In this article we're going to show you how to use the Malicious Software Removal Tool (Microsoft MRT or MRST), a standalone tool to remove malware after an infection. It works across Windows 10, Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2016, Windows 8.1, and earlier. We'll be focusing on Windows 10 in this tutorial, but you can follow along on any Windows version.
First, though, a little more about what this malware removal tool from Microsoft is all about. Why would you use this instead of Microsoft Defender, Microsoft Safety Scanner, or a piece of third-party software? The answer is that some malicious software may disable your anti-virus capabilities or be difficult to remove via traditional means.
The Microsoft Malware Removal Tool: A Targeted Windows Malware Scanner
The Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool, then, is more targeted. It only removes a concise list of the most prevalent malicious software and is designed to do so while the malware is active. It receives updates quarterly and automatically runs once per month. It comes in two forms: Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool 64-bit, and Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool 32-bit. The version you have will vary depending on your processor and OS type.
It's important to note that it does not remove spyware – only viruses, worms, and trojans, and does not stop malware from running in the first place. As a result, it's not a replacement for typical virus scanning software.
With that said, let's get into how you can use the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool to run a manual scan.
How to Open, Find, and Use the Malicious Software Removal Tool
Microsoft doesn't signpost the location of MRT, so you'll have to seek it out yourself via a targeted search or download it.
- Open Microsoft MRST
Press Start and type “MRT”. Click the top result, which will be its file path.
- Read the disclaimer and press ‘Next >'
- How to run a Quick scan with Microsoft MRST
To run a quick scan of your system, tick the “Quick scan” checkbox and press “Next >”. Be aware that this will only scan the areas of your system that most commonly contain malware. A quick scan returning nothing does not necessarily mean you are safe, especially if you have seen strange behavior on your PC.
If the quick scan does pick up malicious software, you may want to follow it with a full scan to ensure all remnants are removed.
- How to run a full scan with Microsoft MRST
To run a full scan, instead, tick the “Full scan” box. Ensure that you have several hours free, as this could take some time.
- How to run a custom Malicious Software Removal Scan
If you know exactly where the problem lies – for example, you've discovered a trojan via another anti-virus solution – you can run a custom scan. This lets you check a specific folder for malicious software.
Click “Customized scan”, then press the “Choose Folder …” option.
- Select the folder to scan
You can also scan a specific drive, such as just your C:/ drive, to save time. Once you've selected, press “Select Folder”.
- Wait for the malware removal tool to complete its scan
This could take anywhere from minutes to hours depending on your choice.
- Check your results
Click “View detailed results of the scan” to see the malicious software the tool did or didn't detect.
- Check for the malware you were infected with and note it down
You should research this software to determine its impact on your computer and whether you need to take any additional steps to stop it from recurring.
How to Run the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool via Command Prompt
If you can't access your PC's GUI because you have been locked out of your system by the malware, you can use the command-line instead.
- Open Command Prompt
If you can still access the start menu, press Start and then type “CMD”. With Command Prompt selected, click “Run as administrator” on the right-hand side of your Start Menu.
If you can't access Command Prompt via the Start Menu, follow our guide to access it via Advanced Startup Options.
- Run the Microsoft MRT command
In your command prompt window run one of the following commands:
Run a forced full scan with the MSRT UI
MRT /F /Q
Run a forced full scan without the MSRT UI
MRT /F :Y
Run a forced full scan via the UI and automatically clean files
MRT /F:Y /Q
Run a forced full scan without the UI and automatically clean files
That's all for this one. Now that the Windows malware scanner has done its work, you may want to check if Windows Defender has been disabled and turn it back on. You should also consider turning on the hidden adware blocker for extra protection.