There are several products that claim to offer the best malware removal tools and the best protection against malware attacks.
However, I tested 57 different malware removal programs, and almost all of them were very bad. They failed to detect or remove many of my test malware files (things like spyware, ransomware, and rootkits). That said, other programs were excellent.
Finally, I found 5 strong anti-malware products that can find and remove all cyber security threats: viruses, ransomware, spyware, keyloggers, rootkits and all other malware. These programs protect the devices through a variety of different processes such as machine learning (artificial intelligence), real-time virus protection, and full disk scans. They have been developed to be some of the most advanced malware fighting machines in the world and are available online in free and paid cyber security packages.
I have researched, tested and compared the top malware removal products based on usability, price, extra features and how safe they are against all types of malware infections.
How I rated the best malware removal software of 2021
Malware removal and protection. I downloaded and infected my virtual computer with almost 1,000 malware samples, including viruses, trojans, worms, ransomware, spyware and rootkits. I ranked each piece of anti-malware software based on the number of files captured in disk scans and real-time protection, along with how quickly and effectively each threat was removed. I also evaluated the program's performance when recovering a computer system after a malware infection. And I added extra points for fast scans using low CPU load.
Additional Features. I used all the features of all the anti-malware programs I tested to make sure that all the tools worked exactly as advertised. I gave extra points for useful threat prevention tools such as Wi-Fi scans, virtual private network (VPN), password manager, and Dark Web monitoring.
Easy to use. Many cyber security products are difficult to use, making malware removal a complicated process. I manually tested each of these products, navigated through all the features, and made sure that the products that made it onto this list are intuitive and easy to use for all types of users.
Customer Service. If I have a problem with my malware removal tool I want to know if I can get high quality support as soon as possible. I contacted each company's customer service teams by phone, email and live chat and ranked them according to the amount of information and help they gave me.
Value. It is important to ensure that the quality of protection offered by each program matches the price. I recommend only malware removal software that provides a good amount of cybersecurity features for the price, as well as useful add-ons like free trials, money-back guarantees, or first-time subscription discounts.
Top brands that failed to make the list:
Kaspersky. Kaspersky is a world leader in cyber security. However, its premium version is more expensive than the other security packages on this list, all of which offer a better and more complete range of Internet security tools.
BullGuard. BullGuard offers decent malware protection and removal, as well as a special game booster feature that enhances PC performance for gamers. However, the user interface is cluttered, and BullGuard simply doesn't provide the same value as the other programs on this list.
Avast/AVG. Avast/AVG has been accused of selling user data. I have a problem with cyber security companies providing user information, especially without the user's knowledge. And, right now there are so many great companies offering strong malware protection that no one needs to sacrifice privacy for quality.
1. Norton 360 - Best Malware Removal Software in 2021
Norton 360 is the best malware removal program on the market. It uses advanced machine learning, heuristic scanning, and a massive malware database to detect and remove even the most sophisticated malware.
In my testing, Norton's real-time protection identified and blocked 100% of the test malware files I tried to download to my PC. After disabling Norton real-time protection and downloading the same files to my hard drive, Norton's full system scan identified and completely removed all malicious files. The scan took about 40 minutes to complete and did not slow my computer down.
Norton combines strong malware protection with extra security features such as:
- Network firewall.
- Anti-phishing protections.
- Virtual Private Network (VPN).
- Password manager.
- Encrypted storage.
- Parental controls.
- Webcam protections (for PC).
The Norton firewall is very good. It relies on machine learning to automatically detect unusual network activity and blocked all exploit attacks in my tests. Usually competitors only offer customization features for the Windows firewall built into every PC, but Norton's "Smart Firewall" is Norton's highest quality firewall, outperforming all others in all my tests.
Norton 360 Standard offers protection for one device only. Norton 360 Deluxe adds up to 5 devices, 50 GB of cloud storage, and parental controls. For users outside the US, Norton 360 Premium adds coverage for up to 10 devices and 75 GB of cloud storage.
Norton 360 is my favorite malware removal program in 2021. It is a comprehensive Internet security package with perfect malware detection rates and fast malware removal. Norton's firewall, anti-phishing protections, VPN, Dark Web monitoring, parental controls, and password manager are great. Norton 360 comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
2. Bitdefender - Complete Internet Security Software
Bitdefender has a fast cloud-based malware scanner that keeps devices 100% protected without affecting CPU performance. During my testing, Bitdefender detected and removed all the malicious files I downloaded. And because Bitdefender offloads the scan to the cloud, it is able to do virus scans faster than most competitors, and with very little CPU load.
I was able to stream HD video, play high-performance games on my PC, and use Adobe Photoshop without interruption while Bitdefender ran a full disk scan-even Norton caused some slowdowns on my system during scans, so I was pretty impressed with Bitdefender's performance!
Bitdefender also has more extra features than most other antivirus software, making it one of the best Internet security packages of 2021. Besides standard features like firewall and web protection, Bitdefender also has advanced tools like ransomware protection and remediation, USB scanning, a secure browser for online financial transactions, and much more.
