Hackers are getting smarter, and risks to your online security are evolving. Antivirus software might once have been enough. But new and inventive methods of intruding on your safety and privacy are emerging all the time.
New threats require new defenses. That’s where anti-malware software comes in.
Antimalware software is essential if you want to protect against the sophisticated attacks of modern cybercriminals. Antivirus alone won’t stop your data being held hostage by ransomware, your PC being hacked, or your activity being recorded in real-time by spyware.
Hackers are working hard to keep their malware undetectable. But the good guys are working even harder. There’s a huge range of anti-malware products out there promising to keep your personal data and online activity safe and secure.
In fact, the sheer volume of different anti-malware software packages is part of the problem. How are you supposed to be able to know which software works best?
We’ve tried and tested 47 of the best anti-malware software products available. It wasn’t easy. We really worked these programs hard. Then we settled on the top five. Take a look, and see which one will be best suited to your needs
One product came out on top after our rigorous tests. We found Total AV to be the best anti-malware product on the market. Total AV aced our malware detection tests, and we were particularly impressed by its advanced ransomware protection and easy-to-use interface.
Free vs Paid Malware Removal
You’ll notice are many anti-malware products are offered for free. You might be wondering if there is any real benefit in paying for a subscription.
When it comes to “free” products, you get what you pay for. It might be tempting to opt for a free anti-malware product. But there are significant costs in the long-term.
With a free product, so-called “premium” features, even those that are essential to keeping your device safe, are often locked behind a paywall. And the level of protection offered by free products can be severely limited.
A subscription to a high-quality anti-malware product can cost less than a couple of coffees a month. Having your hardware damaged or your personal data stolen because an inferior anti-malware program failed to keep your device safe will cost you much more in the long run.
Huge resources go into creating, maintaining, and updating this type of software. The subscription model is simply an honest reflection of these costs. As they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Here are our top picks.
1. TotalAV – Best for Ease-of-Use
TotalAV offers a free version of its software, and three tiers of premium subscription-only content.
Don’t let the brand name fool you – TotalAV is not just an antivirus program. It’s a complete package designed to protect against all types of malware.
- Protection against ransomware, spyware, and other malware
- Phishing protection
- Remote firewall
- PC and mobile optimization
- Safe password vault
- VPN (paid optional extra)
What We Like
- Attractive and efficient user interface
- Super fast scanning that won’t impact performance
- Great bonus additions such as device optimization and web browser management
What We Don’t Like
- Some extra features are expensive
- Lacks parental controls
When it comes to protecting your devices, prevention is better than cure. One impressive aspect of TotalAV is the Safe Site feature that identifies “spoof” sites used for phishing scams.
Some of TotalAV’s features might not be as great as they appear at first. The remote firewall allows you to control connections to your WiFi network when away from home. And the optimization tools will help you keep your devices running smoothly. But if you’re running Windows or Mac, you already have these programs available.
But TotalAV interface is intuitive and attractive, and will help you use these tools more effectively. For ease-of-use, it’s the best antivirus on the market.
The most impressive features are only available for paid subscribers, and some are only available for an extra price even at the top tier. But like we said, a good product comes at a premium.
2. Norton Security – Best for Families
Norton enjoys a well-earned good reputation for its security products. The company has been offering antivirus programs for nearly three decades.
Norton offers great parental controls, and you can cover a lot of devices with the higher-cost subscriptions. This makes it a good option if you’re hoping to protect your whole family.
Norton does not offer a free version of its product. It does offer a range of pricing options, plus some tempting introductory offers for the first year.
- Protects against viruses, spyware, and other malware
- Two-way firewall
- Web protection
- Parental controls
- Device location
What We Like
- Impressive parental controls
- 100% virus removal guarantee
- VPN available with certain packages
What We Don’t Like
- Scanning in the background can feel resource-heavy
- Some features unavailable on iOS app
The best anti-malware software doesn’t just blacklist files that are known to be malicious. It analyzes the behavior of files to see if they’re acting in a suspicious way. It can then test the files in isolation to determine whether they’re safe. Norton’s SONAR Behavioral Technology is a good example of this type of protection.
