Answer Best answer as chosen by user Dave Teddyboy-No1
It's Not That Simple
There are some free online scans that can actually be helpful. The majors, Norton and McAfee, and other antivirus providers, offer this service and it can be helpful, particularly in cases where you think you may have gotten infected already -- some malware can now prevent various antivirus programs from functioning and updating normally.
Microsoft itself offers an online scanning application and it once detected a threat on my own computer that nothing else had been able to prevent or detect.
They can be useful because it is very difficult for online programs to become corrupted by malware already infecting your hard drive (although sometimes they prevent access to the scanning site).
So don't write online scans off entirely. Just don't avail yourself of their "services" in response to some pop-up window in your web browser frantically telling that your computer is infected by something and telling you to "click here" to fix it. That's not how the legitimate programs work, and clicking on those will ALL result in your computer becoming infected with malware, and some of it is particularly nasty and difficult to remove.
As a general rule of thumb, YOU initiate the contact, and make sure it is with a service you know and trust. If the remote site initiates the contact, well, in the immortal words of King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "RUN AWAY!" They have nasty, big, pointed teeth. Just LOOK a' th' bones!
By the way, if you do find one of those popup windows telling you that your computer is infected, don't click on the popup window at all, not even to close it. Go down to the taskbar and close it from there, and navigate away from the website immediately.
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