Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is a great security tool that’s particularly effective against “potentially unwanted programs (PUPs)” and other nasty software traditional antivirus programs don’t deal with. But it’s intended to be used alongside an antivirus and doesn’t replace one entirely.
If you’re using Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, you should be running it alongside a primary antivirus program to keep your computer in tip-top security shape. But traditional advice is not to run two anti-malware programs at once. Here’s how to thread that needle.
The standard, free version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware just functions as an on-demand scanner. In other words, it doesn’t run automatically in the background. Instead, it only does something when you launch it and click the Scan button.
This version of Malwarebytes shouldn’t interfere with your antivirus program at all. Just install it and occasionally launch it to perform a scan and check for the “potentially unwanted programs” almost no one actually wants. It will find and remove them. Using an anti-malware program as an on-demand scanner is a safe way to get a second opinion.
You shouldn’t have to do any extra configuration here. If Malwarebytes reports some sort of error removing a piece of malware it finds, you could potentially pause or disable real-time scanning in your main antivirus program to prevent it from interfering, and then reenable real-time scanning right after. But even this shouldn’t be necessary, and we’ve never heard of anyone encountering a problem like this one.
(This is the only way Malwarebytes works on a Mac, too. It can’t perform automatic, real-time scans — just on-demand scans. Malwarebytes shouldn’t interfere with other Mac antivirus applications, if you are actually running one.)
Run Malwarebytes in Side-by-Side Mode
Starting with Malwarebytes 4, the Premium version of Malwarebytes now registers itself as the system’s security program by default. In other words, it will handle all your anti-malware scanning and Windows Defender (or whatever other antivirus you have installed) won’t run in the background.
You can still run both at once if you like. Here’s how: In Malwarebytes, open Settings, click the “Security” tab, and disable the “Always register Malwarebytes in the Windows Security Center” option. With this option disabled, Malwarebytes won’t register itself as the system’s security application and both Malwarebytes and Windows Defender will run at the same time.
The paid version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium also contains real-time scanning features. Malwarebytes will run in the background, scanning your system and files you open for problems and preventing them from taking root on your system in the first place.
The problem is that your main antivirus program is already functioning in this way. The standard advice is that you shouldn’t have real-time scanning enabled for two antivirus programs enabled at once. They can interfere with each other in a variety of ways, slowing down your computer, causing crashes, or even preventing each other from working.
Malwarebytes is coded in a different way and is designed to run alongside other antivirus programs without interfering. It may even work without any further configuration. But, to make it work as well as it possibly can and improve performance, you should set up exclusions in both Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium and your standard antivirus program.
To do this in Malwarebytes, open Malwarebytes, click the Settings icon, select “Malware Exclusions,” and add the folder — typically under Program Files — containing your antivirus program’s files.
In your antivirus program, load the antivirus program, find “exclusions”, “ignored files”, or a similarly named section, and add the appropriate Malwarebytes files. You should exclude these files, according to the official Malwarebytes documentation:
C:\Program Files\Malwarebytes Anti-Malware\mbam.exe
C:\Program Files\Malwarebytes Anti-Malware\mbamdor.exe
C:\Program Files\Malwarebytes Anti-Malware\mbampt.exe
C:\Program Files\Malwarebytes Anti-Malware\mbamservice.exe
C:\Program Files\Malwarebytes Anti-Malware\mbamscheduler.exe
For more specific instructions, you might want to perform a web search for “Malwarebytes” and the name of your antivirus program. Or just perform a web search for the name of your antivirus program and “exclusions” to find out how to add those exclusions and exclude the files named on the Malwarebytes website.
Malwarebytes is designed to run alongside a normal antivirus program so you shouldn’t have to worry about this most of the time — especially if you’re just using the free version. If you’re using the paid version, setting up exclusions can help you avoid problems and maximize your computer’s performance. But even that won’t be completely necessary most of the time.