Short on time? Here’s the best USB bootable antivirus in 2023:
- 🥇 Norton Bootable Recovery Tool: This recovery tool uses Norton’s industry-leading scanner, has an intuitive interface, and offers the fastest full scans of any USB bootable antivirus. While the tool is free, it’s worth checking out Norton’s premium plans, which provide comprehensive protection to ensure your device stays safe from malware in the future. All of Norton’s plans come with a 60-day money-back guarantee, so you can try them risk-free.
There are a lot of USB bootable antiviruses — but many are outdated, hard to use, or incompatible with modern versions of Windows. I wanted to cut through the junk products to find ones that were effective, regularly updated, compatible with modern systems, and user-friendly.
I hand-tested every major cybersecurity company’s rescue disks to bring you the top 5 USB bootable antiviruses in 2023. Every product on this list has a great malware scanner to help you find and remove whatever has infected your PC, as well as an intuitive user interface (UI).
Now, I have to point out that there are limitations to a USB bootable antivirus. They don’t offer real-time protection or any additional security features, and they require more technical expertise than you’ll need with a regular antivirus. Getting them to work involves burning a downloadable ISO onto a flash drive using a third-party disc-burning application and potentially changing the boot order in your BIOS.
For comprehensive device protection, I recommend a premium product like Norton 360, which includes real-time protection, web protection, an unlimited-data VPN, and a lot more. It comes with a risk-free 60-day money-back guarantee too, so you can try it risk-free.
Quick summary of the best USB bootable antiviruses:
- 🥇 1. Norton Bootable Recovery Tool — Best overall USB bootable antivirus.
- 🥈 2. ESET SysRescue Live — Most customizable USB bootable antivirus scanner.
- 🥉 3. Kaspersky Rescue Disk — Very fast full scans and a choice of interface.
- 4. Panda Cloud Antivirus Rescue USB Drive — Great scanner with automatic updates.
- 5. Avira Rescue System — Beginner-friendly USB bootable antivirus.
- Comparison of the Best USB Bootable Antiviruses.
🥇1. Norton Bootable Recovery Tool — Best Overall USB Antivirus
Norton Bootable Recovery Tool uses an unbeatable scanner to find malware buried deep in your device. The scanner uses advanced machine learning, heuristic analysis, and a massive malware directory to find and remove the threats preventing you from running your PC. I tested it out for myself, and it found and removed 100% of the sample malware on my computer.
Norton’s scans are the fastest of any product on this list. The full scan took about 15 minutes to scan my entire system. By comparison, the second fastest scanner on this list was Kaspersky Rescue Disk, which took 45 minutes to do the same job.
The only drawback is that Norton’s Bootable Recovery Tool doesn’t offer custom scans. Rather than allowing you to run quick scans or choose individual folders and files, you can only run a full scan. This does make it extremely simple to use, but I do wish it included more customization options.
Norton Bootable Recovery Tool is very user-friendly. Rather than being text-based like many USB bootable antiviruses, it comes with a well-designed graphical user interface (GUI). It’s regularly updated, and it’s compatible with all Windows operating systems, so you don’t have to worry about frustrating compatibility issues.
Norton’s Bootable Recovery Tool does a great job cleaning an infected computer, but it won’t protect you from future malware infections. For comprehensive device security, you should consider one of Norton’s premium plans. Norton Antivirus Plus covers 1 PC, Mac, tablet, or phone and gives you real-time protection, web protection, a good password manager, and Norton’s flawless scanner for $9.99 / year. But my favorite plan is Norton 360 Deluxe, which offers the best dark web monitoring in the industry, parental controls, an unlimited-data VPN, and much more. It covers 5 devices for $24.99 / year.
Norton’s plans come backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it out risk-free.
Norton Bootable Recovery Tool has a flawless scanner that can find and remove all kinds of malware. Its scans are also faster than any other USB bootable antivirus, though it does lack custom scans. Norton’s premium antivirus bundles include real-time protection, web protection, dark web monitoring, and a lot more, and all plans are backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee.
🥈2. ESET SysRescue Live — Most Customizable USB Bootable Antivirus
ESET SysRescue Live bootable antivirus gives users tons of control over what is being scanned and what types of threats are being detected. The scanner itself uses a large malware directory and machine learning to keep up with advanced threats. It scored very well during my tests, detecting 100% of threats (right up there with Norton’s Bootable Recovery Tool).
The scan was reasonably fast — it took about an hour, which isn’t as quick as Norton or Kaspersky, but it’s still faster than a lot of competitors. The scanner receives frequent updates too, meaning you can be confident that it’ll be able to identify the newest threats.
ESET offers advanced users plenty of options to customize their scans. While most users will want to run a full scan, there’s also the choice to run quick scans or to scan individual folders or files. On top of that, you can tweak some parameters of the scan, including the file size limit. You can also change the type of objects you want to scan, such as email files and boot sectors.
ESET SysRescue Live is a great USB bootable antivirus, but I’d recommend one of ESET’s premium plans for ongoing protection from malware. ESET Advanced Security costs $36.82 / year and covers 1 device, with a fee for each additional user. Its features include real-time protection, a firewall, a secure browser, parental controls, and a lot more. Though Norton’s antivirus plans definitely have better extra features, ESET’s plans offer a reasonable value and come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it before committing.