Bitdefender offers 3 different antivirus plans. The 2 lower level plans, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Bitdefender Internet Security, are only available for PCs. Users seeking protection for multiple devices on all operating systems should upgrade to Bitdefender Total Security.
Bitdefender offers a great set of anti-malware tools. But Mac users and users looking for mobile protection will have to upgrade to the most expensive plan to get coverage for Mac, Android, and iOS. Still, all Bitdefender plans are very competitively priced and available with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
3. McAfee - Advanced Malware Scan Engine
McAfee Total Protection's anti-malware engine uses artificial intelligence and machine learning. It detected and removed every piece of malware in my tests, earning it a spot alongside Norton in terms of perfect malware detection and removal. However, I noticed that my system was a little slow after downloading McAfee. And McAfee's full system scan significantly slowed down my computer, much more than TotalAV.
However, McAfee comes with a wide variety of well-developed features that compensate for this slowness. Among them:
- Wi-Fi protection (Home Network Security).
- Anti-phishing protections.
- System tuning tools.
- Password manager.
- Permanent file deletion.
- Identity theft protection (US users only).
All of McAfee's extra features work very well, but I also really like McAfee's great mobile protections. McAfee offers real-time scanning, web protection, parental controls, and anti-theft functionality for Android and iOS in one easy-to-use app: it is one of the best mobile anti-virus products on the market, especially for Android that are highly susceptible to ransomware and spyware threats.
McAfee Total Protection has all the features listed above for 1 to 10 devices (on all operating systems), and McAfee is currently offering a 2-year subscription plan for a cheaper annual cost than any other competitor.
McAfee Total Protection has an impressive set of malware removal tools for computers and mobile devices. McAfee's malware detection rates are on par with Norton's. But I experienced unusual slowness with McAfee on my device. However, if you are using a fast computer and looking for a wide range of features for a really good price, McAfee has a 30-day money-back guarantee on all their plans, including the subscription plan.
4. TotalAV - Fast and easy-to-use anti-malware scanner
TotalAV is simple, easy to use, and offers some of the most comprehensive malware protection and removal on the market. TotalAV's higher level plans offer a cloud-based scanning option. The cloud-based scanner detected and removed 99% of the malware I put on my system and barely slowed down my computer during scans. While Norton achieved the top spot on this list with its 100% detection rate, TotalAV was faster and lighter on my PC.
Besides its malicious software removal tool, TotalAV also offers many extra features, including:
- Web attack prevention.
- Performance optimization tools.
- Password manager.
- Protection against identity theft (additional purchase).
TotalAV's performance optimization tools have proven to be more effective than any of the other system tuning features on this list. The junk file cleaner removed 8 GB of duplicate files, unused files and cached browser files from my system. In addition, TotalAV helped me to increase my computer's startup speed and clear the browser cookies that track my Web usage.
TotalAV Antivirus Pro includes the TotalAV anti-malware scanner and performance optimization tools that can be used on up to 3 devices. TotalAV Internet Security adds VPN and coverage for up to 5 devices. TotalAV Total Security adds an ad blocker and password manager for up to 6 users.
TotalAV's lightweight anti-malware engine detected almost all test malware on my device. Besides having a 99% malware detection rate, TotalAV has some of the best performance optimization tools, which significantly improved my PC's startup and memory usage. TotalAV's anti-phishing browser extension, VPN and ad blocker are also very well developed security add-ons. All TotalAV plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
5. Avira - Best free malware removal software
Avira has a strong, fast, light and free malware scanner. It is offered without restrictions in the free Avira package. The Avira scanner is as good as the Norton or McAfee scanner, removing all malware completely. And when I tested Avira's real-time protection, it detected every single malware before I could install it on my computer. Avira's free plan even has ransomware protection!
Avira Free also includes extra features like:
- Web privacy extension (Safe Shopping).
- Performance optimizer.
- VPN (500 MB monthly limit).
- Password Manager.
Avira's Safe Shopping browser extension is one of my favorite online privacy tools. It blocks trackers, intrusive ads, and phishing sites that can steal your data. Also, the extension is able to find the best shopping deals for you, but this feature did not perform very well during my testing.
Avira Free is my favorite free anti-malware package. However, the password manager and VPN offered have some frustrating limitations. Upgrading to Avira Prime gives you Avira's excellent VPN with unlimited browsing data, premium password manager, and performance optimization for up to five devices.
Avira has the best free malware removal software on the market. Avira Free also has some great free Internet security features, and upgrading to Avira Prime gives you unlimited VPN, advanced performance optimization tools, and a good password manager for up to 5 devices. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee on all paid Avira plans.
Bônus: Malwarebytes - Software anti-malware simples
Malwarebytes offers premium anti-malware scanning and removal, but not much else. I wasn't shocked to see Malwarebytes remove most of the malware from my disk during testing, but I was surprised to see that Malwarebytes has finally added some new features to its Internet security package.
