Malwarebytes (formerly Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, abbreviated as MBAM) is an anti-malware software for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, Android, and iOS that finds and removes malware. Made by Malwarebytes Corporation, it was first released in January 2006. It is available in a free version, which scans for and removes malware when started manually, and a paid version, which additionally provides scheduled scans, real-time protection and a flash-memory scanner.
Malwarebytes (formerly known as Malwarebytes Anti-malware) is primarily a scanner that scans and removes malicious software, including rogue security software, adware, and spyware. Malwarebytes scans in batch mode, rather than scanning all files opened, reducing interference if another on-demand anti-malware software is also running on the computer.
Malwarebytes is available in both a free and a premium paid version. The free version can be run manually by the user when desired, whereas the paid version can perform scheduled scans, automatically scan files when opened, block IP addresses of malicious web sites, and scan only those services, programs and device drivers that are currently in use.
On December 8, 2016, Malwarebytes Inc. released version 3.0 to the general public. This includes protection against malware, ransomware, exploit, and malicious websites.
Download and install Malwarebytes for Windows
To download and install the latest version of Malwarebytes for Windows, follow the steps below. These steps also apply to reinstallation or how to get back the program in case of an accidental uninstall.
- Download the latest version of Malwarebytes for Windows.
- In the Downloads folder, double-click the MBSetUp.exe setup file. In most cases, downloaded files are saved to the Downloads folder. If the User Account Control pop-up window appears, click yes to allow the installation of Malwarebytes for Windows.
- When asked where are you installing Malwarebytes? Choose one of the following:
- Personal computer: Choose this option if you are using the device in a home or nonbusiness environment.
- Work computer: Choose this option if you are using the device in a business environment.
- To agree to the End User License Agreement, click Agree and Install. To choose a different install location, click Advanced Options.
- In the Welcome to Malwarebytes page, click get started. If you chose Work computer in step 4, the Malwarebytes dashboard for Business displays.
- Click one of the following buttons:
- Buy now: Purchase a subscription with Malwarebytes Premium and unlock all protection features.
- Activate Subscription: Sign in or enter your license key to activate your Malwarebytes Premium subscription.
- If you purchased a subscription from the Malwarebytes website and logged in to your Malwarebytes My Account profile, enter your Email and Password and click Sign in. If you forgot your password, see Forgot password for My Account.
- If you have your license key available, click Enter license key. On the next page, enter your license key and click Activate license.
- Maybe later: This activates a free 14-day Malwarebytes Trial version. If you’ve already used your Trial period on the device, the Malwarebytes Free version opens instead. This version only removes existing infections and has no proactive protection. Add your email to our mailing list to get news, safety tips and exclusive offers and click Get Started or Open Malwarebytes Free.
Once you have chosen to activate a Malwarebytes Premium subscription, activate a 14-day trial, or use the Malwarebytes Free version, you are taken to the main Dashboard of the program. Malwarebytes is successfully installed on your Windows device.
Several years ago, Malwarebytes was only useful as a scanning and cleaning tool for getting rid of malware. Back then, it had to be used in conjunction with another antivirus to ensure complete protection. This is still true for Malwarebytes’s free version — it’s a useful tool, but it’s only really good when used together with an active scanning antivirus program. The free version does not offer enough protection on its own.
That said, Malwarebytes Premium is a complete, secure, and highly capable antivirus, with real-time protection against all malware threats.
Malwarebytes has some of the best security features I’ve tested, scoring excellent detection and removal rates across all of my test malware. But there are a few things I don’t like, not the least of which is that the scanner was pretty aggressive in flagging legitimate files and programs as dangerous. This was annoying, but it’s definitely better to get false positives than false negatives!
Malwarebytes is also missing some important internet security features like a firewall, network scanning, parental controls, a password manager, and a VPN — these are all things that antivirus suites like Norton and McAfee provide for a similar price.
Overall, Malwarebytes is a good antivirus, offering some of the best protection out there (making it onto the list of the best antiviruses of 2021). You can get the free version after a 14-day trial of the premium version, and there’s a 60-day money-back guarantee to help you decide if it’s the right antivirus for you.
Malwarebytes Security Features
Malwarebytes has evolved from a dedicated malware scanner to a fully-functioning antivirus with a full range of powerful features.
My tests were pretty conclusive — Malwarebytes is one of the best antiviruses for fighting all malware and maintaining proper virus protection. It had near-perfect detection rates, catching almost all of the malware and ransomware samples on my PC. This is just as good as other leading antivirus brands like Bitdefender and Kaspersky.
While I was impressed with the malware detection rates, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of additional security features. Antiviruses like Norton offer a lot more value for the money by including added features like a password manager, VPN, parental controls, anti-theft tools, and more.
Malwarebytes Premium offers a really strong “Real-Time Protection” feature — looking for zero-day attacks and ransomware as well as potential vulnerabilities in a program or code that can be exploited by cybercriminals.
The Real-Time Protection feature uses 4 layers of simultaneous protection:
- Malware protection
- Ransomware protection
- Web protection
- Exploit protection
These four layers of protection are always running at the same time and provide the foundation of the software.
Malwarebytes also uses updated virus signatures and advanced behavior (heuristic) analysis to detect potential threats.
Signature-based detection — which uses unique sets of data and bits of code to target viruses that have infected other devices — accounts for just around 5% of all of Malwarebytes’s detections.
Instead, in addition to the four layers of Real-Time Protection, Malwarebytes relies heavily on its heuristic analysis — looking at a program’s relevant factors like structure and behavior to identify and neutralize previously unknown malware and viruses.
This is a really great system that sets Malwarebytes apart from competitors. While most antiviruses have some kind of real-time protection and heuristic analysis, the fact that Malwarebytes prides itself so heavily on these features (and the fact that these features work really well) turns it from “just another security feature” into an amazing defense against intrusive malware.
Multiple Scanning Options
Malwarebytes offers 3 different scan types:
- Threat Scan. Checks areas most likely to be infected, such as your device’s startup, memory, and registry.
- Custom Scan. Allows you to choose which areas of your system need to be checked.
- Hyper Scan. Quickly checks memory and startup objects for malware.
One thing I noticed when testing Malwarebytes was how fast the scanning engine was. The Threat Scan was so much faster than other big-name antiviruses like McAfee and Panda, taking just over 10 minutes to complete. And I really liked how the Hyper Scan only took around 10 seconds!
The Threat Scan flagged over 200 items on my device, even though most of them were legitimate pieces of software. Although this could be annoying at first, I would actually prefer if other antiviruses were as cautious as Malwarebytes to ensure that no threats are missed. This hypervigilance is the scanning engine’s way of learning what is and what isn’t a threat, which helps enhance the accuracy of future scans.
I used the Custom Scan to scan the folder of malware samples that I had downloaded, and it managed to detect all-but-one of the samples — similar results to Kaspersky and Avira. All scans end with a “heuristics analysis” of all running processes, which uses a special algorithm to determine if there are any hidden malware files running in the background.
Automatic Virus and Program Updates
Malwarebytes collects samples of suspicious software from its users’ systems, which is analyzed and used to create daily updates. You can opt-out of this data collection by toggling off “Usage and Threat Statistics” in Settings.
The Premium version of Malwarebytes updates every hour. You can change the frequency of updates to any interval between 15 minutes and 14 days, which is a great customization option that many other antiviruses like Avast don’t have.
Malwarebytes offers additional ransomware protection and adware blocking support in the form of a browser extension. It blocks dangerous websites that have been identified as malicious and prevents you from visiting scam sites. It also claims to offer a browsing experience that is “4x faster” because of its adware blocking capabilities.
Malwarebytes Plans and Pricing
Free Plan: Malwarebytes Free
Malwarebytes doesn’t really offer a free version of its antivirus. The free download gives you a free 14-day trial of the Premium package which is a great way to see if you like using the software. It’s basically a marketing ploy to get you to recognize how good the paid version is vs. the free version.
Malwarebytes Free doesn’t come with any of the Real-Time Protection features, which as I mentioned, is the core of the software. Once the 14-day trial expires, you’re just left with the Threat Scan feature which can only detect and clean one device already infected with malware. The Threat Scan is fine if you’re using it in conjunction with another antivirus like Avira or Norton, but on its own, you’re simply not protected.
Paid Plan: Malwarebytes Premium
Malwarebytes Premium gives you Real-Time Protection — it stops viruses and malware from infecting your device using heuristic analysis and the four layers of simultaneous protection.
There are 2 different packages — Premium for You and Premium for Home. The only difference between the two is the price tag and the number of devices covered.
Premium for You is available on just 1 device and is cheaper.
Premium for Home covers up to 3 devices — but you can add up to 10 devices for an additional cost. The more devices you select, the bigger the discount you get.
With the Premium for Home plan, you can mix and match Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, iOS, and Android. This makes it a particularly good option for families using many devices across many different operating systems.
Enterprise Plans: Malwarebytes Business
Malwarebytes’s business plans have advanced features — including application hardening and exploit mitigation, both of which make it difficult to compromise apps.
There are 3 different business plans — Malwarebytes for Teams, Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection, and Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection
Malwarebytes Mobile App
Downloading the Malwarebytes mobile app from Google Play or the Apple App Store is simple and takes just a few minutes. There’s an app for both Android and iOS devices, but they offer different features.
The Android app scans your phone for potentially unwanted programs and advanced malware threats like ransomware. If the scan finds a malicious app, you have 3 options:
Also, the Android app runs a privacy audit for all your apps, showing you a list of apps that can read your personal info, control your hardware, cost you money, etc. This feature lets you decide whether a specific app is worth the potential risk or not.
Both the Android app and the iOS app scan for phishing URLs and other online threats when you browse the internet. The iOS app also blocks ads and ad trackers, which is one reason why Malwarebytes offers great spyware protection.
Malwarebytes for Teams — compatible with Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, and Android — is the cheapest. It covers between 1 and 20 devices and is therefore ideal for small businesses. The only difference between this version and the personal plans is priority support and additional Android protection.
Frequently Asked Questions
1- Is Malwarebytes still free?
Think of it as an extra layer of protection, especially against legal but unwanted programs that some AV software passes over. Malwarebytes Free is available for every major platform: Download Malwarebytes Free for Windows. Download Malwarebytes Free for Android.
2- Is Malwarebytes free version any good?
The free version of Malwarebytes is okay for a freeware antivirus — you’ll be able to scan your device for malware like most other antivirus software. Still, for full protection against malicious cybersecurity threats, I’d highly recommend that you upgrade to one of the paid plans.
3- Is Malwarebytes better than Norton?
Malwarebytes is a little bit better when it comes to bulk pricing, but Norton is better at protection and performance and has slightly better features and Malwarebytes. Owing to these aspects, Norton is overall an excellent choice when it comes to paid antivirus protection.
4- Does Malwarebytes slow down your computer?
ALERT: MALWAREBYTES SLOWING DOWN COMPUTERS DUE TO UPDATES CONTAINING BUGS. Malwarebytes protection update causes memory and CPU resources issues including web protection issues. Other users have complained that the software was using up to 90 percent or more of the computer’s resources such as memory and CPU.
Malwarebytes Free does a good job of wiping out aggressive malware that gets past your regular antivirus, but its lack of real-time protection means it should only be a secondary line of defense.