As new viruses emerge at a fast-growing pace, new security solutions are on demand. Among them, online virus scanners make a good choice, especially if they’re free. Some people try them while lacking other options, whereas many are tempted to use them to avoid paying for a professional security solution.
Do you have the patience to go through the many options? Because if you do, you too will see that these online virus scanners come with certain limitations. Sometimes, even the best free online virus scanner cannot compete with free offline antivirus software.
Though you see, that has nothing to do with their professionalism, but rather with how they are designed to work. And it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be using them, just like it doesn’t mean you should rely exclusively on them. Their utility falls somewhere in the middle of these two options.
To better understand how these free online virus scanners can work for you, you’d first have to know them better. What they are, how they function, what are their pros and cons. All these and even more are covered below, in our comprehensive guide with the best free online virus scanners in 2019.
Virus scanners, online & free – how does this work?
People are nowadays skeptical when offered free things. For much too long, many have even rejected the idea that free antivirus software can be a solution to take into account. Now imagine what those people would say about solutions available for free and that work online, as in the cloud!
But an online virus scanner is, by definition, an online-based scanner that does all the hard scanning work on a server over the web. It can scan just for viruses or for a wider range including different types of malware. And depending on how it was conceived, it can offer you one or several of the following options:
- Upload files for online scanning;
- Email files for online scanning;
- Use dedicated browser add-ons for malware link scanning;
- Install a small program that scans your computer entirely.
Aside from the differences in how they operate and what tools they bring to your disposal, there are also differences in how they display their results. For these reasons, ease of use and functionality, along with the high detection rates and the low false-positive rates are essential when evaluating their performances.
We’ve looked into the best online virus scanners in 2019, so we had all these in mind. By going through them and testing malware samples and clean samples, we’ve come to better understand the essential differences. On the same occasion, we were also able to sum it all up to a series of succinct pros and cons of using what we rated as the top 10 online virus scanners.
Like mentioned, not all of them showcase the same pros and cons, not even all of them in one. But looking at these aspects will help you get a better sense of where your chosen free online virus scanner sits. Here’s what we mean…
The pros of using the best online virus scanners
- Most of them don’t require you to install anything;
- Because the scanning happens online, it doesn’t put pressure on your system’s resources;
- The best ones will rely on the same antivirus engines that famous antivirus software developers rely on (think of AVG, McAfee, Kaspersky etc.);
- They offer a relatively wide range of scanning options – individual files and document archives, file hash, domains, IP addresses;
- Some can integrate as browser extensions that allow URL scanning with a right-click of the mouse, as well as file scanning before download;
- Some can even work through email, too, meaning that you can attach a file to the message and send it to the email address indicated by that online virus scanner, to have it scanned.
The cons you may find even in the best online virus scanners
- When it comes to documents scanning, usually, you can only scan one document or file at a time;
- Each online virus scanner comes with certain limitations regarding the maximum acceptable size for the documents that it can scan;
- Some have ads that will distract you and make for an ugly interface;
- The free ones will most likely limit you to personal use, not covering commercial use;
- They may not be as reliable at detecting phishing malware as you’d like it to be;
- False positives are reported with a certain frequency;
- Don’t offer protection or cleanup options, but merely a notification of files that it finds to be infected;
- And it certainly cannot spot suspicious behavior or detect threats that were previously unknown to the most common search engine viruses.
Top 10 online virus scanners you should look into
The following online virus scanners are totally worth your attention, for all the reasons we’ve already discussed, and not only. Let’s have a look at each of them and try to underline the essentials. You’ll notice we’ve first ranked the ones that work exclusively as online scanners, followed by the free scanning options provided by some famous antivirus manufacturers.
Scans for files, URLs or allows you to particularly search (for URLs, IP addresses, domains or file hash). It does so while relying on over 70 different antivirus scanners and domain blacklisting services. And while it works cross-platform, it allows file and URL submissions through a web interface (browser), but also through browser extensions, desktop uploaders, and a programmatic API. The file size limitations stick to 128 MB per file.
Scans for suspicious files with a drag and drop or allows you to search or scan for a CVE, file hash, URL, domain name or IP address in a dedicated search box in the browser. It is said to use around 45 different malware engines and comes with a slightly more generous scanning limit of 140 MB.
Somewhat different from what we’ve seen so far, this one requires installation and works to remove the malware it detects. Its accuracy rate is, however, a tad smaller, revolving around 70%. And a significant drawback is that it works with Windows devices only. Moreover, it falls a bit outside of the regular range of online virus scanners because it is not a cloud-based option.
This online scanner from SafetyDetectives will show you the vulnerabilities found on your system from the moment you access their website through your web browser. It scans for known vulnerabilities from the CVE Database and doesn’t just display them (ranking them from Critical to Medium), but also shows you fixes for each of them.
This tool from Trend Micro claims to fix a wide range of malicious threats, from viruses and spyware to worms and other malware, all for free. It even lets you choose which platform to scan, from Windows devices (64-bit or 32-bit) to Mac, Android devices, and home networks, in particular. And that’s just one of their many offerings in terms of threat prevention/cleanup tools available for free.
The name itself says it all, suffices to see it and you’ll want to try it because it’s from Norton, right? Just like the F-Secure, it scans for viruses and other malware, requiring you to install it on your PC. Chances are, however, you might feel a bit annoyed with its pushy salesly messages to use the Norton Security antivirus for full protection.
Yet another well-established name in the industry, the free scanner from ESET makes a less expected promise: a one-time full scan of your computer, followed by the action to remove malware or whatever other threats it detects. Needless to say, the drawback is that it’s just a one-time scan and only works with Windows devices.
The free online virus scan from BullGuard stands by its name and offers you the possibility to scan your device for viruses and malware, worms, spyware, hacking, phishing, even identity theft or fraud and social engineering, all online! The difference from ESET, for instance, is that it doesn’t remove whatever it finds… Instead, it suggests you to try their 60-day trial of the Internet Security package, if you really want to get rid of whatever it detects during the only scan.
As attractive as a security product from Bitdefender may be, the Bitdefender Home Scanner limits itself to keeping an eye on your home network. It scans for weaknesses or hidden backdoors related to literally ANY of the devices connected to your Wi-Fi network. And it constantly matches the results it gets with its huge vulnerability-threats database. As a side note, users can either let it permanently run in the background of the device or turn it off and manually turn it back on whenever wanting to scan for something within the network.
After all that it’s been said, our final piece of advice should come naturally. Regardless of how you feel about the best free online virus scanners out there, and no matter how much you trust them, you should always consider them a backup option. A good antivirus program should still be your priority, while using a free online scanner can be just to double-check what your antivirus is telling you.
Trying to save money is not even an excuse, since there are also plenty of free antivirus options that you can try. The way we see it, it’s better to have full time protection, even if it’s free and with limited features, than to occasionally test the safety of your device while using just an online scanner.
It goes without saying, when you do end up in such situations, you know which are the best free online virus scanners in 2019 and you can still try them out.