Short on time? Here’s the best online virus scanner in 2023:
- 🥇 SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner: Fast and reliable web-based scanner that detects unsafe programs running on your computer and software that needs updating, and gives you advice on how to fix issues. It’s extremely simple to use and scans take just seconds.
Good online virus scanners are really hard to find. There are very few truly online scanners available — most are just trial versions of paid antivirus software, or much worse, phishing scams designed to steal your data or convince you to download malware.
However, there are a few genuinely useful online scanning tools out there. I spent weeks testing and researching, and while I could only find 2 scanners that are truly online with no download required, my other recommendations are still very lightweight and offer a simple way to check for infections or vulnerabilities on your system.
But you need to keep in mind that none of these products make a substitute for a good premium antivirus. A full internet security suite like Norton 360 will give you significantly more protection than even the best online virus scanner. Norton’s advanced malware scanner can detect 100% of malware, and unlike online scanners, it can remove that malware from your system. Plus, Norton and other top antiviruses come with lots of extra features to keep you safe online, like anti-phishing protection, virtual private networks (VPNs), password managers, and more.
Try SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner Now
Quick summary of the best online virus scanners:
- 🥇 1. SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner — Best overall online scanner.
- 🥈 2. VirusTotal — Compares results of 70+ antiviruses to scan your individual files.
- 🥉 3. Norton Power Eraser — Basic version of the best antivirus with 100% malware detection.
- 4. ESET Online Scanner — Very thorough full system scans.
- 5. Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac — Best lightweight scanner for Mac users.
- Bonus. Norton 360 — Best overall antivirus in 2023.
- Bonus. Bitdefender Total Security — Advanced protection + wide range of features.
- Comparison of the Best Online Virus Scanners.
🥇 1. SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner — Best Overall Online System Vulnerability Scanner
The SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner is one of the only truly online tools that let you perform a quick scan of your device — with no downloads required — to see if you have any unsafe programs running or if any of your software needs a security update. The Known Vulnerability Scanner doesn’t scan for viruses, but as hackers and malware commonly exploit systems via outdated software with vulnerabilities, scanning for outdated software and system vulnerabilities and keeping software updated is one of the most important actions you can take to prevent cyberattacks.
It works with the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures database (the world’s largest database of known cybersecurity threats) to identify any vulnerabilities or unsafe programs running on your device. Each time IT professionals find and fix a vulnerability issue in a program, they report it to the database, meaning all of the information is kept up-to-date.
When I tested the scanner, I found it was able to detect the vulnerabilities on my computer with 100% accuracy. I really like how simple the scanner is to use, too — it runs automatically when you visit the website, so non-technical users won’t have any issues with it at all. While there aren’t any customization options or more detailed scans offered, the scan itself takes just seconds; it’s even cross-platform and automatically detects the device you’re using. Once the scan is done, the Known Vulnerabilities Scanner gives you useful advice on how to fix any security issues it has detected.
Being fully online, the Known Vulnerabilities Scanner can’t offer any tools to remove malware. It’s a really useful way to do a quick on-demand check of your device, but it’s definitely not an alternative to a full antivirus. I’d suggest choosing a premium antivirus like Norton 360 to remove malware and keep your device fully protected.
The SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner is the best truly online scanner around. It requires no installations, it works in seconds, it uses the world’s largest database of known cybersecurity threats, and it’s completely free to use. While it doesn’t offer virus removal tools like an antivirus does, it’s a convenient way to quickly check for problems on just about any device, and it gives you useful advice on how to solve those problems too.
Try SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner Now
🥈 2. VirusTotal — Compares Results of 70+ Antivirus Scanners to Scan Your Individual Files
VirusTotal is a web-based tool that can scan individual files and URLs for security issues. Its scans are very detailed, and it analyzes files using the engines of over 70 different antivirus scanners including Bitdefender, Malwarebytes, and Avira.
