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What is a Malware Removal Tool?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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A malware removal tool not only detects various types of malicious software but can also remove infections from a computer or network. While it has traditionally taken multiple programs geared towards different types of malware to cover all the bases, the trend has been to consolidate various types of malware detection into one malware removal tool, usually packaged as an anti-virus (A/V) suite. Such programs might search for adware, spyware, keyloggers and rootkits in addition to viruses, worms, Trojans, macros and spybots.

Though it can be tempting to use a single, comprehensive A/V program as your sole malware removal tool, augmenting such a program with additional anti-spyware or online anti-virus scans still makes good sense. Manufacturers of anti-malware each maintain their own proprietary databases and detection algorithms and no program maintains a 100% detection rate for all kinds of malware 100% of the time. A second program might catch what the primary malware removal tool misses.

To this end, choose a strong A/V detection program first, one that scores high in detecting viruses, Trojans, worms, macros, scripts and bots. Websites dedicated to independent reviewing of A/V software compare popular anti-virus programs for detection and removal of various kinds of malware.

With a solid anti-virus program installed as your main malware removal tool, you can augment it with reputable anti-spyware software. A good anti-spyware program also detects adware and watches for keyloggers. It’s fine if the A/V program also looks for this type of malware. Multiple anti-spyware programs installed on the same machine usually don’t present a problem, although you might only want to have one running in the background, alongside the main A/V program. Do not install more than one anti-virus program as this can create conflicts.

With protection running in the background, it’s still a good idea to use your malware removal tool to scan the system on demand once a month or more often if necessary. Follow up with your main anti-spyware program.

At this time you can also open additional anti-spyware programs and rootkit detection tools that are installed but not running in the background, and use their on-demand scanners to check the system. Only run one program at a time. Signs that a computer might be infected include sluggishness, excessive advertisements, odd browser behavior and a slow network connection, though these symptoms can also be caused by other problems. Even when the system appears normal, periodic scanning is good preventative medicine.

Since it is not recommended to have more than one anti-virus program installed on a machine at any given time, you can augment the installed A/V program by using a reputable online A/V scanner as a secondary malware removal tool. Avoid unscrupulous sites that return false results for nonexistent infections, offering “scareware” that is often malware designed as anti-malware. Most online scanners only detect and do not remove malware, but ESET Online Scanner and Trend Micro’s HouseCall are two notable exceptions.

A good malware removal tool will not hog system resources and will update itself multiple times daily. Only chose software that is recommended by reputable sources and download it from a trusted site. Many types of malware masquerade as anti-malware and adopt similar names to popular, tried and true programs, so beware of imitations. Read software reviews from websites like PCWorld, PCMagazine, MajorGeeks, TuCows, ZDNet, CNet, and the like, and check independent testing sites like AV-Comparatives.org.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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