How to make sure a file is safe before downloading it

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader’s Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek. Read more.

Nick Lewis is a staff writer for How-To Geek. He has been using computers for 20 years — tinkering with everything from the UI to the Windows registry to device firmware. Before How-To Geek, he used Python and C++ as a freelance programmer. In college, Nick made extensive use of Fortran while pursuing a physics degree. Read more.

If you’re concerned a file might be malicious, you don’t need to download it and rely on your antivirus. You can scan the file for malware with over 90 antivirus engines before you download it—all with one single tool.

This is no substitute for basic online security practices that can keep you safe from phishing and other threats, but it’s a way to perform a more in-depth check if you’re concerned about a file.

Scan a Link For Malware Using VirusTotal

To do this, you’ll need to locate a file’s download link. That’s the direct link to download the file, not just the address of the file’s download page. For example, if you want to scan a .exe file, you’ll need the direct link to the .exe file. If you want to scan a .doc file, you’ll need the direct link to the .doc file. You can spot this by mousing over the link and looking at the address in your browser.

Right-click the link and select “Copy link address” in Chrome, “Copy Link Location” in Firefox, or “Copy link” in Edge.

Next, head to in your web browser. This tool has been owned by Google since 2012.

Click the “URL” tab on the page and then paste the link you copied into the box. Click the search button or press Enter to scan the file.

VirusTotal will download the file you specified to its servers and scan it with a large number of different antivirus engines. If other people have recently scanned the file, VirusTotal will show you the recent scan results.

If you see “No engines detected this URL”, that means that none of VirusTotal’s antivirus engines said there was a problem with the file.

Update: As of April 2022, VirusTotal now has more than 90 antivirus engines available.

The “0/65” means the file was detected as malicious by 0 of VirusTotal’s 65 antivirus engines. This means it should be clean. Of course, it’s possible that new and exotic malware may not be detected by any antivirus programs yet, so it’s always a good idea to be careful and only get software from sources you trust. (In fact, not two days after publishing this article, our example file—CCleaner 5.33—was found to contain malware. A perfect example of how VirusTotal, while useful, isn’t perfect!)

If one of the antivirus engines detects a problem with a file, you’ll see a note saying that a number of antivirus engines detected the URL as a problem.

In some cases, the opinion may be near unanimous. In other cases, only a few antivirus tools may have a problem with the file. This is often a false positive, though in certain circumstances it could be that some antivirus tools have spotted new malware before others. You can scroll down to see which antivirus tools had a problem with the file, view more details about the file, and see community comments about whether the URL is safe or not. (In some cases, for example, it may just be flagged for including bundled crapware, which is easily bypassable.)

If you end up scanning a file download page instead of the downloaded file itself, you’ll see a “Downloaded file” link on the VirusTotal page. Click the icon to the right of “Downloaded file” to see more analysis about the file that web page downloads.

Integrate VirusTotal Into Your Browser

To make this process easier, the VirusTotal project offers browser extensions. These will integrate VirusTotal into your browser, allowing you to right-click a link on any web page and select a “Scan with VirusTotal” option. You won’t have to visit the VirusTotal website and copy-paste a link.

Extensions are available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Explorer. If you’re looking to install the VirtusTotal extension for Microsoft Edge, you need to enable Google Chrome extensions in Edge, and then install the Google Chrome version. Download the appropriate extension and you can right-click a link and select the VirusTotal option to quickly scan it and see the results.

If VirusTotal is unanimous that a file is dangerous, you should stay away. If the results are mixed, you should be careful, but you may want to examine the more detailed antivirus results to see why they say the file is dangerous.

If a file is clean, that means it’s not detected by any antiviruses as malware. That doesn’t mean it’s safe, of course—antivirus software isn’t perfect and may not detect new malware, so ensure you’re getting your programs from a trusted source.

There is no shortage of software/file download sites on the Internet. You will find download buttons everywhere on the Internet. However, do you know if the file you are about to download is safe or not?

