Remote Virus Scanning: Pros and Cons

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Among the variety of antivirus software for your computer are also options for remote or online scans. These scans have many attractive benefits – but how worthwhile are they for regular or long-term use?

What is Remote Virus Scanning?

Remote scanning is an easy way to check your computer for viruses even if you aren’t able to scan your computer directly or if you want to scan a number of computers simultaneously. It runs a virus check on your computer(s) without you having to sit in front of the actual computer you are scanning.

This can be a big time saver for corporations that have tens or hundreds of computers that need to be scanned at a time. Learn more about this unique feature and whether or not it is the right thing for your company before making your final decision about antivirus software providers.

The Pros 

  • Remote and online scanners provide a helpful “second opinion” about the status of your computer. They work with your computer’s existing antivirus software to help solve security problems.
  • Free online scans that come from a trustworthy site are thorough, safe and effective. They also work extremely quickly, without requiring the user to go through a long installation process.
  • Online virus scanning is particularly useful if you are using an unfamiliar computer that is not responding well.
  • Remote scanning is a helpful option if your computer’s antivirus software has become disabled and you need to find the solution.
  • Remote scanning is an extremely useful tool if you are managing a network of computers. You can schedule scans or clean computers very quickly without having to spend time logging in and running scans on each individual machine.
  • Online antivirus scans are always up-to-date and will come with the very latest virus definitions. In this sense, they are better than antivirus software which has been installed on a computer but hasn’t been allowed to update itself.

The Cons

  • The main drawback of remote or online antivirus scanning is its limitation; these scanners work on an on-demand basis and cannot provide continual background monitoring of the traffic entering and leaving your computer. This can only be done by a desktop program.
  • Many remote scanners are able to spot threats and inform you of their existence, but are unable to neutralize them. You will often have to download the full antivirus software package to deal with any problems that have been found. 
  • Beware of “rogue online virus scanners” that claim to find all sorts of malware on your computer. They warn you that your computer is having major security problems and try to persuade you to buy a certain virus removal program that will instantly solve all the issues.
  • Be suspicious of pop-up advertisements for virus scanning, as this sort of thing is more likely to cause security threats than cure them.

Top Three Trustworthy Scans

  1. McAfee Antivirus: McAfee’s robust antivirus software allows you to do an “on demand remote scan” for any PC you have complete admin access to.
  2. AVG Remote Antivirus Administration: Particularly helpful for businesses, AVG lets you manage all your computers from a single location.
  3. Norton Power Eraser: This efficient tool targets the latest malware including 0-day threats; it particularly hones in on scamware and rogueware.


Many of the major antivirus software developers do not provide remote or online scanning services. This is because they offer free desktop versions of their full-blown antivirus packages, which you can use on a trial basis and then buy if you are satisfied.

Remote and online solutions are excellent tools for using on a temporary basis, as extra support – but they cannot compare to the level of protection provided by dedicated virus scanners that are installed on your computer. In the right context, remote antivirus scanning can provide an invaluable service – but take care always to check that you are scanning from a reputable source and for the right reasons.

Antivirus is not just for computers. How safe is your Android device? Learn about the best Android antivirus software and make sure your device is secure in all ways.

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