Keeping your computer clean and secure requires more than removing viruses. Many pieces of malicious code are designed to circumvent antivirus protection. These applications can range from minor annoyances like potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) to advertisements (adware) to outright malicious software (malware and spyware) that can cripple your day-to-day usage. We tested some of the latest and greatest antimalware kits that can help you before your PC is compromised. These Windows apps will work in conjunction with your current antivirus software as an additional layer of protection.

The pros

HitmanPro, HitmanPro Alert


HitmanPro is one of our favorite tools for getting rid of adware, thanks to its light footprint and quick deployment. Recently its makers debuted a new product, HitmanPro Alert. Unlike other scanners, HitmanPro does not directly target malware. The application identifies malicious software by how it enters your system. Watching for known exploit methods and tricks, as well as performing file and Registry comparison checks, HitmanPro can quarantine potentially harmful software before it gets a chance to act. There's no need for virus definition updates, and the preventative approach increases the likelihood of catching first-day exploits. Hitman Pro is an on-demand scanner; if you're after active protection, check out HitmanPro Alert.

The newcomer

Reason Core Security


Reason Core Security combines Reason Software's top products in one convenient pack: Should I Remove It? to cull the bloatware that comes with a new computer; HerdProtect, a cloud-based malware scanner; Boost, a performance utility; and the popular Unchecky, which deselects third-party software offers to stop them from tagging along when you're installing an app you do want. If you're looking for a comprehensive cleanup and prevention kit, Reason Core Security is a must.

The classic



Veteran malware fighters will remember this old favorite as a dependable, lightweight antimalware tool. Spybot has a long history of removing unwanted, often crippling software through its extensive toolkit. The current version has features like Immunization (blacklisting known hosts of unwanted or harmful applications) and Boot CD Creator, which enables a clean boot to remove even the most persistent spyware.

The do-it-yourselfers

HijackThis, Combofix, AdwCleaner


For troublesome malware that refuses to leave, try the hands-on method of tracking down and manually deleting the offenders. Luckily, you won't have to shift through all those green codes alone. HijackThis from Trend Micro can generate reports to list key processes and Registry areas that are commonly used by both legitimate and malicious applications. Combofix and AdwCleaner are extreme options that will delve deeply into your system to clean out the most stubborn hijackers. All three tools require some technical knowledge but can evict the most stubborn intruders.

The champ



When it comes to malware removal, we have to mention the best in the field, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. Available as an on-demand scanner as well as an active-protection utility, it can remove the majority of malware in the wild, and it's the most active in updating its heuristic approach. Malwarebytes' zero-day Anti-Exploits specifically shield your browser and its add-ons from malicious code that could harm your system. Besides protecting popular browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera, the premium version of Anti-Exploits also prevents malware intrusions from PDF readers, media players, and Microsoft Office files. Expect serious protection, even from the latest ransomware, when you're running Malwarebytes.

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Raised in the Bay Area but educated on the sandy beaches of San Diego, Tuong writes for specializing in Windows Security and Mobile Apps.