It is quite difficult to detect malicious files on the Internet. Antivirus programs usually block all malicious file downloads on a computer, but sometimes some files find their way onto your PC.

Therefore, if you want to be sure, it is always better to double check the file before downloading it. Even if you are downloading files from a trusted website, it is better to double check the file.

Top 10 Websites to Download Free Music

Make sure a file is safe before downloading it

Therefore, in this article, we are going to share some ways that will help you decide if a file is safe to download or not. So let’s see how to make sure a file is safe before downloading it.

1. Know what you are downloading

Let me explain this briefly. If you visit any website that claims to provide you the full version of any premium application for free, there are more chances that you are downloading an infected file.

That free thing can cost you a lot later. Various sites mislead users by claiming to offer a free version of a premium app.

These applications are usually full of viruses, malware that can cause serious damage to the computer. So make sure you know what you’re downloading.

2. Check the site is safe or not

Let’s face it, we all love free stuff. Downloading software from online portals seems to be a simple process, but the chances of getting infected with a virus are high.

So make sure to double check the site before downloading the file. Always download a file from a website that is protected by HTTPS and is trustworthy.

3. Check the comments section

Well, by comments section, we mean app reviews or user reviews. User Reviews are always the best option to know about the file you are about to download. Just read the comments, and we’re pretty sure you’ll get some hint.

If many users claim that the file is legitimate, you can download it. However, if you find a lot of negative reviews, it’s best to avoid them.

You will also find many fake reviews and comments which are usually placed by website headlines, but you can quickly spot fake comments.

4. Check attachments

Before downloading any file from a website, be sure to check the included tools. These are the tools that come with the software without warning.

Developers have a terrible hobby to push the tools included with the original file. So make sure to check the included files before downloading them.

5. Check if the file is signed or not

After downloading the file, when we run the .exe file, our Windows operating system automatically opens the User Account Control dialog box. Users usually don’t bother to look at the dialog and click ‘Yes’.

However, we missed a vital clue there; the User Control dialog shows information that the file you are about to install is digitally signed or not. Therefore, never try to install a tool that is not signed.

6. Look for the virus first

This is the easiest and most reliable way to ensure the security of the files you will download. So before installing the files, make sure to scan them with a premium antivirus solution.

You can use any PC antivirus software to scan the downloaded files. If the Antivirus gives a green signal, you can continue with the installation.

7. Use VirusTotal in your browser

Well, Virustotal is indeed a great website to check for malicious files before downloading them. Well, the good thing is that you can implement VirusTotal in your browser quickly.

virustotal extensionsthey are available in Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer, and can show you the scan results with a single right click.

With the VirusTotal extension, users need to right click on the link and the extension will show you the scan results. This extension will add an extra layer of security.

8. Always download from trusted sources

Android has the Google Play Store, iOS has the iOS App Store, and Windows has the Windows Store to get all the software and games. However, some files are not available in the official app stores for some reason, and users look for other sources.

This is where all trouble starts; Sometimes we download files from external sources, which come bundled with malware and can cause serious security issues.

Therefore, it is recommended to download only from trusted sources. Also, check the reviews before downloading any app or game.

So, this is how one can make sure a file is safe before downloading it. I hope this article has helped you! Please share it with your friends too. If you have any queries related to this, let us know in the comment box below.

Business, Home, Health and more..

Surfing the Internet and not see in the need to download any file, perhaps of dubious origin, is virtually impossible. While there are people who download anything without thinking twice, some have a bit more common sense than that, and is limited to download content from trusted sources, or at least scan the files with your antivirus before installing or open them.

Now, how to know if a file is safe before pressing the download button? We can respond to this in several ways, and we offer solutions that range from the simplest to the most complicated, depending on your needs.

Use VirusTotal

VirusTotal is well-known. It is one of the largest databases of computer virus analysis. When it was just a small company from Malaga, it was bought by Google and has become one of the most efficient, simple and reliable ways to scan online files for malware.

Using VirusTotal is incredibly easy. You only go to the web, you choose the URL option, and there you paste the link to the file you want to download. This is very simple, look for the link or download button on the web where the content you want is located, right click on it, and then copy the link’s address.

