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5 Best Malware Removal + Protection Software in 2023

Updated on: March 1, 2023
Fact Checked by Kate Davidson
Raven Wu Raven Wu
Updated on: March 1, 2023

Short on time? Here’s the best malware removal software in 2023:

  • 🥇 Norton: 100% malware detection rate with immediate removal of all malicious files. It’s simple, fast, and easy to use, and it has more features than most competitors, including a firewall, web protection, a virtual private network (VPN), a password manager, parental controls, dark web monitoring, and much more.

Malware protection software is the best and easiest way to keep your devices safe from cybersecurity threats. Many products claim to offer the best malware removal tools and the best protections against malware attacks, but very few of them really deliver.

I tested 57 different malware removal programs, and almost all of them were really bad, failing to detect and remove many of my test malware files (things like spyware, ransomware, and rootkits). That said, there were a few that were excellent.

I ultimately found 5 strong anti-malware products that can find and remove all cybersecurity threats — viruses, ransomware, spyware, keyloggers, rootkits, and other malware. The programs here secure devices through a variety of different processes, like machine learning (artificial intelligence), real-time virus protection, and full-disk scans. They are the most advanced malware-fighting machines in the world, and they’re available online in both free and paid cybersecurity packages.

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Quick summary of the best malware removal software:

  • 1.🥇 Norton — Best malware removal and overall protection in 2023.
  • 2.🥈 Bitdefender — Advanced malware protection with tons of extras.
  • 3.🥉 McAfee — Excellent scanner for total malware + virus removal.  
  • 4. TotalAV — Fast and easy-to-use anti-malware program with good PC optimization.
  • 5. Avira — Best free malware removal software (with free security protections).
  • Bonus: Malwarebytes — Simple & secure anti-malware software.
  • Bonus: Intego — Best malware removal tool for Mac.
  • Comparison Table of the Best Malware Removal Software.

🥇1. Norton 360 — Best Malware Removal Software in 2023

🥇1. Norton 360 — Best Malware Removal Software in 2023

Norton 360 is the best malware removal program on the market — it uses advanced machine learning, heuristic scanning, and a massive malware database to detect and remove even the most sophisticated malware.

During my tests, Norton’s real-time protection detected and blocked 100% of the test malware files I tried to download onto my PC. After I turned off Norton’s real-time protection and downloaded those same files onto my hard drive, Norton’s full system scan detected and fully removed every single malicious file — the scan took around 40 minutes to complete, and it didn’t slow down my computer at all.

Norton combines its strong malware protection with additional security features like:

  • Network firewall.
  • Anti-phishing protection.
  • Virtual private network (VPN).
  • Password manager.
  • Parental controls.
  • Webcam protections (for PC).
  • Cloud backup.
  • And lots more…

Norton’s firewall uses machine learning to automatically detect unusual network activity, and it blocked every single exploit attack in my testing. Competitors usually only offer customization features for the Windows firewall built into all PCs, but Norton’s Smart Firewall is Norton’s own high-quality firewall, outperforming most competitors in all tests.

The VPN, password manager, and parental controls are also some of the best around. The VPN is secure and fast, the password manager accurately saves and auto-fills passwords, and the parental controls include excellent content filtering and screen time management.

Norton’s cloud backup feature is also excellent. Because it’s cloud-based, your data is uploaded online to Norton’s encrypted storage, so you never have to worry about losing your USB or external hard drive. Norton’s backups are also hosted on its own servers as opposed to the servers of third-party cloud backup services like Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive, which provide limited security and storage space without a separate subscription.

Norton 360 Deluxe is the best-value plan — it includes all features and covers up to 5 devices for $24.99 / year. Norton 360 Antivirus Plus offers basic protection for 1 PC or Mac for $9.99 / year, whereas Norton 360 Standard also comes with a VPN and webcam protection for $19.99 / year. There’s also Norton 360 LifeLock Select with 100 GB of cloud storage, a million-dollar LifeLock identity protection package, and privacy monitoring for $69.99 / year — but it’s only available to users in the US.

Norton - 77% off
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Bottom Line:

Norton 360 is my favorite malware removal program in 2023 — it’s a comprehensive internet security suite with perfect malware detection rates and fast malware removal. Norton’s firewall, anti-phishing protections, VPN, dark web monitoring, parental controls, and password manager are all excellent. Norton 360 comes with a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.

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Read the full Norton review here >

🥈2. Bitdefender — Most Comprehensive Internet Security Software

🥈2. Bitdefender — Most Comprehensive Internet Security Software

Bitdefender has a fast, cloud-based malware scanner that keeps devices 100% protected without affecting CPU performance. In my testing, Bitdefender caught and removed all of the malicious files I downloaded — and because Bitdefender offloads scanning to the cloud, it can perform virus scans faster than most competitors, and with very little CPU load.

