Kill Windows Viruses With an Ubuntu Live CD

Danny Stieben 22-11-2012

Today’s anti-virus solutions are pretty reliable, protecting you from most of the common threats out there in the world. With safe browsing habits, there’s a rare chance that you’d ever get infected with malware. However, there’s never a guarantee that you’ll be completely safe if you are simply careful and run your anti-virus software.


Especially when it comes to zero-day threats, sometimes things just happen to you that you can’t blame on yourself. No matter if it’s your fault or not that your Windows system gets infected, you’ll need a plan to get rid of it before it renders your system completely unusable without serious recovery methods.

If the malware you’ve caught prevents you from touching any sort of tool that might have a chance in removing it, you should probably take a look at using an Ubuntu Live CD.

Anti-Virus on Linux?

While there are a handful of anti-virus solutions available for Linux, they aren’t made to combat Linux viruses. As there are barely any Linux viruses in existence (let alone in circulation), these tools still detect Windows viruses. Essentially, the only difference is that it runs in a Linux environment instead of a Windows environment.

How It Works

The great thing about an Ubuntu Live CD is that you can do anything you want on it, including installing programs, even though it’s just running temporarily in your RAM. Therefore, this means that you can run an Ubuntu Live CD, install an anti-virus solution, and then run a scan on your Windows files. It should then be able to detect and deal with any threats that it finds, without an infected Windows environment running in the background that could possibly block such measures from being taken.


As I summarized above, the process is quite simple. You’ll first need to download a copy of Ubuntu by going to their website. You’ll have the choice between downloading via your browser, or by using a torrent client. The torrent way is usually faster, but not all networks allow them to be used because many illegal software downloads occur using the protocol. However, it is completely fine for legal downloads such as Ubuntu.


You’ll then want to either burn it to a CD or write it onto a USB flash drive. To burn it to a CD, you’ll simply need to right-click on the .iso file that you downloaded, and choose the Windows Disc Image Burner application. It should then do the rest for you automatically. To write the ISO file onto a USB drive, you can use UNetbootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin We've already talked about Linux and why you should try it, but probably the hardest part of getting used to Linux is getting it in the first place. For Windows users, the simplest way is... Read More . If you would like, you may also follow Ubuntu’s easy instructions on their website for burning a DVD or writing to a USB drive, which I recommend at least taking a look at.

Next, boot up your system from the newly created media. You can accomplish this by entering your system’s BIOS by hitting buttons like F11, Escape, or Delete repeatedly – literally as soon as you turn on your computer. You’ll then want to head over to your boot tab and choose the DVD or USB drive as your primary boot device. Then hit F10 to save your settings and restart. If you wish, you may again follow Ubuntu’s instructions on how to do this.

ubuntu live cd

Once loaded, you’ll want to head over to the Ubuntu Software Center and search for “clamtk“. When it appears, go ahead and install it. Clamtk is a graphical user interface for the Clam Antivirus software, the most popular open-source antivirus solution in existence.


ubuntu live

Although Clamtk has a mechanism to update virus definitions, it only does so once a day, and cannot be initiated manually without going through a setup wizard. Either go through the wizard by going to Advanced –> Rerun antivirus setup wizard, then choosing Manual instead of Automatic. Then click on Help –> Check for Updates to install the latest definitions  — if you’ve never used Ubuntu before, the menus are located in the top panel while the antivirus application is in focus, similar to a Mac. You may also avoid the wizard and simply open a terminal and run:

sudo freshclam

ubuntu live cd


Once the definitions are updated, head over to Scan –> Recursive Scan, and then choose your Windows partition. Wait a while for it to scan all your files and remove any threats, and you should be good to go! Just restart your computer with the Linux media removed, and you should be back in a virus-free Windows.

If you don’t want to use this particular antivirus for any reason, other popular choices include AVAST and AVG. In fact, check out the anti-virus section on MakeUseOf’s Best Linux Software The Best Linux Software and Apps Whether you're new to Linux or you're a seasoned user, here are the best Linux software and apps you should be using today. Read More  page for all recommended anti-virus programs.