Paste that address in VirusTotal and press search to get your results. The tool will check your file with the databases of 64 different antivirus engines. It will offer you other details, and also an assessment of the community.

The URL does not even have to be direct to the file, you can paste the address of any download website and see what results it throws. In some cases, a URL may offer positive results in only a few of the 64 engines.

This does not necessarily mean that it is a false positive, the best thing you can do is to be careful, and choose to download files that do not make a single alarm jump. It is always preferable to prevent.

Use an extension for the browser

From the same VirusTotal there are extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. This lets you scan files in a click from the browser’s contextual menu.

But, VirusTotal is not the only option. You can also try the Metadefender extension of which we have spoken before. Metadefender allows you to search for malware in the files you want to download by scanning them with more than 40 antivirus engines.

Installing the extension will allow you to scan a link to a file before downloading it. But it has to be a direct link to the content, otherwise it will not work.

Use a virtual machine

Finally, one of the best ways to check if a download contains any malicious element, is to download it into a virtual machine. It is a controlled environment within its own container completely separated from your operating system, and, most important of all: it is disposable. Also, you can create another one in a few minutes.

Within a virtual machine you do not have to worry about downloading the file and even installing it before checking if it has malware or not. So it’s a great way to try things without fear of breaking anything.

Those who are fans of downloading cracks and supposedly harmless activators but that are always marked as malware by commercial antivirus, can check the consequences by running one on a virtual machine.

So when you get infected with that Kmspico that fills your desktop with strange shortcuts and the porn popup browser, at least it will not be on your main computer. It is also a good way to check files downloaded via torrent. You can scan them with your antivirus of choice within the virtual machine.

If you worry that a file may be harmful to your computer, you should not download it and depend on antivirus programs. You can scan files to detect malware with more than 60 antivirus tools before downloading and all with a single tool.

  • Instructions on how to open and install .CRX files
  • Google Safe Folders, ‘secret storage room’ for Android users to hide private information

If you worry that a file may be harmful to your computer, you should not download it and depend on antivirus programs. You can scan files to detect malware with more than 60 antivirus tools before downloading and all with a single tool.

This is not an alternative to basic online security methods that can help you avoid scams and other threats, but this is a way to look deeper if you are interested in a file.

  1. Free online virus scanning tools

Scan the download link for malware detection with VirusTotal

To do this, you need to specify the download link of a file. That is the direct download link of a file, not just the download page address. For example, if you want to scan an .exe file, you will need to link directly to the .exe file. If you want to scan a .doc file, you will need to link directly to the .doc file. You can see this by hovering over the link and viewing the address in your browser.

Right-click on the link and select ‘Copy link address’ in Chrome, ‘Copy Link Location’ in Firefox, ‘Copy link’ in Edge or any other similar language in other browsers.

Next, go to page in your web browser. This tool has been owned by Google since 2012.

Click the “URL” tab on the page and then paste the link you copied into the box. Click the search button or press Enter to scan the file.

VirusTotal will download the file you specified to the servers and scan it with a large number of different antivirus tools. If others have recently scanned this file, VirusTotal will show you recent scan results.

If you see ‘No engines detected this URL’ , it means there is no VirusTotal antivirus tool that detects a problem file.

“0/65” means that 0 out of 65 VirusTotal antivirus tools found malware on this file. This means the file you want to download is clean and safe. Of course, there may be new and strange malware that these antivirus programs can’t detect, so you should be careful and only download software from sources you trust.

  1. Free software download sites are safe

If one of the antivirus tools finds a problem, you’ll see the following message:

In some cases, nearly all tools find viruses. In other cases, only a few anti-virus tools will detect the problem. This may be that some antivirus tools have discovered new malware before other tools. You can scroll down to see which anti-virus tools detect the virus in the file, see more details about the file and community comments about whether the URL is safe. (For example, in some cases, it may be flagged for crapware software and is often easily overlooked.)

