Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free Review

All Windows PC owners need to run some kind of basic antivirus protection. For that, users have plenty of options — but Malwarebytes Anti-Malware isn't one of them.

That's because Malwarebytes didn't start out as a traditional antivirus protection program, and the company wasn't originally competing with regular antivirus software products. Instead of targeting the general rabble of malware on the Internet, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware focuses on catching the newest, most cutting-edge threats that other antivirus companies may not have caught yet.

Users shouldn't rely on the free version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware as their only security program. It's meant to complement regular antivirus software, but that doesn't mean they should overlook it.

Setup and interface

It's easy to install Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. The Get Trial button is featured prominently on the Malwarebytes website, and when you click on it, you'll be led directly to a download page. (Some other antivirus companies redirect you to third-party sites for the free versions.)

MORE: Best Free Antivirus Software

The page will try to upsell you to Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium, which is a full-fledged antivirus program that costs at least $40 per year. Ignore that and click on the Download button at the bottom of the screen.

Once the installer is downloaded, installation is as simple as that of any other program. The installer includes a two-week free trial of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium, but after that period is over, you'll be left with plain old Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.

The main Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free user interface — the Dashboard — displays a series of horizontal bars, each of which delivers a different type of information.

In the top bar are tabs indicating the main features: Dashboard, Scan, Settings and History. At the end of this bar are two links urging users to create Malwarebytes user accounts and upgrade to the Premium version.

Below the tab bar is the thickest and most eye-catching bar: It's colored bright green if the program says you're secure, yellow if you haven't run a scan in a while and red if it detects any malware or potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).

Below that is a set of four thin, white bars showing the status of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware's license, database version, scan progress and real-time protection. The first and last items aren't applicable to users of the free edition; Malwarebytes Anti-Malware detects malware installed on your computer but doesn't stop malware from infecting your machine in the first place.

MORE: How to Install and Use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

The left-hand side of the bottom bar advertises other Malwarebytes products; on the lower right is a Scan Now button that launches a full system scan.

When we clicked the Scan Now button, Malwarebytes informed us that the malware-definition database needed to be updated, even though the Upgrade Now link higher up in the Dashboard was grayed out.

Overall, the interface is colorful and straightforward. We liked the horizontal layout and simple explanations that help users understand what's happening without becoming overwhelming.

Features and tools

Unlike the premium version, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware does not let users schedule scans, so you'll have to manually open the program and click the Scan button each time you want to check for malware.

After a scan, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware will list the suspicious items it's detected and ask if you'd like to either quarantine them (place them in a secure area of your computer that Malwarebytes controls), ignore them this time or exclude them from all future scans.

You'll most likely choose quarantine. If you decide certain items are not malicious, you can always restore them by going to the History tab and selecting the individual items. You can then permanently delete items from quarantine by going to the History tab.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware lists a number of features and settings under the Settings tab on the Dashboard. However, not all of them are available to users of the free edition, and general users probably won't need the other tools there.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware does not have a quick-scan option or an automatic-update setting. However, there are a few great free tools, available from the Malwarebytes website, that can be used in conjunction with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.

Our favorite free tool is Chameleon, a countermeasure against forms of malware that try to disable anti-malware programs on the computers they infect. Chameleon disguises Malwarebytes Anti-Malware so that malicious programs can't find it. Even if you can't install or access Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, you should still be able to run Chameleon, which will then launch the Anti-Malware program itself.

There's also Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit, a tool that monitors for attacks that get into your computer via software flaws instead of malware. Malwarebytes StartUpLite helps speed up your computer on startup by disabling any extra programs; Malwarebytes FileASSASSIN lets you delete files on your computer that you otherwise wouldn't have permission to delete, such as locked files or files in use by other programs; and Malwarebytes RegASSASSIN can remove registry keys from your computer, such as those used by advanced malware.

MORE: How to Defrag Your PC

Security performance

For most antivirus software we review, we rely on results from German independent testing lab AV-TEST, which routinely examines all major security suites and scores them on their ability to detect both widespread and cutting-edge malware.

However, Malwarebytes doesn't submit its products to AV-TEST. The company says that Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, free or paid, doesn't aim to be a comprehensive antivirus program. Instead, the company says Malwarebytes Anti-Malware focuses on the newest and most subtle online threats that other security programs might miss.


Zero-Day Malware Detection (percentage)

Widespread Malware Detection (percentage)

Avast Free Antivirus



Avira Internet Security



AVG Antivirus Free



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Malwarebytes Anti-Malware



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As such, we really don't know how it comparess to the other free security programs we're reviewing. We know that, unlike the others, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware doesn't prevent malware infection at all; it is meant only to remove malware, adware and other unwanted software that has already been installed.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware can scan for rootkits — hidden malware and other intrusive software that burrows deep into Windows and launches upon every startup — but that feature is not enabled by default. You have to go into Settings, select Detection and Protection and check Scan for Rootkits.

The 2014 version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware added the ability to detect malicious browser plugins on Chrome and Firefox. Detection of malicious Internet Explorer plugins had already been built in.

