If you’ve ever been bombarded by pop-up windows of full screen ads that you can’t easily close to view the content you actually want to see, you’ve been a victim of adware. Fortunately, there are adware removal tools to help improve your online experiences.
The best adware removal apps
The best defense against adware is to stay vigilant and be proactive. Never download software from freeware sites; always use the app store designated for your operating system such as Google Play Store or Apple Store or go directly to the software provider’s site. Avoiding suspicious links and websites, too, when you read email or browse the web can help you stay safe.
Beyond that, however, there are many adware removal tools on the market, including adware removal tools for Macs and Android devices. You can find them some for free or pay for a more robust option. The first thing is deciding which features are most important to you.
If your goal is to simply block pop-up ads and you don’t care if their software remains on your device, then you’re in the market for a pop-up blocker. But if your intention is more sophisticated, such as ferreting out adware and removing it completely from your computer or smartphone, you need an adware removal tool. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes:
- Some use heuristic analysis to spot new types of adware and can work in realtime to contain new threats and remove them.
- Others scan your system’s files and folders to quarantine adware and stop it from attacking your documents and other files.
- A few will scan downloads before you install them, helping you stop adware from ever gaining a foothold on your computer.
- An elite group will not only block and remove adware but protect you against a host of other threats, such as ransomware.
Before you decide, be certain the program you choose is compatible with your device. If you have multiple devices to protect, such as a desktop, smartphone and laptop, you’ll need to be sure the program offers you the number of licenses needed for installation on each device.
The best adware removal apps of 2020
These apps are available for different operating systems, as noted.
AdwCleaner is a robust, free program provided by Malwarebytes that detects and deletes adware, including potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), browser hijackers, and adware toolbars. Available for Windows.
- Fast and easy to install and use.
- Detects, quarantines and removes bloatware, also known as pre-installed software that’s legitimate but you don’t typically need.
- Offers a glossary with scan results, explaining different programs and why removal is recommended.
- There is no ‘clear all’ option so you must delete recommendations manually.
- You must reboot your PC during the Cleaning option.
- Only available for Windows operating systems.
Bitdefender Adware Removal Tool
Cost: Free (Macs) or $19.99 per year (Windows)
Versions of this tool are available for both Macs and Windows PCs. This program from Bitdefender performs well against adware plus removes potentially dangerous toolbars, browser add-ons and other malware. Pros/cons address Windows unless otherwise noted.
- Finds and removes temporary files as well as bloatware.
- Scans and removes keyloggers that record what you type.
- Detects and removes Genieo for Mac and Vsearch (Mac version).
- The Windows version is no longer free.
- Does not provide real-time protection.
Avast Mobile Security
Far more than a simple adware removal tool, this product from Avast is thorough and backed by a company considered highly reliable across the computer industry. Users report that it swiftly clears up adware issues that other products couldn’t. Available for Android 4.1 and up.
- Blocks spam and other unwanted calls.
- Prevents you from downloading malicious apps.
- Includes remote control tracking for your phone.
- Call blocking features not available for Android 9 and above.
- Only available for Android.
Cost: from $9.95 per year
MalwareFox isn’t well known but it should be. Available for both Windows and Android, this product was specifically designed to recognize and remove adware, along with other malware. It uses heuristic analysis to search for threats and stays focused on its job of watching and removing threats rather than offering additional bells and whistles.
- Extremely simple-to-use interface with three real-time scanning options.
- Light on resources, so it works nearly unnoticed on your computer.
- Stops ransomware, prevents browser hijacking and blocks PUPs.
- Lacks data encryption tools.
- Doesn’t offer lots of extra features.
- Some users report troubles with license keys and that it doesn’t always block remaining pop-up ads.
Cost: $24.95 per year
This is a second opinion malware scanner from Sophos, meaning HitmanPro typically works alongside a primary antivirus program to give you extra protection. It does spot and remove a variety of malware and can be used by itself. Available for Windows.
- Super fast download.
- Uses databases from four security labs.
- Cleans adware as well as a variety of other malware, including trojans and spyware.
- Only one license with fee.
- Does not offer real-time protection.
- License only activates once; if you need to reinstall Windows, you’ll need to pay again.
AVG Internet Security
Cost: $89.99 per year
This product from AVG not only gives you a free trial but lets you cover up to 10 Windows, Mac and Android devices simultaneously with your purchase. It requires creating an AVG account to access all features once installation is complete, which makes it less attractive than products with similar features.
- Provides real-time security updates and scans.
- Offers email and webcam protection, plus a toolbar remover.
- Allows for custom configuration during installation.
- The dashboard is clunky and disorganized.
- Does not include a password manager.
- Spendy but you do get a free trial.
Malwarebytes for iOS Premium
Cost: $39.99 per year
Despite urban myths, iPads and iPhones can indeed contract computer viruses, including adware, trojans and other malicious programs. There are versions of Malwarebytes from Windows, Mac, Chromebook and Android. You can only download this from the App Store but you get your first 30 days of Premium free before you will be charged.
- Includes an ad blocker for Safari.
- Blocks suspicious websites from loading.
- Offers blocking for spam calls and filters fraudulent text messages, too (iPhones only).
- Scan tends to miss most files.
- No anti-keylogger option available for Android.
- Not all features are available for iPad and iPod users.
Norton Power Eraser
Norton Power Eraser is useful but has some limitations, such as the fact that you must restart your computer to complete removal of threats. It’s a fairly aggressive second opinion malware scanner and should be used alongside a true antivirus program. Still, for a free adware removal tool, it’s a viable option. Compatible with Windows only.
- Speedy download that doesn’t require installation steps.
- Lets you scan your computer in several ways.
- Offers an option to restore files if you accidentally remove something you need.
- Produces a lot of false positives.
- Noticeably slows your system.
- You must manually approve removal of any adware or other threats.
How can I try to protect myself from adware?
Adware is becoming more and more prevalent, according to Kaspersky, a cyber security company. Although other types of malware threats are decreasing, Kaspersky noted an increase in mobile adware installations in the second quarter of 2019, more than double that of the previous year. To try and avoid becoming a victim, it’s important to follow safe download, web browsing and email practices. Follow these tips:
Install reliable antivirus software on every device you own
Windows, Apple and Android products all need protection. Do your research to determine which program will work best for your needs and consider using a second opinion malware scanner to add an extra level of safety.
Keep your antivirus and other software updated
Software providers update their programs to close gaps that hackers can exploit. Antivirus programs, too, continually add updates to help monitor your computer or smartphone for threats as new adware and other malware programs appear. Updates help keep you safe from new threats.
Use a firewall
Enable one on your computer and, if you have a home network, also use a hardware router that includes firewall protection.
Never click on links or attachments in unsolicited texts or emails
Phishing, pharming and cloning emails all try to trick you into opening a website or attachment to install malware on your phone or computer. You can try to search an email address to try and learn more to potentially help test suspicious communications.