ESET SysRescue Live offers a great scanner and customizable scans. While its scans aren’t the fastest, it does give advanced users a lot of control over what to scan for. ESET’s premium plans include a firewall, anti-phishing tools, parental controls, and a lot more. All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it out risk-free.
🥉3. Kaspersky Rescue Disk — Very Fast Full Scans + Text or Graphical Interface
Kaspersky Rescue Disk uses Kaspersky’s excellent virus scanner to find and remove all kinds of malware. Like other top antiviruses, it receives frequent updates, and its scanner combines a large database of malware and machine learning to eradicate problems so deep that you can’t even start Windows.
Kaspersky has one of the fastest and most customizable scanners on this list. It doesn’t have a quick scan option, but you can select which folders and files you want to be scanned. The full scan took about 45 minutes to complete, which is slower than Norton, but faster than the other options on this list. Like Norton and ESET, it was able to detect all the malware samples on my PC.
With Kaspersky, you get to choose between a text or graphical user interface — I personally prefer the graphical version, but I like that they give you the option. There are a few other useful tools as well, like a file manager to copy or edit files and a web browser to connect to the internet if you can’t use your regular browser on your infected computer. However, even with those tools, it’s no substitute for a full antivirus suite.
I’d recommend Kaspersky Plus for more complete security. It costs $21.99 / year and includes Kaspersky’s quality malware scanner, real-time protection, web protection, and performance optimization tools for up to 3 users. It also includes a fast unlimited-data VPN. Since all of Kaspersky’s plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can try them out risk-free.
Kaspersky Rescue Disk is an intuitive USB bootable antivirus with plenty of customization options and fast scans to boot (pun intended). Its premium plans come with web protection, real-time protection, a firewall, and an unlimited-data VPN, and are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full Kaspersky review
4. Panda Cloud Antivirus Rescue USB Drive — Great Scanner With Automatic Updates
Panda Cloud Antivirus Rescue USB Drive is a bit more complicated than my other picks, but it makes up for its complexity by having a malware scanner with perfect detection rates and a very small download size.
You can run custom scans with Panda, choosing which files and folders you want to be scanned, but it doesn’t have as many customization options as ESET. The full scan took a little over an hour — not as fast as Kaspersky (and a lot slower than Norton), but still faster than many other USB bootable antiviruses.
The rescue USB drive has a GUI that’s pretty easy to navigate. Since it’s cloud-based, it will automatically update for you before you scan, so you’ll be protected against the newest threats.
It’s important to note though that Panda’s rescue disk requires Windows to function. If your computer is so infected that you can’t start Windows at all, I’d recommend any other option on this list.
Also, for real-time protection against threats, I’d suggest trying out Panda Dome. Panda has flexible pricing, with plans starting at $23.99 / year. Panda Dome includes features like real-time protection, ransomware protection, a password manager, parental controls, and a lot more, plus it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Panda Cloud Antivirus Rescue USB Drive is a reliable USB bootable antivirus that requires Windows to run. Its scans are very thorough with a few customization options, and it has an intuitive GUI. If you want complete device protection, consider trying out any of Panda’s premium plans, which all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full Panda Dome review
5. Avira Rescue System — Beginner-Friendly USB Bootable Antivirus
Avira Rescue System uses the same great malware scanner as Avira Prime. It scored a perfect 100% during my tests — in fact, it’s so good that its technology has been licensed out to some of its competitors, like TotalAV.
Avira Rescue System gives you a few options when you boot up, including full scan (which took about an hour during my tests), quick scan, and custom scan. While there aren’t as many customization options as you get with ESET, it still offers more than most USB bootable antiviruses. The scanner gets frequent updates as well, so it can keep up with the newest threats.
There aren’t many advanced settings with Avira, but that makes it great for beginners. It comes with an attractive GUI that I found really easy to use. That said, Norton still offers the most intuitive user experience. Avira Rescue System also comes with a couple of extra tools, like a web browser to connect to the web when you can’t open your usual browser.
However, Avira Rescue System won’t protect you against future threats. Once you’re done disinfecting your PC, consider trying out Avira Prime. Priced at $59.99 / year, it covers 5 devices and includes a suite of cybersecurity tools such as real-time protection, a VPN, great system optimization tools, and a lot more. While Avira also offers the best free antivirus on the market, all of its paid plans come with a generous 60-day money-back guarantee so you can try them risk-free.
