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My five favorite virus and malware removal tools

Having your computer get infected with a virus or malware can be an actual stressful situation. And finding software that can remove the infection can be even more stressful. So here are my five favorite virus and malware removal tools.

My five favorite virus and malware removal tools

As a computer repair technician, I have used many different tools over the years to remove viruses, malware, and adware. I have seen plenty of software that works like a charm, only to be bought out by their competitor or never updated.

Now some programs have withstood the test of time. Some of them you have to install fully, some you just download and run. But all of the programs listed here have been around for several years.

Anti-virus programs

The AV Test user interface

I get asked quite often about what anti-virus software I recommend. This is a tricky question to answer because there are so many decent free and paid AV programs out there.

I suggest checking some of the independent anti-virus review sites and see what is recommended. I personally like AV Test as they review only anti-virus and security software.

Windows 10 does include an AV program called Windows Defender, and it does rank pretty high, but it does have a limited feature set. If you are looking for AV software with a bunch of bells and whistles, Windows Defender may not be what you are looking for.

One of the first things you may want to do is check and see if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides a branded version of AV software. Sometimes you can get a complete security suite from your ISP for free.

But remember that the majority of AV programs look for viruses and malware, not adware or junkware. That is why I use several different programs for cleaning up an infected computer.

AV Test


The AdwCleaner user interface

When it comes to cleaning up a compromised Internet browser, nothing beats AdwCleaner. It can find the most hidden malicious browser extensions and reset your network adapter all at the same time.

AdwCleaner requires no installation; just download and run. It also does not require an Internet connection but will download program and database updates if it can connect to the Internet.



The Malwarebytes user interface

As the name implies, it does a great job of finding and removing malware. It is also fantastic at finding and eliminating Probably Unwanted Programs (PUP) and junkware.

This program does have to have an Internet connection to complete its installation, and it is configured in a full 14-day trial mode. You can deactivate the trial license and just run it when you want to perform a scan.

The only thing I do not like about it is that it sets itself to start with Windows automatically. You can easily change this by right-clicking on the Malwarebyte icon in the Taskbar and deselect Start with Windows.



The SUPERAntiSpyware user interface

This program is excellent at finding those pesky little cookies that browsers seem to collect. It also does an excellent job of finding and removing PUPs and junkware.

This program does require full installation but does not need Internet access to complete the install. The full version does have some cool features, but if you are just trying to clean up your system, the basic version will work.


Microsoft Safety Scanner

The Microsoft Safety Scanner user interface

The Microsoft Safety Scanner is a stand-alone scanner, just download and run. It does a fantastic job of finding malware that has dug itself deep inside of Windows.

It does have only three options: Quick Scan, Full Scan, and Customized Scan. The Quick Scan looks in areas of Windows that are most likely to contain viruses, spyware, and malware. The Customized Scan is similar to the Quick Scan but allows scanning of a user-specified folder.

The Full Scan does just that; it scans every file on your computer. This is the most thorough scan but can take hours or even days to complete. But if you are looking for something that may be deeply embedded in Windows, this is the type of scan you want to perform.

Now the Microsoft Safety Scanner is time-stamped and will only run for ten days after you download it, so you will need to download a new version every time you want to perform a system scan.

Microsoft Safety Scanner

Remove malware, viruses and spyware with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Virus removal can be a tricky thing, so a good anti-virus program is a must. And remember that you can only have one anti-virus program installed at a time because they will conflict with each other and degrade system performance. But did you know that there are programs that work as companions to your existing anti-virus software? One of my favorites is Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.

The main screen inside of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
The main screen inside of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware looks for items that may otherwise be overlooked by anti-virus software, like keystroke/password loggers, rootkits, and spyware. It works great for finding PUP's (probably unwanted program), PUM's (potentially unwanted modifications), and P2P (peer to peer) software.

The settings screen inside of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
The settings screen inside of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware comes in four (4) versions; Free, Pro, Small Business, and Enterprise.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free features include:

  • Advanced malware detection and removal
  • Industry-proven clean-up technologies eradicate existing malware infections
  • Rapid response malware database and heuristics updates
  • Access to expert community and knowledgeable support teams through e-mail and forums
  • Chameleon technology gets Malwarebytes running on infected systems
  • Multi-language support

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro, Small Business and Enterprise features include:

  • All of the features of the free version
  • Real-time active malware prevention engine blocks known threats
  • Heuristic protection prevents new zero-day malware infections
  • Malicious website protection blocks access to known and zero-day malicious web content
  • Automatic priority updates and scheduled scanning
  • Fast flash scans

Here's a quote from Malwarebytes website:

Detect and Protect with Byte

Malware is big and malware is bad. Your computer is constantly at risk from infection by malware including viruses, worms, trojans, rootkits, dialers and spyware. Malwarebytes specializes in fighting malware.

