system infectionSource: Malwarebytes

Best Malware Removal Software Android Central 2021

While it's best to have an antivirus program installed on your computer to prevent malware infections, sometimes we tend to put it off until it's too late. Malwarebytes is the best quick-fix solution I've found for finding and removing the most threats on unprotected, or minimally protected, computers and cell phones. It's light enough to keep installed on your computer after malware is gone and have it running alongside a full internet security program that has real-time protection.

Best Overall: Malwarebytes

Quarantine ThreatSource: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central

Malwarebytes is the most effective program for clearing your computer of existing malware. It works on PCs and Macs, and both Android and iOS mobile devices. It doesn't use up too much of your system's resources, so you can keep it installed after removing malware and allow it to work with an antivirus program of your choice.

Malwarebytes does not remove all threats. It's a basic program and is free for anyone to download and use. It doesn't stop ransomware or exploit attacks, typically hackers, but it will get your system working well enough to set up an internet security program to take care of the rest. Plus, it does stop spyware.

Malwarebytes does offer a paid program that stops threats once your system is clean. However, this program hasn't been thoroughly vetted by antivirus test labs, like AV-Tests, so it isn't widely known how well it works.

Pros:

  • Cleans most existing malware
  • Free to use
  • Quick-fix solution
  • Compatible with several operating systems

Cons:

  • Doesn't stop or clear ransomware
  • No real-time protection
  • Paid program hasn't been vetted, yet

Best Overall

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Malwarebytes

A quick fix for malware infections

Malwarebytes is the most effective tool for cleaning up existing malware threats. However, it won't top ransomware.

Real-Time Protection: Avast Antivirus Free

Avast Free Antivirus 2020 ScanningSource: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central

Avast Free Antivirus is practically an entire computer protection suite that's great at capturing malware already on your computer and preventing future attacks. It's also the only malware removal program I've tested that includes real-time protection.

You get access to the Avast Internet browser, which has safe browsing features already installed. These block malicious websites, tag search results as dangerous or safe, and can sense when a download is malicious, so the program is ready to capture the threat the moment the download is complete. Avast also comes with a vulnerability scanner to find weak spots where other types of malware like to break through and helps you find solutions to strengthen them, along with a VPN.

Installing a full antivirus program may not be the ideal situation for some. Many people feel it best to use a quick removal tool then install a different antivirus program. Plus, having a full program like Avast can slow down your device's performance. However, if you're in the market for removing malware now and a quick way to stop future attacks, Avast is the solution for you.

Pros:

  • Extra security tools
  • Browser security
  • Real-time protection

Cons:

  • More tools than needed for malware removal
  • Heavier on resources than other free programs

Real-Time Protection

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Avast Antivirus Free

Strengthen coputer weak points

This free malware removal program includes access to the Avast safe browser and includes a vulnerability scanner.

Antivirus + Malware Removal: F-Secure Anti-Virus

No ThreatsSource: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central

This basic antivirus program scoops up malware that is hidden on your computer and quarantines them. After giving you a few days to determine if any of the files are okay to keep, F-Secure then permanently removes the threat from your computer, so nothing is left behind to reinfect your system.

Because F-Secure Anti-Virus doesn't have safe browsing or real-time protection, it can't stop threats as they are downloading, but it is pretty quick and efficient with its virus scans to capture them before they get out of hand. However, you can use the F-Secure Online Scanner, which is a free tool that will scan your computer for threats without having to purchase or install an antivirus program. However, this tool will only notify you of the threat. You will need to hunt it down and remove it yourself.

The best advantage of purchasing F-Secure Anti-Virus is you don't have to remove any threats yourself. However, I do recommend purchasing F-Secure SAFE for real-time security to help prevent your computer or cell phone from becoming infected in the first place.

Pros:

  • Scans deep to fine threats
  • Permanently removes malware
  • Some tools are free to use

Cons:

  • No real-time security
  • No safe browsing

Antivirus w/ Malware Removal

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F-Secure Anti-Virus

Keep a constant eye on threats

F-Secure finds threats with its deep virus scans, quarantines and ultimately removes all traces of malware.

Malware Scrubbing: Bitdefender Antivirus Free

Bitdefender Free Antivirus SecureSource: Nicole Johnston/ Android Central

Bitdefender is my top pick for antivirus software and the best internet security program, so its free program deserves a spot on this list. It is a light program, so it won't cause slowdown on your computer when installed and does a good job identifying and rounding up most threats already on your PC. While it has a quarantine folder, most malware is immediately removed with no parts of it remaining that could possibly reinfect your system.

While I like Bitdefender, some malware files recognize Bitdefender's website and don't make it easy to get to and download the program. You also don't get any support with this program and it only works on Windows computers.

Pros:

  • Light on resources
  • Scrubs threats from system
  • Full program is best for antivirus software

Cons:

  • Only compatible with Windows
  • Some malware may prevent the program from downloading

Malware Scrubbing

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Bitdefender Antivirus Free

Stop reinfection

Bitdefender Antivirus Free immediately removes most captured malware before it has a chance to reinfect your computer.

Malware Removal Service: AVG Removal Tools & Services

Malware Removal ServiceSource: AVG

AVG has a free virus scanner and removal tools that you can access from its website. Once threats are gone, you can continue to use AVG Free Antivirus to keep a lookout for additional threats sneaking onto your computer. Its deep virus scans find threats and quarantine them, but you will need to be consistent with keeping up on scans. Luckily, AVG does let you schedule scans, so you don't have to worry about manually running them.

If you find that your computer is too infected, or is still infected after downloading and using AVG's free tools, you can contact a service tech to help you. With your permission, the tech will access your computer remotely and both find and remove malware threats. After that, you can install an antivirus program with real-time protection to reduce the risk of becoming infected again.

AVG's malware removal program isn't cheap, though there is a yearly subscription available that is more cost-effective than a one-time removal. And you do get a free consultation before any work is performed.

Pros:

  • Free tools available online
  • Full malware removal service

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Some features require remote access

Malware Removal Service

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AVG Removal Tools & Services

Let someone else take the wheel

You can remove the malware yourself with AVG's malware removal tools, or hail the AVG experts and have them remove the threats for you.

Bottom line

Your computer is running slower, crashing often or restarting on its own. You might be missing files or are being prevented from accessing others, or maybe you're being redirected while trying to get to a website. All of these are signs you've been infected by malware. I've been in situations where malware has blocked attempts to download antivirus software, and in some cases redirected me away from these programs' websites.

This is when I've turned to Malwarebytes to round up enough of the threats to get an antivirus program installed to get rid of the rest and continue to protect my computer with real-time protection. Malwarebytes won't stop ransomware or prevent reinfection, so it's important to install a good antivirus program once the threats are removed.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author: Nicole Johnston Bio Pic

Nicole Johnston writes for multiple Future Publishing brands, including Android Central, covering primarily internet security and privacy programs. She has over 13 years of research and writing experience in both the public and private sector, including seven years of testing and reviewing consumer products and five evaluating antivirus software, parental controls, VPNs and identity theft services.

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