At this very moment, 33% of computers worldwide are infected with malware. A new virus emerges every 4.2 seconds, so it’s no longer a case of “if” you’ll contract an infection, but “when.”
Fortunately, antivirus developers are always hard at work to identify and resolve these new threats. When you use their software, it can be easy to isolate and remove problems before they cause too much damage.
Unfortunately, some security programs don’t live up to their name. They may be inefficient at resolving issues, and some may actually contain malware themselves.
Luckily, we tested some of the industry leaders in security to find the best virus removal programs that actually do what they say they do.
Here are our top five picks:
How we tested them
Our team of experts reviewed each virus removal tool and looked at its core success rate, along with other major factors, such as:
- The range of malware types included
- Detection & removal rate
- System slowdown
- False detections
- Additional features
1. Bitdefender Internet Security
- 100% detection and removal rate
- Ransomware protection
- Extra features like a VPN and firewall
- Remote scans from the Bitdefender Central app
- Trusted by over 500 million users
- Resulted in several false positives
- Reduces speed when loading websites
While Bitdefender (see user reviews) may not be the sleekest option, it gets results. After running tests, it managed to locate all known malware, including adware, spyware and phishing threats, as well as new or unknown infections known as Zero Day threats.
But most impressive is its anti-ransomware tool that creates a layer over your files to stop them from being taken hostage – which is important as there has been a 350% increase in ransomware infections in recent years.
While it did produce some false positives – flagging six legitimate programs and blocking one app installation – these figures were below the average. Besides, it’s better for an antivirus to overperform than underperform – and it must be noted that no program received a perfect score.
Bitdefender is surprisingly lightweight. There was minimal system slowdown, except when loading websites. However, any speed issues can be counteracted with the tune-up feature.
Alongside cool features like a VPN and a firewall offered alongside the antivirus, you can also download the Bitdefender Central app, which provides ongoing security updates and allows you to run remote network scans straight from your phone.
As an overall virus removal tool, Bitdefender excelled in accuracy, speed, and general security.
2. Norton Security
- 100% detection & removal rate
- Compatible with all operating systems
- Trusted brand with 25+ years’ experience
- No in-product advertising
- Multi-device plans available
- No ransomware protection
- More expensive than most antivirus software
Norton Security (see user reviews) provides flawless removal of most malware types, including spyware, adware, and viruses. However, they don’t currently offer ransomware removal options.
You can perform instant scans or schedule automated checks that will delete viruses without prompt. Regardless of the tactic you use, Norton has regularly proven it can tackle 100% of threats effectively. While it did flag several safe programs as malware, the false detection rate was still lower than the industry average.
Norton was also one of the fastest antivirus programs we tested. It showed less slowdown overall than Bitdefender and saw almost no reduction in download time. However, it did lack some basic features that were included in other suites, such as a firewall or computer tune-up option.
Their security software is incredibly comprehensive; it offers multi-device protection and is compatible with all operating systems and machines. It’s also ideal for users of all skill levels, as the 24/7 customer support includes live chat and phone to help resolve problems quickly.
- 100% detection & removal rate for common malware
- Trusted by 325 million users worldwide
- No false positives
- Multi-award winning protection
- Extra features include a firewall, tune ups and parental controls
- No anti-phishing tool
- Detection rate below average for Zero-Day infections
It’s the first on the list without a perfect detection score. It achieved a 98.9% success rate for zero-day infections, which is lower than the industry average.
Despite this, it still scored as one of the highest overall for virus removal. Plus, it was one of the few antivirus programs which flagged no false positives, which increases convenience and accuracy level.
The security suite also caused minimal system slowdown and had no effect on download speed and only a 5% decrease on upload speeds.
However, it did lag a staggering 40-42% when installing software, which is nearly twice the average rate. Another major drawback is the lack of anti-phishing protection. Email is the most common vehicle for malware, so having a feature to flag issues could save you time down the line.
Overall, McAfee is a strong antivirus with several additional security elements. However, their core detection and removal rate is lacking, alongside some basic protection features that are industry standard.
4. Comodo Internet Security
- Rated top product twice in 2018
- 99.8% detection & removal rate
- Only one false positive
- Free software available
- Notable slowdown when using & installing programs
- URL protection doesn’t work
Comodo (see user reviews) is the dark horse of the antivirus world. Despite not being widely-known, it’s been rated Top Product twice in 2018.
It has proved incredibly successful at removing viruses with a 99.8% detection rate and can successfully locate and remove numerous security threats, including malware, rootkits, and hidden files. The antivirus only flagged normal programs as malware once, which is significantly less false positives than many other security suites.
Overall, system slowdown is minimal, but we did have speed issues when installing and using other programs and a 34% time increase for file conversion.
While Comodo is undoubtedly a powerful antivirus, it has some downsides, some that felt underhanded. Read carefully during installation, for example, as the app will try to set your browser, browser homepage, search, and DNS provider to Comodo-affiliated options.
They also claim to offer infected URL protection, but the feature didn’t work. The same problems also occurred for other reviewers.
Comodo costs significantly less than other options, and even offers a free malware removal service. However, the security suite tries to trick you into installing other Comodo services, and some of their advertised features don’t work.
- Highest rated virus remover freeware
- No-cost malware & spyware removal
- Industry veteran
- Upgrade available for more features
- No free ransomware protection
- No additional features
Malwarebytes (see user reviews) is a fantastic lightweight option for easy malware removal. If you don’t want all the extra fluff or a high price-tag, the company’s no-cost option provides efficient antivirus removal on request.
While it doesn’t offer any other features, you can upgrade to their paid plan for automated protection, anti-ransomware, and safe mobile browsing.
They have upgraded from the traditional signature-based detection system to use a combination of technologies that sever the attack-chain. While this no-cost option isn’t recommended as a stand-alone antivirus, it’s ideal for one-off virus removal.
If you want to opt for an upgrade, the premium plan is a budget-friendly option that provides all the basic features of a comprehensive security suite. It protects against all malware types, including ransomware, alongside sending alerts for phishing websites. The paid plans also allow for multi-device use across most operating systems.
Overall, Malwarebytes is far from the best malware remover, but it is the highest-rated budget option on the market. With over 10 years’ industry experience, it’s rated the top free virus remover by many sources but for more advanced features in the long term the premium version is recommended.
The Bottom Line
Having a high-quality malware removal tool is essential to avoid becoming a victim of a cyber attack. If you can spot the virus and act fast, you can reduce the damage it causes.
While free antivirus programs are good for removing viruses once off, more protection against advanced threats such as ransomware and rootkits is required to guarantee your safety in the long run.
Your best option to stay safe is to use a premium antivirus suite, complete with the most advanced tools for protecting against all types of attacks, including malware and viruses. Choose a top-rated antivirus so you can enjoy peace of mind online.