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Best free malware removal tools 2021: Clean your hard drive with these services

Worried your device is infected? Here are the tools you need to get rid of malicious software

While many of us have recently enjoyed the freedom of being able to work from home, this has meant that hackers have found more opportunities to spread malware. As such, malware and ransomware attacks have increased significantly over the last 12 months, hitting remote workers, hospitals, universities and businesses of all sizes. 

Over the course of the pandemic, the dark web has been inundated with malware tools. In Septemeber, Kasperksy issued a warning to Android users that the full source code for the Cerberus banking malware had been released online following a leak from one of its developers.

The sheer breadth of tools available should concern anyone with a laptop, mobile or even any kind of Internet of Things (IoT) device. Last year, for example, a developer found a way to instal malware on an internet-connected coffee machine so that it demanded a ransom from the users, just to highlight what kind of machines can be affected. 

How malware can get into a device is also troubling; from email attachments to malicious links, new routes seem to come every week. Worse, trojan-based malware can often live on your machine for ages, either reporting back information to its creator or simply waiting for the right time to strike.

Whatever type of malware, no matter how it came to be on your machine, as soon as you notice it, you need it gone, before any real damage is done. Thankfully there is a number of ways to do this as malware removal tools are aplenty. Some are free and some cost a pretty penny - we've rounded up the best available... 

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Malwarebytes anti virus software on smartphone

Available to download here.

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Malwarebytes is perhaps one of the better-known anti-malware tools on the market today, largely thanks to its success at tackling many threats that other brands seem to miss. It’s now a go-to tool for those looking for ‘fire and forget’ protection, as its real-time scanning is able to trawl through a system and detect threats automatically in the background.

Most of the advanced capabilities, including real-time scanning, deeper root scans, and protection against malicious sites, are attached to the premium tiers and are only available for 14 days with a free account. However, premium pricing is quite reasonable, starting at just £2.50 per month.

That said, the free version is still an incredibly effective tool, provided you remember to scan your system regularly.

AVG AntiVirus Free

AVG logo displayed on a smartphone

Available to download here.

AVG, another household name, is antivirus software that’s designed to sit in the background and scan your machine on a regular basis. Features include real-time security updates, malware and performance scanning, and protection against malicious downloads.

The software has seen a few different iterations over the past few years as developers have attempted to make it easier to use and understand what’s happening at a glance. This work has largely been a success, with the tool now showing you exactly how and where your system is being protected.

The premium version AVG offers more robust download protection, data encryption, and a built-in firewall, although this is on the more expensive end of the market at £50 per year.

The free version is perfectly useable, however, be prepared to deal with adverts.

BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition

Bitdefender logo on smartphone

Available to download here.

The best thing about Bitdefender's free malware removal tool is that it's ad-free, it doesn't nag you with lots of irritating pop-up notifications and it's easy to install, running quietly in the background.

The software features BitDefender's B-Have tech, which looks for apps that aren't behaving themselves. It also includes malware and spyware detection that can detect more rare threats, and performs a boot scan every time you start your PC. For all the reasons listed above, BitDefender's Antivirus Free Edition is one of our favourites out of the bunch.

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool

Microsoft logo on smartphone

Available to download here.

The Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool is an anti-malware utility that checks computers running Windows 10, Windows 8, and most other versions of Windows for infections by specific, prevalent malicious software.

It's completely free to download and when the detection and malware removal process is complete, the tool displays a report describing the outcome, including which, if any, malware was detected and removed.

A simple, no-fuss easy-to-use anti-malware tool for the PC.

Panda Free Antivirus

Panda Anti virus software on mobile

Available to download here.

If you're looking for a light anti-malware software, Panda Free Antivirus is the one. It's cloud-based, meaning all the heavy lifting is done on Panda's servers, leaving more of your PC's system memory to do other, more demanding jobs.

Easy to install and use, Panda's malware removal software includes Wi-Fi scanning, password management, encryption, parental controls and many more, but best of all, it offers excellent real-time protection with no nagging messages about upgrades.

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