How to Check for Viruses

In the world we live in today, where our lives are delicately woven with technology, we need to ensure the security of our devices. One of the most persistent problems your computer or smart device can face is the risk of viruses and malware. If left unchecked, they can compromise your personal data, disrupt system functions, and even lead to irreversible damage.

In this article, we will go over how to check for viruses and other malicious software so that you can get an idea of how to keep your system secure. Whether you’re a seasoned computer user or a beginner just starting to navigate the online world, understanding the fundamentals of virus detection and good antivirus use are crucial in creating a secure computing environment.

How to Check for Viruses

Running an antivirus scan is probably one of the easiest things you can do to check for viruses on your device. Fortunately, many devices come with a built-in antivirus, which can be seen as your first line of defense, and supplementing it with another solution is a great idea for all-round protection.

That being said, the steps can vary depending on your system and solution. However, the overall process remains the same. When running an antivirus scan, there are a few steps to follow:

  • Open the antivirus software,
  • Check for updates,
  • Decide on scan options – this could be a quick scan, a full scan, or a custom scan,
  • Start the scan,
  • Review results,
  • Schedule regular scans.

How to Run A Windows Scan for Viruses and Malware

Virus scanning will look different on each operating system. Here’s a quick guide on how you can scan your Windows device for malware using the built-in Microsoft Defender Antivirus tool.

  1. Open Microsoft Defender Antivirus

    Open Settings on your laptop and look for Microsoft Defender Antivirus, then click on Virus and Threat Protection.
    Open Microsoft Defender Antivirus
  2. Step 2 – Check for Update

    Scroll down the page and select “Check for update”. This will ensure Microsoft Defender Antivirus is up-to-date with the latest virus definitions. Be patient, as the update might take a few minutes.
    Step 2 – Check for Update
  3. Step 3 – Scan Computer

    Now that the Microsoft Defender Antivirus is up to date, run the system scan. By clicking on “scan options,” you’ll be able to select between a quick scan, a full scan, a custom scan, and even an offline scan. We opted for a quick scan.
    Step 3 – Scan Computer
  4. Step 4 – Analyze Results

    Once the scan is complete, analyze the results. During our testing, we did not find any threats on our Windows laptop.
    Step 4 – Analyze Results
  5. Step 5 – Schedule Periodic Scans

    The last step is optional but very recommended. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, select “Microsoft Defender Antivirus Options,” and ensure periodic scanning is enabled. Now, the Windows Defender will automatically scan your system every seven days. your system every seven days.
    Step 5 – Schedule Periodic Scans

How to Run an Android Virus Scan

Now, if you have an Android mobile device, you can also make use of its built-in antivirus solution. While the tool is fairly simplistic, it does offer a system scanner.

Here’s a quick guide on how to scan your Android phone for viruses:

  1. Open Google Play Store and Select Play Protect

    Navigate to the Google Play Store and open the settings menu by tapping on the icon on the top right side of the screen, then navigate to Play Protect.
    Open Google Play Store and Select Play Protect
  2. Open Play Protect Settings

    At the top right corner of the screen, you will see a small gear icon. Tap on it to open the Google Play settings menu. Once opened, ensure both tabs are enabled.
    Open Play Protect Settings
  3. Scan Device

    Once that’s done, tap the scan button to initiate the scan. The layout might look different depending on your device; however, the steps remain the same. In our demonstration, we used the Xiaomi 12T.
    Scan Device

How to Run an Antivirus Scan on a Mac

There’s a common misconception that Apple products can’t get a virus, and while it might be more difficult for Apple products to get infected with a virus, it’s still very much possible. That being said, there are tools available that you can use to ensure your Mac remains free of malicious software. One of these tools is XProtect, Apple’s built-in antivirus software.

As with all antivirus solutions, you must keep XProtect up-to-date to ensure the best protection possible. The nice thing about XProtect is that it automatically runs in the background, so no additional steps are needed to run a scan. However, if the software is outdated, the risk of malicious software infecting your Mac increases.

Here’s how to check if XProtect is receiving updates:

  1. Step 1

    Navigate to your system settings and click on Software Updates in the General tab.
    Step 1
  2. Step 2

    Select the “i” icon next to Automatic Updates.
    Step 2
  3. Step 3

    Ensure automatic security updates are switched on.
    Step 3

Now that you’ve ensured that XProtect receives updates automatically, it’s important to note that this is a passive solution. In other words, XProtect works in the background and automatically picks up any threats and blocks them. It’s always advised that you pair it with one of the best antivirus solutions for increased security.

