What should you do when you have a problem with your computer so bad that it won’t start at all and you are absolutely sure that a virus or some other malware is responsible for this? How do you check for viruses when you can’t start Windows to run a virus scan?
This is where bootable antivirus software becomes the hero of the day. With a bootable antivirus, you can create a private flash drive or CD/DVD from a working computer and then use it on the infected machine to scan the hard drive for viruses—all without having to start Windows!
Since the most dangerous viruses damage the parts of your computer that allow them to start, a bootable antivirus tool can be a powerful weapon at your disposal to remove the virus and get your computer back on again.
note: In general, running a bootable antivirus requires the ISO image provided, and then, from a working computer, burn it to a disc or burn it to a USB drive. Next, you will need to boot from the disk or boot from the flash drive on the infected computer. More details are available in our reviews and on the Bootable AV websites.
1.Kaspersky Rescue Disk
Kaspersky Rescue Disk is one of the best bootable antivirus disks, allowing you to easily scan an infected device. The scanner for Kaspersky Rescue Disk has a reasonable range of antivirus scanning options, including scanning of individual folder, startup objects, system drive, and fileless objects. You can also scan your system boot sectors, which is a good option for finding stubborn hidden malware.
However, Kaspersky Rescue Disk comes with a plethora of additional tools, such as Firefox, a file manager, and more.
Another useful feature of Kaspersky Rescue Disk is its graphic or text interface. For most users, GUI is the best option, but text mode is only available for devices that are low on resources or otherwise.
Kaspersky scores highly in our antivirus test, and Kaspersky Rescue Disk offers you that in a bootable format. Kaspersky also tops the list of the best antivirus suites for Windows 10.
Download: Kaspersky Rescue Disk (Free)
2. Bitdefender Rescue CD
Bitdefender Rescue CD is of the same type as that offered by Kaspersky. It’s a great download, has an easy-to-use user interface, and comes with several antivirus scanning options to help you detect errors in your system.
The scanning interface is easy to navigate, allowing you to exclude certain file types, scan compressed files (such as .zip or .7z), scan files without a certain size, or drag and drop individual files to scan. However, for the most part, a standard scan is as good as you want it to be to make sure your system is free of malware.
Also included in Bitdefender Rescue CD are Firefox browser, file browser, disk recovery tool, and some other utilities.
The main downside to Bitdefender Rescue CD is that it is no longer up to date; Therefore, the signatures of the virus are outdated. But still, a decent rescue disk.
Download: Bitdefender Rescue CD (Free)
3. Avira Rescue System
Avira Rescue System is a bootable Ubuntu-based antivirus rescue disk. Avira Rescue Disc is one of the best bootable antivirus environments for beginners, as it includes a handy guide to guide you while scanning your drives. On top of that, Avira offers very little in the way of customizing the scan. Again, this may suit newbies, as there is less chance of a part of the scanning process being turned off and a malicious file missing.
The Avira Rescue System environment is easy to navigate, with a simplified interface of labeled boxes. Like the other options, Avira Rescue System includes a web browser, disk partitioning tool, and more.
Since Avira is an Ubuntu-based rescue disk, it also works well with Linux-based systems.
Download: Avira Rescue System (Free)
4. Trend Micro Rescue Disk
From three of the largest bootable antivirus rescue disks to the smallest. Trend Micro Rescue Disk may be the smallest bootable antivirus disk on this list, but it has an easy-to-use package that helps you take back control of your system.
Given its size (about 70MB at the time of writing), you can expect Trend Micro Rescue Disk to
It does not have a graphical user interface. Alternatively, you can use the rescue disk privately with the plain text menus. It seems a little tedious process. But in practice, text menus are easy to navigate, and you’ll find your way to them.
Download: Trend Micro Rescue Disk for Windows (Free)
5. Dr.Web Live Disk
Despite the slightly questionable name (Dr.Web sounds like a fake internet company, to me at least), Dr.Web Live Disk offers a wide range of antivirus scanning options in a bootable antivirus environment. Compared to the alternatives, the Dr.Web suite offers extensive scanning options.
For example, you can configure file types and sizes to include and exclude. You can assign individual actions to specific types of malware, such as bootkit, dialer, adware, etc. You can also limit the amount of time the virus scan spends on individual files, which is useful if you have multiple large media file types.
Dr.Web Live Disk has another series in the bracket, too: you can use it to scan Linux systems.
Download: Dr.Web Live Disk (Free)
6. AVG Rescue
AVG is one of the most well known names in the field of security. AVG Rescue Disk has a very basic text interface, but allows for a comprehensive, customizable scan.
For example, you can mount and scan a specific volume on Windows only, or scan specific files within that volume. Alternatively, you can scan Windows startup objects or even just the Windows registry to look for specific types of malware. (Should you clean the Windows registry, anyway?) Plus, AVG Rescue comes with a handful of diagnostic and analytical tools to help you fix specific drive problems, rather than just malware.
A very basic text interface will not be like drinking a cup of tea for everyone. Having to navigate back and forth through the interface using the arrow keys is sometimes infuriating. But given the range of options available and the accuracy of the scan for AVG Rescue, you might ignore the arrow keys.
Download: AVG Rescue (Free)
7. ESET SysRescue Live
The last bootable antivirus disk to consider is ESET SysRescue Live, an advanced antivirus rescue disk with plenty of features.
ESET SysRescue Live comes with extensive antivirus scanning control. You can scan compressed files, email folders, symbolic links, boot sectors and more, or use ESET scan profiles. Also included in ESET SysRescue Live is a disk analysis tool to check for defects and other failures, as well as a memory test tool to check your system RAM.
The rescue environment also comes with Chromium browser, GParted partition manager, TeamViewer for remote system access, and a host of other utilities.
Download: ESET SysRescue Live (Free)
What is the best bootable antivirus disk?
For me, the best bootable antivirus disk is a link between Kaspersky Rescue Disk and Dr.Web Live Disk.
Cumbersome but effective, Kaspersky Rescue Disk is regularly updated and backed by Kaspersky Security Excellence. But it does not have the same comprehensive functionality as Dr.Web Live Disk. Although the latter cannot really compete with Kaspersky on scanning terms alone, the scanning options available in Dr.Web Live Disk make it a handy tool to use.
Regarding other tools, they are all powerful and will clean up your system. Depending on the severity of the malware, you can download two bootable antivirus tweaks and run them one by one to make sure nothing slips through the network.
For more malware removal tips, see our Malicious Software Removal Guide.