How to Detect Keylogger Software and Remove It — A Simple 2024 Guide

In this guide on how to detect keylogger software, we’ll go into detail on how these apps operate, what they can do, and how to spot them.

Keylogger software is widely available, and the malware is notoriously easy for hackers to inject. This article will explore how to tell if you have a keylogger and how to remove keyloggers, step by step.

What is Keylogging and How Does it Work?

Keylogging, short for keystroke logging, refers to the recording of a user’s keystrokes on a computer or smartphone, generally without their knowledge. This practice can capture sensitive information from the target, giving hackers entry to the target’s online accounts.

Malicious actors use hardware and software keyloggers that excel at remaining hidden to capture information. The hardest part of removing them is often finding them in the first place, which can prove to be a problem even for large enterprises.

How to Detect Keylogger Software

Although finding a keylogger that’s spying on your device is challenging, it’s not impossible. Here, we’ll show you how to check for keyloggers on a Windows computer.

  1. Inspect Your Task Manager

    The Windows Task Manager can show you all the processes running in the background on your PC. Open your Task Manager using the Windows search tab or pressing the Ctrl + Shift + Escape keys.
    Inspect Your Task Manager
  2. Check Processes

    In the “Processes” tab, look for unfamiliar processes that you can’t identify. It’s worth noting that many native Windows processes have seemingly random names, so research them using Google before you remove them.
    Check Processes
  3. Check Startup Apps

    Next, open the “Startup Apps” tab to see which apps automatically start running when you start your PC. If you notice anything suspicious, research the app’s origin before you remove it.
    Check Startup Apps
  4. Find Unknown Apps on Your Device

    You should check your apps to see if there’s anything suspicious there. If you notice an unknown app during this search, it may be a keylogger in disguise. Most smartphones let you review installed apps by navigating their “Settings” and going to the “Applications” tab. You can use “Add or Remove Programs” in the Control Panel to find apps installed on your PC.
    Find Unknown Apps on Your Device
  5. Check for Other Telltale Signs of Malware

    If your computer has a virus, you may notice red flags like poor performance, files changing, unusual network activity, and unauthorized logins. Other malware often accompanies keyloggers, and its presence on your PC may point to a keylogger in the system. If you’re using a smartphone, a sudden increase in data limit usage is often a sign of malware or keylogger activity.
    Check for Other Telltale Signs of Malware
  6. Run a Full Antivirus Scan

    The fastest and most effective way to remove spyware, such as keyloggers, is to run a full antivirus scan using a malware protection solution. Antivirus tools are frequently updated to counter even the most persistent malware, spyware, and adware.
    Run a Full Antivirus Scan

What Are Keylogging Warning Signs to Watch Out For?

Before you start checking your installed apps and searching for unusual programs, you might notice these red flags, which may indicate the presence of a keylogger on your device.

  • Performance Drops — Like other malware, a keylogger may slow down your PC or smartphone, often resulting in regular or continuous device performance drops.
  • Keyboard Issues — If you notice that some keys on your keyboard are suddenly not working or input the wrong character, there may be a keylogger in your system.
  • Disappearing Cursor — A keylogger can cause the cursor to disappear and re-appear on your screen or lag behind your mouse movements.
  • Unauthorized Access — If you suddenly get an email saying someone has accessed one of your online accounts from a different location, it may be a hacker who has captured your details using a keylogger.

Here are some additional warning signs that may indicate the presence of a keylogger on smartphone devices.

  • Fast Battery Drain — Check your smartphone for keyloggers if its battery begins to drain much more quickly than usual.
  • Unusual Notifications — Although spy apps rarely show notifications on the target phone, run an antivirus scan if you see any particularly unusual alerts from apps.
  • Strange Noise or Activity — If your screen randomly turns on and off or produces white noise or crackling sounds, it may be infected with a keylogger.
  • Overheating — While it’s normal for a phone to heat up during intensive tasks like playing games, if it keeps overheating while you aren’t using it, you may have a keylogger.

How to Remove Keylogger Software

Now you know how to detect keylogger software and identify potentially suspicious apps and processes, we’ll explore how to remove a keylogger from your device. The following steps work for computers and mobile phones, with fairly few differences.

  1. Disable Suspicious Programs

    We’ve already run through how to find suspicious apps and processes on your computer and smartphone devices. Here’s how you can remove keylogger software. If you’ve found a suspicious process while scrolling through your Task Manager, right-click on it and click “End Task.” For unknown Startup Apps, right-click on them and click “Disable.”
    Disable Suspicious Programs
  2. Uninstall Suspicious Apps

    If you found a suspicious app while searching through your smartphone’s Settings and Application tabs, tapping on it should show an “Uninstall” option. For computers, click on the three dots next to unusual apps you’ve found in the “Add or Remove Programs” tab and click “Uninstall.”
    Uninstall Suspicious Apps
  3. Run an Antivirus Scan on the Device

    Use an antivirus program to search your PC or smartphone for malware files after manually uninstalling potentially harmful applications. If you have one of the best spyware removers, such as TotalAV, you can skip the first step and let the antivirus do all the work.
    Run an Antivirus Scan on the Device
  4. Reset Your Passwords

    This crucial step ensures you won’t face any consequences of being a victim of a keylogging attack after removing the spyware from your devices. Change the passwords for every online account you have, as the hacker behind the keylogger may have them logged and stored.
  5. Update Your Operating System

    To prevent keylogging attacks in the future, ensure your device’s operating system has the newest version installed. Most phones have a “Security” tab in their Settings, which lets you see whether you have the latest security and operating system updates. If you’re using a computer, type “Check for Updates” and click “Download & Install” if a newer version is available.
    Update Your Operating System
  6. Remain Vigilant

    Updating your device’s operating system version will require you to restart the device. This step concludes our keylogger removal step-by-step guide for most users. If you already have the newest version installed, restart the device manually.
  7. Factory Reset – On Mobile

    If the keylogger seemingly still can’t be removed, a factory reset is a last resort. It’s a straightforward process, but it wipes everything, so you should back up important files first. On smartphones, head to the Settings tab and then to “About Phone.” There, you’ll find a “Factory Reset” option. Click on it and confirm you want to erase all data from the phone.
    Factory Reset – On Mobile
  8. Factory Reset – On PC

    If you’re using a Windows computer, type “Settings” into the Search bar and open the “System” tab. Once there, click “Recovery” and locate the “Reset this PC” option. Click “Reset PC” to initiate the process, and don’t forget to back up important files before doing so.
    Factory Reset – On PC

Why Are Keyloggers Dangerous?

Keyloggers pose a serious threat to businesses and consumers as they can record a user’s keystrokes while staying hidden. Failing to detect a keylogger can result in malicious actors gaining access to your banking details, business emails, and private conversations.

With this information, they could steal your money, take out loans, hijack your social media accounts, and delete or ransom your business and personal files.

These malicious tools can also help hackers bypass some of the most sophisticated defense tools. For example, a hacker cracked LastPass’ corporate password vault using a keylogger on the home PC of one of its employees, bypassing the complicated login process for the company’s corporate software.

Top Tips for Avoiding Keylogger Attacks

While knowing how to detect and remove keyloggers from your devices is important, preventing them from infesting your computer or smartphone is even better. Here, we’ll list the best practices you can follow to avoid falling victim to a keylogging attack.

  1. Install Antivirus Software — Antivirus tools offer real-time protection to prevent keylogging attacks. We suggest using one of the best antiviruses with a VPN for increased security.
  2. Avoid Public WiFi — Don’t use public WiFi networks unless you encrypt your connection using one of the best VPNs. Open connections leave you vulnerable to man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks and keylogging.
  3. Use Strong Passwords — Ensure every online account has a strong, unique password. If you have too many accounts to manage, consider using a password manager.
  4. Keep Your System Up to Date — Regularly check for operating system updates and make sure to download them – and stay abreast of updates for your smartphone as well.
  5. Declutter Your Devices — Every once in a while, check your devices for unknown and unused apps and uninstall them.

Other Antivirus Guides to Read Next

An antivirus tool is much more than just a keylogger detector. These programs can keep your devices safe from a wide range of external threats – and you can learn more about them from our guides.

Summary – How to Detect a Keylogger and Stop It

Keyloggers remain the go-to tool for cyberstalkers and hackers looking to covertly steal your data. The scariest part is that these tools are readily available, and parents can legally use commercial solutions to keep an eye on their children – so anyone can subscribe to their services.

Knowing how to detect keylogger software is important, but preventing it from infecting your devices is crucial. Experts recommend installing a reliable antivirus tool with real-time protection against spyware, such as TotalAV, as being the best method of defending yourself from keyloggers.

Keylogger Detector and Remover FAQs

Can you remove a keylogger?

How do you know if your phone has a keylogger?

Where are keyloggers stored?

Will a factory reset remove keylogger software?

What software can detect keyloggers?

Does a VPN prevent keylogging?

Are keyloggers spyware?

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Ilijia Miljkovac

Ilija Miljkovac is a Techopedia writer with 7 years of experience covering all things tech. He writes about everything from cybersecurity to ISPs, ensuring businesses and customers are educated about the latest products and services. He's written for publications such as Business2Community, TheTechReport, Comparitech, and more. When he's not maniacally hacking away at his keyboard, Ilija spends his time either hiking in nature or holed up in his apartment gaming.