How to make sure a PC is malware-free

Nothing lasts forever, and you are likely about to end the summer holidays and start a new period of ‘back to school.’ Before entering the daily battle, it is an excellent time to perform maintenance on our favorite computer equipment, performing those set-up tasks that are going to offer us real benefits in terms of performance and reliability, as well as those related to cybersecurity and especially the search for malware on a PC.

The amount of malicious code that reaches global technology week after week is staggering. Install a good security solution to combat it is mandatory in professional areas. We can say almost the same in consumer areas, with the necessary caution when browsing the Internet, downloading files, or correctly managing emails and links on social networks.

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How to scan a PC for malware

As not all computers have security solutions installed and also not all types of malware can be fought once the operating system has started because they are loaded in memory, making their detection and elimination difficult, the use of an external means independent of the PC to be analyzed, capable of detecting and disinfecting malware and without the need for a permanent installation that ends up affecting its performance to some degree, it is an ideal solution.

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All the big security providers offer these kinds of solutions. Most are  Linux-based and provided in “Live CD / USB” formats, created and bootable from optical drives, USB sticks, or external drives.

A list of the best available:

  1. Kaspersky Rescue Disk. Kaspersky has not updated the interface for a long time, but its Gentoo-based rescue disk has the incredible power of the leader in consumer security solutions. You download the ISO image, save it to bootable media, and use it.
  2. ESET SysRescue Live. ESET offers the download of an image to burn and provides the possibility to create it directly on CD or USB. Perfectly updated interface and is very easy to use.
  3. Bitdefender Rescue CD. Personally, it is one of the ones I like the most. It uses a Linux based on Xubuntu that allows greater possibilities and virus elimination. You download the ISO from the link and burn it in the middle.
  4. AVG Rescue CD. Offers two different images for creation on CD or USB. Its interface is quite spartan based on text but doesn’t be scared, it does its job, and like the rest, it previously updates the virus database to the latest available.
  5. Panda SafeDisk. Another that, like Kaspersky, has not been updated for a long time but continues to fulfill its function. Very easy to use because it does not have too many customization options. It loads a wizard that automatically searches for available antivirus definitions and, when start is pressed, begins scanning the entire system for malicious files.
  6. Trend Micro Rescue Disk. Effortless creation of the rescue medium at the click of a button from your website and with the option to choose CD / DVD or USB disk/pen drive. Its interface is the most spartan of the entire list, in a minimalist text mode with a few basic options.
  7. Norton Bootable Recovery Tool. Symantec offers startup disk creation with a wizard that makes it easy to create it without external applications once you have downloaded the tool. Once started, you will see a graphical but minimalist interface without customization options, with two main options: scan and clean.
  8. Avira Rescue System. I offered to download an image to create the medium. Graphical interface with few functions but easy to use. Like others that we have seen with a simple interface, its power lies in the search and disinfection engine and its ability to update the virus database, something that all of them do.
  9. F-Secure Rescue CD. Another of the simplest and at the same time easy to use. There is no natural user interface with a Knoppix database except for a text-based dialog, where you will be asked if you want to start the analysis.
  10. Avast. It is the only one on the list that does not offer direct download of an image, and the only way is to create the rescue disk from an Avast solution. The good news is that it can be done from the free desktop version. The downside is that you have to install it first.

Using these solutions is straightforward once the rescue media is created. We reboot the machine with the medium inserted in its location to boot from it. If we have not done it previously, we will have to enter the BIOS to place the optical or USB drive as the first boot media, always before the hard drive or SSD where we have the system installed.

The media created is a “Live CD” format, so we will not have to install anything on our computer’s hard drive or SSD. Some solutions offer a visual environment and more functions. In contrast, others use a text-mode dedicated entirely to malware, understanding that the main thing is the power of its engine and the updates of its virus base, something that everyone does before scanning the system.

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Some solutions are highly customizable, allow you to search for malware, select scan, disinfection, boot sector, quick or complete scan, files and folders on hard drives or external drives, network access, heuristic method, and almost everything can find in one installable security solution.

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In summary: A group of excellent tools that any user should not miss because they allow to locate and disinfect malware from a PC in a simple way without touching the operating system. A consumer (because business computers are something else) can save himself on installed antivirus if he is cautious about security and uses it as a regular maintenance task.

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