How to Make a Quick and Easy Online Antivirus Check of a File or App Before Downloading it


Do you like to download things from the Internet? Do you try out a lot of different programs? These days you can't be too careful about what you get from the Internet. Here is how to make those downloads safer.

One of the easiest ways to do a security check of what you are interested in is to use the free online service VirusTotal. This service will scan a submitted file with dozens of different anti-malware programs. Files can be uploaded from your PC to VirusTotal for checking but an even better procedure is to check a file before you download it. You can submit the download link to VirusTotal and get it scanned without the file ever being on your system.

The most convenient procedure is to use one of the add-ons that VirusTotal provides for the major Internet browsers. These add-ons place an entry in the browser right-click context menu that provides an online check of a selected URL. All you have to do is right-click a download link and quite quickly you will get a report of the results of scans from multiple anti-virus programs.

Here is how to get the VirusTotal add-on or extension for the three major Windows browsers. 

  • Google Chrome browser extension - VTchromizer
    VirusTotal documentation for the Chrome extension is found here. The extension can be installed from the Google Chrome store at this link. After installation, the browser right-click context menu for an URL will contain the entry “Check with VirusTotal”. 
  • Firefox browser extension - VTzilla
    VirusTotal documentation for the Firefox extension is found here. The extension can be installed at this Mozilla site. After installation, the browser right-click context menu for an URL will contain the entry “Scan with VirusTotal”. The Firefox extension also modifies the download dialog. 
  • Internet Explorer add-on - VTexplorer
    VirusTotal documentation and the installation link for the Internet Explorer add-on are here. After installation, the browser right-click context menu for an URL will contain the entry “Send URL to VirusTotal”.

Note that if you use script blockers like the Firefox extension NoScript, you will need to whitelist the VirusTotal website.

These are very useful browser add-ons but, of course, the scans before downloading are not a complete defense. Whatever resident security measures you normally use will still be called for. 

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Yes, I tried using both install buttons, but get the same banner of Open/Save. Sounds like maybe it's my computer...possibly related to an update that ran Tuesday in wee hrs. Ever since have been having other problems. Will go see if I can download a pattern or recipe or game, getting same problem. That should tell me if my computer

Thanks for quick answer...will get back to you on what happens.

Another possible issue I just thought of. The link here is to a https page and the default setting in IE is to not save from encrypted pages. You might want to click on the wheel in the upper right hand corner of IE and select Internet Options and then Advanced. Scroll down to Security and disable "Do not save encrypted pages to disk" (It is a stupid setting anyways). I had this issue with some people on my Google sites page files as the Google sites pages are https. EDIT: I just checked in my IE with that option enabled and it only showed a Save option and when I pressed that IE just said it could not download. So, it looks like this is not your issue.

The Do not save unchecked. Just tried to download Mozilla Firefox - same da** thing. ALL of this has been since the 11-26 update to IE !!. Just went to Microsoft Community and found not only one with this problem. Left info with them but who knows when I'll get answer.

Thank you all for trying, but think my answers lie with Microsoft and all their problems. Your help is appreciated...Will let you know if I ever get this taken care of.

Thank you.

I had no trouble installing the add-on in Windows 7. I was using IE 10. I also had no trouble in FF or Chrome.
That is strange indeed. I can't remember if I installed those updates. I usually wait some time to install to see if people had issues. Do you use another browser? I also downloaded through Firefox and after a double-click on the exe it also installed into IE without issue. Personally, I prefer Firefox overall anyways. In any event, it looks like you have some issue with IE right now. Good luck.

mr6n8 - Just thought you'd like to know I uninstalled IE11, per Microsoft Community answer - never checked to see if I could do that...could have avoided whole bad experience. Told you, tech-challenged. But I am learning. At least when Microsoft installs this again, Ill know what to going to Firefox now.

Thanks so very much for your help, I did learn from it - to have another browser besides IE.

Quick note to you - for some reason I can only choose to install the non-vital updates. What ever Microsoft deems vital or important it automatically installs - can't do anything, my computer is theirs whenever they choose. This is the update that was done 11-26.

When I shut down, Microsoft sends msg that updates are being installed and not to shut machine off, they will do that when complete. The next morning, Microsoft does what it wants as I can't get past the wonderful blue hp screen until Microsoft is I have no say in many updates. Haven't been able to install updates from Intel and a few others since this whole IE11 mess.

Thought you'd like to know, when this gets fixed - Firefox is going on my machine...Thanks.

Have Win7 and IE9. Just tried to install VTexplorer several times, but no go. My computer asks what file to use for Read...I tried Adobe Reader, then Notepad, then another - can't remember name, but it was in my choices and started with "p". First got banner across bottom asking if I want to Open or Save...won't do anything if I click Open, and the Save and Open option gets me very strange pdf files.
Very Tech challenged when it comes to thing s like this. Why didn't I get the Run banner? Don't think I should have gotten the Open banner.?.
This sounded like the perfect thing for someone like me who has trouble with copy/paste URLs.
Would appreciate any help you can give me.

I just checked in my IE9 on Windows 7 and had no such issues. Did you click on the "Install VTexplorer" button at the page? When I click on this I get the options of Run and Save. Choosing Run installed without a hitch and save is an exe file, which also installed without a hitch after double-click.

Just wanted to let you know...I got "hijacked". That caused the above problems with my downloads. It has since been fixed, but I added to problem by using CCleaner without really understanding exactly what it could do. Microsoft Community helped immensely with my problems.
Thank you for your help here, it made me look deeper and farther out for the problems and solutions.
Happy Holidays to you all, GGma

Ah. Glad you got it sorted. That kind of issue can drive you crazy. Happy Holiday Steve

Unfortunately, these extensions check just urls, but not the files one is going to download. While the download link may be 100% clean, the corresponding file may be not.

The VirusTotal site has an option "Go to downloaded file analysis".

OK. So this is the download link
This is what I got using VTchromizer
And this is what I got after sending the downloaded file to VT not using the extension Have I missed something?

I am using Firefox, so I can not say for sure as to your Chrome. If I just right-click on the download link and select Scan with Virus Total, I get the page you show. If I select the download, then I am presented with the Scan with VirusTotal option in the download box. When I choose that option, the URL scan page has a link to the "downloaded file analysis" That link brings me to the same file analysis page as you got sending the file directly to Virus total.

My bad, I really missed that link. Sorry Vic.

Did you actually *read* the following on the VTzilla site before posting????

"VTzilla is a Mozilla Firefox browser plugin that simplifies the process of scanning Internet resources with VirusTotal. It allows you to download files directly with VirusTotal's web application prior to storing them in your PC. Moreover, it will not only scan files, but also URLs."

Before posting please check thoroughly the point you are writing about.

VT Zilla also adds an option in the Firefox download dialog.

Along with "Save" and "Open" etc you will have an extra "Scan with VirusTotal" option.

Thanks for this!!! Now if only there were a Virus Total extension for µTorrent.....

I assume the plugins are subject to the 64MB file size limit of VirusTotal and if so, then not much good for most uTorrent downloads. You can set uTorrent to automatically scan the download directory when a torrent finishes under Options>Preferences>Advanced (expand)>Run Program.

This is true and as far as I know all the on-line scanning services have a file size limit, e.g. Jotti won't scan anything larger than 25mb.

It would be extremely time consuming to do any different really, given that the file in question has to be uploaded for the scan. A large torrent would take forever as well as being demanding on the scanning website.