Short on time? Here is the best adware removal tool:
- 🥇 Norton 360 — Removes adware from all devices and browsers, with real-time scanning to prevent future adware downloads and malicious pop-ups. Also includes extras like advanced anti-malware scanning, anti-phishing protection, a VPN, webcam protection, parental controls, dark web monitoring, and lots more.
I tested every adware removal tool on the market — I wanted to find the best software for detecting, removing, and preventing all kinds of adware infections.
Finding a program that provides good protection against adware wasn’t easy — some internet security products don’t offer adware detection, some adware removal tools are bad at identifying and blocking adware, and some anti-adware programs are actually adware in disguise!
However, I managed to find a few products that provide accurate and reliable adware detection and removal, as well as real-time scanning engines to keep any new adware from infecting a system.
From my testing, I learned that the most powerful adware removal tools are found inside antivirus packages with internet security features — packages that include:
- 100% adware blocking and removal.
- Real-time anti-malware engines.
- Anti-phishing protections.
- Network firewalls.
- VPNs (virtual private network).
- Dark web monitoring.
- Identity theft protections.
- And lots more…
There are also a few decent proprietary tools for adware removal, but they aren’t as good as full-featured antiviruses because they don’t have advanced malware scanners or additional internet security protections.
I compared the adware removal capabilities of all the adware tools on the market, analyzing each product’s security, features, easy of use, and value.
Here’s what I found out.
Quick summary of the best adware removal software in 2020:
How I Rated the Best Adware Removal Software in 2020
- Adware removal. I tested all of the popular adware removal programs to see which ones are able to detect and remove adware from computers, browsers, and mobiles, as well as prevent new adware downloads from infecting a device.
- Real-time protection. I also tested to see whether or not a program was able to block adware infections in real time, along with other types of malware, including viruses, spyware, and ransomware.
- Web protections. Adware infects a device because a computer doesn’t have strong enough online protections. I looked for software that includes internet security features like anti-phishing protection, a virtual private network (VPN), a network firewall, identity theft protections, and others to make sure no adware can get onto a system in the first place.
- Ease of use. All of the products that made it to my list are easy to use, with intuitive user interfaces and helpful instructions. They are all suitable both for advanced users and non-technical users.
- Value. I compared each product’s adware removal tools, anti-malware engines, internet security features, and cost to ensure that each of them provides a good value.
🥇1. Norton 360 — Best Adware Removal Software in 2020
Norton 360 is my favorite adware detection and removal tool. During my tests, Norton flagged every single piece of adware I placed onto my Windows PC, MacBook, and Android phone — from deceptive pop-up ads to sophisticated browser hijackers.
I also tested Norton’s anti-malware engine against other types of malware, and it identified and blocked all of the spyware and ransomware files on my test devices (even many ransomware files that other competitors failed to catch).
Norton 360 also has a wide range of other internet security features, including:
- Anti-phishing protection.
- VPN (with unlimited data)
- Cloud backup.
- Webcam protection.
- Dark web monitoring.
- Parental controls.
- Identity theft protection (US only).
Norton’s anti-phishing tools are some of the best on the market — blocking more suspicious sites in my testing than both Chrome and Firefox’s built-in anti-phishing protections.
I was also really impressed with Norton’s VPN. It didn’t just encrypt my data and keep my online activities private on unsecured hotspots, it also blocked ad trackers that were trying to collect all sorts of sensitive information! (Norton ranked as the #1 antivirus with a VPN in 2020).
Norton 360 Standard includes advanced adware removal, an anti-malware scanner, a firewall, anti-phishing protection, 10 GB cloud storage, a VPN, dark web monitoring, and more. Norton 360 Deluxe adds coverage for up to 5 devices, 50 GB cloud storage, and excellent parental controls. For users in the US, Norton 360 Deluxe with LifeLock also includes identity theft protection along with $1 million insurance coverage for identity theft damages.
Norton 360 is an excellent adware removal tool that detected all of my adware samples during testing — including advanced malware files that most other competitors missed! Norton’s anti-malware engine is one of the best on the market, with perfect detection rates against all types of known and emerging malware. Norton also comes with great anti-phishing protections, a VPN that blocks ad trackers, webcam protections, cloud storage, dark web monitoring, and much more. All of Norton’s plans come with a 60-day money back guarantee.
🥈2. Avira — Best Free Antivirus with Advanced Adware Detection
Avira has a really good free antivirus with an excellent adware removal tool — it blocked and removed all of the adware samples in my testing, including adware that is automatically downloaded to a device without the user’s consent.
Avira also comes with a “PUA shield” that notifies users if potentially unwanted advertisements are bundled with legitimate software — most adware scanners just detect harmful files after they’ve been downloaded, but Avira alerts you in advance, before adware infects your system.
Avira also has an excellent anti-malware scanner that operates in the cloud — it identified all of the trojans, spyware, keyloggers, and ransomware I placed on my computers (and when I relaunched the samples, Avira’s real-time protection blocked them all!).
Avira also provides free internet security features like:
- Safe shopping browser extension.
- VPN (500 MB monthly limit).
- Basic system cleanup tools.
Avira’s safe shopping browser extension is really good — it prevents phishing attacks, blocks ads and web trackers, flags sketchy web stores, and even compares prices between reliable vendors to help you find the best deals!
Avira is my favorite free antivirus (it ranked as the #1 free Windows antivirus in 2020), but the free version lacks some important cybersecurity features. Upgrading to Avira Prime brings you a VPN with unlimited data, a password manager, advanced performance optimization tools, coverage for multiple devices, and lots more.
Avira provides comprehensive adware protection inside its free antivirus package. Avira successfully removed every adware file from my computer, and it also scanned all of my downloads in real-time to prevent reinfection. Avira also offers protection against web trackers, phishing sites, pop-ups, and YouTube ads. Users looking for advanced internet security protections should consider Avira Prime, which adds a VPN with unlimited data, a password manager, advanced performance optimization tools, coverage for multiple devices, and a lot more.
🥉3. McAfee Total Protection — Best Web Protections + Excellent Adware Protection
McAfee Total Protection provides advanced adware scanning and removal — along with some of the best web protections on the market today.
McAfee detected every piece of adware in my testing, clearing out my Chrome toolbar, the pop-ups on my desktop, and even blocking adware bundled with several legitimate third-party apps.
McAfee is excellent at detecting all types of malware — its real-time anti-malware engine blocked all of the malware files I tried downloading onto both my PC and MacBook.
McAfee Total Protection also has additional internet security tools like:
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Home Wi-Fi network scanner.
- VPN (unlimited data).
- System cleanup tools.
- Parental controls.
- Identity theft protection (US only).
During tests, McAfee’s anti-phishing tools were just as good as Norton’s — blocking all of the fake websites I tried opening. I also really like McAfee’s network scanner that made it easy to scan all of the devices connected to my home network for vulnerabilities or suspicious behavior.
McAfee’s VPN is also very good — it kept my IP hidden while browsing, preventing companies from collecting my information for advertising and making sure my data stays safe even when connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
McAfee has several plans to choose from, and the main difference between the plans is the number of devices covered. McAfee Individual covers just 1 device, McAfee Multi-Device provides protection for up to 5 devices, and McAfee Family has coverage for up to 10 devices.
McAfee has excellent adware removal capabilities — it removed all the adware samples I placed on my devices, and it prevented new adware from infecting my system. McAfee also comes with a really good anti-malware scanner (100% detection rates against test malware), anti-phishing protection, a network scanner, and a VPN with unlimited data. McAfee offers protection for 1, 5, or 10 devices, and all purchases come with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
4. TotalAV — Best for Non-Technical Users
TotalAV comes with a pretty good adware removal tool — it removed all of the test adware from my PC desktop and Android phone, but it missed some adware on my MacBook’s Safari toolbar.
On the other hand, TotalAV quarantined all of the malware samples I launched during testing — TotalAV’s perfect malware detection score makes sense since it uses the same advanced anti-malware scanner as Avira.
TotalAV doesn’t come with many web protections, but the features it has are all very good (and all of them are very easy to use, even for non-technical users!).
I especially like TotalAV’s ad blocker that doesn’t just block annoying ads and pop-ups, but also lowers the risk of getting infected with adware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). The ad blocker also blocks companies from tracking your data, and it can improve the speed of your web browser.
I also like TotalAV’s device optimization tools which make it very easy to delete junk files, remove unwanted apps, and clear browser cookies.
TotalAV offers three different antivirus packages. If you’re just looking for adware and malware removal for up to 3 devices, TotalAV Antivirus Pro is a great low-cost option. TotalAV Internet Security also includes a VPN with unlimited data and coverage for up to 5 devices, while the premium Total Security package adds the ad blocker, a password manager, and coverage for up to 6 devices.
TotalAV has a good adware removal tool, an advanced anti-malware engine (it’s a white-label of Avira), and an easy-to-use interface. TotalAV comes with a good ad blocker, device optimization tools, a VPN, and more. All TotalAV purchases come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
5. BullGuard — Best Adware Removal for Gamers
BullGuard is very good at adware detection — it caught most of the adware samples in my testing, missing only a couple of very advanced files. On the other hand, BullGuard’s anti-malware engine detected all other types of malware just as accurately as competitors like Norton and Avira.
While testing BullGuard, I was also very impressed with its Game Booster mode. This feature re-allocates background processes to free up processing cores — my gaming PC actually ran faster after I installed BullGuard (making BullGuard the #1 antivirus for gamers in 2020.
I’m also a huge fan of BullGuard’s identity theft protections — most competitors like Norton and McAfee only have identity theft protection for US users, but BullGuard covers users in the US, Canada, and most of Europe, too!
BullGuard also provides a bunch of additional features, like a VPN, anti-phishing protections, a firewall, and parental controls.
BullGuard offers several different plans — BullGuard Antivirus is a good entry-level plan, the Internet Security plan also has a firewall, parental controls, and cloud backup, and the Premium Protection package adds identity theft protections and a home network scanner.
BullGuard comes with a very good adware remover, an excellent anti-malware engine, and a great Game Booster mode for gamers. And unlike most competitors that offer identity theft protections for only users in the US, BullGuard covers users in Canada and most of Europe too. All of BullGuard’s antivirus packages have a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Spybot – Search & Destroy is a good standalone tool for adware and spyware removal. In my testing, Spybot detected all of my adware samples, but it failed to catch some of the advanced samples that Norton flagged. However, Spybot caught all of my test spyware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).
Spybot’s free version is only an adware and spyware removal tool — so it can’t detect or remove other types of malware. On the other hand, Spybot’s premium Spybot – Search & Destroy + AV plan includes real-time protection against malware — but Spybot’s anti-malware engine missed a lot of the malware samples that the other products on this list detected.
Spybot also lacks all of the extra features offered by the products on this list — it doesn’t have anti-phishing protection, a VPN, or identity theft protections.
While I can’t recommend Spybot for users looking for complete protection against all malware, I think it’s a good adware removal tool that can complement good antivirus software — and it’s free!
Spybot – Search & Destroy is my favorite free adware removal tool — it caught most of the adware samples in my testing, missing only a few advanced files. Spybot – Search & Destroy + AV adds antivirus protection and real-time scanning, but during testing, its anti-malware engine didn’t catch advanced malware that the other products on this list caught. I can’t recommend Spybot as a standalone antivirus, but its free adware removal tool is a nice add-on for users who already have a good antivirus program.
Bonus. AdwCleaner — Easy-to-Use Adware Removal Tool
In my testing, AdwCleaner removed all of the adware from my desktop and browser, even flagging some of the bloatware that came bundled with my new printer. AdwCleaner also removed junkware from my PC, which improved my device’s performance as well.
However, AdwCleaner doesn’t have real-time protection, malware scanning, or any cybersecurity protections. But Malwarebytes Premium definitely does!
If you’re only looking for adware detection and removal, AdwCleaner is a good choice. But, if you’re also looking for malware protection and additional online security tools, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
AdwCleaner is the simplest adware removal tool on my list. If you’re just trying to get adware off of your system, it’s a great choice. But I don’t recommend it for most people, simply because it doesn’t have an anti-malware engine or internet security protections. However, if you already have an antivirus, AdwClaner is a good addition to your internet security setup — and it’s free.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut
- Heimdal. Heimdal is good at detecting adware and other types of malware, but it’s more difficult to use and understand than most other internet security products.
- Webroot. Webroot has a fast antivirus scanner, decent web protections, and a user-friendly interface. However, Webroot’s adware detection rates were pretty bad during testing — it missed most of my adware samples.
- Avast/AVG. Avast and AVG are pretty big names in the cybersecurity industry, but they were involved in a huge data selling scandal, so I can’t recommend them. You can read more about the scandal in this blog post.
Adware Removal — Frequently Asked Questions
🤔 How dangerous is adware?
There are many different types of adware — some of them are completely harmless, and some of them are very dangerous.
Adware can infect your browser, inserting new icons into your toolbar which redirect you to sites that try to steal your information or sell you products. It can also infect your search bar, inserting suggested products into your searches and manipulating you into visiting potentially dangerous sites.
Adware can also infect your computer, notifying you that your security specs are out of date and convincing you to pay for an upgrade to a product you may never have installed!
Adware removal tools are designed to detect suspicious behavior and flag any potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) on your system. The best tools, like Norton 360, don’t just remove existing adware but also scan your downloads to ensure that you aren’t getting any new adware infections.
🤔 Are adware removal tools and antivirus software the same thing?
No. Many antivirus scanners don’t consider adware to be a serious threat.
That said, the adware removal tools found in the antiviruses on this list are the best on the market. These products protect you against all types of adware and also against a wide range of other threats. And they also include excellent internet security protections like anti-phishing protection, a firewall, and a VPN to ensure you stay secure and fully protected online.
🤔 Do I really need adware protection?
Yes, you do. Good adware tools actively scan your system for all suspicious behavior — if any process tries to make changes on your system, open a pop-up window, or communicate to an outside server, that action is blocked and you get a notification, asking if you want to grant permission to the file in question.
Adware removal tools also scan new downloads to ensure that you aren’t getting new pieces of adware online. All of the top 5 products on this list provide active scanning, so every single file you download is analyzed using advanced detection tools to ensure you don’t get any adware on your system in the first place.
🤔 How do I know if an adware removal tool is legit?
You should only install reputable internet security programs, and you should only get them directly from the developer’s website.
Because cybersecurity software is given access to your system files, there are tons of deceptive sites out there hoping that you’ll download a fake security program and give it permission to infect your system with malware.
I’ve provided links to all of the home pages for the adware removal tools on my list, so you can download any of these products with 100% certainty that you’re actually getting the tools that you need.
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