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5 Best Free Online Virus Scanners & Removers for 2023

Updated on: September 22, 2023
Fact Checked by Hazel Shaw
Kate Davidson Kate Davidson
Updated on: September 22, 2023

Short on time? Here’s the best free online virus scanner in 2023:

I hate to tell you this, but there are almost zero genuinely free 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.

However, having tested all the online scanners out there, I’m pleased to report that there are a few really useful free online cybersecurity tools. I also found some one-time downloads that can actually help you clean up your computer. My recommendations cover 2 types of tools: vulnerability scanners that can make sure your software’s native protections are up-to-date, and free downloadable virus scanners that 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, but if you’re willing to spend a few bucks for a premium product (which I highly recommend doing), the Norton 360 packages are a great choice. That said, if you just need a quick answer as to whether or not your computer is infected, the tools below will help.

Quick summary of the top 5 free online virus scanners:

1. SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner — Best Free Online Scanner

1. SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner — Best 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 cross-platform tool was developed with the support of the CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) database, 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. Plus, there are no annoying ads. 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 installing any software (though you should definitely have an antivirus installed).

Bottom Line:

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.

Try SafetyDetectives Vulnerability Scanner Now

2. Norton Power Eraser — Best Downloadable Virus Scanner and Virus Removal for Windows

2. Norton Power Eraser — Best Downloadable Virus Scanner and Virus Removal for Windows

Norton’s full-suite antivirus software is the best on the market, and Norton’s Power Erases is a streamlined version of its antivirus scanner, offered as a free online download for Windows computers. 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 your system.
  • Reputation Scan. Scans a designated folder for known malware files, based on Norton’s malware database.
  • System Scan. Scans your 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 lacks many of the features that make 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, which start at just $54.99 / year and come with a 60-day money back guarantee. Plus, Norton’s paid plans cover all the main operating systems rather than being restricted to Windows.

Bottom Line:

Norton Power Eraser is the most comprehensive free antivirus scanner tool for Windows. 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 your operating system for malware. However, Norton Power Eraser is missing lots of vital features like real-time protection and a firewall, so I recommend investing in one of the paid Norton 360 plans instead.

Try Norton Power Eraser Now

3. Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac — Scan macOS for Malware (Free Online Download)

3. Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac — Scan macOS for Malware (Free Online Download)

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 other antiviruses 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.

If you’re a Mac user, Virus Scanner for Mac is a helpful tool for finding and removing viruses quickly and reliably. That said, for comprehensive macOS protection, you’re far better off opting for a premium Mac antivirus like Intego, which offers excellent real-time protection, system optimization, and parental controls starting at just $14.99 / year.

Bottom Line:

Bitdefender’s Virus Scanner for Mac 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 it 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.

Try Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac Now

4. VirusTotal — Online Virus Scanner With Huge Malware Database (Also Scans Websites)

4. 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 — unlike Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac and Norton Power Eraser, it won’t scan through all of your files and folders, flagging PUPs and malware. That’s simply not something a website can 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, Malwarebytes, Panda, 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. The scans are very quick, and the reports VirusTotal provides are impressively detailed.

I tested the VirusTotal scanner against several malware files, both new and old, and VirusTotal correctly flagged all of them. However, 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.

Bottom Line:

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. VirusTotal works 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.

Try VirusTotal Now

5. ESET Online Scanner — Flawless Detection & Customizable Scans

5. ESET Online Scanner — Flawless Detection & Customizable Scans

The ESET Online Scanner is a basic version of ESET’s paid antivirus. It offers flawless malware detection rates and very thorough scans for Windows devices.

At around 30 minutes, ESET Online Scanner’s scans are fairly long, but they are extremely in-depth, looking at every part of your computer including operation memory and local drives. Like Norton Power Eraser and Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac, ESET’s Online Scanner can delete and quarantine infections and also alert you to them.

ESET’s Online Scanner also includes anti-stealth technology, which effectively detects rootkits. This is really valuable, because rootkits can bury themselves very deep in your system and can be really hard to detect and remove.

Unfortunately, the ESET Online Scanner only works for Windows, so if you’re a Mac user you’ll need to choose another scanner (for example, Bitdefender’s Virus Scanner for Mac).

Bottom Line:

The ESET Online Scanner is a high-quality, in-depth online scanner for Windows devices. Its scans are extremely thorough, and it can remove or quarantine infections.

Try ESET Online Scanner Now

Comparison of the Top 5 Free Online Virus Scanners

Online Virus Scanner Download Required? Scans Your Computer? Removes Viruses? Operating Systems Full-Scan Time
1.🥇SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner Cross-platform A few seconds
2.🥈Norton Power Eraser Windows 90 minutes (Full Rootkit Scan)
3.🥉Bitdefender Free Mac Scanner macOS 30 minutes (Deep System Scan)
4. VirusTotal ❌ (scans uploaded files and websites) Cross-platform 4 lookups per minute (individual files and websites)
5. ESET Online Scanner Windows 30 minutes

How to Choose the Best Free Online Scanner in 2023

  • Usefulness. It’s true — most free online virus scanners are worthless. To have any value, a free scanner needs to at least offer you actionable advice about the malware on your computer, and the best ones like Norton Power Eraser and Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac will remove it too. In fact, every item on this list either scans and removes malware, or provides you with useful information to help you protect your computer.
  • Efficiency. The efficiency of a virus scanner is crucial. It shouldn’t overburden your computer. All the antivirus scanners I tested are lightweight and didn’t put excessive strain on my computer — which can’t handle CPU-intensive programs.
  • Ease of Use. A decent free scanner should be easy for non-technical users to manage. 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.
  • Price. When an antivirus scanner markets itself as free, it should genuinely be free. I’m pleased to confirm that all products on my list are indeed free, and they don’t hide all their functions behind a paywall.

Risks & Disadvantages of Using a Free Online Scanner

There are very few genuinely free online virus scanners — all of the products on my list except the SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner and VirusTotal’s online scanner require a download.

While the products I mentioned above can detect malware, they are confined to that function. For more comprehensive online defense, I recommend a premium antivirus solution. There are many affordable options that offer advanced features like real-time protection and dark web monitoring, without the limitations common in free versions. Investing in a premium antivirus guarantees enhanced system security.

Affordable Antiviruses

There are several antivirus brands out there that offer premium protection for a really affordable price. Norton 360 Standard offers flawless malware detection, real-time protection, a VPN with unlimited data, a password manager, and coverage for 3 devices for just $39.99 / year. Norton 360 Deluxe is a great deal at $49.99 / year, protecting up to 5 devices and adding parental controls, 50 GB of cloud storage, and (depending on which country you’re in) dark web monitoring.

Bitdefender also has some super affordable plans with a wide range of features. Its Internet Security plan is a great option for Windows users, costing just $32.99 / year and including a secure browser for online transactions, Wi-Fi protections, webcam and microphone protection, and much more. For cross-platform protection, Bitdefender Total Security covers Mac, iOS, and Android as well as Windows, protects up to 5 devices, and offers system tune-up tools too. It’s a pretty good deal at just $35.99 / year.

Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut

  • F-Secure. F-Secure’s Online Scanner is quick and effective at detecting and removing malware. However, unlike the others on my list, it doesn’t offer any custom scan options.
  • Fortinet. Fortinet offers an online scanner called FortiGuard, which scans individual files and doesn’t require a download. However, unlike with VirusTotal, there is a measly 10 MB size limit on files, which makes FortiGuard way less useful.
  • Trend Micro. Trend Micro offers a free online virus scan called HouseCall. It’s really thorough, but it can take several hours to complete a scan, which makes it a less appealing choice than the others on my list.

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 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 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 Windows PC. For Mac users, I recommend Bitdefender’s Virus Scanner for Mac, another free download that’s able to remove viruses from your system.

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 its business model on its homepage — it’s able to provide free antivirus scanning because it’s 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 2023:

$14.99 - $286.99 / year
$19.00 - $49.00 / year
$39.99 - $199.99 / year
$45.99 - $59.99 / year
We rank vendors based on rigorous testing and research but also take into account your feedback and our commercial agreements with providers. This page contains affiliate links.
About the Author
Kate Davidson
Kate Davidson
Chief Editor
Updated on: September 22, 2023

About the Author

Kate Davidson is a Chief Editor at SafetyDetectives. She has many years of experience as a journalist and communications professional, and has worked for media organizations, government agencies, and NGOs in multiple countries. Kate has always had a deep interest in cybersecurity, which has — together with her passion for crafting quality content — allowed her to bring complex topics about antiviruses, password managers, and overall online security closer to our readers. In her spare time, Kate enjoys spending time with her family, cooking Italian food, and doing yoga by the sea.