The 6 Best Free Virus Removal Software of 2023

Find and remove threats on your computer or mobile device

Virus removal tools are sometimes stand-alone, one-time scanners that will conduct a quick scan of your system and remove any malicious software that is found. These applications are great for use as second-opinion scanners that work in conjunction with existing antivirus applications.

However, not all virus removal tools are standalone. Some are included in antivirus applications. Either way, they perform the same task—scan a system for malicious files and then remove those files.

We reviewed dozens of both stand-alone virus removal tools and virus removal tools that are part of antivirus applications. These are the best free antivirus removal tools we found.

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Best For Ease of Use: Bitdefender

A screenshot of the Bitdefender website.
What We Like
  • Easy to use.

  • Fast download and install.

  • Easy on system resources.

What We Don't Like
  • Basic malware removal is free, but persistent infections may require a pricey subscription.

Bitdefender is one of the best-known and highest-rated names in antivirus protection. The Bitdefender antivirus suites are all well-developed, easy to use, and effective at stopping viruses and other types of malware. So, it's not a surprise that Bitdefender tops the list for having some of the best free virus removal tools built into the software. Once Bitdefender has detected a virus, it is quarantined and removed without much problem.

Unless it happens to be a persistent (aka recurring) virus infection. Then, you'll need to subscribe to the Bitdefender Virus & Spyware Removal service, which is pricey at around $100 for each session required. Don't let that scare you away, though. Bitdefender offers tons of free removal tools, and in most cases, the Bitdefender software (including the free version) will remove any virus or malware that's found.

Bitdefender used to have a separate program called Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition, which has been replaced with the current version that is free with paid upgrades

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Best for Scanning Without Antivirus Software: Kaspersky

A screenshot of the Kaspersky Virus Removal tool in mid-scan.
What We Like
  • No antivirus required.

  • Completely free, no registration necessary.

  • Quickly scans for and removes viruses.

What We Don't Like
  • Shadows cast on Kaspersky concerning Russian connections.

Kaspersky antivirus is also an excellent antivirus application. Even the free version of the software consistently scores excellent marks on independent lab tests for stopping and detecting malware. And the fact that Kaspersky has a stand-alone, free virus removal tool is another plus.

The tool runs quickly and quarantines and removes any malicious software found on the system, and even allows for some control over what objects on your computer are scanned. The only downfall we could find is an old accusation that Kaspersky has ties to the Russian government; an accusation that still casts shadows over the trustworthiness of the company's software. Still, if you have a virus that needs removing, this stand-alone Kaspersky tool can probably remove it.

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Best with Windows Defender: Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool

A screenshot of the Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.
What We Like
  • Works for Windows 7-10 on 32- and 64-bit systems.

  • Completely free; requires no registration.

  • Integrated version runs automatically with Windows updates.

What We Don't Like
  • Only targets 'prevalent malware families.'

  • Does not appear in the Windows Start menu or as a desktop icon.

Another virus removal tool that many Windows Defender users will find helpful is the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT). This tool is a free download from the Microsoft website, and will quickly scan your system and quarantine or remove any malicious software that's found.

Of course, you don't have to be using Microsoft Windows Defender to use the MSRT, but if you are a Windows Defender user, this is a nice (and free) additional tool that will help if you find that something nefarious slips past your defenses.

Microsoft also has a Safety Scanner that works in a similar manner to the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool. If you suspect an infection, it's advisable to run both tools, but you'll have to run each one as soon as the download is complete because you won't find them in your Start menu or programs once installed.

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Best for Safe Mode Scans: Norton Power Eraser

A screenshot of Norton Power eraser scanning a system for unwanted applications.
What We Like
  • Fast scans and removals.

  • Looks for viruses and Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPS).

  • Ability to undo past removals.

What We Don't Like
  • Can find false positives.

  • No options for macOS.

Norton is a well-known name in antivirus applications, so it's no surprise that Norton offers a small-footprint virus removal tool that will scan your system and remove any potential threats. However, it is a pleasant surprise that the Norton Power Eraser allows you to customize the areas of your computer you would like to have scanned, and includes a tool that lets you undo previous virus removals, just in case something you've removed (with Norton) in the past was a false positive.

It is a concern that false positives might be caught by Norton Power Eraser, but it's also not all that unusual. Just use caution when agreeing to Norton's recommendations to remove programs. When in doubt, do some research to find out if the application that is flagged is indeed a threat. If it's not, you can try leaving it on your system. You can always come back and remove it later.

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Best for Removing Android Viruses: Avast

A screenshot of the Avast for Android download website.
What We Like
  • Excellent AV Test scores.

  • High ratings with Android users.

  • Easy to use and effective.

What We Don't Like
  • Ad supported.

  • Not the best customer service.

  • Misleading 'features' that are actually ads to purchase pro version.

Avast is a top-of-the-line antivirus application that has installations for Android as well as other devices. It is a full antivirus application, but as part of that application, it has virus removal capabilities. And it performs very well, as is proven by independent lab testing through AV Test and others. Avast performs well in all the tests, with all the labs; usually scoring perfect or near perfect no matter what is thrown at it.

However, this is a full antivirus application, so you'll need to install it on your device. Once installed, though, you can set the scanner for manual or automated scans, and once detected, malware of all types can be removed using the built-in virus removal tools.

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Best Virus Removal Tool for Mac Users: Sophos Home Free

A screenshot of the Sophos Home Free website.
What We Like
  • Mac or Windows versions available.

  • Cloud-based antivirus.

  • Automatic quarantine and removal of malware.

What We Don't Like
  • No recent independent test results.

  • Occasional false positives.

Mac computers are less prone to getting viruses than Windows computers, but that doesn't mean they are completely immune. It's still possible to get a virus or other malware on a Mac, especially if you participate in risky behavior like P2P file sharing or surfing potentially infected websites.

The nice thing about Sophos Home Free is that it works very well on Mac computers. And since it was based on enterprise antivirus applications, it's mostly effective at finding and removing malware. That said, it's not uncommon for Sophos Home Free to alert on false positives, and it has occasionally missed legitimate threats it should have caught.

Despite that, Sophos is a mostly-good antivirus application that happens to also have a virus removal tool you can use if something is flagged by the antivirus application.

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