Emergency virus recovery tools: Rescue disks and online scanners explained

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If malware gets onto your PC, it tin disable your antivirus, but bootable rescue disks and on-demand online virus scanners can help you beat the infection.

The antivirus suites we recommend, in our best gratuitous antivirus and best paid antivirus guides are put through rigorous testing by multiple independent labs every bit well as user testing by u.s.. If y’all don’t take a protection plan in place we’d thoroughly recommend investing in on of our reccomended services.

But even the most capable malware detection engines can occasionally be deceived by a new threat or highly effective obfuscation of malicious code. When that happens, some viruses start by disabling your operating organization’s security, starting with your antivirus. If this renders your arrangement unuseable, you’ll need a bootable rescue disk. If you can still utilize your PC, but can’t admission or run scans from your antivirus software, attempt an online scanner to either bank check specific files or carry out an on-demand scan that might escape the malicious software find. Here’due south what you lot need to know almost the rescue tools available to you.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus

Essential Virus Protection

Our v-star rated anti-virus blocks malware and viruses in existent time and stops hackers, at present 50% off at just £12.49

  • Kaspersky
  • Was £24.99
  • £12.49 per twelvemonth

View Offer

Rescue disks and bootable scanners

Some malware prevents you from using your PC once infection has taken hold. To work around this, yous can using a rescue deejay – a bootable CD or USB drive with its own live operating organisation, especially designed to detect and destroy viruses on your hd.

These are usually tiny Linux distributions, designed to automatically load an easy-to-use malware scanner, which volition download the latest virus definition files and then scan your computer’due south local storage.

Your hard disk typically remains unmounted, allowing it to be more accurately scanned and cleaned. And because the infected operating arrangement isn’t booted at any point, the malware tin can’t accept steps to be prevent itself from being removed.

A number of antivirus programs, such as Avast, allow you to burn a rescue CD or disk for hereafter use, but in that location are besides downloadable ones, which tend to exist rather more useful if you’ve already had to turn to a spare or borrowed PC. Annotation that some rescue disk creators, such every bit Tendency Micro’s require a functional Windows system to create the disk, and then y’all won’t be able to fire up a Raspberry Pi, or similar, in case of emergencies.

For that reason, I’m merely going to recommend rescue images that tin be burned from anything down to an Android phone with a USB OTG cable.

You will, however, demand a tool to fire bootable images to a CD, DVD or USB drive. For making bootable USB disks, effort Rufus (Windows merely), Balena Etcher (Windows, Linux, macOS), Ventoy (cross-platform, unofficial Android port available in Play Store). If y’all but have an Android telephone and a USB cable, DriveDroid allows your phone to emulate a bootable USB drive, within certain limitations.

For burning discs, use the Disc Epitome Tools on modern versions of Windows, Burn on macOS, and Brasero on nigh graphical versions of Linux. Legacy and modern Windows users can download CDBurnerXP.

Kaspersky Rescue Disk

One of Kaspersky’s many free tools, this bootable ISO image is my go-to pick for a fast rescue, with straightforward options powered by one of the best malware detection engines in the concern. Download it from here

Kaspersky Anti-Virus

Essential Virus Protection

Our 5-star rated anti-virus blocks malware and viruses in real fourth dimension and stops hackers, now 50% off at just £12.49

  • Kaspersky
  • Was £24.99
  • £12.49 per yr

View Offering

Eset SysRescue

Downloadable equally either an ISO or an IMG file, SysRescue has more features than most rivals, with granular scanning and malware removal options. Select the prototype you lot need at https://world wide web.eset.com/int/support/sysrescue/

Online virus scanners

Designed to provide a quick scan without interfering with any existing security software you have installed, online scanners can also aid you work around malware that tries to knobble your installed antivirus.

They’re usually either spider web apps that allow you to upload files for analysis or a rather unhelpful name for a pocket-sized, downloadable on-demand scanner. The old are truly cross-platform, while the latter may only work on ane or 2 operating systems, unremarkably Windows, sometimes macOS. Don’t confuse them with deject-based scanners.

These scanners are very blank-bones, with few options, and frequently crave an cyberspace connectedness to function. Existent-time protection is not included, but some allow you to schedule regular scans.

Even if you’re not dealing with a virus emergency, these tin be useful to continue around to double-check anything you’re suspicious of, and supplement the capabilities of whatever full security suite you accept installed, whether that’due south Microsoft Defender or a third-party option.

For this reason, make sure you get an on-demand or “online” scanner that uses a different malware detection engine to your installed antivirus suite.


VirusTotal is ane of the simplest online scanners out there, and the but ane there with no download requirement. Merely drag and driblet a suspicious file or paste in a dubious URL to get a most-instant cess of whether or non information technology presents a threat. No downloads required, which ways you tin use this browser-based tool on almost any platform. Analyse files and URL now at https://www.virustotal.com/

VirusTotal in-browser analysis results page
VirusTotal can give you instant assay of any suspicious file yous upload

Trend Micro HouseCall

Windows and macOS users can download an application to quickly scan their PC and even local network for threats using Trend’s malware detection engine. You tin salvage the HouseCall launcher to run whenever you like, merely it won’t exist automatically updated, so you’ll have to manually download new versions periodically. Versions for both operating systems are bachelor at https://world wide web.trendmicro.com/en_us/forHome/products/housecall.html

Eset Online Scanner

Eset Online Scanner has a periodic scan choice and has an offline mode, although this volition just have available the virus database it downloaded concluding fourth dimension you used it while connected to the internet. Confusingly, the Online Scanner is referred to on its download folio as a ane-time scan, just it’s really a very cut-down version of Eset’south honour-winning antivirus, with minimal options, no real-time protection, and the option of uninstalling it later on every scan. Download it at https://www.eset.com/us/habitation/online-scanner/

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