Freeware Files: Five Apps for Advanced Virus/Malware Elimination!

TheMurph

Alright, I'll admit it.  I finally got hit with a virus.

Well, sort-of. I first thought that the strange "YOUR COMPUTER IS NOT PROTECTED" icon in my taskbar was some indication that my antivirus software of-choice had finally flipped out for good. Double-clicking on the icon brought up an obviously fake replica of Windows Security Essentials that, more annoyingly, wouldn't close no matter how many times I clicked on it. Over and over, my machine would be assaulted with "*.exe is not secure!" messages. My Internet sessions grinded to a halt no matter which browser I tried using. I started to fear for the safety of my World of Warcraft account.

As it turns out, I only got nailed with an annoying piece of malware. But after running through a number of analysis and removal techniques (which ultimately failed, as I had managed to disable the malware's process from starting up as-is using good ol' msconfig), I had amassed quite a list of rootkit removal programs, hardcore malware eliminators, and antivirus applications that were more surgeons in training than general practitioners.

I now share them with you.

Look, it's easy enough to install a common antivirus scanner on your system and call it a day. But you, like me, might forget to do so throughout the course of your PC building life. Or, worse, your system might become compromised in such a way as to render your analytical tools entirely useless. In that case, it's time to roll up your shirtsleeves and get crackin' with the digital equivalent of bleach for your mucked-up PC.

ComboFix

We'll start with a biggie.  ComboFix is a super-power analytical tool for finding tough-to-reach spyware and malware infestations and blowing them to digital bits.  A word to the wise, however: consider this the bug-bomb of your cleaning arsenal.  While it could very well solve your problems in one big hit, you might also end up killing your house cat if you haven't taken the necessary precautions during the elimination.  For example, make sure you're running the most up-to-date version of the application.  Or, better yet, hit up one of these forums to make sure that said latest version is running perfectly and accurately on other people's systems.

Due to its power, ComboFix does have the capacity to make unexpected alterations to your computer.  That's not to say that ComboFix intends to turn your system into a brick; that's just a possible side effect of the application's comprehensive techniques for rooting out your malware woes.  Tread carefully.  Or, better yet, hit up the aforementioned forums and post your log file if you're having any trouble (or are still infected) after-the-fact: ComboFix is, in many ways, an analytical tool for giving other users the information they need to know in order to write you a customized solution to your issue.

Download it here !

Avira AntiVir Rescue System

Oftentimes, a virus will be buried so deep within your system that it's impossible to isolate it for deletion.  Perhaps the virus spawns multiple copies of its executable whenever its closed.  Maybe there's just no way for you to prevent the unwanted executable from loading whenever you fire up a specific program or, worse, your operating system as a whole.  Booting into safe mode isn't an option (or doesn't work), and you're running low on options.

Thus enters Avira's AntiVir Rescue System.  Burn this image to a disc and tuck it away in a safe place.  The next time your system reaches catastrophic levels, slap this CD into your drive and boot directly into the Linux-based antivirus environment.  The app will allow you to perform one of three lifesaving features on your compromised system: rescuing your system's data in case you have to nuke your hard drive for good, repairing the system as-is, and running a comprensive virus scan across every bit of data on your drive.  If none of these three options save your system, you might want to take your hard drive out in the back yard and throw some holy water on it.

Download it here !

RootRepeal

Simply put, rootkits are the scourge of a functioning, happy system.  To defeat these powerful instruments of digital pain, you need an equally strong--yet flexible--solution for assessing the situation and eliminating the problem.  RootRepeal is that program for you. But I warn you, this isn't your average one-click elimination utility.  RootRepeal is a comprehensive scanning application that requires you to think through the information it's able to pull up about the hidden, locked, or fake files on your system.  Similarly, RootRepeal works to diagnose system functions that have been hooked: a classic sign of a middleman-type program that's affecting your system when things are otherwise looking fine.

This program only scans; it doesn't fix.  That said, you need to know your enemy before you can Google up ways to eliminate him.

Download it here !

Erunt

If your registry has become too corrupt by malware or other such digital baddies, you usually have no choice but to start a brand-new path toward a working operating system--a format, a reinstall, and a few more hours spent getting your system back the way it was pre-destruction.  Erunt aims to take a little burden off your shoulders by offering you a means for backing up and restoring your registry.  The application can back up your registry as you see fit or, if you're especially nervous, can automatically back up your registry with each boot of the operating system.  While that might not do you much good if your corrupt registry becomes your new backup, Erunt could still be the guiding light between you and the unpleasant task of a complete system rebuild.  To that, I say, "yuck."

Download it here !

Returnil

One of the surest ways to avoid a catastrophic infection of your system is to block it off from modifications by any person that isn't you.  You can accomplish this one of three ways: locking the door to your room, setting up a password on your machine that's some horrific obscenity (as to discourage friendly use), or slapping your entire system in a virtualized environment with Returnil.  But this isn't just some VMware clone.  No, Returnil actually locks down your primary operating system (when activated) without the typical resource drains of having to have an entirely second virtualized environment up-and-running.  Changes to the Returnil-based OS can be committed to a virtual drive or non-system disk if you so desire.  Otherwise, any alterations made within the operating system will be eliminated upon the restart of your system.

Jumping in and out of this "System Safe" mode just requires a simple restart of your PC.  If you're throwing a party or otherwise opening up your system for access by other users--or if you happen to install a ton of freeware applications each week as a part of your job--Returnil is the best solution for keeping your system in perfect working order.

Download it here !

David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. Befriend him on Twitter, especially if you have an awesome app or game you're dying to recommend!

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