11 Top free bootable antivirus rescue discs for Windows PCs
All computer viruses are bad, but some of them are nastier than others. When a really evil one infects your system and takes control of your PC, you might find yourself in a prison: you can't use your infected computer for anything, disinfection included. When something like this happens, a way to get out and escape from the virus' hands is to create an antivirus rescue disk and use it to boot up and clean your infected Windows computer. Fortunately, most antivirus companies develop and maintain disk images for antivirus rescue discs, which you can burn on a CD/DVD or write on a bootable USB memory stick. Most antivirus rescue discs are delivered as ISO files, although some antivirus companies prefer to offer tools for creating rescue discs that are built into their security products. To make it easier for you to create your own antivirus rescue discs, here are the 11 best discs you can use:
1. Bitdefender Rescue CD
Although Bitdefender delivers one of the best antivirus engines in the world, the antivirus rescue disk software they offer is delivered through a very basic web page. Bitdefender doesn't display any obvious links on their websites to their Bitdefender Rescue CD and, unless you know exactly what you're looking for, you're going to have a hard time finding the download page.
Bitdefender Rescue CD offers an easy to use user interface and, when it loads, the first thing it does is to automatically update its antivirus definitions. Bitdefender Rescue CD gives you all the antivirus scanning customization options you want: it lets you set various exclusions, scan inside archive files or even set a maximum file size for the files that get scanned.
Download: Bitdefender Rescue CD
2. ESET SysRescue Live
ESET SysRescue Live is an antivirus rescue disc with a easy to use graphical user interface and with lots of ways to customize the antivirus scans that you perform. You can run smart antivirus scans and custom antivirus scans, you can set exclusions, choose custom folders or files to be scanned, and even whether you want to look for possibly unwanted programs on your infected computer. ESET SysRescue Live can also update its antivirus definitions so that you can clean your computer even if it's infected with a very new virus.
Download: ESET SysRescue Live
3. Kaspersky Rescue Disk
Although the Kaspersky Rescue Disk is a very old software, released back in 2010, it includes an option to update the antivirus definitions so that the antivirus scans you'll perform are not outdated as well. Kaspersky Rescue Disk offers a good looking graphical user interface that's easy to use and it also includes lots of customization options: you can scan boot sectors and/or hidden startup objects, specific folders or files, only files with a specific extensions, and you can set exclusions.
Download: Kaspersky Rescue Disk
4. Trend Micro Rescue Disk
Just like its Windows desktop counterpart, Trend Micro Rescue Disk is one of the most simple antivirus rescue discs we've seen. In order to create a Trend Micro Rescue Disk on a USB memory stick or a CD/DVD, you must download and run an executable file that will download all the files required, including the latest antivirus definitions. Then, it takes care of the entire creation process. Once you boot from the antivirus rescue disc, you'll find that there's no real user interface in Trend Micro Rescue Disk , except of a minimalistic text based screen with a few basic options like running a quick scan or a full antivirus scan of your computer.
Download: Trend Micro Rescue Disk
5. Norton Bootable Recovery Tool
Norton Bootable Recovery Tool is a an executable application that can create a bootable antivirus rescue disc on a DVD or on a USB memory stick. It can also save the ISO file of the rescue disc on your Windows computer. When you boot from an antivirus rescue disc that you created with Norton Bootable Recovery Tool you will get a simple, minimalistic graphical user interface that lets you scan your computer for viruses. If you're wondering, you should know that the Norton Bootable Recovery Tool doesn't offer any customization options. All you can do is start the scanning and then clean your computer.
Download: Norton Bootable Recovery Tool
6. AVG Rescue CD
AVG Rescue CD lets you update its antivirus definitions straight from the disc and it also offers options for customizing the antivirus scans, as well as running heuristic antivirus scans. What's not so great about AVG Rescue CD is that it has a very old school user interface: it's text only and finding your way through it can prove to be quite a challenge.
Download: AVG Rescue CD
7. Avira Rescue System
Avira Rescue System is an antivirus rescue disk that offers a good-looking graphical user interface that's easy to use by anyone. It's worth mentioning that, when running antivirus scans, Avira Rescue System always checks for available antivirus definitions updates and only then does it scan your computer for malicious software.
Download: Avira Rescue System
8. F-Secure Rescue CD
F-Secure Rescue CD is one of the simplest and easiest to use antivirus rescue discs in the lot. There's no real user interface, except for a very minimalistic text based dialog where you're asked whether you want to start an antivirus scan or not. If you choose to run an antivirus scan, F-Secure Rescue CD automatically starts downloading the available updates and then lets you choose which drives you want scanned. There are no other customization options available.
Download: F-Secure Rescue CD
9. Avast Rescue Disk
Avast is the only antivirus company from this list that doesn't offer a standalone download ISO file or executable for creating an Avast Rescue Disk. The only way you can create an Antivirus Rescue Disk is from within an Avast! Security product. The good thing is that you can create this rescue disk even from the free version of Avast! Antivirus, so you don't have to buy one of Avast's paid products. Avast Rescue Disk offers a simple graphical user interface that's very easy to use. You can either scan all your hard discs for malicious files, or you can choose to scan only some discs or folders. Other than that, there aren't many other scanning customization options available.
10. Panda SafeDisk
Panda SafeDisk is an antivirus rescue disc that's very easy to use. When you boot from it, it loads a wizard that automatically searches for available antivirus definitions and, when you press start, it begins to scan your entire computer for malicious files. Panda SafeDisk has almost no customization options. The only thing you can set is whether it will only scan your computer for viruses or whether it will also clean them.
Download: Panda SafeDisk
11. Comodo Rescue Disk
Comodo Rescue Disk has an easy to use graphical use interface and, when you start it, it immediately launches the antivirus. After accepting its license terms, Comodo Rescue Disk automatically checks for available updates. This rescue disc includes lots of customization options. You can set exclusions, scan inside archives, set different levels for heuristic scans and so on.
Download: Comodo Rescue Disk
If you stumble upon very nasty viruses on Windows computers that don't seem to have any chance of easy recovery, an antivirus rescue disc might be a good way of solving your problems. Whether you prefer one antivirus developer or another, there are plenty of options available. If you encounter a very nasty virus, we recommend that you create two rescue discs, from different manufacturers and use them both to clean your computer. Our list will provide you with enough diversity.