Your antivirus or antimalware suite keeps your system clean. At least, it does most of the time. Security programs are better than ever, but some malware still squeezes through the gaps. There is also the other common issue: the human touch. Where there is a human, there is a chance for malware to slip through.
When that happens, you can reach for a bootable antivirus disk. A bootable antivirus disk is a malware removal environment that works like a Linux Live CD or USB. Here are seven free bootable antivirus disks you should check out.
1. Kaspersky Rescue Disk
The Kaspersky Rescue Disk is one of the best bootable antivirus disks, allowing you to scan an infected machine with ease. The Kaspersky Rescue Disk scanner has a reasonable range of antivirus scanning options, including individual folder scanning, startup objects, system drive, and fileless objects. You can also scan your system boot sectors, which is a nice option to find stubbornly hidden malware.
That said, the Kaspersky Rescue Disk does come with a smattering of additional tools, such as Firefox, a file manager, and more.
Another handy Kaspersky Rescue Disk feature is the graphic or text-based interface. For most users, the GUI is the best option, but the text-only mode is available for low power machines or otherwise.
Kaspersky consistently achieves high scores in antivirus testing, and the Kaspersky Rescue Disk brings that to you in a bootable format. Kaspersky also features in our list of the best antivirus suites for Windows 10.
Download: Kaspersky Rescue Disk (Free)
2. Bitdefender Rescue CD
Bitdefender Rescue CD is of the same ilk as Kaspersky’s offering. It is a large download, has a simple to use UI, and comes with several antivirus scan options to help you figure out what’s wrong with your system.
The scanning interface is easy to navigate, allowing you to exclude certain file types, scan archive files (such as a .ZIP or .7z), scan files below a particular size, or just drag and drop individual files into the scanner. For the most part, however, the standard scan is fine as you want to make sure your system is free of malware.
Also included in the Bitdefender Rescue CD is Firefox, a file browser, disk recovery tool, and a few other utilities.
The major downside to Bitdefender Rescue CD is that it is no longer updated; therefore, the virus signatures are outdated. Still, it is a decent rescue disk.
Download: Bitdefender Rescue CD (Free)
3. Avira Rescue System
Avira Rescue System is an Ubuntu-based bootable antivirus rescue disc. The Avira Rescue Disc is one of the best bootable antivirus environments for beginners, as it includes a handy guide to walk you through scanning your drives. Moreover, Avira offers very little in the way of scan customization. Again, this might suit a beginner, as there is less chance of turning part of a scan off and missing a malicious file.
The Avira Rescue System environment is easy to navigate, with a streamlined interface of labeled boxes. Like the other options, the Avira Rescue System includes a web browser and a disk partitioning tool amongst others.
As Avira is an Ubuntu-based rescue disk, it also works well with Linux-based systems.
Download: Avira Rescue System (Free)
4. Trend Micro Rescue Disk
From three of the largest bootable antivirus rescue disks to the smallest. The Trend Micro Rescue Disk may well be the smallest bootable antivirus disk on this list, but it packs a handy punch that will help you regain control of your system.
Given its size (around 70MB at the time of writing), you can forgive that the Trend Micro Rescue Disk has no graphical user interface. Instead, you use the rescue disk exclusively through plain text menus. It sounds a little daunting. But in practice, the text menus are simple to navigate, and you will find your way through.
Download: Trend Micro Rescue Disk for Windows (Free)
5. Dr.Web Live Disk
Despite the slightly suspect name (Dr.Web sounds like a phony internet firm, to me at least), Dr.Web Live Disk offers a wide range of antivirus scanning options in its bootable antivirus environment. In comparison with the alternatives, Dr.Web’s range of scanning options is extensive.
For instance, you can configure the types and sizes of files for inclusion and exclusion. You can set individual actions for specific types of malware, such as a bootkit, dialer, adware, and so on. You can also limit the amount of time the virus scan spends on individual files, handy if you have multiple large media file types.
Dr.Web Live Disk has another string in its bow, too: you can use it to scan Linux systems.
Download: Dr.Web Live Disk (Free)
6. AVG Rescue
AVG is one of the most recognizable names in security. The AVG Rescue disk has a very basic, text-only interface, but it does allow for customizable scanning.
For instance, you can mount a specific Windows volume and scan only that, or scan specific files within that volume. Alternatively, you can scan Windows Startup objects or even just the Windows Registry to seek out specific malware types. (Should you clean the Windows Registry, anyway?) In addition, AVG Rescue comes with a few diagnostic and analytical tools to help you fix drive specific issues, rather than just straight-up malware.
The very basic text interface won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Having to navigate back and forth through the interface using the arrow keys is infuriating at times. But, given the range of options available and the accuracy of the AVG Rescue disk scanner, you might overlook the arrow keys.
Download: AVG Rescue (Free)
7. ESET SysRescue Live
The final bootable antivirus disk for your consideration is ESET SysRescue Live, an advanced antivirus rescue disk with lots of features.
ESET SysRescue Live comes with extensive antivirus scan control. You can scan archives, email folders, symbolic links, boot sectors, and more, or use the ESET scan profiles. The ESET SysRescue Live disk also packs in a disk analysis tool to check for defects and other failures, plus a memory test tool to check your system RAM for errors.
The rescue environment also comes with the Chromium browser, partition manager GParted, TeamViewer for remote system access, and a smattering of other handy utilities.
Download: ESET SysRescue Live (Free)
What Is the Best Free Bootable Antivirus Disk?
For me, the best free bootable antivirus disk is a toss-up between Kaspersky Rescue Disk and Dr.Web Live Disk.
The Kaspersky Rescue Disk is cumbersome but effective, updating regularly and backed with Kaspersky’s excellence in the field of security. But it doesn’t have the same extensive functionality as the Dr.Web Live Disk. While the latter cannot truly compete with Kaspersky on scanning terms alone, the scanning options available in the Dr.Web Live Disk make it a handy tool.
Regarding the other tools, all are strong and will clean your system. Depending on the severity of the malware, you could download two bootable antivirus disks and run them one after the other to make sure nothing slips through the net.
For more malware removal advice, check out our malware removal guide.
Image Credit: Asiorek/Depositphotos