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Avast Academy Security Malware How to Detect and Remove a Keylogger

How to Detect and Remove a Keylogger

Tap, tap, tap. Is someone using a keylogger to track your keystrokes? Keylogging is an invasive, dangerous way for cybercriminals to access your credentials and clear out your bank account or steal personal information. The best way to detect and remove keyloggers is to use strong keylogger detection and anti-malware software like Avast Free Antivirus.

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What is a keylogger?

A keylogger is a type of spyware that records keyboard inputs and sends that information back to the person controlling it. Everything you type is tracked, including passwords, account information, emails, searches, and personal information.

Keyloggers have one job: logging keystrokes on a computer or finger taps on a mobile phone or tablet. Even if you use an anonymous browser, a keylogger can still track what you type because it's installed directly on your device.

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This article contains:

    How to detect a keylogger

    The warning signs for detecting a keylogger program on your computer are simple: a slow browser, a lag in mouse movements or keystrokes, or a disappearing cursor. A keylogger can track you even if you’re using one of the best browsers for privacy.

    Some keylogging symptoms also occur with old or cluttered devices, or may result from another type of malware like adware. This step-by-step guide will teach you how to check for a keylogger on Windows 10 and other operating systems so you can keep your data safe.

    Before we dive in, remember that the best keylogger detector is strong antivirus software that automatically removes keyloggers and other malware as soon as they’re detected.

    Use the Task Manager

    Task Manager is a quick way to check your computer for a keylogger. It’s a utility program on PCs that shows you which applications and background processes are running (on Mac, use the Activity Monitor).

    Follow these steps to check for a keylogger program on your PC.

    1. Right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager.

      Opening the Task Manager in Windows 10
    2. Click More Details in the lower-left corner to see a list of processes running on your computer.

      Viewing more details in the Task Manager for Windows 10
    3. Review the list of open apps and active processes. If you see any unknown programs that are consuming resources, search for them online. If they seem unnecessary or potentially dangerous, right-click on them and select End task.

      Viewing open apps in the Task Manager for Windows 10
    4. Next, review the programs that turn on when your computer starts up by reviewing the Startup tab. This is located at the top of the Task Manager.

      Viewing startup items in the Task Manager for Windows 10
    5. If you notice any unusual programs set to activate on startup, search for them online and if they’re unnecessary or dangerous, disable them.

    Inspect programs and features

    Programs and Features is a section in the Control Panel on Windows devices that lets you add or remove programs. It's a good way to check for keyloggers.

    The name of this feature will vary based on the version of Windows you’re using. On Windows 10 you’ll find a setting for Apps & features — it’s called Add/Remove Programs on Windows 98 and Programs and Features on Windows Vista and Windows 7.

    1. Type control panel into the Start Menu or taskbar search box and open the Control Panel from the results.

      Opening the Control Panel in Windows 10
    2. Click Programs, then click Programs and Features.

      Opening the Programs and Features category in the Control Panel for Windows 10
    3. Look for suspicious or unknown programs. If you see anything you don’t know, search for it online. If it’s unnecessary or dangerous, right-click and uninstall it.

      Viewing installed programs in the Control Panel for Windows 10

    Scan for keyloggers using antivirus software

    The previous two steps show you how to scan for keyloggers manually. But keyloggers can disguise themselves as legitimate programs that are hard to find on your own. Instead, run an antivirus scan with trusted security software that can detect keyloggers automatically.

    1. Download and install an anti-malware scanner and removal app.

    2. Follow the prompts to run your first scan.

      Avast Free Antivirus will prompt you to run your first scan upon installation.
    3. Avast will initiate a Smart Scan of your device to look for keyloggers, other types of malware, and other online threats.

      Performing a scan with Avast Free Antivirus for Windows 10

    How to remove a keylogger

    The options for keylogger removal are similar to options for discovery — remove them manually following one of the processes below, or remove them automatically with antivirus software. The easiest and safest way to stop keyloggers is to use a keylogger detector to remove them automatically.

    Avast deep scans your system to ensure any type of keylogger infection is cleared out immediately.

    Uninstall programs

    Removing keyloggers might be as simple as uninstalling the program from your device. If you managed to find the keylogger using Task Manager or Programs and Features, the next step is to uninstall the program.

    Below is a step-by-step guide for uninstalling programs on your PC. If you use a Mac, follow our guide to uninstalling apps on Mac.

    1. Go to the Start menu or search box and type control panel, then select the Control Panel from the results.

      Opening the Control Panel in Windows 10
    2. Choose Programs, then click Programs and Features.

