What Is The Difference Between Malware and a Virus?

Viruses and malware are two types of malicious software that can cause a lot of trouble for people and cause irreparable harm to your operating system. There are many different types of malicious software, and many people are confused about the differences between malware vs. viruses.

Malware is often installed without your knowledge or consent when you download programs from websites like torrents or pirate sites, which contain malicious code.

A virus is a specific piece of contagious malicious software. An example of a virus could be an email attachment that you opened on accident because it had the same name as an important file in your inbox and got past your spam filter. A virus can self replicate from a host system and infect an entire network of devices.

To learn more about what virus and malware software does to your device and how to protect your systems from them, read on!

Malware vs. Viruses: Are They The Same?

Even though a virus is a specific type of malware, it varies from other malicious software. For this article, we will aim to highlight the difference between malware and a computer virus.


Viruses are often confused with other types of malware because they can all cause damage to your device. Still, viruses have a much more specific definition in the computer world than just being dangerous software that infects files and systems.

A virus is an executable file or code that reproduces itself by attaching copies of its code onto other programs or system files on the host PC without user intervention (which means it doesn’t need you to open attachments and emails). Common viruses include trojan horses which act as backdoor entries for hackers to remotely control computer systems.

Simply put, a virus is a type of malware that uses different ways for spreading itself, like attaching itself to another program, so when that file is opened on a user’s computer, they will be infected too. This makes viruses sometimes harder to detect because people assume an email attachment contains harmless text. In reality, it could contain harmful code which spreads as soon as the recipient opens it up!


On the other hand, Malware is any harmful program designed specifically to disrupt something on your system like computer performance, data security, etc. Malware includes things like spyware, which tracks what websites you visit online so spammers can show ads related to your interests. Adware and ransomware are other common types of malware attacks.

It’s important to note that these definitions are not rigid – malware can be spyware or a Trojan horse. Still, the core distinction between the two is intent: Malware disrupts something on your system (often without you realizing it). At the same time, a virus self replicates itself and spreads using any means necessary.

With this in mind, there are many different types of malware, and they all do various things like taking over computer resources by running processes in background programs without consent from the user; steal personal information about users like passwords or bank account numbers through keylogging software; gather data about browsing habits so advertisers can show ads based on those interests online; steal money from users by installing ransomware, and steal information about company data or intellectual property to sell it to competitors.

Is Malware More Dangerous Than A Computer Virus?

Technically speaking, a virus is a type of malware, meaning both are dangerous for computer users.

Malware can take away the ability of your device’s system to function properly. It also may contain explicit content and lead users to click on links that will steal their personal information in order for cybercriminals to use this data against them.

Malware can also affect companies. A network could be hacked or obtain malware unknowingly, which has now affected all those who are sharing their business network with them!

What Types of Malware Exist?

As explained above, there is not just one type of malware. Here is a summary of each kind of malware.

  • Spyware: Spyware is a type of software that covertly gathers data about a person or organization’s online activities without their knowledge. Spyware is usually installed without consent and can steal sensitive information like credit card details and passwords.
  • Adware: Adware displays unwanted advertising material on your screen to make money while potentially harming the host system.
  • Computer viruses: A virus such as a trojan horse infects other programs or devices they come into contact with.
  • Worms: Worms can replicate themselves, spreading fast across an entire network of systems. You’ll likely find worms in email attachments.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware encrypts your data or takes control of your system and demands money for the key to unlock it.
  • Scareware: This type of malware scares you into thinking your device is infected by showing fake messages and alerts. People are usually tricked into paying money.
  • Bots: Bots are a type of malware designed to steal your data and use it for nefarious purposes.
  • Malicious website: These are internet sites that can attack your system like any other type of virus. This type of site is usually disguised as something useful, depending on the hacker’s intentions.

There are many different types of malware, but they all have two things in common – they infect programs or devices when they come into contact with them. Once installed, malware and viruses will often do bad things such as deleting files or locking up computers until users pay for a key code from the hacker who created it!

How Do Malware And Viruses Affect My Device?

Viruses may cause corruption of files or damage hardware and program filers. A virus can also infect other programs on a computer system, such as attachments or downloads from unsafe websites.

Malware, in general, ruins the performance of devices by slowing down their internet speed, deleting data without consent, stealing information like credit card numbers – even taking over control of computers remotely!

The scariest part is that many types of malware are difficult, if not impossible, to delete completely. Some people say these days, “antivirus” has become outdated when it comes to combatting malware, but some good anti-malware and antivirus solutions are available.

How Do I Remove Malware?

Malware can be removed by following the instructions for your system. In some cases, you will need to download and install a cleaner app if your device has been infected with malware.

Is Malware The Same as Antivirus?

Malware is not the same as antivirus. Antivirus is a solution that aims to protect your device from viruses, which are a type of malware.

Does a VPN Protect from Malware and Viruses?

Many people use VPNs as a way to keep their internet activities and information private. However, because of its wider reach and the fact that many antivirus programs now include VPN protection by default, some experts say you don’t need it.

However, a lot of ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are blocking outbound ports used for VPNs, so it can be difficult or impossible to connect to the internet with a VPN if your ISP is one of them! Make sure to check that your device will allow the use of VPN software before using it.

Does a VPN Stop Malware and Viruses?

No, a VPN cannot stop malware from infiltrating your system. Your VPN can protect you by alerting you of malicious sites or blocking adware, but it cannot completely defend against internet threats.

Does Antivirus Software Protect Computers from Malware and Viruses?

Yes, antivirus does protect your device. Without it, you still may be exposed to many threats, including viruses like trojans. Firstly, this software scans files before downloading them to make sure that you don’t accidentally open malicious emails.

Secondly, the antivirus runs in the background and runs frequent checks of your operating system to ensure that no viruses are lurking amongst your files.

To keep your data private online, we recommend installing a VPN as well as antivirus software! Many VPNs now have built-in malware protection to protect you from things like adware and ensure you don’t access malicious websites.

What Are Some Other Benefits of Antivirus?

With antivirus, you can speed up your device since the software sporadically removes unnecessary files from your system to free up space. Antivirus can also remove cookies and trackers on the web, which is great news. Some providers like Mcafee block auto-playing videos to speed up your internet browsing experience.

We recommend using a VPN with antivirus since combined; the two will keep you protected from many threats on the web. While VPNs protect users from surveillance, tracking, and cookies, they are not a one-stop solution for malware protection, for which antivirus software is essential.

What Are The Best Antivirus Solutions?

Norton and Mcafee are two of the best antivirus providers because they’re easy to use and offer various features. Mcafee offers firewall protection, a built-in VPN, and regular system checks. Norton is the best antivirus solution for catching rootkits, and is extremely reliable and respects in the industry.

Check out our antivirus software reviews to find the best provider for your needs and ensure that your device is protected from all sorts of malware today.

Author Madeleine Hodson

I’m Madeleine, and I'm a writer that specializes in cybersecurity, tech products, and all things related to the internet. I have a keen interest in VPNs and believe that everyone deserves internet freedom and security. I wr...
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