Antiviral tools are fine, as far as they go. But it’s one thing to do your best to shield your computer from the bad guys. It’s another to know what to do when the malware has already taken hold of your PC. There is one sure-fire option, though. That’s to recognize that it’s time to call in the malware-busters – software to seek and root out the malicious viruses, adware and spybots that have wormed their way onto your hard drive. Now, you could pay for the privilege of being able to use such a tool; but not all that is gold glitters. Away from the commercial packages, there are plenty of free malware removal tools which can get the job done equally well – without you having to open your wallet. Let’s have a look at the very best of these free malware-bashing tools; ones that can knock your computer back to rude health.
This is bare-bones tool for the removal of one of the more persistent and difficult-to-deal-with of viruses – the Smitfraud family of spyware. SmitFraud usually gets installed silently through adware packages that come from the download sites that are a little on the ‘dark side’. If you’re lucky, this just brings on the Blue Screen of Death. If you’re unlucky, you will have your private data and searches comprehensively spied upon, and stolen.
SmitRem is the ideal tool for slaying this particular dragon. The app is simple to download, easy to install, and even easier to operate. It is run from the command line, which may make some less advanced-users nervous, but is nothing to be worried about in itself. It works quickly and cleanly, taking out the malicious exe files, and replacing infected system components with clean versions. The main drawback is that it only works with a small part of malware universe.
Another well-known packet of malware, which often ensnares many Windows users, is the Omega family of trojans. Sometimes it’s OmegaSearch, sometimes it’s Omega Antivir. But whatever the package, this particular rogueware acts as a gateway for other nasty viruses, adware, rootkit infections or spybots. Often it will hijack your browser, installing a search bar that directs your searches to various sites. However, Omega malware has its nemesis, in the latest version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, a tool specializing in malware removal.
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware has gained a good rep for speedy scans – and even speedier removals – of unwanted nasties, such as Omega-style rogueware. The installation isn’t too complicated, the interface isn’t overloaded with unneeded features, but this tool still packs in useful removal functionality. Files can be scanned for potential problems on demand, and the File Assassin option allows for the deletion of those all-too-persistent locked files.
CWShredder focuses in on another villain of from the rogueware gallery – that of the CoolWebSearch browser add-on that so often weasels its way into Windows Internet Explorer. CoolWebSearch tries to convince the user that it is adding value to their browsing experience, but all along its acting as infiltrator for other viruses. Pop-up ads for other sites – including pornographic content – hits the unsuspecting user, along with other spyware agents.
CWS is well-known as a tricky piece of malware to remove, defeating many standard removal tools. Fortunately, the developers at CWShredder have put all their energies into defeating this one slippery customer. As a result, they claim to have a near 100% success against CWS and its related strands of infection. In tests, this excellent removal rate has been born out; even better, the tool kills CWS fast, often in less than a minute. As with many malware removal tools, however, that speed and efficiency is sacrificed at the expense of being a more generally useful app. Don’t look to CWShredder to help with other malware infections.
Which brings us nicely to Spyware Terminator. This is a nifty little antiviral package that doubles up as a malware removal tool. So, as well as helping to sweep your PC clean of any rogue software, it also offers an ongoing protection against further attacks. During installation, you are given three options – to install a scan-and-remove tool; to install a real-time protector; or to install an integrated package called ClamAV. Watch out for the option to install a ‘NetSecurity Toolbar’ – this isn’t really necessary for malware removal, so you can un-tick this.
Because Spyware Terminator bases its scans on lists of known malware ‘bad boys’, updated on a regular basis, it identifies all three of the malware culprits we’ve already looked at – CoolWebSearch, SmitFraud and Omega. Their removal, post-scan, isn’t quite as effective as the with the specialized tools mentioned above – especially with some of the more complex variants. But the ongoing protection is much wider, and if you’re concerned about removing more of the general threats, Spyware Terminator is a great place to start.
A long-time veteran in the wars against spyware and malware in general, Spybot Search & Destroy’s pedigree means that it has one of the best detection and removal rates around. Like Spyware Terminator, it relies on a massive database of known problem pieces of software, and its comprehensive scan quickly picks out the villains. These can be selected for removal, or even passed onto a Secure Shredder, which ensures no digital trace is left of the malware – so no hope of resurrection for these particular bad guys.
As well as evicting, shredding and otherwise removing known malware, Spybot Search & Destroy also opens an umbrella to protect against the constant rain of malicious online software. This shield works well enough, though it far less powerful and flexible than most decent antiviral packages. One handy feature is the ability to select which files are allowed to load-up when your computer is being started up. Blacklisting dodgy malware files in this way makes it easier to remove them. The one fly in the ointment – crashes are still a little too common, a long-time complaint with Spybot Search & Destroy. But let’s not forget – this solid, general-purpose malware remover is free, and if removal is your game, Spybot Search & Destroy has an excellent aim.