Norton once had a reputation for slowing down your computer. However, it has made some improvements in recent years. And even if your device does slow down, the program also features optimization tools to help speed it back up.
Norton’s anti-malware technology is cutting-edge and Norton offer a reassuring virus removal guarantee. Norton has a great reputation for a reason.
3. Avira Internet Security Suite – Best for Privacy
Avira offers a wide neat range of products, including a free antivirus program supported by ads.
Avira Internet Security Suite includes Avira’s antivirus plus various extra security and privacy features.
- Protects against viruses, ransomware and other malware
- Cross-device VPN with browser integration
- Device optimization tools
- Real-time protection
What We Like
- Some very impressive privacy tools via Privacy Pal feature
- New threats and “mutations” are detected via Protection Cloud feature
- Software Updater Pro keeps your programs patched
What We Don’t Like
- Avira no longer offers a firewall
- Slows down boot time quite significantly
The Bottom Line
Avira’s malware detection capabilities are innovative and effective. The Protection Cloud feature anonymously scans files uploaded to the cloud to keep one step ahead of new threats as they evolve.
The password manager is a particularly impressive, as well as Software Updater Pro which automatically updates drivers and patches software vulnerabilities.
Many of Avira’s extra features are privacy-focused. The VPN is available across devices and integrates into your browser. The Privacy Pal feature blocks online trackers.
Avira takes a little while to load on startup. And Avira Firewall was discontinued in 2014, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for a firewall. But despite these small complaints, Avira Internet Security Suite offers a highly impressive package of malware detection and removal tools.
4. Comodo Cybersecurity – Best for Network Security
Comodo Cybersecurity calls itself the “leading cloud-based cybersecurity program”. Comodo’s credentials are certainly impressive, with endorsements from industry giants such as Samsung and Shell.
Comodo offers a selection of free and paid programs. Many of the most impressive features are paid subscription-only.
- Protection against viruses, spyware, and other malware
- Default Deny Protection blocks entry to malicious software
- Secure Shopping provides ecommerce and online banking protection
- Two-way firewall
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
- Some users report issues with the VPN
- Not the cheapest offering
Comodo’s key message is that prevention is better than cure. Keep threats out and there’s no need to remove them. Of course, this is the aim of any worthy cybersecurity company.
But Comodo does follow through on this, with some innovative network protection methods. For example, a sandbox – a testing area that runs suspicious programs in an isolated environment where they can’t harm your device.
There are cheaper options available, but the impressive range of features available with Comodo makes it worth the price tag.
5. Avast Internet Security – Best for Safe Browsing
Avast has nearly half a billion active monthly users, which it protects against around 2 billion malware attacks a month.
Avast’s has a widely-used free product that will protect against malware and prevent you from accessing dangerous sites. Paid packages are also available, and offer an impressive range of additional security features.
- Protection against ransomware, spyware and other malware
- Email scanning protects against phishing scams
- Web Shield for safe browsing
- Automatic software updater (premium feature)
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
- Top pricing tier is quite expensive
- No parental controls
Avast does just about everything, it and does it well. Avast has a well-resourced team who are on the front line in the fight against malware.
Avast offers a lot of great features for free. But once you start looking at extra features, such as the award-winning VPN and automatic software-updating program, you’ll be tempted to pay for a subscription.
Browsing protection is where Avast really stands out. Its Web Shield feature will guide you safely through the web, encrypting your sensitive data and ensuring that you aren’t redirected to malicious sites.
Best Malware Removal Software FAQs
What is malware?
Malware is a very broad term. It covers all malicious software designed to damage or compromise a computer, device or network.
The key word is malicious – malware damages a device on purpose. It works against the owner of the device for the benefit of the hacker or cybercriminal who created or implanted it.
- Trojan horse: a harmful but seemingly innocuous program that, once installed, can wreak havoc on your device
- Ransomware: software that locks a device or encrypts its data until the user pays a ransom to the hacker.
- Spyware: a type of program that logs device activity such as keystrokes to glean the user’s personal data and passwords.