Bitdefender had virtually no impact on my PC’s speed or performance. I was able to stream HD video, play high-performance games on my PC, and run Adobe Photoshop with zero interruption while Bitdefender was performing a full disk scan. Even Norton caused some slowdown on my system during scans, so I was really impressed with Bitdefender’s performance!

Bitdefender’s anti-phishing feature is really good. By checking the site you’re visiting against a database of millions of malicious sites, Bitdefender is able to prevent you from visiting dangerous websites with near-perfect accuracy. During my tests, Bitdefender caught some phishing sites that slipped through the security nets of Chrome and Firefox as well as other antiviruses. Compared to its competitors, including Norton, Bitdefender also makes it super easy to find out why a website has been blocked and to whitelist it (if you’re sure that it’s safe).

Bitdefender also has more additional features than most other antivirus software — making it one of the top internet security suites of 2023. In addition to standard features like a firewall and web protection, Bitdefender also has advanced tools like ransomware protection and remediation, USB scanning, a secure browser for online finances, and lots more.

Bitdefender offers 4 different antivirus plans that are all more affordable than most competitors — the 2 lower-tier plans, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus ($23.99 / year) and Bitdefender Internet Security ($32.99 / year), are only available for PCs. If you’re looking for multi-device protection across all operating systems, you’ll need to upgrade to Bitdefender Total Security, which protects 5 devices for $35.99 / year, or Bitdefender Premium Security, which adds a VPN with no limitations, a full-featured password manager, and coverage for up to 10 devices for $59.99 / year.

Bitdefender Total Security - 62% off
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Bottom Line:

Bitdefender provides an excellent suite of anti-malware tools — it has perfect malware detection rates and more features than most competitors (and they all work exactly as promised). While Bitdefender is one of the top internet security suites on the market, keep in mind that Mac users and those looking for mobile protection will have to upgrade to the most expensive plans to get coverage for Mac, Android, and iOS. Still, all of Bitdefender’s plans are really competitively priced, and they’re available with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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Read the full Bitdefender review here >

🥉3. McAfee — Advanced Malware Scanning Engine

🥉3. McAfee — Advanced Malware Scanning Engine

McAfee Total Protection’s anti-malware engine uses artificial intelligence and machine learning — it detected and removed every single piece of malware in my testing, ranking alongside Norton in terms of perfect malware detection and removal. However, I noticed my system lagging a bit after I downloaded McAfee, and its full system scan slowed my computer down much more than Bitdefender’s.

McAfee comes with a wide range of well-designed features that make up for this slowdown, including:

  • Firewall.
  • Wi-Fi protection.
  • Anti-phishing protection.
  • System tune-up tools.
  • VPN.
  • Password manager.
  • Permanent file deletion.
  • Identity theft protection.

All of McAfee’s additional features work really well, but I especially like its identity theft protection, which is available worldwide and helps ensure that personally identifying information such as your email addresses, phone numbers, credit and debit cards, bank accounts, and more aren’t leaked anywhere using dark web monitoring and Experian’s credit network. What’s more, its Identity Restoration feature will even help you organize the necessary cancellations, re-orders, and re-issues should you lose your wallet, credit card, or other important documents.

I also love McAfee’s excellent mobile protection. McAfee offers real-time scanning, web protection, and parental controls for Android and iOS in a single easy-to-use app. It’s one of the best mobile antiviruses on the market, especially for Android devices, which are highly susceptible to ransomware and spyware threats.

McAfee provides several low-cost antivirus packages. McAfee Total Protection Plus covers 5 devices for $39.99 / year, and McAfee Total Protection Premium covers unlimited devices for $54.99 / year.

McAfee Premium - 60% off
Discount applied automatically at checkout.

Bottom Line:

McAfee offers an impressive suite of malware removal tools for both computers and mobile devices. Its malware detection rates are on par with Norton’s, but I did experience some unusual slowdown with McAfee on my device. However, if you’re running a fast computer and you’re looking for a huge variety of features for a really good price, McAfee has a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of its plans.

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Read the full McAfee review here >

4. TotalAV — Fast + Easy-to-Use Anti-Malware Scanner

4. TotalAV — Fast + Easy-to-Use Anti-Malware Scanner

TotalAV is simple, easy to use, and provides good malware removal and protection. Its top-tier plans offer a cloud-based scanning option — the cloud scanner detected and removed 99% of the malware I placed on my system, and it barely slowed my computer down during scans. While Norton grabbed the top spot on this list with its 100% detection rate, TotalAV was faster and more lightweight on my PC.