Because it’s fully web-based, VirusTotal can’t scan your entire device. But it’s a really useful tool if you have particular files that you’re not sure about and want to analyze. It’s simple to run a scan — you just upload a file or paste a URL into the online portal on the VirusTotal homepage.
The scans are very fast and offer an impressive amount of detail, showing you the results from each of the antivirus engines VirusTotal uses. I tested VirusTotal’s scanner with a bunch of sample malware files, and it was able to identify all of them. What’s more, the issues it identifies get shared with the VirusTotal community, helping other users in the future.
VirusTotal is an online virus scanner only, so it doesn’t have the tools to remove viruses. And unlike my top online scanner, the SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner, it can’t scan your computer’s software and running programs, just individual files and URLs. That said, VirusTotal is very straightforward, easy to use, and completely free, so if you have a few files you’re concerned about and want to scan, it’s a good choice.
VirusTotal is an online-only scanner that can scan files or URLs extremely quickly using the engines of over 70 antiviruses. The scanner is simple but effective and requires no downloads or installations. While you can’t run a full system scan, if you’re suspicious of a file or website and want a highly detailed scan done of it, VirusTotal is a great option.
🥉 3. Norton Power Eraser — Basic Version of the Best Antivirus on the Market
Norton Power Eraser is a simplified, Windows-only version of the Norton antivirus, containing a scanner and virus removal tools. It’s free, easy to use, and it was able to find all of the malware samples hidden on my PC.
Unlike the SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner, Norton Power Eraser requires a small download. The installation itself was very easy and only took a few seconds, but if you’re looking for an online scanner with no download required, I’d recommend the SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner instead.
Once you’ve installed Norton Power Eraser, you’re offered 4 scan options:
- Full System Scan.
- Unwanted Application Scan.
- Scan Files.
- Scan Folders.
There’s also a full rootkit scan you can select in the Options menu, which provides an extremely in-depth scan that took about 60 minutes to finish and detected all of the malware on my PC. All the scans are super simple to run, with no tech expertise required.
Unlike the first two scanners on this list, Norton Power Eraser does come with threat removal tools, so if any viruses are found on your device, you can actually deal with them. However, while it’s more effective at dealing with threats than a truly online virus scanner, Norton Power Eraser still doesn’t work as a substitute for a full antivirus package. Without the real-time protection offered by premium antivirus suites like Norton 360, you’re not protected from getting malware in the first place.
If you’re looking for more than a one-time scan, I recommend checking out one of Norton 360’s low-cost plans. Norton Antivirus Plus only costs $9.99 / year and includes Norton’s excellent scanner, real-time protection, a firewall, a password manager, and 2 GB of secure file storage for 1 device. My favorite plan is Norton 360 Deluxe, though. It covers 5 Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS devices, and adds an unlimited-data VPN, parental controls, dark web monitoring, 50 GB cloud storage, and more, all for $24.99 / year. All of Norton’s plans come with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
The Norton Power Eraser is a free Windows-only scanner that comes with threat removal tools and uses the same high-quality scanner as the full Norton antivirus. While it does require a download, it’s very lightweight and offers full system scans, something a website simply can’t do. That said, if you’re considering the Power Eraser, it’s worth checking out the full Norton 360 antivirus for enhanced security features like real-time protection and scheduled scans.
4. ESET Online Scanner — Very Thorough Full System Scans
ESET Online Scanner is a free Windows-only virus scanner that offers customizable and in-depth system scans. It’s a simplified version of ESET’s premium antivirus and offers a great malware detection rate. Like Norton Power Eraser, it uses anti-stealth technology to help detect rootkits buried deep in your system.
The ESET Online Scanner can quarantine or delete infections it finds during the scan (unlike a web-based scanner). It does require a small download, but it’s very lightweight. Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, you’re offered 3 scan options, including a full scan, a quick scan, and a custom scan.
