Bootable rescue disks are helpful when malware stops you from running normal antivirus software. These tools allow you to check your computer for malware without having to run Windows and can often locate files that antivirus software might miss. They can also look through the Master Boot Record (MBR) of the hard drive, a feature especially beneficial for eliminating persistent or difficult to clean threats.

These bootable tools come with a text-based interface. However, most offer customization options, so you can select to only scan certain types of files or folders, or even select specific sizes of files. The most effective of these tools come with a visual interface and support for more sophisticated threats, such as rootkits and some kinds of ransomware.

AVG Rescue CD, with its simple but thorough GUI and numerous scanning options, is a great example. It’s also one of the few programs that can do the full MBR scanning which is typically impossible using a non-bootable program. It’s not the fastest program on this list and its user-friendly text-only interface isn’t suitable for everyone.

Kaspersky Rescue Disk is another top option that’s fast, has a well-designed UI and supports more advanced infections. It has features you won’t discover in other bootable antivirus tools, for instance, the ability to scan the boot sector and hidden startup objects, as well fileless and the entire drive. You can also set exclusions to reduce the time it takes to check for malware. In our tests, it detected all the malware samples we sent to it which included some that had evaded detection by other antivirus programs.

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