VirusTotal Review

A Full Review of VirusTotal, the Best Online Virus Scanner

Screenshot of the VirusTotal website
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VirusTotal is the best online virus scanner because in addition to scanning URLs and files against several different antivirus engines, it can also be used over email or from a desktop to scan running processes.

Over 40 different antivirus engines are used to scan files sent to VirusTotal, which means several different perspectives are used to determine whether or not a file is malicious.

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Pros

  • Scans any file type as large as 128 MB
  • Input a URL to scan a whole webpage
  • Can upload more than one file using the desktop program
  • Share results of a virus scan using a public link
  • Works as a browser extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer
  • Scan email attachments
  • Can be used on Android devices with an app
  • Search for past scan results using a file's hash

Cons

  • Only one file can be scanned at a time using the web interface
  • Allowed for personal use only, not commercial
  • Email attachment scans have lower priority than using the web interface
  • Files sent using email or the desktop program are limited to 32 MB

Send Files to VirusTotal Over Email

Instead of uploading files to the VirusTotal website or using the desktop program, you can send email attachments containing the files you'd like scanned. This means you can also forward emails that have attachments you suspect could be malicious.

Use the following information to scan email attachments with VirusTotal:

Address: scan@virustotal.com

Subject: SCAN or SCAN+XML

Entering SCAN will make the scan results be sent back to you in pain text while SCAN+XML will create a reply with the results in XML format.

Attachment: [Any < 32 MB]

Any file format is allowed when sending files to VirusTotal. You can send more than one file by creating an archive with as many files as you like given the total size doesn't exceed 32 MB.

See my Free Zip & Unzip Programs list for some free programs that will make an archive acceptable for sending to VirusTotal.

You can read more about VirusTotal's email feature at their Email Submissions page.

My Thoughts on VirusTotal

Not all online virus scanners support the large number of scanning engines that VirusTotal does. Of course sheer number doesn't imply VirusTotal is the best online scanner, but it helps to see that it uses the antivirus engines from popular companies like AVG Technologies, Baidu, Comodo, Malwarebytes Corporation, and SUPERAntiSpyware. There are plenty more listed on the VirusTotal Credits & Acknowledgements page.

I love that you can send files to VirusTotal in different mediums. Email attachments is a common way to spread viruses, so the fact that you can send them to VirusTotal is great. Also, because it's an online scanner, any browser and operating system is supported. In addition to this, it's probably easiest to use the dedicated desktop program (VirusTotal Uploader) that lets you send local files to the website on a Windows or Mac. It really couldn't be easier to use these methods.

Though it's important to have a dedicated, offline virus scanner on hand that's always ready for scanning files, VirusTotal is a great way to get a second opinion on certain occasions.

Given the many different engines used to perform a scan, you're actually getting several different opinions at once, which is fantastic.

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