Malwarebytes now offers anti-phishing and VPN protection in addition to its powerful anti-malware engine. The antiphishing shield is very good, but not a huge improvement over Chrome and Firefox's integrated phishing protections. However, the optional VPN upgrade is very good. I was able to easily connect to servers all over the world and even bypassed Netflix's geographic restrictions with Malwarebytes (but only about half the time).
Malwarebytes offers a free version of its on-demand malware scanner (which comes after a 14-day free trial). The free version is good enough for simple malware removal, but not good enough to keep you protected against future threats. For that, you'll need Malwarebytes Premium, which offers real-time protection and anti-phishing. Users looking for a good VPN can upgrade to Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy.
Malwarebytes features a great malware scanner, but that's basically it. It also includes a good anti-phishing tool and a VPN, but Malwarebytes doesn't offer the kind of comprehensive cybersecurity protection offered by competitors like Norton and McAfee. All Malwarebytes premium plans offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Bonus: Intego - The best malware removal for Mac users
Intego's macOS malware removal software offers significant improvements over macOS' built-in anti-malware protections. During my testing, Intego's malware scanner achieved a perfect detection and removal rate against every Mac-specific malware on my MacBook Pro, catching files that macOS' built-in XProtect malware scanner failed to detect.
Intego also has:
- Smart firewall.
- System cleaning and optimization tools.
- Parental controls.
- Data backup.
Intego's firewall automatically adjusts protections based on your network activity, and the file backup tool offers interesting options for custom folders, synchronization across multiple drives, and scheduling automatic backups.
Intego offers a few different plans. The basic plan, Internet Security X9, has only a firewall and malware scanner, while the Premium Bundle X9 offers all of Intego's features in one affordable package.
Intego is the best anti-malware software for Mac users, and its extra features offer major improvements over Apple's built-in cybersecurity tools. Intego's firewall automatically sets protections based on network activity, while parental controls offer better content filtering than macOS. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee on all Intego plans.
What is the difference between "virus" and "malware"?
Viruses are one type of malware, but there are many other types of malware that are not viruses. Malware is any malicious software designed to damage, spread, or provide unwanted access to a computer, device, or network.
Examples of malware include:
- Trojan. Any malware that pretends to be a benign program file and then is secretly activated after installation to provide hackers with system surveillance, remote access, or the ability to damage your system.
- Ransomware. Infects your device and encrypts your most valuable files until you pay a ransom to hackers to unlock it. It is commonly used against businesses and corporations.
- Spyware. This is usually supplied as a free download. It gives hackers access to your screen, keys, microphone, and webcam to steal your personal information and even influence your suggested search results.
- Adware. Similar to spyware. Attacks your browser, collects your browsing history, and displays unwanted and targeted advertisements on your desktop and browser. Many of the linked ads can lead to serious malware downloads or phishing sites designed to steal financial information.
- Keylogger. Records your keystrokes, giving you access to everything you type on your device, including your passwords and credit card information.
Viruses are a type of malware in the same way that carrots are a type of vegetable. And just as a chef uses a variety of tools to cook with all kinds of vegetables (including carrots), the best anti-malware programs, like Norton, use advanced tools like machine learning, heuristic analysis, and cloud-based malware directories to detect the full range of known malware files.
What is the difference between antivirus software and anti-malware software?
The terms "antivirus" and "anti-malware" are often interchangeable. Viruses are only one type of malware, but all antivirus software is designed to detect a wide variety of malware, such as trojans, worms, rootkits, ransomware and adware.
A simple antivirus decides that files are malicious by comparing them to a known malware directory. If any of your files match a known malware in the antivirus directory, you will be notified that the file is harmful. This is great for detecting most types of known viruses, trojans and worms. However, it does not detect newer malware files that are not saved in a malware directory, such as cryptojackers, ransomware, rootkits and spyware.
Advanced anti-malware tools like Norton and TotalAV use behavioral analysis, heuristics and machine learning/artificial intelligence to detect and remove malicious files in real time. While lower quality antivirus only provide on-demand scanning (leaving your devices vulnerable).
What is the best malware removal software for Windows?
Norton 360 is my favorite antivirus software and anti-malware tool, boasting a 100% malware detection and removal rate in conjunction with several standout features that can prevent future cyber attacks. I also like TotalAV's intuitive interface and fast malware scanner, making it a good choice for Windows users who need a simple (but strong) tool to remove malicious software.
What is the best free malware removal tool?
Avira Free is the best free antivirus on the market and comes with a powerful and effective anti-malware scanner.
That said, all free anti-malware software has some sort of limitation. Avira, for example, limits its best features to its paid antivirus, Avira Prime, offering better web protections, better optimization tools, and a much better VPN.
Free products are good for basic protection and prevention, but when it comes to cyber security, you get what you pay for. If you want the best malware remover along with other protections, you'll need to invest in a good paid antivirus. Norton 360 is my top malware removal tool in 2021. It uses a variety of advanced detection methods to scan, find, quarantine, and remove malware, and comes with a firewall, anti-phishing tools, identity theft monitoring, VPN, password manager, and parental controls to help protect against malware attacks in the future.
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