Apart from the scanner, TotalAV also offers many extra features:

  • Web attack prevention.
  • Performance optimization tools.
  • VPN.
  • Password vault.
  • Identity theft protection (additional purchase).

TotalAV’s performance optimization tools are some of the best around. In my tests, the tools were more effective than any other system tune-up feature on this list. The junk file cleaner removed 8 GB of duplicate files, unused files, and cached browser files from my system. TotalAV also helped me to speed up my computer’s startup and clear out browser cookies that were tracking my web usage.

I was equally impressed with TotalAV’s VPN, which is my favorite among all antivirus+VPN bundles. It has 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, a strict zero-logs policy, and servers in 30+ countries, it supports P2P file sharing, and it’s able to stream HD content without interruptions on all major streaming sites including Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu.

The best-value plan is TotalAV Internet Security ($39.00 / year), which comes with the VPN and coverage for up to 5 devices. TotalAV Antivirus Pro ($19.00 / year) includes TotalAV’s anti-malware scanner plus performance optimization tools, and it can be used on up to 3 devices. TotalAV Total Security ($49.00 / year) adds an ad blocker and a password vault for up to 6 users.

Bottom Line:

TotalAV’s lightweight anti-malware engine detected almost all of the test malware on my device. In addition to having a 99% malware detection rate, TotalAV offers some of the best performance optimization tools around — these tools significantly enhanced my PC’s startup and memory usage. TotalAV’s anti-phishing browser extension, VPN, and ad blocker are all really well-made security add-ons. All of TotalAV’s plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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Read the full TotalAV review here >

5. Avira — Best Free Malware Removal Software

5. Avira — Best Free Malware Removal Software

Avira has a strong, fast, lightweight, and free malware scanner — it’s offered with no restrictions in Avira’s free package. Avira’s scanner is just as good as Norton or Bitdefender’s, completely removing all malware, and when I tested its real-time protection, it detected every single piece of malware before I could install it on my computer. Avira’s free plan even has ransomware protection!

However, I’m not too happy with Avira’s web protection. While it successfully blocked most ads and online trackers, outperforming the popular uBlock Origins extension, and stopped me from accessing all of the phishing sites I tried to visit, its exploit attack prevention proved very unsatisfactory. It was able to block only a small fraction of the exploit attacks detected by Bitdefender’s web protection feature.

Avira Free also includes extra features like:

  • Web privacy extension (Safe Shopping).
  • Performance optimizer.
  • VPN (500 MB monthly limit).
  • Password manager.

The Safe Shopping browser extension is one of my favorite online privacy tools. It blocks trackers, invasive advertisements, and phishing sites that can steal your data. The extension can also find the best shopping deals for you, but this feature didn’t perform too well during my tests.

Upgrading to Avira Prime gets you all of Avira’s features, including Avira’s excellent VPN with unlimited browsing data, premium password manager, and performance optimization for up to 5 devices, for $59.99 / year.

Bottom Line:

Avira has the best free malware removal software on the market. Avira Free also has some great internet security features, and upgrading to Avira Prime gets you a VPN with no limitations, advanced performance optimization tools, and a good password manager for up to 5 devices. There’s a 60-day money-back guarantee on Avira’s annual paid plans.

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Read the full Avira review here >

Bonus: Malwarebytes — Simple Anti-Malware Software

Bonus: Malwarebytes — Simple Anti-Malware Software

Malwarebytes provides premium anti-malware scanning and removal, but not much else. Compared to top brands like Norton and Bitdefender, it’s pretty limited, but if you’re just looking for a basic anti-malware scanner, Malwarebytes isn’t a bad choice. It was able to remove most of the malware on my disk during testing.

One of the few extra features included with Malwarebytes is Browser Guard, a free browser extension for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox that stops malware, pop-up ads, trackers, phishing scams, and PUPs. While the anti-phishing features scored above average in my tests, its ad blocker leaves something to be desired compared to Avira’s. I visited several sites notorious for annoying pop-up ads, and it failed to block several advertisements that were no issue for Avira.

Malwarebytes is bundled with an unlimited-data VPN, which has decent speeds and 300+ servers spread across 30+ countries. It has a strict no-logs policy as well. However, Malwarebytes’s VPN is missing a kill switch and is unable to access major streaming services like Netflix. So it’s only useful if you’re just looking for a very basic VPN to protect your online privacy.