When I tested the full scan, it took about 30 minutes to complete. I was impressed with how thoroughly the scanner searched every part of my system in that time. The quick scans only take a few minutes, providing a more basic scan of key areas of your PC. You can also scan individual folders, files, or removable media if you have specific things you want to check. However, there isn’t an “Unwanted Application” scan like Norton Power Eraser offers.
I like how ESET’s scanner offers scheduled monthly scans and will run an automatic scan of your device each month if you enable it. It’s the only product on my list to offer this feature (apart from my bonus premium picks, Norton and Bitdefender, which offer a range of scheduling options).
The cheapest paid ESET plan is Essential Security, which costs $24.50 / year. In addition to the scanner, it offers anti-phishing protection and a gamer mode for PCs, and it also works with Mac and Android. However, ESET’s offering is pretty minimal compared to Norton and Bitdefender’s lower-tier plans, which offer a wider range of extra features. But ESET is an ok choice if you just want a lightweight scanner and good protection against viruses, and its premium plan has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The ESET Online Scanner is a quality lightweight scanner that only requires a small download. Its full scan only took 30 minutes, detected all the malware on my PC, and was impressively thorough. ESET also gives you the option to run automatic monthly scans, which is a useful extra.
5. Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac — Best Lightweight Scanner for Mac Users
Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac is the only scanner on my list (apart from my bonus premium picks) that can do a full scan of your Mac. It uses Bitdefender’s cloud-based scanner to check for viruses and other malware on your machine, and it’s completely free to use.
It requires a small download, but this means it can remove threats as well as detect them. Downloading and installing the scanner is very quick and simple, and the interface is extremely user-friendly. There are 3 scan options, including Deep System Scan, Critical Locations Scan, and Custom Location Scan.
The Deep System Scan took around 30 minutes and detected 100% of the test malware on my MacBook. I was really impressed by how thorough the scan was, and I liked the straightforward way the results were presented, detailing the threat name, the action Bitdefender had taken, and the path to the infected file.
Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac is a quick and reliable tool for identifying infections, but it’s only a scanner, not a full antivirus. There’s no real-time protection, firewall, system optimization tools, or any of the other tools you need to stay fully protected online. If you like Bitdefender but want more than just one-time scans, you’d do far better to take a look at Bitdefender Total Security.
Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac is a great free tool to check for infections on your Mac and safely remove them. It offers 3 types of scans, including Deep System Scan, Critical Locations Scan, and Custom Location Scan, and it’s really easy to use. Bitdefender’s full scan took only 30 minutes and was able to find 100% of the test malware on my MacBook.
Try Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac Now
Bonus. Norton 360 — Best Overall Antivirus in 2023
Norton 360 is the best antivirus on the market in 2023, with a flawless scanner and a lot of extra security features. Unlike its more basic counterpart, Norton Power Eraser, it works across all operating systems and does a lot more than just scan and remove viruses. For example, its excellent real-time protection means malware will be blocked and removed automatically before it can harm your device.
In my tests, Norton’s scanner was able to detect 100% of the test malware I’d put on my computer, including viruses, worms, keyloggers, rootkits, and more. The full scan took around 40 minutes, and I was able to use my computer as normal while it was running. You can also run quick scans and custom scans on specific folders and locations, and the Norton Insight tool even flags suspicious files you should run a custom scan on.
Norton offers many extra features to protect you against viruses and other online threats, including:
- Ransomware protection.
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Secure firewall.
- Dark web monitoring.
- VPN (unlimited data).
- Parental controls.
- And a lot more…
Norton’s 360 plans start at $54.99 / year, but the best value plan is the 360 Deluxe plan, which includes real-time threat protection, Norton’s quality scanner, a firewall, an unlimited-data VPN, 50 GB of cloud storage, parental controls, dark web monitoring, and more. It costs $24.99 / year and gives coverage for up to 5 devices across all major operating systems. All of Norton’s plans come with a 60-day money-back guarantee too.
