Antivirus image with lock on laptop

If your antivirus software stops working, then it not doing its main job: keeping malware at bay.

An antivirus lets you scour the internet and work on your device worry-free, as it detect and protect your devices from the thousands of malware seen by cybersecurity experts on a daily basis. And it does all this without you having to think about it.

Because this security software fends off dodgy email attachments, malicious websites and more in the background, sometimes we can forget that it’s working at all. If you see that it isn’t doing its job, then its time to fix your main line of defence.

To make sure all the cogs are turning, here are some simple steps to make sure your antivirus is working.

Update your antivirus

Sometimes, the best step to take is the simplest. Is you antivirus up to date? If it isn’t, you’ll want to update it.

Antivirus software these days are efficient enough stay updated and notify users if they require a refresh. You will usually get a notification about your software needing an update, and while it can be a pain to click “Update” and restart your device in order for the update to take effect, it’s certainly worth doing.

While protection programs are designed to detect malware signatures automatically and use behaviour-based detection to thwart any malicious software it sniffs out, even these systems need an update from time to time. This makes sure that any new threats that have surfaced can’t get by any older systems set in place, as hackers continue to find ways to sneak past a system’s protection.

All the best protection software will notify you that an update is needed if you open the app. Otherwise, you can update that software manually. For example, Norton 360 has a LiveUpdate feature that searches for any updates it needs. For a majority of this software, you can simply right-click the app icon in the taskbar and select the update option.

Norton 360 Antivirus Update Example
Norton 360 Antivirus Update Example

Test your antivirus

If an antivirus can’t detect or protect you from the simplest of malware, then what’s the point in having it installed? Well, that’s why we review different software to make sure it’s all up to scratch, but there’s another way to test if your security is working: have malware.

It’s never something you want to have on your device, but that’s why there is the EICAR test file to put your worries at ease. It was developed by the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research (EICAR) to test products. And before you ask, “but isn’t using test malware still risky?” No. Not in the EICAR test file’s case.

The EICAR test file isn’t real malware, but it mimics the behaviour of malware that the security software can pick up. Providers acknowledge this as a general standard for testing, so your antivirus software will detect it like any other malware once it is detected.

EICAR Antivirus test file

So, to make sure your protection is working, try to download the EICAR test file via the website and see if your antivirus detects it. If it doesn’t, then you’ll want to try other means.

Use a different antivirus

More likely than not, the protection software on your device is the program that came with your device when you purchased it. You may have forgotten that it was there or installed a free software a while back. They may not be up to standard anymore or your device simply may not click with them.

That’s when it’s high time you change your protection software. Preferably to one of the best antivirus software.

There are many free malware removal apps that will dispatch malicious software on your device, but it’s a good idea to make sure these tools are trustworthy.

The best antivirus apps come with a suite of security features that can get rid of virus, malware, ransomware, spyware or any malicious software that burrows into your Android. Some software, such as Bitdefender, offers security subscriptions specifically for multiple device platforms, like iOS on iPhone, macOS for Mac, Android and Windows. This makes it a more cost-effective option for those that only need specific device protection.

We also recommend free apps from known cybersecurity companies, including Avast One, AVG and Malwarebytes Mobile Security. These will detect and remove malware on your Android. Check out our thoughts below.

How to remove antivirus software

Whether you’ve previously been attacked by malware that’s disrupted your security software or you antivirus experienced a little hiccup, sometimes the best thing to do is to uninstall and reinstall the software.

Like with any PC, you can uninstall an app or program by heading into settings. Some software, such as Bitdefender or Norton, have to option to reinstall the app. If the option isn’t available, however, just install the package again from your provider’s website.

There are several ways to uninstall an antivirus program. To do so, follow the steps below.

Uninstall with Control Panel

1. On your Windows PC, type in “Control Panel” in the search field located on the Task Bar.

2. Click on the Control Panel app.

How to remove antivirus Control Panel

3. A window will pop up. Under Programs, click on Uninstall a program.

4. A list of installed programs will show up. Right-click the antivirus you wish to uninstall, or double-click and select “Yes”.

5. Follow the steps the antivirus service provides to uninstall.

6. Restart your device.

How to remove antivirus Control Panel

Uninstall in Safe Mode

Sometimes, an antivirus won’t be able to uninstall because it is running in Windows. If you’re unable to remove the software, it’s best to uninstall it using Windows Safe Mode. Follow the steps below to use Safe Mode.

1. On your Windows PC, type in “Change advanced start-up options” in the search field located on the Task Bar.

2. A Settings window will pop up. Under Recovery options, click on Restart now next to Advanced startup.

3. In the next window, click Restart now.

How to remove antivirus in Safe Mode

4. A menu will appear. Click Troubleshoot.

5. Select Advanced options, then Startup Settings.

6. Click Restart.

7. Using the number keys, select Enable Safe Mode.

Use an uninstaller

If an antivirus is still unable to uninstall, the software may be corrupted or missing a file. In this case, you’ll need to download an uninstaller program from the company to remove all files. These can be found on your provider’s website. Below is a few notable antivirus companies with uninstallers.

Why you should use antivirus software

The best antivirus software will detect and remove malicious programs and software affecting your device – including browser hijackers, ransomware, adware, spyware and more. Simply installing an antivirus and performing a system scan should be able to detect the source of the issue and get rid of it. What’s more, you don’t need to pay for all the security tools an antivirus service offers, as free antivirus software from providers such as Bitdefender, Avast One or AVG offers the same detection and removal features.

Still, protection software such as Malwarebytes Premium or Norton 360 Platinum offer plenty of fantastic features that will keep you guarded from threats you may not even be aware of. Plus, they even throw in VPNs, password managers and more to make navigating the internet a breeze.

If you’re wondering which to choose, check out our best antivirus software guide and get yourself protected.

Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.

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