Viruses and other malware can become quite a pest because of how difficult they are to remove. However, knowing some very useful tips like this one can help you save a lot of time and get on with using your computer. In case all techniques fail, you can always use the Ubuntu Live CD to back up your files before you restore your system. Also, there’s never a bad idea to taking a look at Linux to see if it could become your new main operating system!

How do you deal with viruses? Do you use Linux for virus removal or backup/recovery tasks? Let us know in the comments!


Image Credit: Internet background with binary code via Shutterstock

Explore more about: Anti-Malware, Computer Maintenance, Live CD, Ubuntu.

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  1. MocoLoco
    May 7, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    When using UNetbootin to install Ubuntu on a USB flash drive, you can set it up to be perpetual (save your files and installed software from one boot to the next boot) by entering in a size on the option "Space used to preserve files across reboots (Ubuntu only):" I would recommend using as big of a USB drive as you can (like 64GB), that way you have plenty of space to install several Anti-virus programs or any other utility that you may want/need.

  2. Qwopy
    February 10, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Great except with ubuntu 14.04LTS I have no search option in the software centre so I cant locate any antivirus software, and the "$sudo apt-get install clamtk" is unable to locate any packages. And the best linux software page has no antivirus software on it anymore.

  3. David Commini
    January 13, 2013 at 2:38 am

    I've been told that this is similar to what Geek Squad does (I use to work at a Best Buy and this is what the GS guys told me). As of yet I have had no occasion to try it out... :-(

  4. ruth ann
    December 17, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Thanks for the information, sometimes we need all the help you guys can give us

  5. Vishal Srivastava
    December 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I have Kubuntu and AVG. Both work great in combating Windows viruses.

  6. Debra Beshears
    November 29, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Thank you for this article. I am going to try this.

  7. Anonymous
    November 29, 2012 at 4:27 am

    however you have to download and install ClamTK every time, and that's just annoying. It also depends on there being an Internet connection, which isn't always available.

  8. AkashG
    November 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I am already using Ubuntu Live CD for preventing my Windows from being infected.
    I don't install antivirus in Linux & scan windows every it seems to be infected but use that process in extreme cases.
    I mainly boot into Ubuntu any delete the traces of the virus manually:
    · First, I delete all the $Recycler or $Recycle.Bin folder and Autorun.inf (if exists) in each of the partitions.
    · Secondly, the System volume Information (but not every time coz it contains the system restore files) &
    · Then the %Temp% files.
    This cleans all the possibility of the virus to execute automatically while booting into windows.
    Thus my PC remains safe.

    • Irfan Ahmed
      December 11, 2012 at 11:34 am

      How do you locate %temp% location of Windows in Ubuntu?

  9. automan 1
    November 27, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Need to be careful with Clam TK. Installed it on Mandriva one time and couldn't get it uninstalled to save my life later. Had to do a re-install to get rid of it.

  10. automan 1
    November 27, 2012 at 12:54 am

    I've used Bit defender for years. Has come in really handy a couple of times and saved a lot of heartache. Let alone my wife's work computer set-up. She works from home on her own windows set-up used by a large national company that got infected on a national scale. Talk about a fiasco. Bitdefender allowed me to isolate the virus and her her back-up and running in less than an hour total.

  11. Benhari Abdelghani
    November 26, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    it looks like a good solution i hope i'd never need to test it hhh

  12. Pradeep Kumar
    November 26, 2012 at 1:26 pm


  13. Paolo Maffezzoli
    November 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Great article, thanks for sharing.

  14. Edward Bellair
    November 25, 2012 at 2:17 am

    Love it!

  15. Ole Funch
    November 24, 2012 at 8:06 am

    I've allways been against learning Ubuntu/Linux (No - don't no why), but this looks as a very good tool, which I abs. are going to try.

  16. Godel
    November 24, 2012 at 1:45 am

    As others have stated, use one of the rescue disk downloads from the established AV publishers, such as Kaspersky, Avast etc. in lieu of Clam AV.

    I support open source, free software but this is one area where they can't compete with the AV majors. While the commercial AV programs typically detect 90% plus of malware in tests, Clam AV is typically around the 60% detected mark. I'll bet they're not too hot on reinstatement as well.

