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Free Virus Removal Software | Which One Will You Use?

B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc., MBCS, CITP

Free Virus Removal Software is attractive during times of economic hardship. Are free programs usually any good?

In my experience, the answer is usually no. However, there are some excellent free virus removal programs out there, if you know where to look!

DO NOT underestimate the importance of having anti virus software installed on your computer! Computer viruses are on the rise. Therefore, so is the risk to your home computers.

If you can't afford to buy anti-virus software, then you should at least have a Free Virus Removal Software program installed on your computer.

In Part 1 we looked at:

  • The most popular and best free anti virus programs available today. I add my views on each program to help you make an informed choice on which program (if any) you decide to install on your home computer(s)

  • I also let you in on a little known Industry trade secret IT professionals used to test your Anti-virus software is working correctly

Part 2 Free Computer Virus Scan looks at some virus removal tools that lots of anti virus companies provide for free. These stealth tools help remove stubborn viruses.

Once you have read through part 2 you will know how to find and use the different types of tools available.

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Essential Avast! Free Antivirus

Avast! Free Antivirus is a true virus protector. Features include:

  • Virus and Spyware protector

  • Protects against web page, instant messaging and peer-to-peer (P2P) network activity

  • Virus signature updates in real-time (Protect against new viruses)

  • Remote assistance from a friend (They access your computer, taking control and resolving your problem)
  • To run this program, your computer must meet the following minimum specification:
    Operating System: XP to Windows 8+
    Hardware: Pentium III CPU, 128 MB RAM and 200 MB Free Hard Disk Space

In my opinion, the recommended hardware specification here is too low. A computer with this specification would grind to a halt with any anti virus software running on it.

Fortunately, most home computers will cope with this software without issue, including the 2014 version. One of the good things about this particular free virus removal software is that it creates a System Restore Point before installing, and completes a quick scan of your computer after installing.

Avast! Takes up about 27 MB RAM to monitor your computer, and pro-actively picks up threats in real time.

Avast Free Antivirus Manual ScanAvast! 2014 Performing A Manual Scan

To continue with the free version, you need to register with Avast within 30 days of installation. I do not think this is a problem considering what you get with this software.

Avast is considered one of the best free virus removal software programs available today. Overall. I think this is an excellent program.

For a first-time home computer user, the program may be a little complicated to use. However, this is easily fixed with a little perseverance.

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AVG Anti-Virus FREE

AVG Anti-Virus FREE is also a very popular free virus removal software program for virus protection. Features include.

  • Basic protection against Viruses and Spyware

  • E-Mail protection e.g. warning against suspect attachments and phishing scams

  • Link Scanner protects against known suspect websites and alerts you to fake download messages that can infect your computer with viruses. These are known as Drive-By Downloads

  • Identity Theft Protection

The AVG Forums recommend the following minimum specification to run AVG:-

  • Operating System: Microsoft XP Service Pack 2, and above

  • Hardware: Pentium CPU 1.8GHz+, 2 GB RAM and 1.9 GB Free Hard Disk Space (and above)

AVG Anti Virus Free Edition Manual Scan ResultsAVG Anti Virus 2015 Finding An Infection After A Manual Scan

In my opinion, these specifications are a minimum. If your computer hardware is borderline, give AVG a go anyway. If it slows things down too much, remove and install another program - trial and error!

AVG is a popular and effective program for most home computer users. It only uses around 29 MB RAM in protection mode.

I used AVG for years. There is a slight delay between newly discovered viruses and the signature file update being released to protect against these new viruses.

If your web surfing habits are sensible, this does not usually pose a big risk for most home computer users. I think this product is an excellent free virus removal software program, as does millions of others.

Take a look at the Free AVG Antivirus Download tutorial for more details on this software.

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Avira Free Antivirus

Avira Free Antivirus is another good free virus removal program. In addition to virus protection it includes protection to most forms of Malware and other threats.

The installation process for 2014/15 is very different to a couple of years ago. Today, you are automatically taken to the:- My Avira Dashboard to register devices such as Smartphones and monitor your installation process.

Once installation and configuration are completed, the Avira status confirms your device is now protected.

Left click where it says Free Antivirus to open the console. The free version offers:-

  • Real-Time Protection, preventing Viruses, Worms and Trojan infections

  • Blocks viruses before they run. This is known as Heuristic Scanning

  • Blocks criminal hackers from entering your system covertly

  • Intuitive Firewall Protection against unauthorized applications and access, particularly on mobile devices in public places 

The following minimum system requirements are recommended:-

  • Operating System: Windows Vista or higher

  • Hardware: 1 GB RAM and over 150 GB Free Hard Disk Space

As installation does not give you the option to configure your settings, you need to do this by accessing the applications as directed above.

For example, your choice of Threat categories are not presented as part of the installation process today as in 2012.

Avira Free Antivirus 2012 Extended OptionsAvira Free Antivirus 2012
Installation Extended Options

Depending on your circumstances, an all-in-one protection program could be the way forward for you.

However, I prefer a dedicated malware removal tool, such as the Malwarebytes Anti Malware Program, in addition to a dedicated anti virus removal tool.

The download file is approximately 143 MB in size today, compared with 85 MB 2 years ago.

Heuristic scanning level is set by default to Medium Detection Levels. The higher the level, the more chance there is of legitimate software being falsely diagnosed as a virus. I usually keep it at the default setting.

This free virus removal software program used 36 MB RAM for proactive monitoring, up 30 MB from 2012. This is not an issue on new machines. 

The 2015 issue also address one of my 2012 concerns about scanning boot files. These are files that load into memory when your computer is starting up. They need protecting too, and today they get that.

Certain Viruses can plant themselves into this process and cause their damage before you can even interact with your computer.

The program is clear and easy to use. This is a good thing if you are unfamiliar with using antivirus software.

Avira Free Antivirus 2015 Manual ScanAvira Free Antivirus 2015 Manual Scan In Action

I also tested real-time monitoring and found it picks up potential viruses instantly. It also gives you the choice on what to do if the program is unable to remove the infection from your computer straight away.

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Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials has its own dedicated 2-part tutorial series. This is because I use this free virus removal software on my home computers.

I acknowledge there are potentially better free virus removal software programs available, but this program works fine for me in my circumstances.

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Panda Free Antivirus

Panda Free Antivirus includes the following features:

  • Real-Time protection against all types of viruses with auto-upgrades to the application and virus signature files

  • Process monitor to block any software processes that are pose a threat to your machine

  • USB Vaccine to ensure all readable USB pens are virus free before accessing your machine

  • Rescue Kit is a variety of advanced tools to protect your machine, e.g. Detecting advanced viruses

This free virus removal software program proclaims that all the work is done in the cloud (online).

At less than 1.5 MB RAM monitoring requirements on Windows 8, this is the lowest resource requirement of all the programs we are looking at.

The new style dashboard view in the 2014 edition displays the current real-time state of your machine.

Panda Free Antivirus Dashboard Monitoring in ActionPanda Free Antivirus Dashboard Monitoring in Action

Panda's proactive monitoring clears out viruses and let you know by popping up a message on screen.

In the 2012 Edition my comments read "I think more details would be helpful e.g. what the infection is called and where it was located on your computer." In 2015 the same test on Panda Antivirus displays some of this essential information.

Panda Cloud Antivirus (2014) Virus Removal System MessagePanda Cloud Antivirus (2014)
Virus Removal System Message

To see the type of virus Panda detected, open the quarantine report. From my own thorough lab testing that I am impressed with Panda's efficiency, proactive virus detection and removal, simplicity of use, and small footprint (Industry talk for low hardware requirements).

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Open Source ClamWin Free Antivirus

The Open-Source Community developed this free virus removal software which is used by over 600,000 people worldwide. Programmers from around the world develop such software free of charge, in their time.

This is because they believe commercial products are usually flawed and cost everyday home computer users too much.

Clamwin Free Antivirus includes the features such as:

  • High detection rates for Viruses and Spyware

  • E-Mail attachment protection

  • Automatic virus database updates to remove infections from your machines

The main issue I have with this Free Virus Removal Software program is it does not include a real-time access scanner.

You need to run a manual scan or set up a schedule to scan your computer on a regular basis.

The free virus scan download file size is about 100 MB at the time of writing.

ClamWin Free Antivirus UpdatesFree Virus Removal Software ClamWin
Free Antivirus Updates In Action

Personally, I think this free virus removal software program has a lot of potential, but needs a bit more work before it can rival the other software we have looked at.

In my lab environment, I confirmed a manual scan found the test virus I planted on the desktop.

ClamWin Manual ScanFree Virus Removal Software ClamWin
Manual Scan

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Test Your Anti Virus Program Is Working Properly

There is a little known technique to test that your Anti virus software is working as expected.

The European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research developed the EICAR Standard Anti-Virus Test File for Companies and Programmers to test their programs without using a real Computer Virus.

EICAR is a non-viral string of code that most anti virus software companies include in their signature definition files.

To test your Anti-Virus program real-time protection feature and/or the manual system scan features complete the following steps:

  1. Open Notepad

  2. Copy and paste the following line into Notepad: X5O!P%@AP[4\PZX54(P^)7CC)7}$EICAR-STANDARD-ANTIVIRUS-TEST-FILE!$H+H*

  3. Click File > Save As... Then name the file: EICAR.com and save it to your desktop

Real-Time protection programs should pick this file up straight away and deal with it accordingly.

Avast Free Antivirus System Message After Detecting EICAR.comAvast Free Antivirus System Message After Detecting EICAR.com

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Free Virus Removal Software | Final Thoughts

For more information so you can make an informed choice, take a look at the Wikipedia List Of Antivirus Software.

According to this list, the two best Free Virus Removal Software programs are Avast! And Panda Cloud. I agree with this conclusion after my lab testing exercise.

However, other programs such as Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition are gaining in popularity and should not be discounted.

If I were to recommend one for your home computer(s) I would go with Panda. Despite the name, it is excellent at its job for a free antivirus solution. It is also easier to use if you are new to Anti virus programs.

It is up to you which anti-virus program you use. I hope my guide helps you make the right choice.

If you have already paid for commercial software, then keep running with that until your renewal notification comes through, or you decide there are better, Free, products available

I hope you found this tutorial useful. Now it is time to take a look at Part 2:- Free Computer Virus Scan.

Finally, take a look at the Types of Malware page for further details and articles about this important subject.

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