How-To Geek

Beginner Geek: Scan Files for Viruses Before Using Them

To help avoid getting your computer infected by malicious software, it’s a good idea to scan files before executing them. Today we take a look at a couple of options that will let you scan files easily from your desktop.

Scan File with Your Antivirus Software

Most Antivirus software will put an option in the context menu so you can scan individual files. After downloading a file or email attachment, simply right-click the file and select the option to scan with your Antivirus software.


If you want to scan more than one at a time, hold down the Ctrl key while you clicking each file you want to scan. Then right-click and select to scan with your Antivirus software.


Here is our favorite Antivirus app, Microsoft Security Essentials scanning a couple of files.


If a virus is found, your Antivirus app will delete it or put it in Quarantine so it cannot infect your system.


Using VirusTotal Uploader

To be very thorough and want a second opinion (actually 41), then you might want to check out the VirusTotal Uploader. This handy app will scan your files with 41 different Antivirus apps online. After installing VirusTotal Uploader, right-click the file, go to Send To, then VirusTotal.


Alternately you can launch VirusTotal Uploader and Get and upload the file.


It will send the file to and scan it with 41 different Antivirus apps and show you the results.



If you don’t want to install the Uploader, you can go to the VirusTotal site and upload a file from there to scan.


We’ve noticed that occasionally there will be a false positive detected on files we know are clean. Sometimes the definition database of an Anti-malware app isn’t current, or an obscure Antivirus App will find something questionable. If that is the case, use your best judgment when viewing the results.



Most Antivirus apps today have real-time scanning and should be able to detect possible infections before you’re able to execute them. However, if they don’t or when in doubt, following these tips can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

If you use a lot of different flash drives throughout the day, check out our article on how to scan a thumb drive for viruses from the AutoPlay Dialog.

Download Microsoft Security Essentials

Download VirusTotal Uploader

VirusTotal Website

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 06/7/10

Comments (7)

  1. Gene

    This is a MUST DO!!!!…………….This is great advice.

  2. netbox

    This is a very nice tips..
    thank you very much..

  3. SquareWheel

    As far as I can tell, MSSE will already scan a folder or application just by selecting it.

  4. John

    Curious about something. I have Microsoft Security Essentials which is currently turned off. I have heard that having two security programs running causes conflicts in a computer. Is this true? I am running Avast Free Antivirus, as well as Ad-Aware and Spybot SD-Resident, with an occasional shot of Malwarebytes and SUPERAntiSpyware (needless to say, CCleaner and Advanced SystemCare are also ready and willing to help me). My main question, then, would it hurt to keep Essentials running also? Is it even necessary with what I already have? I can always use expert advice from those who know much more than I do (and there are millions of you). Thanks.
    P.S. Not really asking for help, I don’t believe – just a “yeah, leave it off” or “no, it’s OK to run Essentials also” – hope I’m not doing wrong here…

  5. Jon

    Great job mentioning VirusTotal! I use that website all the time! I didn’t know there was an application for it too! Thank you, Mysticgeek!

  6. raw6464

    I uninstalled MSE because I can not trust it… it did not catch a virus that it should have. I went back to AVG and Spybot Immunize which I used fro 10 year without ever getting infected. MSE lasted less than a year.

    I did like MSE with it’s small footprint and Microsoft taking ownership of their operating system for FREE… which Bill Gates is not known for. But at the end of the day MS operating systems have been attacked for years and MS responses have always been after the fact rather than making THEIR system bullet proof. In the past MS was CHARGING for virus protection for THEIR system.

    When you consider people are making money by protecting you from viruses, it is in THEIR best interest that viruses abound. I would not be surprise if Norton had a “skunk works” in the basement writing viruses while their “fixing” them on the top floor.

  7. google

    I liked your article is an interesting technology
    thanks to google I found you

More Articles You Might Like

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!