I hate to tell you this, but there are almost zero online virus scanners. Most of them are just trial versions of paid software, a lot of them don’t really do anything, and some of them are phishing sites trying to steal your data or convince you to download malware. Fortunately, there are a few really useful online cybersecurity tools, plus a few one-time downloads that can actually help you clean up your computer.
There are two types of tools online:
- Vulnerability scanners that can make sure your software’s native protections are up to date.
- Free downloadable virus scanners which can scan your whole computer for malware.
Personally, I wouldn’t turn my computer on for a minute without a high-quality antivirus software installed. Users on a budget can download the free version of Avira, or you can follow my recommendation for the top antivirus software and pick up any of the low-cost Norton 360 packages.
But if you just need a quick answer as to whether or not you are infected, these tools will help.
In a hurry? Here are the top 5 online virus scanners:
- SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner: This online scanner uses the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) database to check that your software is up to date with the latest patches.
- Norton Power Eraser: Norton offers a free download of a useful tool which will scan your computer, erase viruses, and look for unwanted applications. Easy to install and use.
- VirusTotal: Upload any suspicious file or examine any suspicious website using VirusTotal’s simple online portal. It cross-references 70 different malware and anti-phishing engines with a 100% detection rate.
- Bitdefender Free Mac Scanner: Download this free tool if you need to scan a Mac and remove any malware, PUPs, or unwanted apps. Super easy to use and doesn’t take up a lot of space.
- ScanMyServer: This free online service scans your website or server for vulnerabilities and evidence of hacking. Free users get a weekly vulnerability report with recommended fixes, and paid users can scan multiple sites and receive daily reports.
How I Rated the Top 5 Free Online Virus Scanners:
- Ease of Use. I’ve tested all of these cybersecurity tools to make sure they are simple to use and won’t clutter your computer with bloatware or annoying notifications.
- Usefulness. It’s true — most of the free online virus scanners are worthless. Every item on this list either scans and removes malware or provides you with useful information to help you protect your computer.
- Efficiency. One of the reasons I was looking for quality online antivirus scanners was that my computer simply couldn’t handle the strain of another CPU-intensive program. All of these cybersecurity products are super lightweight and won’t over-burden your computer.
- Price. All of these products are 100% free. They don’t hide their functionality behind a paywall, like a lot of supposedly “free antivirus” tools do.
1. SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner — Free Online Scanner
When it comes to fully online cybersecurity tools, the SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner is among the best. It’s a quick and secure way to find out if you have any unsafe programs running on your computer and if any of your programs need a security update.
The tool was developed with the support of the CVE database (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures), the world’s largest database of known cybersecurity vulnerabilities. When a developer or cybersecurity researcher discovers a vulnerability in any program, they work first to develop a fix. After this potential threat has been eliminated, it gets reported to the CVE, so that any user can be aware of the vulnerabilities in their software — and download the update to patch up their security.
The SafetyDetectives vulnerability tool checks your browser and operating system’s settings against the CVE database, and it recommends fixes based on these vulnerabilities.
This tool is hosted entirely by the SafetyDetectives website, so there’s no need to download anything, and the scan completes in seconds. Most hackers exploit systems that aren’t up to date — the Known Vulnerabilities Scanner will make sure you are as secure as you can be, without downloading any software (though you should definitely have an antivirus installed).
The SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner is a quick and effective method for testing system software for known bugs and vulnerabilities. It gives clear instructions based on the international CVE guidelines about how to patch up these vulnerabilities. It’s completely free and 100% online — no download necessary.
2. Norton Power Eraser — Best Downloadable Virus Scanner and Virus Removal (Free Online Download)
Norton’s full-suite antivirus software is one of the best on the market. And Norton’s Power Eraser is a streamlined version of their antivirus scanner, offered as a free online download. It’s a thorough and effective antivirus scanner — it found several PUPs and malware files during my testing, and it safely removed all of them from my computer.
The software is very minimal, so it’s super easy to use. After downloading, it gives the option for either a full rootkit scan or 1 of 4 advanced scanning options:
- Unwanted Applications Scan. Scans all program files for PUPs and offers to remove them from the system.
- Reputation Scan. Scans a designated folder for known malware files, based on Norton’s malware database.
- System Scan. Scans only the operating system for vulnerabilities.
- Multi-Boot Scan. Advanced version of the System Scan for computers with multiple operating systems.
The rootkit scan took about 90 minutes and found 100% of the malware I had cached on my computer. And it only took a few seconds for the Reputation Scan to identify and delete malware in the individual folders I selected.
The Power Eraser is a useful scanning tool, but it’s lacking some of the features that make an antivirus software so helpful. There’s no active scanning, so it would be easy to download and execute a virus without Power Eraser noticing. There’s also no firewall, VPN, real-time protection, or scheduled scans — if you want to actually be protected from cyber threats, I recommend that you try one of Norton’s low-cost 360 plans, all of which come with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Norton Power Eraser is the most comprehensive free antivirus scanner tool out there. It’s easy to download and install, and it detected and removed all of the malware on my computer during testing. The advanced scans can remove annoying applications and bloatware, examine particular folders, and even scan my operating system for malware.
3. VirusTotal — Online Virus Scanner with Huge Malware Database, Also Scans Websites
VirusTotal is the best online-only virus scanner — no download required, and it’s totally free. Even better, every piece of malware and every predatory website scanned by VirusTotal gets shared with the global cybersecurity community — so by using it, you’re actually helping users around the world.
