Short on time? Here’s the best malware removal tool in 2023:
- 🥇 Norton: Market-leading antivirus offering flawless malware detection and removal, plus useful extras like web protection, dark web monitoring, an unlimited-data VPN, and more. While Norton isn’t completely free, all plans come with a 60-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it risk-free.
Many companies offer free malware removal tools, and they all claim to be the best and most secure on the market. However, not only are most of these free antiviruses simply ineffective, but some are also just phishing scams in disguise!
I wanted to find products that offer reliable and effective malware removal for free. To do this, I tested a whole bunch of antiviruses. Every product that made it to my list offers excellent malware detection and removal capabilities, and the best free products even include extra security features like real-time protection and web protection, too.
Unfortunately, even the best free antiviruses have limitations. For example, many lack critical features like ransomware protection and a firewall to detect threats on your network. They’re also very light on additional tools, and at best only offer basic versions of their extras.
If you want truly comprehensive protection, I recommend choosing a premium product like Norton 360. It isn’t free, but its plans are affordable, and you can try it out risk-free thanks to its generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
Quick summary of the best free malware removal tools in 2023:
- 🥇 1. Norton — Best overall malware removal tool in 2023.
- 🥈 2. Bitdefender — Cloud-based scanner with great real-time protection.
- 🥉 3. Avira — Best truly free malware removal tool.
- 4. Panda — Removes malware from external devices.
- 5. TotalAV — Beginner-friendly malware removal + good phishing protection.
- Bonus. Malwarebytes — Simple and basic malware removal tool.
- Comparison of the Best Free Malware Removal Tools.
🥇1. Norton — Best Overall Malware Removal Tool in 2023
Norton offers the best antivirus on the market, with flawless malware removal and much more. Though it isn’t free, there’s a generous 60-day money-back guarantee, so you have 2 months to try it out risk-free.
Norton’s antivirus scanner uses heuristic analysis, a massive malware directory, and advanced machine learning to detect malware on your device and eradicate it. During my tests, I downloaded over 1,000 malware samples, and Norton detected all of them, safely removing them from my device.
The antivirus scanner also provides great real-time protection, which blocks malware before it gets a chance to damage your device. I tested it by attempting to download the same malware samples again with real-time protection activated — Norton blocked every threat instantly.
Norton’s additional features include:
- Anti-phishing protection.
- VPN (virtual private network).
- Dark web monitoring.
- Password manager.
- Parental controls.
- And much more…
I was very impressed by Norton’s Safe Web browser extension, which blocks suspicious websites and prevents you from being targeted by phishing scams. Safe Web blocked every phishing site I tried to access, including sites that other antiviruses like TotalAV failed to catch.
Norton also comes with a Smart Firewall, which blocked every network intrusion in my tests, including some that Microsoft Defender couldn’t catch. While its default settings are great, advanced users will appreciate the customization options — you can set access rules for every file on your PC and traffic rules for Windows’s built-in programs.
Norton’s free malware removal tool, called the Norton Power Eraser, can scan your PC and remove threats for you. Unfortunately, it lacks real-time protection, web protection, and all the other features that make Norton the best antivirus on the market.
There are a range of Norton premium plans to choose from. If you only need coverage for 1 device, Norton Antivirus Plus offers Norton’s excellent malware protection, a password manager, a Smart Firewall, and 2 GB of cloud storage for $19.99 / year. But the best value plan is Norton 360 Deluxe, which costs $49.99 / year and offers all of Norton’s features for up to 5 Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS devices. All plans come with a risk-free 60-day money-back guarantee.
Norton’s malware detection and removal is flawless, and its additional security features are excellent, too. In addition to real-time protection and anti-phishing protection, Norton has great extras like a password manager, VPN, and parental controls. While Norton isn’t free, you can take advantage of its 60-day money-back guarantee to test it out for yourself.
🥈2. Bitdefender — Cloud-Based Scanner With Great Real-Time Protection
Bitdefender offers a flawless 100% malware detection rate, just like Norton. Bitdefender’s anti-malware engines combines a massive malware directory, advanced heuristics, and machine learning to protect your device against malware.
During my tests, Bitdefender removed every piece of malware from my system. What’s more, because its scanner is cloud-based, it didn’t slow my computer down at all. During full system scans, I was still able to play online games without any noticeable drop in performance.
Bitdefender has an extensive range of features, including:
- Advanced ransomware protection.
- Web protections.
- VPN (200 MB daily limit).
- Password manager.
- Parental controls.
- And a lot more…
Bitdefender’s web protections are great — suspicious websites and phishing scams are automatically blocked before they get a chance to steal your info. When I tested it out, it blocked every phishing site I attempted to visit, putting it on a par with Norton.
Bitdefender does offer a very basic free plan for PCs, Bitdefender Antivirus Free for Windows, which provides Bitdefender’s excellent malware protection and anti-phishing protection. However, it lacks other useful features, like ransomware remediation, parental controls, a password manager, and a VPN. There’s also a free Virus Scanner for Mac, but this is just a scanner and doesn’t include the anti-phishing protection that the Windows version does.
Instead, I recommend choosing one of Bitdefender’s affordable premium plans. My favorite is Bitdefender Total Security, which costs $35.99 / year and includes all of Bitdefender’s security features (except the unlimited-data VPN and full-featured password manager) and coverage for up to 5 Windows, Android, Mac, and iOS devices. All plans come with a 30-day free trial period and a 30-day money-back guarantee, giving you 2 months to see if Bitdefender works for you.
Bitdefender offers excellent malware removal and tons of useful extra features. Its scanner is cloud-based, so it won’t slow down your device. Bitdefender also has great anti-phishing protection, parental controls, a password manager, and much more. There’s a 30-day free trial and a 30-day money back guarantee on all premium plans.
Read the full Bitdefender review
🥉 3. Avira — Excellent Malware Protection With a Range of Free Extra Features
Avira offers the most feature-rich free plan on the market, with a great malware removal tool and real-time protection. Unlike most free antiviruses, Avira also comes with a repair tool — if your device has been damaged by malware, Avira can neutralize the threat and help restore your infected files.
Like Bitdefender, parts of Avira’s malware scanner operates using cloud-based technology, so there’s minimal system slowdown while it analyzes your files and eradicates malware in your device. During my tests, Avira detected and removed all of my sample malware, including malware, ransomware, and trojans.
For a free antivirus, Avira has an impressive list of extra features, including:
- Real-time protection.
- VPN (500 MB monthly limit).
- Browser Safety extension.
- Performance optimization tools.
- And more…
Avira’s Browser Safety extension is pretty good, too. It blocked more phishing sites than Chrome or Firefox in my tests. However, the overall web protection isn’t quite as good as Norton’s or Bitdefender’s. I was particularly disappointed with Avira’s anti-exploit protection, which only caught about 10% of the exploit attacks I tested it against.
Avira’s free plan is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. While it’s the most feature-rich free plan on the market, Avira’s premium plans offer many more features.If you’re interested in a security suite that includes coverage for 5 devices, an unlimited-data VPN, a good password manager, and advanced device optimization tools, consider Avira Prime. It costs $59.99 / year and comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Avira’s free plan offers a flawless malware removal tool and more security features than any other free antivirus. It’s easy to use, and it’s one of the rare truly free antiviruses with real-time malware protection, a secure browser, and file repair. For a more comprehensive suite that includes an unlimited VPN and a password manager, consider Avira Prime, which comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
4. Panda Dome — Removes Malware From External Devices
Panda’s free plan for Windows and Android includes a reliable and lightweight malware removal tool, with an impressive 95% detection rate. It uses machine learning to keep up with new threats, plus a large directory of known malware.
Panda includes real-time protection in its free plan (but only for Windows — Avira offers real-time protection for both Windows and Mac). The real-time protection performed really well in my tests, detecting and blocking almost all of the malware samples I tried to download to my PC.
Panda also allows you to scan and eradicate malware on external devices. I like this feature a lot as it makes it convenient to scan a USB and remove malware before it can infect any other devices. Windows users can take advantage of Panda’s Rescue Kit feature, too, which allows you to use a bootable version of Panda from a USB drive to clean infected PCs.
The free plan also includes a VPN with a 150 MB daily data limit. The data limit isn’t the only issue, though — Panda’s free VPN also doesn’t have very fast connection speeds and doesn’t let you choose between server locations. If you’re looking for a faster unlimited VPN that lets you select your server location, I’d recommend checking out one of Norton’s low-cost plans.
While Panda’s free plan is pretty good, the Panda Dome Premium plan offers more security features, including a firewall, password manager, ransomware protection, PC optimization tools, and an unlimited-data VPN. It also extends real-time protection to cover other operating systems as well as Windows, and it protects 1 device for $53.60 / year. All premium Panda plans come with a 30-day free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Panda offers a decent free plan with a better-than-average malware removal tool and a unique Rescue Kit for PCs. The free version also offers external drive scans and a limited VPN. If you upgrade to the premium plan, you get a firewall, ransomware protection, optimization tools, and more. There’s a 30-day free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee on all paid plans.
5. TotalAV — Beginner-Friendly Malware Removal + Good Phishing Protection
TotalAV’s malware scanner uses the same technology as Avira’s antivirus. To test it out, I downloaded over 1,000 malware samples — TotalAV was able to find and remove 99% of them. Although this isn’t quite as flawless a rate as Norton or Bitdefender, it’s still really impressive.
