Five Free Malware Removal Tools
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.
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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This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 23 Sep 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Five Free Malware Removal Tools (Posted: 23 Sep 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved