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Malwarebytes 3.0 has removed "Anti-Malware" from its name, but it's the same antivirus suite that competes with Norton and McAfee. This version adds machine learning, a kind of adaptive artificial intelligence that can identify malware by analyzing the characteristics of the file. Norton, McAfee, and other security software companies have added machine learning this year as well.


Machine-learning-based protection: Like Norton and McAfee, Malwarebytes has added machine learning to its antivirus arsenal this year. Malwarebytes 3.0 uses this built-in artificial-intelligence technology to recognize malware rather than referring to its database of virus signatures, which are like mugshots for malware and require regular updates to be effective.

Multilayered real-time protection settings: When you click the Protection tab and the Advanced Settings button, Malwarebytes presents a large grid of technical functions that you can enable or disable. Most of these will require a Google search to translate them into layman's terms. Fiddling with this section is fully optional; Malwarebytes will operate just fine on the default settings. But if you've always wanted to toggle Anti-HeapSpraying Enforcement or 32-bit RET ROP Gadget detection, now's your chance.


Persistent stability issues: In our tests on a laptop running Windows 7 and a desktop running Windows 10, Malwarebytes caused multiple blue-screen errors. The official workaround for the Bad Pool Header crash is to disable the program's Web Protection feature, which blocks known malicious websites from connecting to your PC. Disabling this feature worked on the Windows 10 PC but not on the Windows 7 laptop. On the Windows 7 machine, all four of Malwarebytes' protection elements had to be disabled to stop the crashes, meaning that the app could no longer actively monitor for threats. Malwarebytes will frequently remind you that these protections are disabled, using small but brightly colored pop-up windows in the system tray area.

On the Windows 7 laptop, the crashes were severe enough to trigger a license validation error in the operating system itself, compelling a visit to our IT department for resolution. When Windows decides that its license activation is not genuine, it will nag you constantly about the issue, so it cannot be ignored.

No such crashes or errors occurred on either PC when running the previous version of Malwarebytes. The Bad Pool Header issue has surfaced repeatedly in Malwarebytes apps over a number of years, across different versions of Windows. You might never encounter this issue, or it might go away if you disable Web Protection. Or you might find, as we did with the Windows 7 laptop, that there's no resolution that makes Malwarebytes a compelling choice versus the competition.

Missing information: The interface has a number of question mark icons that you can click to open an online User Guide on the Malwarebytes website. There you'll find detailed feature explanations. However, on both our test machines, some of these icons did nothing when clicked. The User Guide also lacks a search function.

Bottom Line

In previous years, Malwarebytes has been a reliable choice. In fact, the security community frequently considered it faster, lighter, more accurate, and more stable than competing apps like Norton and McAfee, and considered its marketing less aggressive. However, our experience with this latest version -- especially on a Windows 7 machine deliberately configured to minimize variables -- indicates that Malwarebytes 3.0 is not the must-have upgrade that we've come to expect from this company. We recommend sticking with the previous version until 3.0's kinks are worked out, or choosing another antivirus app.

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