The VPN is only included with Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy, which covers up to 5 devices for $99.99 / year. Malwarebytes Premium ($44.99 / year) offers only real-time protection and anti-phishing protection. There’s also a free version of its on-demand malware scanner (which comes after a 14-day free trial). The free version is good enough for simple malware removal, but it’s not good enough to stay protected against future threats.

Bottom Line:

Malwarebytes offers an excellent malware scanner, but not much else. However, it does include a decent anti-phishing tool and a VPN. All of Malwarebytes’s plans have a 60-day money-back guarantee.

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Read the full Malwarebytes review here >

Bonus: Intego — Best Malware Removal for Mac Users

Bonus: Intego — Best Malware Removal for Mac Users

Intego’s is our #1 antivirus for Mac in 2023, as its macOS malware removal software provides significant improvements over macOS’s built-in anti-malware protections. During my tests, Intego’s malware scanner scored a perfect detection and removal rate against every piece of Mac-specific malware on my MacBook Pro, catching files that macOS’s built-in XProtect malware scanner failed to detect.

Intego also has:

  • Smart firewall.
  • System clean-up and optimization tools.
  • Parental controls.
  • Data backup.

Intego’s firewall, NetBarrier, is the best macOS firewall around. It automatically adjusts its security settings based on the detected network — something I found to be very convenient. It also helps you stop apps and background scripts from making unwanted internet connections by notifying you when one tries and by providing a clear overview and configurable settings for each program trying to connect to the internet.

I’m also a fan of Intego’s file backup tool, which has cool options for custom folders, syncing across multiple drives, and scheduling automatic backups. The parental controls are also excellent, and while other brands like Norton and Bitdefender offer great Mac-compatible parental controls, Intego is the only Mac-specific antivirus with this feature.

Intego offers a few different plans — the entry-level Internet Security X9 plan has a firewall and malware scanner and costs $19.99 / year, while the Premium Bundle X9 offers all of Intego’s features for just $34.99 / year.

Bottom line:

Intego is the best anti-malware software for Mac users, and its additional features are a significant improvement on Apple’s built-in cybersecurity tools. Its firewall automatically adjusts protections based on network activity, while the parental controls offer better content filtering than macOS. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of Intego’s plans.

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Read the full Intego review here >

Comparison of the Best Malware Removal Software

Product Starting Price Machine Learning Cloud-Based Scanning Identity Theft Protection Parental Controls Free Version Money-Back Guarantee
1.🥇Norton $54.99 / year ✅ (US only) 60 days
2.🥈Bitdefender $23.99 / year 30 days
3.🥉McAfee $39.99 / year Yes (available in 24 countries) 30 days
4. TotalAV $19.00 / year Yes (US only) 30 days
5. Avira $45.99 / year 60 days
Bonus: Malwarebytes $37.49 / year 60 days
Bonus: Intego $1.67 / month 30 days

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How to Choose the Best Malware Removal Software of 2023

  • Look for malware protection and removal tools. A good malware removal tool needs to quickly and effectively catch and remove online threats. To test this, I downloaded and infected my virtual computer with nearly 1,000 malware samples, including viruses, trojans, worms, ransomware, spyware, and rootkits. I ranked each anti-malware software based on the number of files it caught with disk scans and real-time protection, and how quickly and effectively each threat was removed. I also measured how well the program could recover a computer system after a malware infection and added extra points for fast scans and low CPU load. I’m pleased to say that all the software on my list did well at recognizing and removing malware, and top brands like Norton and Bitdefender scored a perfect 100% malware detection rate.
  • Check for useful extra features. In addition to great malware protection and removal, the best internet security suites offer plenty of useful extra features. I used every feature of every anti-malware program I tested to ensure all of the tools worked exactly as advertised. I gave extra points for helpful threat prevention tools like Wi-Fi scanning, a virtual private network (VPN), a password manager, and dark web monitoring.
  • Test the app to see if it’s easy to use. It’s important that cybersecurity products are easy to use, whether you’re tech-savvy or not. I hand-tested each one of these products, navigated through all of the features, and made sure the products that made it to this list are intuitive and user-friendly for all types of users. If you’re new to malware removal software, I recommend TotalAV.
  • Pick a malware removal tool with good customer support. If there’s a problem with a malware removal tool, you should be able to access fast and effective support. To test this, I contacted each company’s customer service team by phone, email, and live chat and ranked them according to how much information and help they provided.
  • Find malware removal software that offers great value. The best internet security suites offer high-quality features that make them worth the money you spend. I only recommend malware removal software that provides a good number of cybersecurity features for the price, as well as helpful add-ons like free trials, money-back guarantees, or first-time discounts.