Norton is the best antivirus on the market, with a flawless malware scanner and a great kit of cybersecurity tools. It does everything an online virus scanner does and much more, offering a 100% threat detection rate and real-time protection as well as extra security features like a VPN and anti-phishing protection. You can try Norton’s paid plans with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full Norton review here
Bonus. Bitdefender Total Security — Advanced Features & Great Real-Time Protection
Bitdefender Total Security offers an advanced and highly customizable malware scanner along with some excellent internet security tools. Like Norton’s antivirus, you can run full, quick, or custom scans that will detect and remove threats from your device.
Bitdefender’s scanner operates on the cloud, so it’s less likely to slow down your system when compared to some other antiviruses. In my tests, it was able to detect 100% of the test malware on my PC. At around an hour, its full system scans do take a bit longer than Norton’s. However, that’s not a big deal because the scans are so lightweight you can use your computer as normal while they’re running.
I’m a big fan of Bitdefender’s real-time protection (Bitdefender Shield), which actively scans all your files and email attachments and blocks malware before it has a chance to infect your system. More advanced users can even customize real-time settings to include scans of archives and scripts. Overall, Bitdefender has the most customizable scanner on the market.
The extra features Bitdefender offers include:
- Web protections.
- Ransomware protection.
- VPN (200 MB/daily).
- Password manager.
- System optimization.
- Parental controls.
- And more…
I was really impressed with Bitdefender’s OneClick Optimizer, which was able to clear nearly 2 GB of junk files from my PC. It’s a pretty basic tool, but it’s effective and very easy to use, and I saw a real improvement in my PC’s running speeds after doing the cleanup.
I’m not so keen on how Bitdefender’s VPN is restricted to 200 MB per day on all but the most expensive plan — this is barely enough for light browsing. Norton offers an unlimited VPN with all its paid plans. That said, if you’re happy to pay the extra for Bitdefender’s unlimited VPN, it is really fast and good for torrenting.
Total Security is Bitdefender’s best plan — it costs $35.99 / year and includes all of Bitdefender’s features, coverage for 5 devices, and compatibility with Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Bitdefender offers a cloud-based scanner that detects 100% of malware and has excellent customizable real-time protection. On top of this, it has great extra features like a system optimizer, VPN, parental controls, and a password manager. You can try Bitdefender risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full Bitdefender review here
Comparison of the Best Online Virus Scanners in 2023
|Online Virus Scanner||Online Only, No Download Required?||Removes Viruses?||Full System Scans?||Detects Software Vulnerabilities?||Real-Time Malware Protection?||Customizable Scans?||Additional Online Security Features?||Operating Systems?|
|1.🥇SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner||✅||❌||❌||✅||❌||❌||❌||Cross-platform|
|3.🥉Norton Power Eraser||❌||✅||✅||❌||❌||✅||❌||Windows|
|4. ESET Online Scanner||❌||✅||✅||❌||❌||✅||❌||Windows|
|5. Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac||❌||✅||✅||❌||❌||✅||❌||macOS|
|Bonus. Norton 360||❌||✅||✅||❌||✅||✅||✅||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
|Bonus: Bitdefender Total Security||❌||✅||✅||❌||✅||✅||✅||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS|
Try SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner Now
How to Choose the Best Online Virus Scanner in 2023
- Malware detection. A virus scanner needs to detect threats on your device, then either remove them or recommend solutions to fix the problem. All of the programs on my list are able to detect malware with 100% accuracy. While a fully online virus scanner can’t remove threats for you, I was impressed with the advice the SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner gave me, and the detail that VirusTotal included in its reports.
- Speed. A lot of virus scanners are extremely slow and simply aren’t convenient to use if you’re trying to quickly identify whether you have an infection. I tested all the scanners on my list to ensure they were fast and efficient. The SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner can accurately detect any unsafe programs or outdated software running on your device in just a few seconds. If you’re after a fast full system scan (which you can only get with a downloadable scanner), ESET Online Scanner had the quickest full scans for Windows at around 30 minutes, and Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac did a full scan of my Mac in around 30 minutes too.
