.majorgeeks.com/files/details/comodo_cleaning_essentials.html

2. Avast Stand-Alone Anti-Rootkit utility

http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/download/aswmbr/

Hope these help and another useful tool is to create a Linux Live CD or USB to THOROUGHLY get the job done!
Trust. I recently used a USB stick to rid my computer of a Very Powerful "entity" that kept crashing my computer!
Creating a disc or USB is quite easy . . . just google it and see for yourself!

Thank You,

TheRube


Posted by:

Corey Church
25 Oct 2013

Add HitmanPro to the list. Its' in cloud partners are Emsisoft, Kaspersky, and Bit Defender. It is an on-demand scanner and can be configured to run on boot (kick-starter).


Posted by:

Brad
26 Oct 2013

Along with Hitman Pro I also use AdwCleaner. Very effective and gets things Malwarebytes passes by


Posted by:

Rick Roray
26 Oct 2013

I just had a bout with ransomware that would not allow me to change boot sequence in CMOS. No matter what I tried, it went straight to Windows. Finally got lucky enough for Malware bytes chameleon to get me out of it but still had other cleanup to do for the next day or so as the new problem arose.


Posted by:

Wyrmrider
28 Oct 2013

I first use disk cleanup, c-cleaner, adwcleaner, atf cleaner to get rid of all the junk in temp files

Then MBAM

If it finds anything SAS-

If SAS finds anything besides cookies Spybot Search and Destroy (which uses a different search pattern)

If lots of cookies found tighten up IE and install cookie blocker, ad blocker, Hosts file.

IOBIT stole others databases, I do not trust them.


Depending on what's found an anti-rootkit, combo fix, etc follow


Posted by:

EJ
28 Oct 2013

FREE?????? MY ASS I go thru all the steps on Sparktrust and now there is NO FREE option, they just want you to pay for it? WHY Do you call it FREE BOB? WHY? WHAT a wast of time.. EJ

EDITOR'S NOTE: I didn't list Sparktrust in my article. Maybe you saw it elsewhere?


Posted by:

rosshi
29 Oct 2013

hi Bob, good tips but you missed a few LOL

some more additions:

Iobit Malware Fighter FREE
http://www.iobit.com/malware-fighter.php

Malwarebytes
http://www.malwarebytes.org/

Spyware Blaster
http://www.brightfort.com/?#jc_redirect

oh and I recommend people use:

EULAlixer;
http://www.brightfort.com/eulalyzer.html

I hope these additions have the thumbs up from you too Bob?


Culata
A→T→B
rosshi


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
29 Oct 2013

Bob, I am a faithful reader of your newsletters and I honestly, do NOT know how I missed this newsletter!!! Darn, had I read it, I would have been forewarned about C|Net's Download.com massive "malware" additives!!!

I tried to download a program and the main website sent me to C|Net.com's download site. I didn't give it a thought, I have downloaded from there so many times, I can't count ... Never had a problem, until this past month or so. I am still dealing with "crap" that was downloaded, that I had NO awareness and NO notice, that it was being included with the download!!! Yes, I am pissed ... C|Net should know about all of this and they don't seem to be doing a thing, about it. Makes me wonder, if, they are being paid by these malware companies and don't care about their computer customers, any longer. Also, it maybe that C|Net hasn't care about the consumer, for a long time. >:(


Posted by:

Rob
31 Oct 2013

Thanks for the great article. Glad you also referred to bundling unwanted products with the one you really want. CNet seems to do this a lot, with DriverMax for ex. And then there's Adobe doing the same.


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