Norman Malware Cleaner 2.08 review

The free Norman Malware Cleaner 2.08 needs no installation. It's meant to wipe out malware that interferes with other security products. In testing, it did a decent job but also damaged a couple of test systems.
Photo of Norman Malware Cleaner 2.08

For all-day every day security, you want a full-scale antivirus to keep malware attacks away from your system. Sometimes, though, you can’t even install that full-scale protection because the malware fights back. In cases like that, a free, cleanup-only tool like Norman Malware Cleaner 2.08 can be a life saver. It doesn’t need installation; you just download it and run a scan. Delete it when you’re done, because there’s a new version every day.

Norman Malware Cleaner opens to a page that offers a quick, full, or custom scan. You won’t go wrong by simply selecting a full scan and clicking start. However, you may want to make one small change to the configuration settings. All of the scanning options are turned on by default, including scanning for rootkits. However, for some reason the option to clean rootkits is disabled by default. I enabled it for all of my tests.

I should point out that this truly is a newer product than Norman Malware Cleaner 2.1, which I reviewed previously. That was actually version 2.01; a quirk in presentation eliminated the zero.

A Few Obstacles
Norman Malware Cleaner ran without incident on ten of my twelve malware-infested test systems. On six of those systems it asked permission to reboot the system and rescan to complete the cleanup process; I always said yes to that offer.

On one test system, it asked to reboot and rescan over and over. After repeating this six times, I took a look at the log files. To my surprise, Windows asked what program it should use to open them. A little investigation showed that notepad.exe, along with literally hundreds of other files, had been quarantined. At the tech support agent’s request, I supplied a dozen or so of those quarantined files.

Tech support analyzed the problem and updated the next day’s edition of Norman Malware Cleaner to handle it. I simply restored all of the files from quarantine and ran a new scan. Note that the same problem happened during my testing of Norman Antivirus 10    , but without the same easy resolution. The antivirus uses a version of Norman Malware Cleaner to perform a pre-install scan, but this scan doesn’t leave a log or identify quarantined files. Norman’s designers plan to change that.

The cleanup process on another test system eliminated some essential Windows files, rendering the system completely unbootable. At the advice of tech support I created a bootable Ubuntu USB drive—it was surprisingly easy. I booted from the drive, sent the log to tech support, and got back instructions that let me restore the system to health.

Pretty Good Malware Removal
For a hair over 80 percent of my malware samples, Norman Malware Cleaner’s results precisely matched the results I got when testing Norman Antivirus. This suggests to me that the pre-install scan is doing a lot of the work. A subsequent scan with the full-scale antivirus product found a few more lurking traces, but didn’t make a big difference in the score. Both detected 75 percent of the samples. The standalone antivirus earned 5.6 points while the free cleanup tool “only” got 5.5 points.

Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 10.5 and avast! Free Antivirus 8 both scored 5.8 points against this same collection of malware. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70 detected 89 percent of the malware samples in my previous collection and earned 7.1 points for malware removal, a better score than any other current product, free or commercial.

Comodo Cleaning Essentials 6, another free, cleanup-only antivirus, took 6.3 points when tested with that previous collection, which is still quite a lot better than many of its commercial competitors. For a full explanation of how I derive these scores, please see How We Test Malware Removal.

Norman Malware Cleaner 2.08 malware removal chart

Possibly Useful
Our Editors’ Choice for free, cleanup-only antivirus remains Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70. I would always recommend that you try Malwarebytes first. In the rare event that Malwarebytes can’t solve the problem, you could certainly give Norman Malware Cleaner a try. Do note, however, that in my testing Malwarebytes did its job without creating any problems, while Norman damaged two test systems, requiring help from tech support for recovery.

Specifications
Tech Support Local language tech support via mail of phone.
OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8
Type Business, Personal, Enterprise, Professional
Free Yes

Verdict
The free Norman Malware Cleaner 2.08 needs no installation. It's meant to wipe out malware that interferes with other security products. In testing, it did a decent job but also damaged a couple of test systems.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc