In a mad rush? Here is our Number One adware removal recommendation, so dive right in.
Norton 360 - This software eliminates adware from all your devices and web browsers and scans in real-time to stop adware and intrusive pop-ups from being downloaded. Norton 360 also has advanced malware scanning, a VPN, anti-phishing and webcam protection, parental controls, dark web protection, and many more extras.
We evaluated every adware removing tool on today’s market. Our job was to discover the top software to detect, remove, and prevent all types of adware infestations.
It was a bigger challenge than we imagined. Finding the software that provides top-quality adware protection was no mean feat. In particular, we wanted class-setting adware detection. But first, we had to filter those that were inferior at pinpointing and blocking adware. And, just as importantly, exiling any anti-adware software that conceals adware.
Thankfully, we did manage to find a handful of products that met our criteria. All the software we showcase provides consistently reliable and efficient adware detection and elimination. And they have real-time scanning to prevent fresh adware from being installed.
Thanks to our rigorous testing, we learned that the best adware removal software is found in antivirus products with internet security features. Typically, these antiviruses include:
● 100% effective adware removing and blocking
● real-time malware technology
● protection against phishing
● Virtual Private Networks
● Monitoring of the dark web
● ID theft safeguards
● and many other features
That said, there are some pretty competent proprietary adware removal offerings. However, they tend not to be as accomplished as feature-rich antivirus packages. This is because they don’t include advanced scanning or have extra cybersecurity measures.
We compared each of our five adware picks for security, value for money, features, and ease of use. Here’s what we uncovered.
Best adware removing software - a quick overview
- Norton 360 - Tops for adware finding and removal.
- Avira - Advanced detection. Includes cloud-based malware scanning too.
- McAfee - Excellent all-rounder with malware scanner and full internet protection tools.
- TotalAV: Speedy malware scanner with great adware removing tools.
- Bullguard - Great adware detector with ID theft protection.
Spybot Search and Destroy - Simple but effective adware and spyware removal software.
AdwCleaner - Fast and free, no-fuss adware cleaning.
We tested the most popular adware cleaning apps. We checked that they could detect and eliminate adware from computers, mobile devices, and browsers. They also had to stop new adware from being downloaded.
We also used the following benchmarks:
We tested whether the software could halt adware in real-time as well as viruses, ransomware, and spyware.
Stopping adware also depends on robust online security. Therefore, we looked for software that included online security features such as:
● anti-phishing tools
● virtual private networks
● ID theft protection
● network firewalls
● and other tools to ensure adware was blocked at the source.
Ease of use
All our showcased products had to be user-friendly, intuitive, and come with meaningful guides and how-tos to make it into our top five.
Value for money
We compared each software’s removal tools, web security features, anti-malware engines, and cost to ensure they represented the best value for money.
Norton 360 is our fav adware removal tool by some margin. During our tests, Norton red-flagged up every item of adware we dropped onto Windows PCs, MacBooks, and Android phones. These test adware samples ranged from annoying pop-ups to clever browser hijacks.
We also assessed Norton’s anti-malware with a wide variety of malware. Norton successfully identified and stopped all the spyware and ransomware files we planted on our test devices. Including many ransomware files, rivals failed to spot.
Norton 360 also sports a suite of online security features, such as:
● anti-phishing safeguards
● unlimited data VPN
● cloud-based backups
● webcam security
● monitoring of the dark web
● parental controls
● ID theft protection*
*Applies only to the USA
Norton’s measures to combat phishing are among the best available. For example, in our tests, Norton blocked more suspicious websites than the integral anti-phishing tools in either Chrome or Firefox.
We were also impressed by Norton’s VPN. In addition to encrypting data and keeping users safe on public Wi-Fi hotspots, it also defeated ad trackers. These were trying to collect personal information. So it’s no surprise that we also rate Norton as the top antivirus with a built-in VPN.
There are two versions of Norton 360 - Standard and Deluxe. These are the key differences:
Norton 360 Standard
● sophisticated adware removal
● anti-malware scanning
● firewall for your network
● anti-phishing measures
● Virtual Private Network
● 10 GB of storage space
● dark web monitor, and more.
Norton 360 Deluxe
● As above, but with protection for as many as five devices
● plus 50 GB of storage space
● and great parental controls.
Users in the USA also benefit from LifeLock, which is ID theft protection complete with $1 million’s worth of insurance for ID theft damage.
Norton 360 performed well in our adware removal tests. It detected all our adware files, including the latest malware that was missed by rivals. Norton 360’s malware engine propels this software to the top spot thanks to its 100% detection rate. In addition, Norton includes first-class anti-phishing measures, an ad-blocking VPN, webcam security, cloud-based storage, dark web monitor, and lots more.
Topping it off is Norton’s 60-day money-back promise.
2 - Avira - The top free antivirus with the latest adware detection
Don’t let the zero price tag fool you; Avira is a fantastic adware remover. Avira blocked and eliminated all our adware test files, including those automatically installed without the user’s permission.
Avira has a Potentially Unwanted Advertisement shield to warn users of hidden ads in legit software. Typically, adware scanning only detects dangerous files after you have downloaded them. Avira, on the other hand, warns you before they reach your system.
Avira also deserves praise for its cloud-based anti-malware scanning. In our tests, it correctly IDd all the test Trojans, keyloggers, spyware, and ransomware. And when these test samples were relaunched, Avira blocked each of them with its real-time scanner.
Avira also comes with free web security, including:
● a secure shopping web extension
● a VPN with a 500 MB monthly cap
● system cleaning tools.
Avira’s secure browser add-on is good. It prevents:
● phishing attacks
● stops ads and trackers
● flags up suspect stores
● and even includes price comparisons
Without question, Avira is our top free antivirus. However, it has limitations unless you upgrade. Trading up gets you cybersecurity features, including an unlimited data VPN, advanced system optimization, a password manager, installation on multiple devices, and more.
Avira is a well-rounded anti-adware package, even the free version. Avira successfully targeted every test adware file and then scanned in real-time to prevent reinfection.
Avira also protects against web trackers, pop-ups, phishing websites, and YouTube adverts. For more advanced security, you should consider upgrading to AviraPrime.
3 - McAfee Total Protection - Best all-rounder
McAfee’s adware scanning and removal offering is among the finest web security you can get today.
In our tests, McAfee consistently picked up all our sample adware. In addition, it cleared the junk from the Chrome toolbar, pop-ups and even stopped adware that comes with legit third-party software.
McAfee is a great anti-malware tool. Its real-time blocking stopped all the test adware we could throw at it.
With McAfee Total Protection, you get additional web tools like:
● phishing protection
● Wi-Fi network scanning
● unlimited data VPN
● system cleaning
● parental controls
● ID theft protection (USA only)
During our tests, there was little difference between McAfee and Norton. For example, it was not possible to open spoof sites. We also liked McAfee’s Wi-Fi scanner to check for weaknesses or suspicious behavior on a home user’s network.
Also commendable is the McAfee VPN. It kept our IP address concealed while browsing, stopped advertising data being harvested, and ensured we were safe when connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots.
McAfee operates several tiers based on how many devices you wish to protect. For example, McAfee Individual protects one device while McAfee Multi-Device covers as many as five machines. Finally, McAfee Family extends coverage to as many as ten devices.
McAfee has remarkable anti-adware capabilities. It could not be defeated in any of our tests and ensured reinfection did not occur. McAfee also has great anti-malware scanning, anti-phishing features, home network scanning, and an unlimited data VPN. In addition, with tiers to cover between one and ten devices, all tiers are backed by a 30-day refund promise.
4 - TotalAV - Best for non-techies
TotalAV is a good choice for adware removal for those who aren’t tech-savvy. In tests, it cleared all the adware from our test PCs and Android phones. However, it did miss a couple in the Safari toolbar.
To its credit, TotalAV corralled all our test adware. This is perhaps unsurprising as TotalAV has the identical malware detection technology as Avira.
On the downside, TotalAV lacks many web security tools. But the features it does have are all excellent and very easy to use.
We especially loved that TotalAVs ad blocking not only halted intrusive adverts and pop-ups but also significantly reduced the risk of becoming re-infected with adware and other unwanted software.
Thanks to its ability to stop companies from tracking you, TotalAV can also speed boost your browsing as a result.
We also liked TotalAV’s system optimization tools. These make it simple to delete garbage, uninstall unwanted software, and purge your web cookies.
TotalAV offers three packages to suit your needs. Here’s a quick overview:
Antivirus Pro - If you only need adware and malware protection for up to three machines, this is a solid, affordable solution.
Internet Security - This bundles in the above plus an unlimited data VPN and protection for as many as five devices.
Total Security - This package is the premium tier. It adds in ad blocking, password management, and protection for up to six different devices.
TotalAV is, to some extent, essentially a re-badged Avira as it features the same malware engine. However, it is a great choice for adware removal, with its simple-to-use interface. You also get good ad blocking, optimization features, a VPN, and more. Plus, all TotalAV packages are covered by a 30-day refund guarantee.
5 - Bullguard - Best adware removal for gaming and gamers
Bullguard is proficient at adware discovery, catching almost 100% of the test adware samples we used. Only a couple of exceptionally advanced files sidestepped it.
On the plus side, Bullguard’s in-house developed malware engine was just as efficient as rivals Norton and Avira in detecting all forms of adware.
What makes Bullguard special for gamers is its Game Booster tool. PC games will run noticeably faster as this mode re-assigns resources to free up the processor.
Also setting Bullguard apart is its identity theft protection. While competitors like Norton and McAfee only offer this service to US users, Bullguard covers the USA, Canada, and a large part of Europe.
It also doesn’t skimp on extra features, including:
● a VPN
● anti-phishing tool
● a firewall
● and parental controls.
Bullguard also offers a range of plans to meet varying needs. These are:
Bullguard Antivirus - a great entry-level package.
Bullguard Internet Security - includes a firewall, parental management, and backups to the cloud.
Bullguard Premium Protection - the top tier adds in ID theft protection and home network scanning.
