Top Free Online Virus Scan Services
Online Virus Scan Services: Pros and cons
Free online virus scan is a very popular service among all PC users worldwide. The reasons are obvious - always up-to-date antivirus signature databases, ease of use, simple interface which even novice users find comfortable to work with (because all it takes to run a scanner is a couple of mouse clicks), quite wide choice of scanners at no cost.
Nowadays all big name antivirus companies offer some kind of online scan for present and future customers. It is also part of marketing strategy exploited to attract buyers. Whenever a free online virus scan finds and removes some infection, it is natural to suggest that a paid installation of antivirus would do real miracles to data safety and protection. A very effective on-going advertising campaign, isn't it? ;)
Anyway, it would be foolish not to use the option of online virus scan if such can help when your PC security is questioned.
Online scanners have quite significant advantages over dekstop installations of traditional antivirus software and PC security suites, to name just a few:
- Always free to use! No demo versions, no trials, no registration keys to enter.
- Online virus scanner cannot be corrupted by infections hiding somewhere inside Windows files, while this does happen to on-disk installations of PC security software. Some sophisticated malware can easily damage antivirus software installed under Windows and make it absolutely useless.
- There's a choice of services so you can always decide what you want specifically to be done in each case. Online scan services allow for removal of rootkits, spyware and other threats in addition to virus infections. But you can't really install several antivirus applications under Windows simultaneously (some techies suggest that you can use 2 antivirus softwares installed side-by-side, but you may find resident scanners 'fighting' in memory to kick each other out of RAM space).
- Sometimes you can't install an antivirus because the already infected Windows ruins the setup process. This is when you either go for a CD-bootable anti-virus, or load a browser and initiate an online virus scan.
- If you dislike some particular online virus scanner, there's no need to go through a removal process like installed programs require. Downloaded antivirus signatures are kept as temporary files, so they're easily removed from the hard drive via settings of a browser. There are no changes made to the sensitive Windows registry (arguably the most vulnerable part of Windows).
With all that said, I can't leave the negative points beyond. There are some:
- Online scanners cannot perform when there's no stable Internet connection. If a virus messes up the TCP/IP configuration, chances are you will not be able to use online scan service.
- A browser will require certain privileges on part of the user for the online scan to perform. If privileges are limited and there are no sufficient rights under user account to download signature files, etc, online antivirus will be unusable. So user accounts with restricted rights may experience a problem.
- Smart virus can prevent online scan from running.
- Online virus scan cannot prevent future infections.
- Not all online virus scan service offers removal of detected malware - some only report the found infections.
Because most online virus scanners depend on Internet Explorer and ActiveX, it may be necessary to repeat the scan after restarting computer, and/or switching to another scanner. This is because malware often corrupts IE system files and injects malicious code into IE settings, so it is not always possible for the scanner to remove all detected threats at once. Some malicious entries are left, but the dependence of alien files is broken, so the next time you load up the scanner, it procedes with the removal process and cleans out the PC.
Below I'm listing most popular (in my opinion) services offering free online virus scan.
Trend Micro HouseCall
Trend Micro HouseCall offers a free online virus and spyware scan. This is the service you'll most likely see recommended in first place on many PC security related forums. It is indeed that popular! TrendMicro scan goes far beyond bare virus detection, supports Windows and Mac based computers, Mozilla and Internet Explorer browsers. Important: you can choose from either ActiveX engine or Java engine. These set of options make this online scan very versatile. Currently there's a new version available for testing ;)
Go to Trend Micro Housecall:
- BitDefender Internet Security 2011 (3 PC's)
BitDefender Internet Security 2011 provides all the security your Internet-connected family or small business needs.
BitDefender Online Scan
BitDefender appeals to my aesthetics - I like its interface. It works in two modes - simple and advanced, depending on how much information you want displayed. The progress bar is very convenient. It shows the number of scanned files, infections, and actions taken. Besides, BitDefender allows send a report to their security lab once the scan is finished and there is a virus detected, thus you can help this great product become even better ;) The drawback is that it supports IE browser only. For a Firefox fan like me it's not that convenient. But it is indeed a powerful service, which I've seen detect infections other products failed to.
Another great feature of BitDefender is the ability to choose directories for scanning. Say, if you have several HDD partitions, you can limit scanning to C:\Windows and My Documents, where malware is most likely to be living. This option can significantly reduce the time compared to the full computer scan.
Go to BitDefender Online Scan:
McAfee FreeScan is the name! I guess it is the synonym for computer security in the US ;) Like a narrative. The scanning service is solid as everything produced by the brand. As to cons, it requires IE 5.0+ and works with ActiveX controls only. If ActiveX is disabled, than you can't use the service.
McAfee FreeScan offers a browser window with real-time statistics - number of files scanned, infections, name of detected virus.
Go to McAfee Security Scan Plus:
McAfee Security Scan does not allow for infections removal.
F-Secure Free Online Scanner
F-Secure offers to scan a PC for common infections like virus and rootkits. It also removes the found infections. However, F-Secure needs Internet Explorer to run, and doesn't have support for Firefox as of yet. But fans of Internet Explorer 7 may happily use this service ;)
Windows Vista is supported in addition to previous Windows versions.