The Avira Rescue System has a good balance of customization options and ease of use. It doesn’t require Windows to start, and it receives frequent updates. Avira offers a great free antivirus, which is one of the very few free products to offer real-time protection. But I’d recommend checking out Avira Prime, which gives you web protection, an unlimited-data VPN, a good password manager, and more. All Avira’s paid plans come with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Comparison of the Best USB Bootable Antiviruses in 2023
|Name||Customized Scans?||Can Run Without Windows?||Graphical User Interface?||Regular Updates?||Full Scan Time||Money-Back Guarantee (Premium Version)|
|🥇1. Norton Bootable Recovery Tool||❌||✅||✅||✅||15-20 Minutes||60-day|
|🥈2. ESET SysRescue Live||✅||✅||✅||✅||1 hour||30-day|
|🥉3. Kaspersky Rescue Disk||✅||✅||✅
(+ text option)
|4. Panda Cloud Antivirus Rescue USB Drive||✅||❌||✅||✅||1 hour||30-day|
|5. Avira Rescue System||✅||✅||✅||✅||1 hour||60-day|
How to Choose the Best USB Bootable Antivirus in 2023
- Look for fast and effective full scans. I chose bootable antiviruses that can run fast and sophisticated full-system scans. Some bootable antiviruses can take a frustrating amount of time, and I wanted to avoid that. The two fastest products on this list are Norton Bootable Recovery Tool (which takes about 15 minutes but doesn’t offer scan options) and Kaspersky Rescue Disk (which takes about 40 minutes to run a full scan). That said, all of my choices offer fast scans with excellent malware detection rates.
- Check it has a user-friendly interface. Many USB bootable antiviruses still use a text-based UI and require some background knowledge. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s less user-friendly than the GUIs offered by my top picks. I chose antiviruses — like Avira Rescue System — with intuitive layouts that require very little technical expertise to use.
- Find a product with customized scans. While running a full system scan is usually the best choice (especially for beginners), some advanced users can benefit from customization options. Most of these antiviruses, like ESET SysRescue Live and Kaspersky Rescue Disk, let you run quick scans and full scans; experienced users can choose individual folders and files too.
- See whether it’s actively updated. A lot of cybersecurity companies offer USB bootable antiviruses, but they’re no longer supported. These antiviruses will be able to detect common threats, but they won’t be able to find and remove newer malware. The antiviruses on this list, like Norton Bootable Recovery Tool and the Kaspersky Rescue Disk, are still supported and have frequent updates. Most will require you to (easily) update manually before running a scan, but Panda Cloud Antivirus Rescue USB Drive updates automatically through the cloud.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut
- Bitdefender Rescue CD. While Bitdefender is one of my personal favorite antiviruses, I couldn’t recommend its USB bootable antivirus tool. Unfortunately, the Rescue CD is no longer supported. While it can catch older or more common types of malware, it won’t be able to keep up with today’s more advanced threats.
- AVG Rescue CD. The AVG Rescue CD also, unfortunately, doesn’t receive updates, plus its text-based UI is a lot less user-friendly than the other choices on this list. It’s a much older product that simply won’t be fit to detect modern threats.
- Comodo Rescue Disk. The Comodo Rescue Disk is a relatively small download, and it offers a lot of scan options, but it’s no longer updated. Be sure to pick a USB bootable antivirus that receives regular updates, like Norton Bootable Recovery Tool (or any of my other top picks).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best USB bootable antivirus for Windows?
In my opinion, Norton Bootable Recovery Tool is the best USB bootable antivirus for Windows. It uses Norton’s flawless scanner to find and remove any threats buried deep in your device, and it boots a full desktop application when you open it, so you can even use it if your device is so heavily infected that you can’t open Windows.
The only drawback to Norton’s tool is that it lacks customization options. Instead of allowing you to select individual folders or files, it will always perform a full system scan. I don’t mind this though, since malware infections can take root in many different parts of your system, so a full scan is the safest option. What’s more, Norton’s full scans are much quicker than the other products on my list.
What is a USB bootable antivirus for?
A USB bootable antivirus can help when malware has compromised your PC to the point where you can’t start it up properly. When this happens, you can’t rely on a regular antivirus — you need a USB bootable antivirus that boots even if you can’t launch Windows. Download and burn your chosen antivirus ISO file onto a USB drive and then you’ll be able to boot up the rescue program just by sticking it into your infected PC.
Most of the time a regular antivirus will be enough to keep your devices safe, but if you can’t get access to your PC at all, I’d recommend Norton Bootable Recovery Tool. It’s fast and performs thorough system scans, without requiring much technical expertise to operate.
Are USB bootable antiviruses free?
Yes, the USB bootable antiviruses on this list are all free products. However, while they can clean an infected PC, they can’t keep it protected against malware — so they’re not a viable alternative to a full-fledged premium antivirus.
A quality premium product like Norton 360 will cover multiple devices and offer all the features you need to stay fully protected, like real-time protection to block threats before they can infect your device, a VPN for added online security, and web protection to keep you safe from malicious sites.
Do I need a premium antivirus if I have a free USB bootable antivirus?
The short answer is yes. A USB bootable antivirus is a great last line of defense if your device gets so infected you’re unable to run a regular antivirus. However, premium antiviruses offer a number of security features to prevent malware from infecting your files in the first place. They’ll provide you with real-time protection against threats, web protection, ransomware protection, and extras like VPNs, password managers, and parental controls.
My personal favorite antivirus in 2023 is Norton 360. Its flawless scanner detected 100% of the sample malware hidden in my device during my tests. It also has the most extra features of any premium antivirus, including the best dark web monitoring on the market, an unlimited-data VPN, a password manager, and much more. All of its plans are backed by a generous 60-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it out for 2 months risk-free.