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Top Brands that Didn’t Make the Cut:

  • ESET. ESET offers excellent malware detection rates and some of the most advanced diagnostics tools on the market. However, the lack of a VPN means ESET offers no way to protect your web traffic.
  • Panda. Panda offers good malware protection and removal, as well as a special Rescue Kit feature that can help remove malware from a heavily infected computer. However, some of its additional features don’t work well, and it just doesn’t provide the same value as the other programs on this list.
  • Trend Micro. Trend Micro offers great web protections, and its privacy scanner can help secure your social media accounts by letting you easily address potential privacy concerns. But its malware detection rates aren’t as good as the other antiviruses I recommend, and many of its additional features are pretty lackluster.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between viruses and malware?

Viruses are one type of malware, but there are many other types of malware that aren’t viruses. Malware is any malicious software designed to damage, spread, or provide unwanted access to a computer, device, or network. 

Examples of malware include:

  • Trojan. Any malware that pretends to be a benign program file, then secretly activates after installation to provide hackers with system surveillance, remote access, or the ability to damage your system.
  • Ransomware. Infects your device and encrypts your most valuable files until you pay a ransom to the hackers to unlock your device. Commonly used against businesses and enterprises.
  • Spyware. Usually bundled with free downloads. Provides hackers access to your screen, keystrokes, microphone, and webcam to steal your personal information and even influence your suggested search results.
  • Adware. Similar to spyware. Hijacks your browser, collects your browsing history, and displays unwanted, targeted ads on your desktop and browser. Many of the linked ads can lead to serious malware downloads or phishing sites designed to steal financial information.
  • Keylogger. Logs your keystrokes, granting access to everything you type on your device, including your passwords and credit card details.

Viruses are a type of malware in the same way that carrots are a type of vegetable — and just like a chef uses a variety of tools to cook with every type of vegetable (including carrots), the best anti-malware programs — like Norton — use advanced tools like machine learning, heuristic analysis, and cloud-based malware directories to detect the whole range of known malware files.

What’s the difference between antivirus software and anti-malware software?

The terms ‘antivirus’ and ‘anti-malware’ are mostly interchangeable. Viruses are only one type of malware, but every antivirus software is designed to detect a broad range of malware, such as trojans, worms, rootkits, ransomware, and adware.

A simple antivirus decides that files are malicious by comparing them to a directory of known malware. If any of your files are a match for known malware in the antivirus’s directory, the antivirus notifies you that the file is harmful. This is great for catching most types of known viruses, trojans, and worms, but it won’t detect newer malware files that aren’t saved in a malware directory, like cryptojackers, ransomware, rootkits, and spyware.

Advanced anti-malware tools like Norton and TotalAV use behavior analysis, heuristics, and machine learning/artificial intelligence to detect and remove malicious files in real-time — whereas lower-quality antiviruses only provide on-demand scanning (thereby leaving your devices vulnerable).

What’s the best malware removal software for Windows?

Norton 360 is my overall favorite antivirus software and anti-malware tool, boasting a 100% malware detection and removal rate along with several standout features that can prevent future cyber attacks. I also like Bitdefender‘s intuitive interface and fast malware scanner, which makes it a good option for Windows users needing a simple (but strong) tool for removing malicious software.

In fact, most of the top anti-malware packages on this list will work well with Windows. You can read more in our in-depth comparison of the best antiviruses for Windows.

What’s the best free malware removal tool?

Avira Free is the best free antivirus on the market, and it comes with a powerful and effective anti-malware scanner.

That said, all free anti-malware software has some kind of limitation. Avira, for instance, limits its best features to its Avira Prime paid antivirus — offering better web protections, better optimization tools, and a much better VPN.

Free products are good for basic protection and prevention, but when it comes to cybersecurity, you get what you pay for. If you want the best malware remover along with other protections, you’ll need to invest in a good paid antivirus. Norton 360 is my top malware removal tool of 2023 — it uses a variety of advanced detection methods to scan for, find, quarantine, and remove malware, plus it comes with a firewall, anti-phishing tools, identity theft monitoring, a VPN, a password manager, and parental controls to help protect against malware attacks in the future.

Best Malware Removal Tools in 2023 — Final Score:

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About the Author
Raven Wu
Raven Wu
Updated on: March 1, 2023

About the Author

Raven Wu is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. He is a strong advocate of internet freedom and is very passionate about technology, and he’s honed his craft by researching and writing about a variety of other topics including education, literature, health, pop culture, and games. Outside of work, he's an amateur novelist and history enthusiast who enjoys hard games, spicy food, and thinking way too hard about everything.