How to Check for Viruses on iPhone

When it comes to iPhones, viruses are almost unheard of. However, that doesn’t mean that iPhones are entirely immune. If you decide to jailbreak your device, you open the doors to malicious software.

However, unlike MacOS, there are no built-in antivirus tools for iOS. This is because iOS runs apps in its own virtual space, better known as sandboxing, which ensures applications have no interactions with other applications. And that is a common way of viruses infecting your system.

If you suspect your iPhone of having a virus, you can do a few things to remove it. The easiest approach is to remove the application you suspect of having a virus. Once you’ve removed it, a simple system reset will ensure the virus is removed.

Other things to do to make sure your iOS is virus-free include:

  • Clear browsing history often,
  • Keep the iPhone up-to-date,
  • Delete unfamiliar applications,
  • Restore your iPhone to its factory settings.

What Is a Virus Scan, and How Does It Work?

A virus scan is an important process done by a reputable antivirus solution in order to identify and eliminate malicious software from your system. It does this by detecting malicious code and comparing it to a database full of known virus signatures.

When a virus is detected, the antivirus software will quarantine or remove the infected file (per user preference). It’s important to note that keeping your antivirus software up-to-date is imperative, as new virus signatures spring up frequently. If your solution is not up-to-date, it might not detect these new signatures.

Do You Need a Virus Scan?

If you value your device and your data, you need a virus scan. Scanning for viruses regularly is arguably one of the most important things you can do to protect your data.

If you neglect this, you open the doors for malicious software and cybercriminals to do harmful things like steal or erase your data and even lock you out of your system. So, running regular system scans is imperative.

Apart from a virus scan, some common signs can indicate that your device is infected. For example, if the device heats up more than usual or uses more memory than average, this could indicate an infection.

Other signs might include:

  • Slow device,
  • Frequent crashes,
  • Error messages,
  • Difficulty shutting down,
  • Difficulty restarting the device,
  • Unable to remove software.

The Top Antiviruses for Virus Scans

The best way to detect, remove, and even prevent a virus is to use an antivirus solution. If your device is showing signs of infection, check out our top antivirus solutions capable of cleaning your devise.

Antivirus Software Test Results Starting Price Max Devices Supported Compatibility Free Version Top 3 Features
TotalAV – Protection – 5/6
– Performance – 5.5/6Usability – 6/6
$19.00 for the first year 6 Windows, MacOS, iOS & Android Free scanner – Real-time protection
– Password manager
– Data breach Monitoring
Norton – Protection – 6/6
– Performance – 5.5/6
– Usability – 6/6
$49.99 for the first year 5 Windows, MacOS, iOS & Android 7-day free trial – Secure VPN
– Dark web monitoring
– Parental control
TrendMicro – Protection – 6/6
– Performance – 5.5/6Usability – 6/6
$19.95 for the first year 5 Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android & Chromebook 30-day free trial – Wifi Protection
– Ransomeware
– Pay Guard
ESET – Protection – 5.5/6
– Performance – 5.5/6
– Usability – 6/6
$59.99 for the first year 1 Windows, MacOS, iOS & Android 30-day free trial – Webcam security
– Malware removal
– Anti-theft feature
Avast – Protection – 6/6
– Performance – 6/6
– Usability – 6/6
$69
.99 for the first year
30 Windows, MacOS, iOS & Android Free plan – VPN
– Online network protection
– Password monitoring
Malwarebytes – Protection – 5.5/6
– Performance – 5.5/6
– Usability – 6/6
 $99.99 billed annually 5 Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Edge & Safari Free plan – VPN
– Phishing protection
– Bruteforce protection

Our Top Antivirus Guides

If you want to learn more about these solutions, our experts have put together a comprehensive list of the best antivirus solutions.

Bottom Line

Checking for malicious software on your devices frequently is crucial for keeping your device functional and your data safe. The best thing to do is to use a third-party solution like TotalAV to stay ahead of the curve. That being said, built-in tools like Microsoft Defender Antivirus and XProtect are great instruments but should only be seen as your first line of defense.

Along with that, you should also practice safe browsing habits and be aware of the performance of your device. Unusual system behavior could be an indication that your device is compromised. With all this in mind, you can enhance your device’s security and minimize the risk of infection.

How to Check for Viruses FAQs

What do you need to run an antivirus scan?

How do you check for viruses on iPhone?

How do you check for viruses on Android?

Can you check for viruses on Chromebook?

Can you check links for viruses?

Related How To’s

Related Terms

Justin Van Gent
Technology Writer

As an experienced freelance writer for Techopedia.com, Justin strives to provide accurate, informative comparisons and reviews on both B2B and B2C tech solutions — ranging from product reviews to CRMs, security software, and beyond.