Go to F-Secure Free Online Scanner:
ESET NOD32 Online Antivirus Scanner
ESET's Online Antivirus Scanner uses its patented ThreatSense technology which is featured in company's desktop and server products. Initial download of antivirus signature database takes under a minute if you're on a broadband. ESET offers to remove the detected infections - for this you need to check the proper boxes (see screenshots below). Spyware is removed as well! NOD32 Scanner works only with ActiveX so it requires Internet Explorer (as most online virus scan services do).
Go to FREE ESET Online Scanner:
Panda ActiveScan 2.0 - Free Antivirus
Panda security software maker offers anyone to try out its TruPrevent technology. With a database of 185,000 threats its online scan can detect a huge number of infections. Also scans for spyware modules (like dialers, jokes, rootkits, etc).
Panda claims to be able to disinfect the known spyware (sadly, this is no longer true for a free edition), and thanks to its heuristic engine, it detects even unknown types of malware.
The antivius database is updated daily.
Optionally you can place a shortuct on your desktop to connect to Panda ActiveScan whenever you need to, without opening a browser window.
Note: if you have antivirus software installed with resident monitoring ON, it may report a virus in Panda downloadable files. Do not worry! This is a common false-positive. The reason is that Panda doesn't encrypt its database of antivirus definitions, and when it is being downloaded onto your PC, a stand-alone AV can decide you're getting infected. Other security vendors set some kind of encryption to its malware definitions so that no third party AV software is able to detect the virus signatures inside archives. Rest assured that Panda is not infecting your PC.
Go to Panda ActiveScan:
Panda ActiveScan Free Antivirus does not allow for infections removal.
Online Virus Scans for Separate Files
Apart from listed above virus scans, there sometimes rises a need to check the safety of one single file. To do it quickly, it is best to use a special service for scanning separate files - without the need to download anti virus definitions.
Among such services the following are worth mentioning.
Avast! Online Scanner.
There's a captcha to be entered in order to scan a file. All you need to do is just browse for the target file on your PC, enter the captcha and press 'Scan' button.
Go to Avast! Online Virus Scanner:
DrWeb Online Scan.
DrWeb is another PC security product from Russia. The desktop version of DrWeb is very popular in Russia and CIS countries - and there must be serious reasons for that. DrWeb offers to scan single files - the webpage is as simple as possible, there's nothing on it except the "browse" button to specify the path to the target file.
Go to DrWeb Web Scanner:
VirusTotal deserves special attention. It provides interface in multiple languages. It's anti virus definitions database in compiled by biggest PC security software developers - that is, a single scan equals to simultaneous scanning with different antivirus engines.
The cool thing about this service is that it allows to send files for scan via email and even add a command to your right-mouse context menu! (Windows users only) That way you can send a file for a thorough scan just by right-clicking mouse.
Go to VirusTotal Scanning Service:
Windows Live OneCare Safety Scanner
Windows Live OneCare is available both in a desktop version and an online virus scanner. The latter allows to check hard drive for unnecessary files and delete them, and also tests the strength of PC security setup.
As you can guess for sure Microsoft requires Internet Explorer to be used for running Windows Live OneCare scanner.
Go to: Windows Live OneCare Safety Scanner:
EMSISOFT Web Malware Scan
It's been a couple of months since EMSISOFT updated it's desktop a-squared anti-malware to version 4.0, and now the company decided to join the army of online virus scanners!
EMSISOFT web malware scanner offers anyone to check computers for Trojan Viruses, Worms, Backdoors, Rootkits, Spyware/Adware, Keyloggers, Dialers, Hacking Tools, Riskware and TrackingCookies. All you need to run this tool is Internet Explorer with ActiveX enabled and a stable Internet connection.
EMSISOFT online scanner requirements:
- Windows XP or Windows Vista;
- Internet Explorer 5.0+
- User account with administrator privileges;
- 32-bit system .
Upon first scan you will be prompted to install a-squared ActiveX components. Agree to that.
- EMSISOFT Anti-malware v6.0
Emsisoft Anti-Malware is a Malware scanner and remover of the latest generation which is specialized in Trojans, Dialers and Spyware. Native support for Windows 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Multilingual user interface.
EMSISOFT Web Malware Scan Modes
Just like the desktop version of EMSISOFT anti-malware, the web scanner will offer to choose from 4 types of scan:
- Quick scan;
- Smart scan;
- Deep scan;
- Custom scan.
Quick scan is meant for fast checking of Windows most sensitive areas, like Windows and System32 folders, Documents and Settings, system memory, and the Registry.
Smart scan also checks Program Files for malicious software installers.
Deep scan takes the longest to complete because it is a thorough check of all hard drive space, byte-by-byte to ensure not a single piece of malware is hiding in the system.
Custom scan allows you to choose which specific folders to check for malware presence.
The web malware scanner window conveniently displays the number of definitions loaded, and the date when latest updates were added to the database.
EMSISOFT offers a new a-squared free malware removal tool with web interface.
Go to: EMSISOFT Web Malware Scan: