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How do malware removal tools work?

Malware removal software is an important part of the arsenal of tools that can be used to protect your PC from being compromised by malicious payload of one type or another.

If you’re wondering how anti-malware tools differ from antiviruses, we cover this in detail elsewhere, but suffice it to say that malware removal apps offer a much more targeted type of protection against malware and installations. to rid your system of infection. .

But how exactly do these apps work? Read on for our full review of how malware removal tools protect your device and what to expect if you install any of these utilities on your system.


On-demand analysis

As with an antivirus application, when installed on your computer, anti-malware software will give you the option to scan the system to check if malware is present.

There will be a “Scanner” button in the main application menu (most likely, or a submenu maybe), and a single click on it will scan your drive (s) and memory. . Just like with an antivirus, the malware removal tool will have definitions (regularly updated) of common malware. It will look for matches based on the contents of that definition library, and if anything is found on your PC, it will (obviously) be flagged as malicious.

This will happen in a post-scan report, where all suspicious findings are highlighted, and you will have the option to quarantine those violators (or even malware could be automatically quarantined). Quarantine, as you might expect, is the banning of a file into a closed area of ​​the system, where it can no longer reach or damage your device or data.

(Image credit: Malwarebytes)

In addition to malware, potentially unwanted programs (called PUPs for short) may be flagged in scan results, which are, as the name suggests, apps that you might not want on your system (a good anti-malware application will explain why they are possibly unwanted). These don’t need to be quarantined, as they don’t actively harm, so it’s up to you to decide whether to take action against them. (It’s better to be safe than sorry in these cases, more than likely, but sometimes legitimate apps can be reported, and you might want to ignore the warnings in these cases).

This on-demand scan is present with all anti-malware software, and one approach some people take is to install a free malware removal app just to sit on their system as a backup from a primary antivirus. .

In other words, the tactic here is to rely primarily on antivirus, but to run a manual scan with a second line of defense – anti-malware – every now and then, just to see if it detects something that the antivirus might have missed. It might just be a PUP, not outright malware, but it could still be something you don’t want on your system, and otherwise would have sat there if you didn’t. asked for a second opinion.

Real-time defenses

However, malware removal software can give you more than just on-demand scanning, and some apps offer real-time defenses in the same vein as an antivirus. Real-time protection simply means that the anti-malware tool has a constant shield, scanning every file introduced to your system (and running processes) for anything suspicious.

This gives you more waterproof protection and means you can run an anti-malware app as your first line malware protection, without the need for an antivirus (at least in theory).

Obviously, it helps if you pick one of the best tools for this purpose, like our currently top-rated pick Malwarebytes. Its premium version offers real-time protection, backed by heuristics (monitoring malware-type behavior, to detect threats that are brand new and not yet included in the malware definition program library).

(Image credit: Malwarebytes)

Remember that anti-malware is designed to specialize in such behavioral detection and to find new threats that an anti-virus might miss. You also get web defenses (against phishing and other online scams) for safer browsing, as well as anti-ransomware technology – a broader level of protection, in other words, from the paid app. Malwarebytes (as you might expect).

That said, it’s still true that the best antivirus apps can offer a more accurate malware detection engine – at the time of writing this is indeed the case according to independent test labs, although Malwarebytes is rated sufficiently for comprehensive protection – so you might prefer to run one of our best antivirus backed up by the free version of Malwarebytes (or your preferred anti-malware choice) for on-demand tasks.

Either way, anti-malware apps offer targeted protection against malware (and PUPs), and as we’ve seen, the good ones can work at multiple levels, just like antiviruses – on demand. and in real time. protection backed by heuristic technology – covering the full range of defensive countermeasures against all evil, including ransomware, phishing and more.

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