- Ease of use. A good scanner will be simple enough that anybody can use it even if they have no technical expertise. I only recommend scanners with really intuitive interfaces, and none of the products on my list require any tech knowledge. In fact, the SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner runs automatically when you visit the site, so you don’t have to do anything at all!
- Compatibility. Compatibility is important when it comes to finding the right online virus scanner. The SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner is great because it works on all major operating systems, and recognizes what type of device you’re using. You can also use VirusTotal on any device (but it only scans individual files). The Norton Power Eraser is Windows-only, but it does offer more customized scans and provides you with the tools to remove viruses. For Mac users, the Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac is a good option.
- Custom scans. A web-based scanner won’t have options for customized scans, but most products that require a download will give you some level of customization. I included products like the Norton Power Eraser and the ESET Online Scanner because they offer full scans, quick scans, or more custom scans that look over individual files, folders, or removable media.
Try SafetyDetectives Known Vulnerabilities Scanner Now
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut
- Comodo. Comodo offers a free virus scanner that requires a small download. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very good in my tests. The scan was slow and the results had to be emailed to me, rather than simply being displayed on screen. Even though it was a download, it didn’t offer a way to remove viruses it found either.
- Trend Micro. Trend Micro features a free scanner called HouseCall, which is very thorough and only requires a small download. However, its scan is slower than others on this list. If you’re looking for a great Windows scanner with a small download and significantly faster scans, I’d recommend the Norton Power Eraser instead.
- Fortinet. During my tests, the FortiGuard scan was fast and able to detect all my malware samples. It also requires no downloads, being fully online. My biggest problem is the tiny 10 MB size limit for individual file scanning, which is extremely limited. VirusTotal is the only scanner on my list with a maximum file size limit, and it’s a generous 650 MB per file.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does an online virus scanner do?
An online virus scanner simply scans your files from a remote server and detects viruses for you. While an online scanner can’t scan through your full computer, it can work to detect threats in individual files.
If you haven’t already got an antivirus and suspect a file might be infected, you can use an online virus scanner to quickly identify what kind of threat it is. Some downloadable virus scanners, like the Norton Power Eraser, will include ways to remove the threats, but a truly online virus scanner cannot remove viruses or malware from your device. It can only tell you what the issues are and offer advice on how you can solve them yourself.
However, online scanners can’t completely replace a full antivirus software. To fully protect your system from malware and other online threats, you should install antivirus software like Norton or Bitdefender.
Do I need to pay for an online virus scanner?
There are some good free virus scanners, but they’ll never give you as much protection as a premium antivirus program like Norton 360. Truly online scanners lack virus removal tools, and even free downloadable virus scanners that do remove malware can’t offer real-time protection. However, if you’re just looking to run a quick scan because you think you might have an infection, a free virus scanner is a convenient choice.
It’s also important to know that there are a lot of fake cybersecurity companies that offer ‘free’ scanners that will steal your data while scanning your device. I made sure to only include truly reputable scanners on my list.
Will an online virus scanner remove a virus from my computer?
No — the most an online scanner can do is scan files or active programs on your device, flag any malware, and offer advice on how you can deal with it yourself. Some of the scanners on this list, like the Norton Power Eraser and the Bitdefender Virus Scanner for Mac, do have the ability to remove malware and viruses, but this functionality always requires a download.
As a rule of thumb, if a website claims it can remove viruses from your computer, it’s lying. A purely online scanner is simply not capable of accessing your system in that way.
Do I need an online virus scanner if I have a good antivirus?
The short answer is no, but it can still be a helpful tool if you’re looking for a second opinion on a file — though at that point I’d recommend a better antivirus. A decent antivirus does everything an online scanner can do, and so much more.
With a premium antivirus suite like Norton 360, you get a great virus scanner, threat removal tools, and real-time protection from viruses before they become a problem. Norton also offers a heap of useful extra features like parental controls, a VPN, a password manager, and dark web monitoring, and you can try it risk-free with a 60-day money-back guarantee.