If random apps or software keep installing on your computer, it’s a sign that a virus or malware has infected your device, and you’ll want to get rid of it immediately.

Cybercriminals use different methods to install malware on your device, whether through email phishing, fake apps or dodgy websites. Once installed, it can disguise itself as a harmless app you may not take any notice of. However, it may be causing significant damage to your PC and trying to steal sensitive information.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to spot any malicious software on your PC and get rid of it.

This guide will help you fix random apps installed on Windows and show you how the best antivirus software can keep your PC safe.

Random apps installing on PC: Quick fixes

If random software or apps keeping installing on your PC, there are a few ways to fix the problem.

We recommend following each step, as a virus or malware could be hiding on your device that’s installing these random apps.

  1. Uninstall unwanted or suspicious programs

    Windows Settings uninstall apps to remove system tray icon

    You may notice icons in the taskbar, on your PC’s desktop background or in the system tray that you are unfamiliar with. If this is the case, you need to uninstall any apps or programs that aren’t required. This will remove any random software that keeps installing.

    Go to Settings > Apps > Installed apps. Find the apps that showed up unexpectedly without your permission. Click the menu (horizontal three dots) next to the app and select Uninstall

    Additionally, you can head to Apps for websites to see if there are any unwanted apps you don’t need and toggle the switch to off. 

  2. Remove unfamiliar process with high disk usage

    High Disk Usage Task Manager Settings on Windows

    If a random app you’re not familiar with is causing high disk usage, making your PC slow down, you’ll want to remove it. Once you identify what’s taking up a significant amount of read/write operation resources, you can quickly stop the process. 

    To do this, you’ll need to open Task Manager. Press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC or right-click on the taskbar and select Task Manager to open the app. 

    Click on the Disk tab to see all running apps and background processes in order of disk usage. 

    If a process is highlighted orange and runs over 1MB/s or 2MB/s, it takes up a lot of disk usage. If you see anything near 100% disk usage, these will contribute to this and need to be stopped. This is especially true if there’s an unfamiliar process running without you realising it. 

    Right-click the app or background process taking up resources and select End task

  3. Remove startup programs

    Windows settings disable startup apps

    Some apps on Windows start up automatically when you turn on your computer. If you don’t recognise the software, it could be one of the apps that keep installing on your Windows PC.

    To stop this from happening, you’ll need to open Task Manager. Press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC or right-click on the taskbar and select Task Manager to open the app. 

    Select Start-up apps in the left-hand sidebar and search for any apps you don’t need running. Then right-click and select Disable.

  4. Update your software and restart your computer

    Windows PC Update Settings

    Updating your Windows PC software and restarting your computer can often fix random apps installing on your computer problems, as it can also fend off malicious software. 

    Cybercriminals take advantage of security vulnerabilities on your device. These zero-day vulnerabilities allow threat actors to exploit computer systems until developers mitigate them, which can cause major damage. 

    Updating your system’s software can resolve the issue. A software update often contains security patches that help protect your device, as developers work to protect users from known zero-day attacks and other forms of malware trying to infect your device, especially with unfamiliar processes. 

    You can update your device through its settings. For example, you can update your Windows PC by navigating to Start > Settings > Windows Update > Check for updates. If there are any, download and install the update. 

  5. Change your passwords

    Norton 360 Password Manager

    If unexpected software and apps keeping installing on your computer and nothing will fix it, chances are your PC has been infected with a virus or malware, and your online accounts and devices are at risk of being compromised.

    To help mitigate potential malware threats or hackers taking control of your accounts, change your passwords and use a strong password to stop suspicious activity. 

    Using password managers such as LastPass or 1Password can help manage all your passwords in one place, create a complex, near-unbreakable master password and encrypt your information. 

    Changing passwords will stop hackers from trying to steal any sensitive information and your online accounts. 

  6. Use antivirus software to detect and stop malware

    Norton 360 Security and Settings

    Getting a random installing on your PC means malware is installed on your device, and it needs to be removed the right way. Using one of the best antivirus software like Norton 360 (from $19.99/year) will keep you safe from any malicious software, like ransomware, adware, spyware, phishing and more.

    That’s not all; antivirus software can provide extra features like VPNs, dark web monitoring and more. Norton 360 has all these features and extra security tools that can backup your data, prevent online identity theft and stop malware. 

    What’s more, Norton 360 comes with monitoring features to identify all suspicious activity on your device. It will help detect and notify you about any unusual activity, including unfamiliar apps on your device, and stop it using it’s protection tools. 

    Check out our Norton 360 review and Norton 360 Platinum review to see which antivirus package suits you best.

Why are random apps being installed on Windows?

Installing apps or software on your Windows PC is done through websites, third-party platforms, the Microsoft store or have been installed by default. Apps should only be installed with your permission, meaning any app you don’t recognise on your device is suspicious.

If you’ve clicked on a malicious link in an email, opened a dodgy URL to a fake website or installed a seemingly harmless app in disguise, then it’s likely your PC is infected with malware.

Various types of malware can cause a lot of damage to your device, including infostealer malwarespywareadwareransomware and more. Hackers will try anything to steal your information, banking details and online identity.

Once malware installs, it can hide on your device, disguised as a trustworthy app and run in the background unnoticed, sneakily taking up resources.

To identify and remove malicious software and prevent infections, it’s best to use an antivirus like Norton 360 to detect any malicious activity and stop the malware from causing more harm.

How do I stop random apps installing on my computer?

Depending on the issue, deleting unfamiliar apps or software to get your computer back to normal is easy.

For example, for any app you don’t recognise that appears on your PC, head into App Settings in Windows and delete any suspicious apps that you never installed.

However, if it’s a virus or malware infection damaging your PC, it’s best to perform a system scan using a reliable antivirus that can identify the issue and eliminate a virus or malware. Once it’s done its job, the malicious software will no longer appear on your device.

Illustration of the dangers of computer viruses and malware

Can any antivirus software stop viruses and malware?

The best antivirus software will stop malware in its tracks. Not all antivirus software is equal, as some don’t have high malware detection and protection rates or have accredited lab scores to back them up.

However, many high-standard AV protections offer near-perfect scores when detecting and protecting against malware, meaning even complex malicious software can’t go unnoticed. No malicious app can hide from a thorough antivirus scan, even if it looks harmless to you.

Services, including Norton 360 (from $19.99/year) and Bitdefender (from $19.99/year), include device monitoring features to help uncover suspicious activity early and offer the tools to fight off cyberattacks. Whether its a phishing attack, ransomware, spyware or infostealer malware, these security products have the tools to protect you.

These services have protection features that block malicious activity on your device. To make sure your device is ready to identify and block malware damaging your system, set yourself up with an antivirus.

Best antivirus to prevent viruses and malware

1. Norton 360 🥇From $19.99/year
Best overall antivirus of 2023

Norton 360 on Laptop scaled

“Norton” and “antivirus” are synonymous these days, as the well-established cybersecurity brand has successfully fought against malware, viruses and nasty software threats since 1990. 

Norton 360 offers excellent antivirus protection and extra features that make for a valuable, all-in-one security product. Its Norton 360 Deluxe and Premium package may cost a pretty penny. Still, with security across multiple platforms, a full-blown VPN, Dark Web Monitoring, Parental Controls and more, it will have a household free of cyber threats. 

Norton’s certainty of its antivirus software’s capabilities is clearly defined by the brand’s 100% Virus Protection Promise. If a device protected by Norton 360 can’t get rid of a virus, the user receives their money back. It’s a big claim, but unquestionably, no one should expect to get that refund.

If you have the money for it, you can also check out the premium Norton 360 Platinum package for even more online protection, including from identity theft. Without a doubt one of the best antivirus to get.

Read our full Norton 360 review

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2. Bitdefender 🥈 From $19.99/year
Best security features and tools

Bitdefender Lead Image scaled

Bitdefender takes the spot as best antivirus, and for good reason. It’s not enough that it boasts near-perfect lab test scores across the board, as it goes the extra mile by giving users access to a plethora of advanced security features.

Bitdefender goes above and beyond in the features department, all while keeping known malware, ransomware, and viruses at bay. It will defend your device against new attacks, provide security for online transactions, keep you safe with a reliable VPN, and protect your accounts with a password manager.

It’s a no-brainer when it comes to defending your devices against virtually any form of cyberattack, and its top-notch protection extends to its most affordable package, too. Protecting your PC and smartphone, from Windows and macOS to iOS and Android, is becoming even more necessary, and Bitdefender is the tricked-out shield you need. 

Read our full Bitdefender review

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3. Malwarebytes 🥉 From $44.99/year
Best antivirus for Windows PC

Malwarebytes Logo scaled

Hundreds of malware emerge every minute, and it’s Malwarebytes’ mission to detect and conquer them all. Does the antivirus do this successfully? Yes, but there’s wiggle room for improvements.

Malwarebytes’ no-nonsense approach to protecting your devices from the onslaught of malware and viruses is effective for those who need a reliable antivirus that will detect and remove malicious software, especially with its free version. However, while its premium service provides 24/7 real-time detection, conveniently blocks vicious ransomware and shields users from malicious websites, it doesn’t go beyond on the feature front.

That’s no bad thing, as sometimes a user only needs a powerful antivirus to keep them safe from cyber threats. But considering its competitors add a few more security tools, such as data breach monitoring and a firewall, there’s room for improvement. 

Read our full Malwarebytes review

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4. Avast One 🙌 From $39.99/year
Best antivirus for beginners + free plan available!

Avast One logo on laptop

With Avast One, you can protect your device from viruses, malware and ransomware for free. That’s right, and you don’t have to pay a dime for the extra security features the antivirus throws in, including its VPN, firewall and more.

Avast One will safeguard your device from malware, comes with ransomware protection, blocks harmful websites and downloads from the web, scans your emails for malicious attachments, stops hackers from infiltrating your device through Wi-Fi with a firewall – the list goes on. That’s a lot of tools for software that’s free, and the included VPN and the ability to speed up your PC are a welcome bonus.

It’s the ideal antivirus software for home use, as it takes the hassle out of staying wary of cyber threats lurking around, even if you’re not a tech whizz. What’s more, if you are looking for added precautions, its paid Individual and Family packages still boast great value. Hard to go wrong with this best antivirus.

Read our full Avast One review

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5. AVG👍 From 4.99/month
Best antivirus for + free plan available!

AVG Antivirus logo scaled

You can never go wrong with free antivirus protection, but some deliver even better detection and protection rates, along with extra security features, without costing a dime. This is where AVG antivirus shines.

AVG provides reliable protection and only a small impact on performance for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. It safeguards your devices against malware, viruses and zero-day exploits, along with blocking malicious links and attachments in emails. Throw in phishing protection when surfing the internet and extra security features such as its SafePrice browser extension and Network Inspector, and you’ve got yourself a do-it-all antivirus.

Sure, you can find all of these perks with Avast, but if you like a slick, darker user interface that’s easy to navigate, then AVG is for you.

Read our full AVG Antivirus review

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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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