VirusTotal’s scanner is not the same as a typical antivirus software — it won’t scan through all of your files and folders, flagging PUPs and malware. That’s simply not something that’s possible for a website to do — if you want a full antivirus scan of your computer, you will need to download an antivirus.
What VirusTotal’s scanner does is much simpler: It scans any file or website that you enter into its online portal. The scan uses over 70 different malware and anti-phishing engines around the world — Microsoft, McAfee, Panda, Norton, and Comodo are just some of the companies that have volunteered their engines for VirusTotal’s scanner.
It’s really easy to use — just upload a file or copy-paste a web address into VirusTotal, and the scanner will let you know if any of those 70 cybersecurity engines detect a threat.
I tested their scanner against several malware files, both new and old, and VirusTotal correctly flagged all of them. It won’t remove anything from your computer — if you want malware removal, you need to have some kind of antivirus or anti-malware software installed.
VirusTotal is the best online-only virus scanner around. If you have any suspicion that you’ve downloaded malware, or you are wary of a website, this is a great tool. They work in partnership with cybersecurity teams around the world to build a complete picture of the threats facing computer users everywhere — this ensures that you’re not just getting 1 antivirus scanner’s opinion on your suspicious data, but simultaneous diagnostics from 70 different malware detection engines.
4. Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac — Scan macOS for Malware (Free Online Download)
Trust me — there are a growing number of hackers dedicated to creating new malware to invade macOS. If your Mac is experiencing slowdown, unwanted pop-ups, or security notifications, check out Bitdefender’s free Virus Scanner for Mac.
Virus Scanner for Mac is a simple but effective tool for detecting and removing viruses. I loaded my test Macbook with malware and PUPs, and the scanner detected every single one of them. It even turned up a few .dmg files that Avast had missed!
Virus Scanner for Mac has 3 different scans to choose from:
- Critical Locations Scan. This is a quick scan which checks the places where viruses usually try to hide out.
- Deep System Scan. This full system scan took about 30 minutes on my device.
- Custom Scan. Scans specific files or folders. I had it look through my downloads folder and my recent torrents.
Bitdefender’s scanner is free, super lightweight, and it detected and removed all the malware on my test computer. There are lots of essential features missing with this product, though, and I would never rely on this to keep my Mac products safe. It’s simply not worth the hassle when premium Mac antiviruses like Intego are inexpensive and offer way better protection.
5. ScanMyServer — Best Free Website and Server Scanning
ScanMyServer is different from the other products on this list — it’s a security tool that scans your website or server every week for vulnerabilities or security intrusions. There are a lot of great vulnerability scanning tools out there, but ScanMyServer is free and completely online — no download necessary.
If you are worried about the security of your website, ScanMyServer will scan your code for common vulnerabilities and send you a full report, usually within a few hours of testing. There’s a paid service for users with multiple sites, but for a single website, you can get a weekly report completely free.
Because it’s online-only, you don’t get the same user interface, custom settings, or detailed analytics that top vulnerability scanners like Mozilla Observatory or Qualys provide.
ScanMyServer is an efficient web-based vulnerability scanner for websites and servers. If you have a website or a public server and you need a vulnerability scanner that can keep you up to date with the latest hacking threats, ScanMyServer will help. It offers free weekly reports on your site’s health, and you can pay for a membership to get daily reports on multiple sites. If you’re interested in an antivirus for your desktop or mobile device, we recommend reading through our Malwarebytes and TotalAV reviews.
Online Virus Scanners Frequently Asked Questions
🤔 Do online virus scanners really work?
Honestly, the answer is yes and no. While there are a couple of decent antivirus scanners hosted online, they don’t have the same functionality as a downloadable antivirus program. They can’t scan your whole system for antiviruses and remove them from your computer like an antivirus software. It’s just not possible for a website to enter your computer in that way.
But there are some online resources — like VirusTotal — which can scan individual files that you upload to them, and they can also assess the safety of different websites you may browse to.
😈 Are there websites that can remove viruses from my computer?
No. Antivirus software needs to be downloaded and given permission to erase files from your computer. Any website that is claiming to remove viruses from your computer is being dishonest. That’s why I recommended Norton’s Power Eraser — it’s a free, simple download that can detect and destroy malware and adware on your computer.
🛡️ How do I know I can trust a virus scanner?
There are a lot of fake cybersecurity companies looking to profit off of your data. I included large, reputable companies like Bitdefender and Norton on this list because they have a long history of respecting data privacy for their millions of worldwide users. VirusTotal discloses their business model on their homepage — they are able to provide free antivirus scanning because they are paid by cybersecurity companies to gather information on global malware trends.
In short, all the products listed here can be trusted 100%.
🕵️ What’s the difference between an antivirus scanner and a vulnerability scanner?
Antivirus scanners look for known pieces of code in executable files — the “DNA” of a virus. A vulnerability scanner is designed to examine your software — whether it’s your browser, OS, or other program — to ensure that your systems are up-to-date with the latest security protections. The SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner can let you know if your software is vulnerable and recommend updates and fixes. But it won’t be able to scan your computer for malware. For that, you’ll need a downloadable antivirus.
Here are our top antivirus picks for August 2020: