Quarantining is a common feature of antivirus software. Whether you use free or paid antivirus software, it may have an option to quarantine malware. The antivirus software may discover malware when scanning your computer, after which it may offer to quarantine the malware.

What Is Quarantining?

Quarantining is the process of separating malware — or other infected or malicious files — from the rest of a computer’s storage drive. Most antivirus products come with this feature. Antivirus products offer it as a way to neutralize infections. If your computer is infected with malware, you can quarantine it.

Quarantining will protect the rest of your computer from the malware. The malware will be placed in a separate section where it’s isolated from all other files.

How Quarantining Works

When antivirus software quarantines malware, it will move the malware to a separate section of your computer’s storage drive. The malware will still be present. Quarantining only moves the malware; it doesn’t actually delete the malware. Nonetheless, quarantining will neutralize the malware so that it’s unable to cause further harm to your computer or data.

Quarantined malware is harmless. If it’s a virus, it won’t be able to spread and infect other parts of your computer’s storage drive. If the malware is a trojan, it won’t be able to execute its malicious code. Regardless of the type of malware, quarantining will render it harmless. Quarantined malware is isolated, meaning it won’t be able to affect other parts of your computer’s storage drive.

Why Quarantining Over Deleting

Malware can often be deleted. Deleting, of course, will completely remove the malware. When you delete a file — whether it’s a legitimate file or a malicious file — you’ll remove it from your computer’s storage drive altogether. Quarantining, on the other hand, simply moves the file to a different location.

When should you quarantine malware instead of deleting it? Some forms of malware are designed with safeguards to prevent them from being deleted. If you’re unable to delete a piece of malware, you may need to quarantine it.

Malware can also infect essential files, such as operating system (OS) files. Deleting essential files such as this may cause system issues. You may not be able to start your computer’s OS, or you may experience errors when using it. Even if an essential file is infected with malware, though, you can always quarantine it. Quarantining will move the essential file to a different location where it’s isolated from other files.