      Opening the Programs and Features category in the Control Panel for Windows 10
    3. Right-click on the program you suspect to be a keylogger and select Uninstall or Uninstall/Change.

      Uninstalling a program in the Control Panel of Windows 10
    4. Follow the prompts until the process is complete.

    Clear temporary files

    Temporary files, or “temp” files, are a common place for keyloggers to hide. The Temp folder quickly gets piled with clutter, making it easy for keyloggers to disguise themselves as legitimate files. Clearing temp files can lead to successful keylogger virus removal.

    Here’s how to clear temp files in Windows 10:

    1. Click the cog icon in the Start menu to open the Windows Settings.

      Opening the settings from the Start menu in Windows 10
    2. Select System (the computer icon).

      Selecting the System settings from the Settings menu in Windows 10
    3. Click Storage on the left navigation menu, then select Temporary files under the drive where Windows is installed.

      Viewing temporary files via the Storage category of the Windows 10 Settings
    4. Select all temporary files using the check boxes, then click Remove files.

      Removing temporary files in Windows 10

    Reset your PC

    As a last resort, try removing a keylogger by resetting your PC. Doing so wipes your entire drive clean, so make sure you have a safe backup of any files you want to keep before doing a reset. To reset your PC, reinstall Windows 10, and remove a keylogger, follow these steps.

    1. Click Start and open the Settings.

      Opening the settings from the Start menu in Windows 10
    2. Choose Update & security.

      Opening the Update & security settings from the Settings in Windows 10
    3. Select Recovery and click Get started under the Reset this PC header.

      Choosing to reset a PC in the Recovery settings of Windows 10
    4. Select Remove everything.

      Resetting a Windows 10 by removing everything

    Why are keyloggers used?

    Keyloggers are used for both legitimate reasons and to carry out cybercrimes, meaning there are many legal, non-malicious keylogging programs on the market. But just like with a baseball bat, intent matters if you’re up to no good.

    Keyloggers can be used by companies to troubleshoot technical problems on systems and networks — or to monitor would-be whistleblowers. Distrustful partners and concerned parents are another market for keylogging software.

    Keylogger malware is malicious software installed by an unknown cybercriminal to spy on people online. The same way web tracking follows you around the internet, keyloggers follow the precise movements of your fingers.

    Why are keyloggers dangerous?

    Keylogging is a type of spyware that turns your keyboard into a secret informant. Whatever you type into your keyboard gets transmitted directly to a third party. This can mean tracking actual keystroke inputs or hacking your webcam to record your finger movements.

    Keyloggers are dangerous because they steal personal information, passwords, and sensitive data right from under your fingertips. Not to be confused with browser fingerprinting, keylogging doesn't just piece together an idea of what you search for — it knows exactly what you type.

    An illustration depicting keylogger malwareKeyloggers track your keystrokes as you type.

    The good news is keyloggers can be detected using one of the best free antivirus software options. Reliable antivirus software functions as a keylogger detector when it scans your device to find keyloggers and other types of malware. At the same time, it prevents new malware infections from reaching your device.

    Not all keyloggers are software — some keyloggers are hardware, a physical component plugged into your computer, such as a cord or a keyboard overlay. Keylogging hardware can be removed simply by unplugging or removing the physical device.

    Even though a spyware removal tool can handle keystroke logger detection, you want to avoid this dangerous type of malware to begin with. That's why it's important to know how a keylogger gets on your device in the first place.

    How keyloggers infect your device

    Hackers often use social engineering methods to infect victims with keyloggers. The easiest way for a keylogger to infect your device is when you open a malicious email attachment, SMS message, or visit an infected website.

    Once you click on an infected link, open an infected attachment,, or visit a phishing website, the keylogger automatically downloads itself onto your device.

    Using a spyware removal tool for PC, a spyware removal app for iPhone, a spyware removal app for Android, or learning how to remove spyware from a Mac is the best way to detect and handle a keylogger infection.

    Protect your device from keyloggers with trusted antivirus software

    Keyloggers can sneak onto your computer without you suspecting a thing. With a keylogger detector and removal tool, you’ll always stay protected. Avast Free Antivirus detects and removes keyloggers and other spyware to keep you safe and secure 24/7.

    Avast is powered by one of the largest threat detection networks in the world, blocking millions of cybersecurity threats every day. With a strong anti-spyware solution on your side, you won’t need to worry about keyloggers recording your keystrokes and gobbling up your data. Enjoy award-winning and 100% free protection.

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