If viruses are mischief, malware is mayhem. Malware doesn't just want to disrupt your network, it wants your keystrokes, logins, passwords, address book, data, credit card information, favorite t-shirt and possibly your cat.

Malware is not going away any time soon. Malware is growing, developing, constantly evolving. Malware is becoming more difficult to detect, and even harder to remove.

Only the most sophisticated anti-malware techniques can detect and remove malicious programs from your computer. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware PRO combines powerful new technologies designed to seek out, destroy, and prevent malware.

For more information on Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, just follow the link below:

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Virus removal guidelines for Windows

Updated July 10, 2024

Are you worried about viruses infecting your Windows computer? If so, you're not alone. With the increasing number of malware and viruses targeting Windows operating systems, it's crucial to protect your PC proactively. In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover virus removal guidelines for Windows to help you keep your computer safe and secure.

Prevention is critical to protecting your Windows computer from viruses. This starts with using reputable anti-virus software and always keeping it updated. Regularly updating your operating system and other software is also crucial, as many updates include security patches that protect you from newly discovered vulnerabilities.

In addition to using anti-virus software, it's essential to practice safe browsing habits. Avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading files from untrustworthy sources, as these can often be vectors for malware. You should also be cautious when opening email attachments, as many viruses are spread through phishing emails.

Prerequisite: To start the removal process, you will need to download software to scan for and remove any malicious software. It is recommended that you download this software on another computer that is known to be uninfected and use a clean, recently formatted USB to transfer the software to your infected computer.

Microsoft Safety Scanner - This program is completely self-contained and requires no Internet access to run or install. Just download it, copy it over to the infected computer via a USB drive, and then run it. If you decide to run a full scan, it can take hours or even days, depending on how many files are on the drive(s). This software is time-stamped and will only run for ten days. After that, you would need to download a new copy of it.

Malwarebytes - This program requires Internet access to download the complete installation files. I recommend downloading the installer and copying it to the infected computer via a USB drive. Once the installer is on the infected computer, connect to the Internet and start the installation program.

Avast Free - This program requires Internet access to download the complete installation files. I recommend downloading the installer and copying it to the infected computer via a USB drive. Once you have the installer on the infected computer, connect to the Internet and then start the installation program.

Taking immediate action is essential if you suspect your Windows computer is infected with a virus. Here are some virus removal guidelines to help you effectively eradicate malware from your system:

1. Disconnect from the Internet: If you suspect your computer is infected, one of the first steps you should take is to disconnect it from the Internet. This can help prevent the virus from spreading to other devices on your network or communicating with its command-and-control servers.

2. Enter Safe Mode with Networking: Boot your computer into Safe Mode with Networking to limit the number of processes running and make it easier to remove the virus. Depending on what software you want to use, you may need an Internet connection to install it. Now, Safe Mode with Networking only supports wired (ethernet) connections because it uses generic network drivers, and there just aren't any generic WiFi drivers.

You will need to use the Advanced Boot Options to get Windows to boot up into Safe Mode, and here is how to get there:

Windows 11 Advanced Boot Options

Windows 10 Advanced Boot Options

3. Scan for viruses: Run and/or install one of the recommended programs listed above, then run a full scan. Be prepared to wait as the software scans all of the files on your drive(s). This can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

4. Remove suspicious files and programs: Inspect your system for any suspicious files or programs and remove them. Look for unusual filenames, recently installed programs, or programs you don't remember installing.

If you can't remove the virus on your own, consider seeking help from a professional computer technician or a reputable IT support service, such as Geeks in Phoenix. They can assist in performing a more in-depth virus removal process and provide guidance on preventing future infections.

After removing the virus from your Windows computer, it's important to take steps to prevent future infections. This includes maintaining up-to-date anti-virus software, patching your operating system and software, and practicing safe browsing habits.

In conclusion, viruses pose a significant threat to Windows computers, but by following the virus removal guidelines outlined in this article, you can effectively protect your system from malware. Remember that prevention is vital, so stay vigilant and secure your computer to avoid falling victim to malicious software.

Check out the following article for more information on free Internet security software.

Free Internet security software

Check out this article for a detailed description of one of the worst cases of infection I have seen.

A real life virus removal horror story

Free Internet Security Software

Updated July 9, 2024

Here is a list of a few free Internet security programs I recommend for those on a budget. Remember that free software often comes with limitations but is fully functional. Some require manual updating, but that is a small price for great free software. Let us start with an anti-virus program.

When it comes to anti-virus software, I like to see real-world testing comparisons. Take a look at AV-Test, an independent IT security institute that tests all major AV software every three (3) months. That way, the tests will be done with real-world AV samples.

Windows Defender (built into Windows)

  • Pros: It is built into Windows and is one of the highest-rated AV programs. If you decide to install a third-party AV program, Windows Defender will switch itself into a secondary AV program and can be set up to periodically scan for threats.
  • Cons: Windows Defender only protects the operating system and does not integrate with browsers.

Avast Free

  • Pros: This is a fully functional anti-virus program that has file, behavior, web, and mail scanners. The program updates itself automatically.
  • Cons: There is no free technical support. Support for this product is sold by call or by year.

Next is a Firewall program:

Windows Defender Firewall (built into Windows)

  • Pros: It is already installed and running inside Windows.
  • Cons: It provides essential inbound/outbound protection. You can create custom security rules, but configuring them requires some detailed information. It is not for the novice user.


  • Pros: The program is fully automatic in updating itself.
  • Cons: It only provides inbound and outbound protection but does it in full stealth mode. It also requires internet access to install.

Let us now look at two free spyware/malware programs. My first choice is Microsoft Safety Scanner. Note that I ranked Microsoft Safety Scanner first because it requires no installation or additional software to run.

Microsoft Safety Scanner

  • Pros: It requires no installation. Just download and run with Administrative privileges.
  • Cons: It is time-stamped and will only run for ten (10) days after downloading it.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

  • Pros: It is an excellent malware program. It checks for updates before performing any scans.
  • Cons: It requires Internet access to complete the installation.

A real life virus removal horror story

I hear more and more new computer users are getting severely infected with malware, spyware, Trojans, etc. I am currently working on a system that is, by far, the worst one I have ever seen. I have the system back running and have documented the procedures I followed to clean up this system. I have included a link at the bottom of this article to an article on free Internet security software.

Note: I took on this client as I felt he needed assistance. He’s an older veteran who just graduated from school. He bought a used computer and then connected it to a high-speed connection. Without any knowledge of what he needed for security software, he quickly got infected. The story does end happily (should I tell you now or make you go to the bottom of the page). I built a new system for him from my spare parts and loaded all his old software onto it. System cost: $0. Good feeling: Priceless.

Let me first outline the situation. I got a call from a gentleman who had purchased a used computer, and it got infected. It was so bad that it would not even boot into Safe Mode. When I got it, I immediately went to back it up. It was then that I discovered the system would not boot to a CD-ROM (red flag). This was my first issue.

The system had a floppy drive, so I installed a network card I knew worked and had DOS drivers. I then created network boot disks and was able to back up across the network. The data transmitted from the client was different in size from what the server received (red flag).

I now had a good working image of the hard drive. A system driver was failing to load, which caused the crash. I wanted to check the hard drive for errors first. Since this drive was FAT 32, I used a Windows 98 SE boot disk with support tools and ran Scandisk on it. The surface scan indicated a bad cluster on the drive (drive failure?). A quick download of the diagnostic software from the hard drive manufacturer confirmed the hard drive failure.

Luckily, I had an equal-sized hard drive and cloned the drive image back to a new drive. A quick Scandisk to check for errors, and away I went, but I still got errors when booting. I changed the boot options and was able to get the error screen to stay up. I took a photo to do more research. It turns out the error is coming from the onboard IDE controller (controller failure for sure, possible motherboard failure). This would explain the issue with the CD-ROM.

I happen to have a spare PCI IDE controller card from when I had to have eight drives in one of my systems (as opposed to the standard four at the time). I’ll tell the story of the system I built, where I had to turn off all onboard devices to keep running later. What I did to keep that 486 running was amazing.

I installed the controller card and almost immediately discovered the BIOS was scrambled. I couldn’t bootstrap the BIOS. That was it - motherboard failure. The project now was how to rebuild the computer. The motherboard failure made me suspicious of using any of the old hardware. You don’t know what else may be damaged (we know the hard drive was).

So I went around the office to see what I could find. A Pentium-D 805, ECS P4M800, a 256 MB stick of PC-3200 memory, CD-ROM, floppy drive, hard drive, power supply, and case. A slight modification to the case allowed clearance for the power connector to the motherboard, and I was off and running.

I assembled the system and loaded the original image. I was still getting boot errors, but it did boot. Of course, Windows found all sorts of new hardware. But the pop-ups were coming on hard and fast, and so were the system errors.

So I opened the hard drive image file, and there I found a couple hundred infections. I made a copy of the image and then proceeded to edit its contents manually. I was able to remove about three hundred (300) or so infected files. I then pushed the revised image to the new system. I could get the pop-ups and errors to come down quite a bit. I turned off System Restore, installed Malwarebytes, and started a scan. It found several infections and removed all on reboot.

I installed AVG, updated definitions by file, and ran a complete scan. It was then that I found out that this system was beyond repair. It had an infection that attaches itself to every executable file on the hard drive. AVG found over seven thousand (7,000) of these infections. Now, it is time to completely wipe the hard drive and do a clean install of Windows.

That’s where the story ends. I reloaded all of the applications, user files, etc. The computer is in place and running beautifully. It’s again hooked up to high-speed internet, but this time with protection.

Free Internet Security Software

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