Ultimately, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware serves as a safety net to patch up any cracks that full-fledged antivirus software might leave out, and should only be used alongside such programs.

System impact

Anti-malware programs can affect your PC's performance, and in terms of system impact, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware had mixed results. On our test laptop, an Acer Aspire E1 with a Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM, we installed and ran the benchmarking software PCMark7 with and without scans running in the background.

Our laptop's PCMark7 baseline score was 2,105. When running a full scan with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, that score dropped to 1,905 — a small performance hit that makes Malwarebytes the second-lightest program in terms of impact after AVG Antivirus Free.

We also used our custom OpenOffice test (which matches 20,000 names and addresses) to gauge Malwarebytes Anti-Malware's performance impact. Before Malwarebytes was installed, the test completed in 4 minutes. While Malwarebytes' full scan was running, the test completed in 12 minutes and 2 seconds — respectable, but still the second-largest slowdown after Avira Free Antivirus' extra-slow 22 minutes.

Still, Malwarebytes probably won't have a noticeable effect on your PC's performance, especially if you're running it on a robust processor with lots of RAM.

PCMark7 Quick Scan

PCMark7 Full Scan

Custom Test Quick Scan

Custom Test Full Scan

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Avira Free Antivirus





AVG Antivirus Free





Windows Defender





Malwarebytes Anti-Malware





Bottom line

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware wasn't designed to be used as an antivirus program. Instead, it's meant to work with your existing AV software of choice to provide quick and efficient removal of the latest and most dangerous malware. We particularly like the software's Chameleon feature, which can help users regain control of a seriously compromised machine.

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    Your comment
  • BoceifusJR
    So far this is the only free software i have used that has been able to detect and get rid of every problem i have run into, even stuff that antivirus/spam programs missed. Never clean up a pc without it.
  • AntiMalwareGURU
    I'm looking for a good antimalware software and right now I can't choose between malwarebytes and mcafee. It looks like both solutions are great but after reading your article I see that malwarebytes doesn't prevent infection it only cure already infected system, interesting... I have come across another comparison article here and all stars are given to malwarebytes, so is it worth to get malwarebytes or not?
  • Steve James
    Malwarebytes is the best
  • Speed Racer
    I have McAfee LiveSafe Internet Security that is actively running full time - it came with my new laptop as a 6 month trial and then I decided to renew it for a year for only $19.99 and now I have to renew it again - I found a website that will continually renew it for $19.99 instead of the regular renewal price of $79.99 (awesome) so I will keep using it at that great price of $19.99

    I use the Free part of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware that is not active but passive, meaning: That I scan the laptop about every 2 weeks or whenever I feel like it, to be SuperSafe :)

    As everyone should know by now, you NEVER run active Anti Virus programs at the same time, no matter what!
  • zaksame
    Malwarebytes used to eb the criminals and in a way they still are.I started doing Google searches and can't believe the viral marketing behind this company.It seems they have paid their way into MANY sites for positive reviews.
    Well i can tell you having tried their product,it is CRAP,it detects nothing.I have other products that detect stuff all the time but Malware just says everything is great sorry ass product.
  • FALC0N
    Actually speed racer, walwarebytes is designed to run along side a normal antivirus without issue. Second option scanners in general are that way. They are exceptions to the rule when if comes to running two AV's. It will slow your system a bit though.
  • Speed Racer
    Zaksame - you say it's crap and some others like it, I have had times where it did detect malware and or viruses where my "main" antivirus program didn't detect them. It's just insurance, sir!

    Falcon - Yea? - NO! - "second option" scanners - as you put it, (whatever that is) shouldn't be run together with ANY AntiVirus programs either <<
    >>Active: "Malware" Scanners or Active: "Antivirus" Scanners is still having TWO Active "scanners" running at the same time,,,,,,,, why have the two running when you really don't have to.
    ---->Unless you are some kind of freak and go on porn sites too much or dive into the darKWeb.
  • FALC0N
    I'm not saying you SHOULD, I'm saying you CAN. They are designed to prevent the conflicts inherent in normal AV engines.
  • zenphx
    The Article said nothing about Malwarebytes Pro. For a few bucks you can turn on Real Time protection and scheduling. I'm a computer consultant, and I use Malwarebytes to protect and clean clients computers. I have often seen Norton and Windows Defender disabled by viruses. Malwarebytes can be used in a 'Chamelon' mode to kill running malware and then do a scan. It's a fine product. I'm not saying that it's sufficient alone. For maximum protection, pair it with Norton, Avast, Avira, etc. Oh....and it's FAR better at detecting and removing 'Junkware' than any other product.
  • Paul Wagenseil
    Bottom line is: Use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware as a supplement to real AV software, not in place of it. It doesn't prevent infection, and doesn't scan URLs or email attachments. But it does get rid of annoying adware and other unwanted programs that real AV products often overlook because adware usually isn't malicious.
  • huguetb
    That article is a bit old but it helped me. I never know where to get started when looking for such free softwares.
    I always went for Avira and I see it's not a bad choice!