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Best free malware removal tools 2022: Clean your hard drive with these services

Worried your device is infected? Here are the tools you need to get rid of malicious software

The cyber security threat landscape is evolving and widening every week which means it’s difficult for businesses to keep track of all the threats to their digital infrastructure. That said, it’s more important than ever to have a safety net to rely on should malware make its way to your systems.

The number of attacks being monitored by cyber security experts continues to rise every year, with phishing continuing to be the main successful actor vector through which bad actors can launch cyber attacks and install their malware of choice.

The largest-scale cyber attacks are the ones that are the most widely known but so many smaller-scale vulnerabilities and exploits go unreported. For many businesses, the number of threats that are actively being exploited in their sector is far too plentiful to accurately monitor comprehensively, which is why an effective malware-removal tool is necessary to stay online and keep information secure.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Malwarebytes anti virus software on smartphone

Available to download here.

One of the most well-known anti-malware service providers, Malwarebytes, offers a ‘go-to’ platform for eradicating many of the harder-to-detect threats. Users looking for ‘forget and fire’ safeguards will enjoy its real-time background scanning capability, which lets the system scan the contents of an operating system to automatically flag harmful files.

The free version is highly effective at detecting and removing malicious infections, so long as you scan your system regularly. The most advanced features, however, such as real-time scanning and deeper root scans, are available for premium users only; they’re available for just 14 days with a free account. Pricing tiers are fairly reasonable, that said, and start from £2.50 per month.

AVG AntiVirus Free

AVG logo displayed on a smartphone

Available to download here.

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AVG, another household name, is antivirus software that’s designed to sit in the background and scan your machine regularly. Features include real-time security updates, malware and performance scanning, and protection against malicious downloads.

The software has seen a few different iterations over the past few years as developers have attempted to make it easier to use and understand what’s happening at a glance. This work has largely been a success, with the tool now showing you exactly how and where your system is being protected.

The premium version AVG offers more robust download protection, data encryption, and a built-in firewall, although this is on the more expensive end of the market at £50 per year.

The free version is perfectly useable, however, be prepared to deal with adverts.

BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition

Bitdefender logo on smartphone

Available to download here.

The best thing about Bitdefender's free malware removal tool is that it's ad-free, it doesn't nag you with lots of irritating pop-up notifications and it's easy to install, running quietly in the background.

The software features BitDefender's B-Have tech, which looks for apps that aren't behaving themselves. It also includes malware and spyware detection that can detect more rare threats, and performs a boot scan every time you start your PC. For all the reasons listed above, BitDefender's Antivirus Free Edition is one of our favourites out of the bunch.

Microsoft Defender

Microsoft logo on smartphone

Now the default anti-virus and anti-malware product for all box-fresh Windows machines, Microsoft Defender has come on leaps and bounds since the Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) days of Windows 7. Microsoft’s built-in anti-virus product has previously been seen as a decently serviceable default option, but middling performance has always given third-party manufacturers opportunities on which to capitalise in the anti-virus market. It has always been the protection you use until you can get something more powerful - the Internet Explorer of anti-malware, if you will.

It’s only in the past few years that Microsoft Defender - its current name - has been viewed as a serious protector in the cyber security space. Perhaps only let down by an unwelcoming user interface (UI), Microsoft Defender offers highly accurate, comprehensive protection from cyber security threats from the moment you first power-on your device. 

In our tests, Microsoft Defender blocked 99.96% of all malware samples and between January and February 2022, it protected against 100% of all new zero-day threats too. What’s more, it’s absolutely free to use, everyone who runs a Windows PC has it, and it’s automatically updated regularly to combat against new and emerging threats.

Not that we recommend doing so, but those still running older versions of Windows such as Windows 8 and Windows 7 still have options in the anti-malware space. Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) is still available for 64-bit Windows machines and aims to prevent infections from prevalent malware strains. While it’s not available on Windows Vista or earlier, it supports instances of Windows Server as far back as the 2008 version.

Microsoft Defender comes pre-installed on Windows 10 and Windows 11, and you can download MSRT here.

Panda Free Antivirus

Panda Anti virus software on mobile

Available to download here.

If you're looking for light anti-malware software, Panda Free Antivirus is the one. It's cloud-based, meaning all the heavy lifting is done on Panda's servers, leaving more of your PC's system memory to do other, more demanding jobs.

Easy to install and use, Panda's malware removal software includes Wi-Fi scanning, password management, encryption, parental controls, and many more, but best of all, it offers excellent real-time protection with no nagging messages about upgrades.

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