Difference Between Virus and Malware

The main difference between virus and malware is that malware is a malicious software that damages the computer without user consent while virus is a type of malware.

Malware, also called malicious software, refers to a variety of intrusive software including, computer viruses, spyware, worms, Trojans, ransomware, adware and other intentionally harmful programs. They can disrupt the entire functionality of the system. Antivirus and anti malware software helps to protect the system from malware threats.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is a Virus
      – Definition, Functionality
2. What is a Malware
     – Definition, Types, and Functionality
3. Relationship Between Virus and Malware
     – Outlining the Association
4. Difference Between Virus and Malware
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Computer Security, Malware, VirusDifference Between Virus and Malware - Comparison Summary

What is a Virus

A virus is a computer program that can affect and destroy computer data. A virus is capable of replicating. Therefore, it spreads across folders and files and destroys the data. There are multiple ways that a virus can infect the system. Downloading files from the internet, unpatched software, pen drives, email attachments etc. are some ways that a virus can enter the system. A virus can damage the computer in many ways. It can affect the system network use, damage data, disrupt computer resources and change the configuration settings.

Main Difference - Virus vs Malware

Figure 1: Virus

Users can take several steps to prevent a virus from entering the computer. He or she can install effective anti-virus software and use highly secured passwords. Overall, a virus is a risk to the proper functionality of the system.

What is Malware

Malware is a piece of code or a software that harms the computer. Virus, spyware, worms, Trojans, ransomware and adware are some types of malware.


Spyware can track internet activities, gather details of the user’s computer without his consent. It is hard to detect whether there is a spyware presence in the system.


Worm repeats itself and spreads through the system. It can destroy files related to the operating system and the data files on the drives.

Difference Between Virus and Malware

Figure 1: Malware


Trojans appear to be safe programs. They might steal personal and financial details of the user. Furthermore, they can gain the resources on the computer system files.


Adware is an advertising support software. These advertisements provide profit for the author and monitors the websites that users visit frequently. These advertisements appear on the screen, when a user installs software. Usually, all adware is not harmful but they can reduce the performance of the computer.


Ransomware is an advanced type of malware. It restricts the user from accessing the computer until paying a certain fee.

In brief, those are types of malware that destruct the computer.

Relationship Between Virus and Malware

  • Virus is a type of malware.

Difference Between Virus and Malware


Virus: A software that is capable of copying itself and has a detrimental effect like corrupting the system or destroying data

Malware: A variety of hostile or intrusive software that harms a computer


Virus: There are no further classifications

Malware: Virus, spyware, worms, Trojans, ransomware, adware are types of Malware

Protection Software

Virus: McAfee antivirus plus, Kaspersky, Avira, Avast Pro are some anti-virus software

Malware: Malwarebytes, SpyBot Search and Destroy are some anti-malware software.


The difference between virus and malware is that virus is a type of malware while malware is a malicious software that damages the computer without user consent.


1. Tutorials Point. “Basics of Computer Science Virus.” tutorialspoint.com, Tutorials Point, 8 Jan. 2018, .
2. “Malware.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 May 2018, .

Image Courtesy:

1. “1446110” (CC0) via
2. “Chrome malware notification” by Christiaan Colen via

About the Author: Lithmee

Lithmee holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Systems Engineering and is reading for her Master’s degree in Computer Science. She is passionate about sharing her knowldge in the areas of programming, data science, and computer systems.

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