These days you don’t just need antivirus software installed – you also need a malware removal tool, but with our list of the best free malware removal tools, you don’t need to spend any additional money for the extra level of protection.

Adware and spyware are increasingly common, and they don’t behave like viruses. This means they might escape detection when traditional antivirus software scans your system.

1. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

If you suspect a malware infection, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware should be your first port of call. It’s updated daily, so you can trust it to identify and remove new threats the minute they appear.

The first time you install Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, you’re given a 14-day trial of the premium edition, which includes preventative tools like real-time scanning and specific protection from ransomware. After two weeks, it reverts to the basic free version. This has to be activated manually, but is still a top-notch security tool. We recommend running it at least once a week to check or any nasties that you haven’t noticed, or if you notice that your web browser has suddenly started acting strangely (likely a result of adware).

Last year, Malwarebytes bought Adwcleaner, which – as its name suggests – targets and removes annoying programs that hijack your browser by changing your homepage, resetting your default search engine, or adding unwanted toolbars. It’s also available free, and along with Anti-Malware, is a great addition to your security toolkit.

2. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

If you’re thinking about replacing your antivirus software, check out Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition. It has a dedicated anti-malware engine to help you avoid an infection in the first place, and mop up any existing problems.

One of BitDefender’s best features is the ability to scan files or folders that look a bit suspicious by simply dragging and dropping them onto its home screen (it might be a good idea to do this with your Downloads folder if you’ve noticed some funny business lately). Any unpleasantness detected by the malware removal engine will be swiftly quarantined, and can be disposed of at your leisure.

BitDefender is unobtrusive, but its Protection Shield will alert you to any malicious attempts to compromise your system. All in all, it’s an excellent foundation for your anti-malware arsenal.

3. Adaware Antivirus Free

Adaware Antivirus Free is another great option if you’re building an anti-malware toolkit from the ground up. It includes a virtual environment where suspicious programs can be analysed to see if they behave like malware (a technique known as heuristic analysis). This means you’re always protected from new malware – even if you’re the very first person to be affected and the malicious program isn’t yet in Adaware’s database of known threats. The malware can then be safely contained and removed.

All this happens quietly in the background, and can be suspended temporarily if you want your processor’s full power for a gaming session.

Adaware Antivirus Free can also scan downloads before you install them, helping prevent malware infestations in the first place by filtering their most common point of entry.

Best of all, if you’re just looking for a way to boost your existing antivirus software, Adaware’s installer lets you choose a version without real-time scanning that won’t conflict with other antivirus tools.

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