BullGuard is undeniably a good adware removal tool, thanks to its first-class engine. It’s highly recommended, especially for its Game Booster tool that gamers will love. Bullguard further distinguishes itself with its class-leading ID theft protection that applies in the US, Canada, and almost all of Europe. It’s topped off with a 30-day refund on all its antivirus packages.
We couldn’t close off our review without mentioning Spybot. It’s a rather neat standalone adware/spyware removal tool. In testing, Spybot flagged up all our test adware samples except a few advanced files that Norton managed to detect. However, Spybot managed to catch all of our test spyware and potentially unwanted software.
The free version of Spybot is limited to adware and spyware removal. It can’t identify or remove other forms of malware. However, the premium tier Spybot AV gets you real-time security against malware. Unfortunately, it was eluded by many of our malware test samples that other review software picked up.
Spybot is also found wanting when it comes to additional features that are standard in many other products. For example, there are no anti-phishing measures, no VPN, or ID theft safeguards.
Spybot didn’t make it into our top five primarily because of its limitations. However, it makes sense if you simply want a decent adware removal tool to complement your existing antivirus software.
Spybot - Search & Destroy is a much-loved free adware removing tool. In testing, it captured most of our adware test samples apart from a few advanced ones.
The paid-for version includes antivirus protection and real-time scanning but didn’t cut it in testing. The Spybot engine simply couldn’t see the advanced malware other software could tackle with ease. For this reason, we cannot recommend Spybot as an antivirus product. However, it is a free adware-removing tool that would do a good turn for users who already own top-notch antivirus software.
Also narrowly missing out on top five status is AdwCleaner, a fast, simple yet efficient tool for banishing adware. It’s a spin-off from one of the top antivirus products, Malwarebytes.
Throughout testing, AdwCleaner coped well with adware, removing the test samples from our browsers and desktops. It even flagged up bloatware that accompanied a new printer. In addition, there was a noticeable performance improvement when AdwCleaner removed junk from PCs.
On the downside, AdwCleaner has no real-time capability, malware scanner, or web security tools. But that would pitch it against Malwarebytes Premium.
If you only need adware removal and detection, AdwCleaner will do a good job. But, if you are looking for a full-blown suite of malware and online security tools, you would be better off looking elsewhere.
AdwCleaner is, without doubt, the simplest of all the software we decided to highlight. It’s a one-trick pony, but it’s pretty good at it. But we would not recommend AdwCleaner as it doesn’t come with an anti-malware engine or web security features. However, if you already run solid antivirus and online security programs, AdwCleaner makes for a great add-on to your arsenal. Plus, it’s free!
Heimdal - A sound performer when it comes to identifying adware and malware. However, it’s not particularly user-friendly, so it is awkward to understand and use compared to other security products.
Webroot - This tool features a speedy antivirus scanner, competent web protection, and an easy-to-use interface. But it falls down with its adware detection. In testing, Webroot was less than stellar, missing most of the test files.
Avast/AVG - These are two legendary names in cybersecurity. Or they were until they became embroiled in a data-selling scandal. For this reason, we red-carded them from our review.
Is adware harmful?
Adware comes in many forms. Some are relatively harmless, but others are very harmful.
Adware can easily infect a web browser. Simply adding an icon to the toolbar can be enough. These icons attempt to transfer you to websites designed to steal your data or sell you stuff. Adware can also impact your search bar, replacing results with links to products and hoodwinking you into going to potentially dangerous websites.
Further, adware can generate false notifications. For example, they will often claim your security is weak and hound you into purchasing an upgrade for software you may not even have installed.
Adware removal software is built to detect telltale suspicious behavior and warn you about potentially harmful software on your device. The leading tools, such as Norton 360, don’t merely remove current adware infections. In addition, they take the next step to prevent adware from getting installed at all.
Are antivirus programs and adware removing tools the same thing?
No. This is because some antivirus software doesn’t regard adware as a significant threat.
However, the adware removers we spotlight in this review are the best around today. We have selected only the very best in the marketplace.
Each of our spotlighted products offers great protection against all adware types and guard against other security threats into the bargain.
They also come with some truly fantastic internet security features like anti-phishing countermeasures, firewalls, and VPN (mostly unlimited data) to ensure you are safe and secure every time you are online.
Is adware really necessary nowadays?
Yes, for sure. The best adware tools will proactively scan your computer for suspicious behavior. For example, if a process attempts to make system changes, open pop-up windows, or send data to an external server, the action is halted. You are then notified and asked if you wish to give permission for the action in question.
Adware removers can also scan all your downloads to make sure none contain any adware. All of our top 5 adware contenders provide real-time scanning. They ensure advanced detection technology evaluates every file or item you download to stop any adware from getting a foothold in your system.
How can I tell if an adware removal app is legitimate?
The best way to be certain is by only ever installing reputable online security software. You should also make a point to only download them directly via the developer’s official website.
You don’t want to have any dodgy cybersecurity software on your machine. This is because this type of software is allowed access to system files. Fake security software websites will take advantage of this to install malware on your computer system.
We have included official website links to all the adware removal tools we have showcased here. You can therefore be sure that what you download is the genuine article. And that it will keep your online life safe and secure.