While TotalAV uses Avira’s anti-malware engine to find and remove threats, its free version doesn’t offer as many features as Avira’s free plan does. It lacks real-time protection, which is a vital part of keeping your device safe, and it doesn’t have system optimization tools or a VPN.
However, TotalAV does offer excellent phishing protection with its free version, blocking malicious sites to protect you from scams and untrustworthy downloads. During my tests, TotalAV blocked every phishing site I tested it against, putting it right up there with Norton when it comes to web protection.
TotalAV is also very easy to use, with a simple and well-designed layout. So if you’re a beginner and you’re just looking for a good malware removal tool and effective phishing protection, the free plan is a decent choice.
To access more of TotalAV’s features, I’d recommend upgrading to TotalAV Total Security. It gives you extra security features like real-time protection, a password manager, an unlimited-data VPN, ransomware protection, and coverage for up to 6 devices (Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android), all for $49.00 / year. All TotalAV’s plans come with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
TotalAV offers a free plan with an excellent malware removal tool and good web protections. While it uses the same scanner as Avira, it lacks the real-time protection and extra security features offered on Avira’s free plan. To get TotalAV’s real-time protection and other features like ransomware protection and system cleanup tools, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the premium plans, all of which come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Bonus. Malwarebytes — Basic Malware Removal Tool
Malwarebytes offers a very simple free malware removal tool with higher-than-average malware detection. It’s a very small download on all devices it supports (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android), but it’s also the most feature-limited free antivirus on this list.
Malwarebytes uses machine learning and a virus database to detect and remove any malware it finds on your device. During my tests, Malwarebytes scored a 95% malware detection score, which, while better than most free antiviruses, wasn’t quite as good as contenders like Norton, or even other truly free antiviruses like Avira. It also lacks real-time protection, which both Avira and Panda offer on their free plans.
Malwarebytes has a free browser extension, Browser Guard, that blocks suspicious websites. While its anti-phishing isn’t quite as good as TotalAV’s, it’s particularly good at identifying and blocking tech support scams. Plus, its ad blocking was pretty effective in my tests.
Unlike Norton and Bitdefender, Malwarebytes doesn’t offer extra features like optimization tools, parental controls, or dark web monitoring, even on its paid plans. But its Premium + Privacy plan[ does come with an unlimited-data VPN that’s better than Panda’s, offering decent speeds and torrenting support (it’s not much good for streaming, though).
Malwarebytes’s Free is simple and does the basics of malware removal just fine, but it lacks the security features you get with a premium antivirus package. To access real-time protection and ransomware protection, I’d recommend trying Malwarebytes Premium. It costs $44.99 / year, and includes coverage for up to 5 Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. All paid plans come with a 14-day free trial period and a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
Malwarebytes offers an extremely lightweight malware removal tool with a high detection rate. It also has a free browser extension with good anti-phishing. However, to get real-time protection and ransomware protection, you need Malwarebytes Premium, which comes with a 14-day free trial and a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full Malwarebytes review
Comparison of the Best Free Malware Removal Tools in 2023
|Antivirus||Starting Price (Paid Plan)||Malware Detection Rating||Malware Removal||Free Real-Time Protection||Web Protection||Supported Operating Systems||Money-Back Guarantee|
|1.🥇Norton||$54.99 / year||100%||✅||❌||✅||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook||60 days|
|2.🥈Bitdefender||$19.99 / year||100%||✅||❌||✅||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android||30 days|
|3.🥉Avira||$45.99 / year||100%||✅||✅||✅||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android||60 days|
|4. Panda Dome||$19.20 / year||95%||✅||✅||✅||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android||30 days|
|5. TotalAV||$19.00 / year||99%||✅||❌||✅||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android||30 days|
|Bonus. Malwarebytes||$37.49 / year||95%||✅||❌||✅||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android||60 days|
How to Choose the Best Free Malware Removal Tool in 2023
- Malware detection and removal. The main function of a malware removal tool is, of course, to remove malware from your device. To do that, the software needs to include a quality scanner to detect all kinds of threats, like viruses, trojans, ransomware, rootkits, and more. Every one of my top picks has at least a 95% malware detection score, with some, like Norton, Bitdefender, and Avira, scoring a perfect 100%.
- 100% free. I wanted to find products that were completely free. A lot of ‘free’ antiviruses are just free trial periods of premium packages, not genuinely free products. Aside from Norton — which is our top overall premium antivirus — the products on this list all offer plans which are 100% free. And Norton offers a generous 60-day money-back guarantee so you can test it out risk-free. However, for a truly free plan, Bitdefender and Avira are my top picks because of their flawless scanners and real-time protection.