  17. Mike Stone
    November 23, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    It would be nice to have a print button somewhere in these articles. A lot of work is done on netbooks on a network or homegroup, but a menu to print is sometimes hard to find. Just more convenient to hit a button on the same page you're reading.

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      I'll see if your suggestion can be taken into consideration!

  18. Efi Dreyshner
    November 23, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Nice XD
    I am using Hiren's Boot CD for those cases :)

  19. ha14
    November 23, 2012 at 9:32 am

    this is good tool, ubuntu live cd is always handy, many would like to scan computer with more than one antivirus.

  20. Terafall
    November 23, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Another good reason to use Ubuntu

  21. mangesh kharche
    November 23, 2012 at 6:03 am

    nice article.. very useful for me.thanks.

  22. Richard Steven Hack
    November 23, 2012 at 5:58 am

    While this is a decent approach, the Clam Antivirus engine is hardly one of the top malware detectors. You should probably install one of the better AVs which have Linux editions.

    AVG: They also have a Rescue CD which runs Linux: AVG Rescue CD:

    You're much better off burning a free Ultimate Boot CD for Windows which enables you to use a stripped-down Windows environment, and includes several different AV/antimalware programs of higher quality such as Antivir. It also includes quite a few other utilities which might help if the malware has compromised the integrity of the OS. This is a tool which many tech support guys like me use.

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm

      Thanks for the tips! All of them sound good, although I have to add that avast's Linux version is a bit buggy. At least on Ubuntu 12.10 64-bit it is.

  23. mohit kumar
    November 23, 2012 at 4:30 am

    It works all the time.

  24. Jon Smith
    November 23, 2012 at 3:25 am

    cool a AV for linux but could you write an article of infections and viruses that linux is prone to?

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2012 at 7:58 pm

      I could try to, but I'll admit right now that writing about Linux viruses would be rather difficult. There aren't many that are even created, less that are in circulation, and even less that are even being talked about. It'd be quite the research project (although very interesting).

  25. Anonymous
    November 23, 2012 at 1:46 am

    This is the kind of information that I don't find at other tech sites. Even the Linux sites seem very skimpy on this type of windows/linux hybrid information.

    The "You may also like:" links after the article are also very helpful.

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Thanks for the feedback! :)

  26. Rahul Sethi
    November 23, 2012 at 1:20 am

    Even better is use kaspersky/bitdefender bootable linux based recovery distro ... it downloads the latest definitions .. boots live n wipes of all the shit from ur PC ... n its absolutely free

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2012 at 7:56 pm

      Thanks for the tip, Rahul! Another nice option!

    • automan 1
      November 27, 2012 at 12:55 am

      That's what I use as stated before, works like a charm

  27. lee
    November 22, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    this is a very good intel for anyone out there!! thanks for this

  28. Anonymous
    November 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Always filling my tools box from makeuseof..%

    • Prasanth Mathialagan
      November 23, 2012 at 4:25 am

      Same here!!!

      • Danny Stieben
        November 25, 2012 at 7:56 pm

        Glad to hear it! :)

  29. techandlife
    November 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    I'm not clear where you are installing the AV program. Is it installed in RAM, to the hard drive or to the USB drive or CD running Ubuntu?

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2012 at 7:52 pm

      You're installing it to RAM, so Ubuntu as well as any "installed" applications will simply disappear as soon as you shutdown or reboot your system. If you would boot up Ubuntu from your CD/DVD/USB again, you'd have to reinstall it. Does that make sense?

  30. Zhong Jiang
    November 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    There are several antivirus vendors that can able to scan without loading the system, Avast packaged a feature enabling the user to scan for malware or any other malicious files on boot. It doesn't require a Ubuntu Live CD, but it's still a great system to install.

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      Oh, I forgot about that feature! I haven't used Windows in so long that my knowledge of Avast is starting to become a bit patchy. Usually, avast was my antivirus of choice when I was still using Windows.

  31. Richard Borkovec
    November 22, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Done this a few times. It works every time :)