Cybercrime is an increasingly profitable industry. Malware developers are coming up with some truly inventive ways of monetizing their products.
For example, a hacker might offer other cybercriminals the (paid) opportunity to attach their own malware programs onto a Trojan horse. Once you’ve let the Trojan in, the other applications install can themselves on your device.
There are also increased reports “cryptojacking” – the unauthorized use of your device’s resources to mine cryptocurrency.
These types of malicious activity can evade all but the most advanced anti-malware software.
What’s the difference between viruses and malware?
Viruses are a type of malware. Viruses infect a system and self-replicate by inserting malicious code into the various pieces of software installed on that system.
Viruses can do some serious damage, and it’s very important that you protect against them But they only represent part of a much bigger picture.
Malware is the term used to describe that bigger picture. The term malware encompasses all malicious software – including viruses.
What’s the difference between antivirus and anti-malware software?
Antivirus software specializes in fighting viruses. It can be one of a number of tools that you use to keep your devices safe against this specific threat.
And, to be clear, antivirus software is an important part of your security toolkit. Viruses, as a type of self-replicating, infectious software, still represent a significant risk to your security.
But viruses aren’t the only threat. Antimalware software detects and destroys a much broader range of malicious applications. True protection requires antivirus and anti-malware software working together to fight off attacks.
It’s also worth noting that because the term “antivirus” is well-known among consumers, many brands associate this term with their product, despite actually offering much wider protection. You need to look in detail at the features each program provides. We’re here to help you with that.
What are the consequences of malware?
Signs that malware is present on a device can include:
- Pop-up ads – these are less common than they once were online. If you’re frequently getting unexpected pop-up ads, particularly if they open in a new window or application, this might be down to a type of malware called adware
- Error messages – malware can affect the proper functioning of software on your device, causing errors
- Performance issues – malicious software can be a drain on system resources and cause crashes and sluggish performance. You may (or may not) also notice unusual applications and processes running in the background
Malware can have many effects, including:
- Logging your keystrokes and taking screenshots
- Stealing your personal data and account credentials
- Locking down your device or encrypting its contents
What’s the best malware protection?
The best anti-malware protection protects you against the widest range of threats without compromising your device’s performance. To gain an edge in this competitive marketplace, many brands also offer valuable additional features.
I have an antivirus software, why do I need an anti-malware program too?
Your antivirus software provides protection against a particular type of online security threat – the self-replicating software infections known as viruses.
The best malware removal software will go much further, protecting you against more modern threats such as ransomware, trojans, and bots. Antimalware software will quarantine, test and remove these dangers as they arise.
Is it possible to run an antivirus and an anti-malware program at the same time?
It’s absolutely possible to run antivirus and anti-malware software simultaneously. In fact, this is how you can best ensure you that you’re protected from the widest range of hazards.
And running two programs at once doesn’t have to mean slowing down your device. Some of the best malware removal software will even feature a “passive” setting so that you can engage it only when needed, for example when visiting new sites or downloading files. This allows you to save system resources on slower devices.
Does anti-malware replace antivirus?
No, anti-malware doesn’t necessarily replace antivirus. The best malware removal software represents an essential extra layer of security, but an antivirus program is still an important way of dealing with the specific type of threat posed by viruses.
Antivirus and anti-malware software work together to keep your devices safe. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
Am I 100 percent protected using both antivirus and anti-malware software programs?
We have to be honest with you – even with the best malware removal software, there’s no way to 100 percent guarantee that you won’t fall victim to attacks from viruses and other types of malware.
But antivirus and anti-malware programs are created and maintained by world-class developers and engineers. The technology used to detect and remove malware is just as cutting-edge as the malicious applications themselves.
To stand the best chance of protecting your devices and keeping your personal information safe, you absolutely need both antivirus and anti-malware protection.
Protect Yourself Before It’s Too Late
The rate of malware attacks is rising dramatically, and hackers are becoming more ingenious and creative all the time.
If you already have antivirus software, you’ve taken an important first step toward protecting yourself. But remember that ransomware, bots, and trojans are not viruses. Only the best malware removal software can protect you from these new and sophisticated attacks on your online security.