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

Worried your device is infected? Here are some of the best free tools for removing malicious software from your systems

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, and the best free malware removal tools can be very effective.

The number of attacks being monitored by cyber security experts continues to rise every year, with phishing continuing to be the main successful route for placing malware on business systems.

The largest-scale cyber attacks are the ones that are the most widely known, but 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.

Best free malware removal tools: 1. Avast Antivirus Free

A screenshot of Avast Antivirus Free showing various protection modules

One of the best anti-malware tools that on the market is Avast's free malware protection software.

It provides robust malware protection, scoring 99% in an AV-Comparatives malware test, which is excellent for a free service and higher than many of its rivals. But Avast really comes up trumps with the wide range of extra features.

There is a variety of scanning and notification alternatives that will help you customise the tool to your own particular needs. These include a Wi-Fi scanner that detects other devices on a network you are on. This aids in discovering insecure passwords or other weaknesses. With the software installed, the tool sets off a scan of your browser to find any possible malicious extensions and installed apps.

The Hack Alert feature is handy in helping users comprehend threats outside the business, such as if your email address has been found in a data breach. This then gives forward warning, to faciliatate action such as changing affected passwords or adding two factor authentication (2FA).

It also features a Ransomware Shield. This is much like Windows' built-in Controlled Folder Access feature, although the user interface is better looking. The tool thwarts malware from writing to protected locations without approval from the user.

These free features will only alert users to issues, while paying for the premium tier will ensure the software fixes these problems automatically, but as free software it still provides welcome insight into your security position. The free suite doesn’t push its premium plan that much, but you will find that tools in the paid tier are marked out visibly. This is a market-leading product when combined with other tools for preventing viruses.

For more information, read our full Avast Antivrius Free review.

Best free malware removal tools: 2. AVG AntiVirus Free

AVG logo displayed on a smartphone
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Another great cyber security tool for business is from AVG. Its antivirus software will work quietly behind the scenes, scanning your system on a regular basis. It offers malware and performance scanning, real-time security updates, as well as malicious download protection.

There have been many changes to the software over the years as the product’s developers have made efforts to make the application simpler to operate, and worked to help users easily comprehend threats. This has been mostly effective, as the software now shows where and how it is protecting your device.

The paid version of AVG providers greater defence against downloads, data encryption, and a built-in firewall. However, the paid tier at £54.99 is a tad on the expensive side.

This product can be downloaded here.

Best free malware removal tools: 3. BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition

Bitdefender logo on smartphone

There’s no denying that BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition lacks some of the more powerful features of the company’s paid offering, such as a password locker and advanced ransomware recovery features. But this doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s a powerful anti-malware option that has a proven track record at detecting even some of the more exotic malware strains around, and is mercifully free of advertisements.

BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition also comes with the company’s Photon cloud-based scan system, which is designed to adapt the intensity at which it uses resources to match a device’s capabilities. This could prove extremely useful if one is seeking a powerful tool for removing malware, but don’t want to sacrifice too much performance.

This free version works on computers running Windows 7 to Windows 11. There is also an app for computers running MacOS (this requires at least macOS 10), as well as apps for Android phones and tablets.

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This product can be downloaded here.

Best free malware removal tools: 4. 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.

Read our full Microsoft Defender review for more information.

Best free malware removal tools: 5. Panda Free Antivirus

Panda Anti virus software on mobile

Available to download here.

As a cloud-based anti-malware software, Panda Free Antivirus could be perfect for those seeking a less resource-intensive fix. Unlike some of the other solutions, which can take up an unwelcome amount of memory during scans (and even passively in the system tray), Panda leverages most of the work on its servers. This frees one up to perform intensive tasks while scans are performed, without either competing for memory or storage allocation.

Panda Free Antivirus can also operate as a virtual private network (VPN) and is capable of file encryption, password management, and system recovery in the case of catastrophically-compromised devices that won’t even boot.

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