- Real-time protection. Without real-time protection, you have no protection from active threats attempting to infect your device. Real-time protection is constantly working in the background to prevent malware from being installed and causing damage. While not all the products on my list offer real-time protection in their free versions, Bitdefender, Avira, and Panda do, and the other products I’ve chosen include real-time protection with their most affordable plans.
- Ease of use. A good antivirus should be simple for anyone to install and use, whether or not they have a lot of technical experience. The antiviruses I chose are all beginner-friendly, with intuitive interfaces. TotalAV is super easy to use for both technical and non-technical users.
- Extra features. The best antiviruses package great malware scanners and removal tools with a range of useful extra features. For example, Avira includes a free and highly secure Browser Safety extension. And Norton, while not completely free, offers a great value, with tools including dark web monitoring, an unlimited-data VPN that’s as good as some standalone competitors, a password manager, parental controls, and much more.
Risks & Disadvantages of Using a Free Malware Removal Tool
While using a quality free antivirus is definitely better than nothing, you need to be careful to choose a reputable company.
Some cybersecurity companies are predatory, using their low-quality products to phish for your data. Some of them even try to install bloatware or PUPs (potentially unwanted programs) onto your device. Other free products might just have weak malware detection scores, or bombard you with lots of false positives or constant ads encouraging you to upgrade.
Even legitimate cybersecurity companies limit the features that are available on their free plans. They might not have real-time protection or extra features like a VPN (and if they do include a VPN, it will have a tight data cap).
Overall, I’d always recommend investing in a premium antivirus if you’re able to. An antivirus package like Norton 360 gives you complete protection from online threats and includes useful extras like advanced dark web protection and a Smart Firewall to block network threats.
Affordable Malware Removal Tools
If you’re looking for a high-quality but affordable antivirus, I’d recommend Norton Antivirus Plus. It only covers 1 device, but it includes real-time protection, a firewall, a password manager, 2 GB of cloud storage, and more — plus it’s backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Intego is the #1 antivirus for Mac users, with an excellent Mac-specific scanner and malware removal tools. It also has extra security features like the NetBarrier firewall, which is a great improvement on Apple’s native firewall. The price is very affordable, too, with plans starting at just $1.67 / month.
There are plenty of other affordable antiviruses that offer a great value too — you can read more about them here.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut
- ESET. While ESET is a lightweight antivirus that boasts a high malware detection rating, it doesn’t offer a free version. On top of that, it isn’t very intuitive and is more complicated to use than the other antiviruses on this list.
- Kaspersky. Kaspersky is a great antivirus with high malware detection rates and tools to get rid of any threats on your device. Unfortunately, the free plan is fairly limited, lacking extra features like web protection that free antiviruses like TotalAV and Malwarebytes do provide.
- McAfee. McAfee is a great antivirus, but it doesnt have a free version. However, it does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee with its premium plans, so you can try McAfee risk-free.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to use a free malware removal tool?
Yes, as long as you’re using a reliable tool developed by a trustworthy antivirus provider.
A lot of free antiviruses are actually sub-par tools that either don’t properly protect your device or could be malware in disguise. Because of that, I made sure the malware removal tools on this list were all from reputable companies.
Many cybersecurity companies, like Norton, have even gone through independent audits to prove their products are safe.
Do I need a free malware removal tool if I have an antivirus?
No, you don’t need one. Premium antiviruses will not only generally have higher malware detection rates than free scanners — their security suites will contain more features, like unlimited-data VPNs, password managers, data breach protection, and a lot more.
If you already have an excellent antivirus suite, like Norton or Bitdefender, a free malware scanner won’t provide any additional protection.
What is the best truly free malware removal tool for mobile?
There are several decent free antiviruses for Android and iOS that provide excellent malware removal.
My personal favorite for Android and iOS is Avira, which offers a feature-rich — and truly free — mobile antivirus app with great cybersecurity protections. It includes malware scanning (Android only), web protection, a Network Scanner which detects vulnerabilities in all of the smart devices on your network, and Identity Safeguard, which alerts you if your email is leaked in a data breach, plus a 100 MB/day VPN. Avira’s iOS app also includes the VPN and web protection, and it has anti-theft tools, an iOS updater, and contacts backup.
Should I use a free antivirus if I have Microsoft Defender?
Yes, you should. Microsoft Defender is a decent antivirus, and its malware detection rates are very good, but it’s not as versatile or feature-rich as some of the free products on my list. It has real-time protection and anti-phishing protection, but it doesn’t block as many dangerous websites as Avira, which offers its Browser Safety web extension for free.