What is the Best Free Online Virus Scanner?
By on September 19th, 2010

[Windows Only]

security-high-2 The other day, I was reading a newsletter from Windows Secrets. At one point, Fred Langa recommended three different online scanners for detecting malware. He said Three free sites to try are: McAfee’s Freescan, Trendmicro’s HouseCall, and Symantec’s Security Check.

Fred is a trusted source to me. I’ve been reading PC advice from him since years ago, when he wrote the Langa List newsletter. However, I decided to try out Fred’s recommendations, because I’ve never been a big fan of online scanners. If there’s a good scanner out there, I want to know about it.

McAfee Freescan

First, I took a look at McAfee’s service. The foremost objection that I had to this service, is that it requires Internet Explorer. It also runs as an ActiveX application, which is another thing I’ve never liked. The scan seemed to be slow, but it seems to do a good job of detecting infections.

The last item that I believe it fails in, is that it can only detect infections. It cannot remove them. I wouldn’t waste my time here again.

mcafee-free-scan

Symantec Security Check

Next, I tried out Symantec’s service. You might be more familiar with their well known Norton security products. My initial impression of Symantec’s scanner suffered a big drop because it also requires Internet Explorer. However, I was impressed by the nice looking interface.

As nice as it looks, it can only detect malware, and you’re out of luck if you expect it to actually fix any problems. Adding to that, it gave me one false detection on a piece of software which I know is completely safe. Clicking on the Fix Nowbutton only sends you to Symantec’s site to read all about their premium anti-virus software.

The final failure that keeps me from returning, is that it told me that my computer had no antivirus software, even though I was using Microsoft Security Essentials. Hmmm, nice sales tactic, but it only works on foolish people. (Sorry! I mean those less knowledgeable about PCs.)

norton-security-scan6

TrendMicro Housecall

At last, TrendMicro has unchained itself from Internet Explore. It works in any browser, and the scanner is offered as an installer EXE file. The scanning is typically slow, just as I saw with the other two services. However, another bright spot is that it can actually FIXsome of the problems it finds. Housecall is actually a service I could recommend.

The only drawback is that you have to save the installer file, or go back to the website if you want to scan with it in the future.

housecall

Conclusion:

Of these three services, Housecall won easily. Some time back, I also reviewed ESET online scanner and it was just as good as Housecall, maybe better. Check it out.

I would only recommend an online scanner like these as a follow-up after cleaning a PC that was badly infected. Typically, I depend on MalwareBytes to clean up serious infections. If your current antivirus and antimalware software has failed, it’s not likely an online scanner will do you any good.

On the other hand, scanning with an online service like these won’t hurt, and it could pick up something your current software has missed. There are also several other online scanners that I haven’t tried yet. Do you use any online scanners that you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments below.

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Author: Clif Sipe Google Profile for Clif Sipe
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Clif Sipe has written and can be contacted at clif@techie-buzz.com.
  • Robert Fare

    I sometimes use F-Secure’s online scanner which is quite good. The url is http://www.f-secure.com/en_EMEA-Labs/security-threats/tools/online-scanner. You can do a full scan or a quick scan.

  • Yoya

    Kaspersky online scanner WAS pretty good when it was available, but it has been “experiancing an update” for about 2 years already…

  • Craig

    I tried ESET Online scanner and it has detected some threats that Norton 360 missed. I believe ESET is really good. Bit Defender online scanner didn’t detect anything.

  • Cliff

    My laptop is HP with windows 7 and 3months old I had avg free virus software My computer.
    I switch to avast free virus software used for two weeks found several viruses and deleted them.
    Ran very good till this no boot problem.

    Had to start over lost everything.

    I tried pc repair don’t remember name it found 1000 viruses could not believe this on a computer with only windows 7 on it so I deleted.
    now I tried AVG scan and found found 14 viruses no fix unless I pay, .
    I tried AVG Free it found 0 viruses.
    I tried House call it found 0 viruses.
    I do not what to believe.

 
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