If you scan the file download page instead of the download file, you’ll see a ‘Downloaded file’ link on VirusTotal. Click the icon to the right of ‘Downloaded file’ to see more analysis of the website download file.

Integrate VirusTotal into your web browser

To make this process easier, the VirusTotal project provides browser extensions. They will integrate VirusTotal into your browser, allowing you to right-click on a link on any site and select an ‘Scan with VirusTotal’ option . You will not have to visit the VirusTotal website and copy and paste links.

Extensions are available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. Download the appropriate extension and you can right-click on a link, select the VirusTotal option to quickly scan and view the results.

If VirusTotal agrees that this is a dangerous file, you should stay away from it. If the results show there are some malware detection programs, you should be careful, but can check the detailed results of the tools to see why it thinks the files are danger.

If a file is clean and safe, it means that it does not detect any malware by antivirus tools. However, that does not mean that the file is absolutely secure, of course the antivirus software is not perfect and does not detect new malware, thus ensuring you download programs from a trusted source. .

You can override SmartScreen and its protections.

Matt Elliott, a technology writer for more than a decade, is a PC tester and Mac user based in New Hampshire.

One of the ways Windows Defender keeps your computer safe from internet evils is by employing its SmartScreen tool to keep you from downloading potentially harmful files or visiting malicious sites. On some occasions, however, you may find SmartScreen overstepping its bounds and blocking you from downloading a file you know to be safe.

I don’t recommend turning SmartScreen off completely because it is helpful in preventing you from downloading a malicious file or app, but you can disable it in Microsoft’s Edge browser if you want to override its protection and go ahead and download a file it doesn’t recognize.

Disable SmartScreen in Edge

You can disable SmartScreen in the Windows Defender Security Center app in total or just for Edge, but for the latter it’s faster to do so right within Edge itself, particularly if you are already using Edge. Here’s how to toggle SmartScreen off and on in Edge:

  • Open Edge and click the triple-dot button in in the upper-right
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the right-hand panel and click Settings
  • Scroll down to the bottom of Settings and click View Advanced Settings
  • Scroll down to the bottom of Advanced Settings and toggle off Help protect me from malicious sites and downloads with Windows Defender SmartScreen

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

With SmartScreen off, you are on your own about which files to download in Edge, but I would urge you to go back and toggle SmartScreen on when you have finished downloading your file. And, of course, only turn it off to download files you know to be safe.

Windows Defender setting

In Windows Defender, you can also change Edge’s SmartScreen to merely warn you when you are about to download a file it deems suspicious instead of it outright blocking it. You’ll be able to click through the warning and override SmartScreen’s concerns and download the file. To do so, open Windows Defender Security Center, click App & browser control and choose Warn for SmartScreen for Microsoft Edge.

Using BitTorrent is a convenient way to download different type of files. People around the world use it to get movies, music, software, books, and various other digital goods quickly and for free.

When you want to download a file, there is always a cause for concern. Most of the torrent files online are unofficial. Some of them are untested and can be malicious. Also, there is a chance that downloading certain files can get you in legal trouble.

Before you start downloading files from torrents, you should take all the means of prevention. This article will explain the best way to protect your computer from harmful torrents.

What Is a Torrent File?

When you use a torrent, you must have a torrent file. This file is no less than a few of bytes, but it is essential to download gigabytes or even terabytes of data.

The torrent file initiates the download process and then you download tiny bits of a large file from various sources. In torrenting terms, these sources are seeds. When you download a part of a file, you also become a seed which other users download from.

How to Check If a Torrent Is Safe?

You should take all the necessary steps of precaution before downloading a torrent file. These steps include the following:

1. Get Antivirus Protection

Downloading a torrent file is harmless. Opening the file is not. That’s why it is important to have antivirus protection. This software automatically scans every file before you open it. So, once you download a torrent and launch it, the antivirus can notice harmful data. If it does, it will automatically remove it.

On the downside, sometimes antivirus recognizes cracked files, keygens, and other software as malicious, even when they are not. This means you may have trouble opening certain files. If you are sure they are not harmful, you can disable your antivirus until you open them, but that is always a risk.

2. Download from Trusted Torrent Sites

Some torrent sites are extremely popular and used by many. Even if they can’t check all the files, there are many users who check them beforehand. The harmful torrents are reported and quickly removed. Websites like 1337x or ThePirateBay have a huge number of seeders and leechers and are therefore much safer to use. There are also private torrent trackers which are known to be secure, but you usually need an invitation from a member to register a new account.

3. Get a VPN

When you are torrenting, you are connected to peers (seeds and leeches) via your IP address. This means that all users can see each other’s addresses. Because your IP address is public, your location and metadata are visible to those who may track your internet activity. For example, your business or even government.

To hide your activity while downloading torrents, it is best to get a Virtual Private Network. This software hides your real IP address and masks it with a different one. This makes it much harder and sometimes even impossible to track what you do online.

Some of the better VPNs are TorGuard, CyberGhost, Private Internet Access, and many others. You should check online how they work. There are many detailed guides about how to set them up and connect them with your BitTorrent software.

4. Get Torrent Files with a Lot of Seeders

The more seeders a torrent has, the bigger the chance that it is legit. If many people download a file and continue sharing it, it means that they probably opened it and used it without problems.

That’s why torrents with many seeds also have a lot of leechers. Users usually want to get their file from the most reliable torrent on the website.

5. Check the Comments

Most torrent websites have an implemented comment feature so users can leave feedback. If a torrent file has comments, and it doesn’t mention anything negative or harmful, it usually means everything is fine. If some users are mentioning harmful data, you should stay away. Torrents without comments are also a risk.

6. Try to Avoid Executable Files

Executable files such as .EXE, .APP, .BAT, .SCR, and others are most prone to getting infected. Since they execute an action when you run them, they are a common way to transmit viruses and other malicious data. Most of the cracked files executable, so if you ever download files with that extension, make sure to scan it with antivirus software.

Download Responsibly

If you follow the instructions from this article and download torrents responsibly, you will never have any problems.

Vet your visitors before inviting them in.

I was somewhat taken aback by this question. It’s a perfectly good question, and one that more people should be asking more often.

My reaction was due to the lack of a good answer.

It turns out it’s fairly difficult to tell whether or not a download is about to play havoc with your system, particularly before you download it.

But it’s getting better.

In order to be scannable by your anti-malware tool, a questionable file must be able to be read by the tool. That means the file needs to be in the process of downloading, or already be downloaded, to your computer. The best way to avoid a problem is to only download from sites and companies you trust, never download illegal software, scan your downloads as soon as you can, and of course back up regularly in case the worst happens. Always be skeptical.

What anti-malware tools do

But the files do have to be on your system, or (in some rare cases) in the process of being downloaded.

Before you download? There’s effectively no solution. You have to download it in order to be able to scan it yourself.

What to do?

So, what do you do? What do I do, for that matter?

Our best defense is to fall back on common sense and best practices for avoiding malware in the first place.

  • Only download from sites you trust.Knowing who to trust is a difficult problem. My recommendation is to avoid downloading from third parties. If a piece of software is created by XYZ corporation, download it directly from XYZ corporation’s website. If it’s available directly from the creator, there’s no reason to get it anywhere else. Avoid download sites if at all possible.
  • Only download from companies you trust. Even if you do download directly from the creator’s website, not all creators are ethical or above-board. If you’ve not heard of the company before, it’s worth a search to see if other people have experienced problems. A lot of free software is “free” because it’s loaded with PUP [Potentially Unwanted Program]

It’s getting a little better

I recently downloaded an update to a (legitimate) program I use, and received the following warning:

“Windows protected your PC.”

That was Windows Defender warning me that it didn’t “recognize” the application I was about to run.

That doesn’t mean it’s malware or that there’s anything wrong with it at all — it just means that Windows Defender (meaning Microsoft) was unfamiliar with the vendor, or perhaps the software wasn’t digitally signed. All it really means is to take a breath and consider whether you recognize and trust the application and its vendor. (In this case, you can click “More info” which will expose a “Run anyway” button, which is what I used.)

Other security tools use a more aggressive form of application white-listing, meaning only applications that have been somehow pre-vetted and confirmed not to be malicious are allowed to run.


You run good security software and got infected anyway? There’s several critically important items to remember, including “the race”. More in: I Run Anti-virus Software. Why Do I Still Sometimes Get Infected?

The best advice? Skepticism

Most remedies are nothing more than damage control once malware arrives.

Related Questions

Can websites download things without you knowing?

In general, assuming browsers are up-to-date and fully patched against known vulnerabilities, websites cannot download things without your knowledge. There are ways websites can trick you, however. Sometimes they display urgent messages about links to click on or files to download. By getting you to download the file yourself, they’ve opened the door to delivering malware.

Can downloading a file be dangerous?

Downloading a file should not be dangerous. All it does is copy a file from an online server to your computer — nothing else. It’s not until that downloaded file is opened or run that it has an opportunity to act maliciously. The one exception is that occasionally the anti-malware tools that scan downloads will have a vulnerability

What is the process of downloading?

The downloading process is nothing more than a file copy. Much like you use Windows File Explorer to copy a file from one location on your computer to another, a download is a copy of a file from one location — an online file server — to a location on your PC — typically the “Downloads” folder.

Do this

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June 29, 2022, 11:18 am

It is important to be aware of the dangers involved in downloading files from the internet. There are many malicious programs that can wreak havoc on your computer, and it is important to take precautions to ensure that you do not inadvertently download one of these programs.

There are a few simple steps you can take to help protect yourself from these threats.

Only Use Sites That You Trust

It might sound obvious, but sometimes it can be tempting to download from a site you haven’t checked out first. you might be sat with your fingers crossed but that’s not going to give you the protection you need.

So, first of all, only download files from sites that you trust. There are many shady websites out there that host malicious software, and it is best to avoid them altogether.

Always Use an Anti-Virus Program

Secondly, always scan any file you download with an anti-virus program before opening it. This will help to ensure that any virus or malware present in the file is detected and removed before it can cause any damage.

Malware can be disguised as legitimate files, so even if you trust the site you’re downloading from, it is still a good idea to scan the file before opening it. Sings of having a virus or malware on your computer include :

  • Your computer runs slowly or crashes more than usual
  • You see strange pop-ups or error messages
  • Files or programs you didn’t install appear on your computer
  • Unusual activity occurs on your internet browser

If you notice any of these signs, then it is likely that your computer is infected with malware. You should run a full scan of your system with an anti-virus program as soon as possible to remove the infection.

Keep Your Software Up to Date

Thirdly, it is important to keep your computer’s operating system and other software up to date. These updates often include security patches that can help to protect you from the latest threats.

So, make sure you download and install any updates as soon as they become available.

By following these simple steps, you can help to protect yourself from the many dangers that lurk on the internet. Remember, being safe is always better than being sorry!

Is the Pirate Bay a Good Option For Downloading Files?

The Pirate Bay is a popular website that allows users to search for and download files. However, it is important to be aware of the risks involved in using this site.

The Pirate Bay has been known to host malicious software, and there is always the risk that you could inadvertently download a virus or malware program.

However, if you take the necessary precautions, such as using an anti-virus program and only downloading files from trusted sources, then the risks involved in using The Piratebay are relatively low and no different from any other similar site.

Do I Need a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a type of network that allows you to connect to the internet through a secure, encrypted connection. This means that your data is protected from eavesdroppers and hackers.

A VPN can be a useful tool if you frequently download files from the internet, as it can help to keep your connection secure. However, VPNs are not essential, and whether or not you need one will depend on your particular circumstances.

If you are only downloading files from trusted sources and using an anti-virus program, then you probably don’t need a VPN. However, if you are concerned about security or want to access sites that are blocked in your country, then a VPN could be a good option for you.

What is Torrenting?

However, it is important to be aware of the risks involved in torrenting. Malicious software is often distributed through torrents, and there is always the risk that you could inadvertently download a virus or malware program.

If you are only downloading files from trusted sources and using an anti-virus program, then the risks involved in torrenting are relatively low. However, if you are concerned about security or want to access sites that are blocked in your country, then a VPN could be a good option for you.

The Bottom Line

Downloading files from the internet can be dangerous, but there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself. Always use an anti-virus program and only download files from trusted sources. Additionally, consider using a VPN if you are concerned about security or want to access blocked websites.

In the digital age, downloads have become a way of life. It’s rare to see someone without a smartphone, and because so many of us have digital devices, we often download things without sparing them a second thought. Take, for example, all the apps you have on your phone and smart TV, the software installed on your laptop, or the pictures and videos you’ve downloaded to your tablet.

As with anything that becomes routine, it can be easy to bypass tried and true safety measures when downloading files from the internet—but it shouldn’t. Just as you would take precautions for safe online shopping, you should be equally careful when you download files to your device. Viruses, malware, and Trojans (misleading malware) are more rampant than ever—which is why you should take caution before you download something.

Here are four tips to incorporate into your daily digital routine to help you stay safe the next time you download something online.

1 Download only from reputable sites and sources

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: It’s true online, too. Hackers capitalize on the fact that people want things immediately and for free by enticing them to download things such as new music or movies before anyone else. When in doubt, be wary of any site that offers downloads of free movies or anything else that shouldn’t be available to consumers for a few months or without a fee.

To verify if a site is reputable, check the website’s “About” or “Contact Us” page to verify the site’s legitimacy. Look for phone numbers, physical addresses, news coverage, or other signs that this is a trustworthy website. If an unfamiliar email address sends you an attachment to download, don’t open or download it without confirming with the sender what it is.

“Security and convenience do not go side by side,” says Aaron Nolan, an information security specialist at Spector. “The more you have of one, the less you will get from the other.” To stay as protected from malicious downloads as possible, it’s important you don’t favor convenience over smart online safety habits.

2 Scan files for viruses before downloading them

One step you should always take before you download anything is to scan it for viruses. The majority of anti-virus software lets you scan files for malicious intent if you right-click on the file you’re trying to download. Others will prompt you to open your software first, before it scans the file you just downloaded. If you download a file before you scanned for viruses, be sure not to open or run the file until you’ve made sure it’s clean.

As an extra precautionary step, run your anti-virus software after downloading your file, to ensure that nothing that can steal your data slipped through the cracks.

I’d like to prevent viruses from ever reaching my machine – can I test them before they’re downloaded? And if so, how?

But there are definitely precautions you can, and should, take that will allow you to deal with downloads safely.

The bottom line is that a download must be on your machine (or a machine on your local network

Scan the download for viruses before installing or running it. Most anti- virus

So what if your download shows up as being infected? First, delete the copy you just downloaded immediately, so that it doesn’t get run by accident. If you can, see if you can find the same download from another source – sometimes malware [malicious software]

If you can’t find a clean download – please don’t fall to the temptation of installing it anyway – it’s not worth the risk unless you really know what you’re doing. Contact the supplier or manufacturer of whatever it is you’re downloading and report the issue to them. If they’re at all reputable, they’ll deal with the issue quickly.

Do this

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Leo Who?

19 comments on “Can I Check a Download for Viruses before I Download It?”

THE ANSWER IS YES! I’m shock you are unware of how to do this. You CAN! virus scan files (of reasonable size) before download. Dr Web offers a FREE Mozilla Firefox plugin that scans any file BEFORE downLoad it. Just Right CLick the link and wait for results. DrWeb is a good virus scan that I use before i Download any file Check it out at…

Doesn’t change the fact that the file must be downloaded in order to be scanned.

Actualy, yes, it does!

no files are downloaded to the local machine… u just send a link to a server that downloads and check for you.

is such a handy tool 🙂

“I’d like to prevent viruses from ever reaching my machine – can I test them before they’re downloaded?”
In my opinion, this is what “on-access-scanning” means, as claimed by e.g. Avast Antivirus?

Actually you can scan a file before downloading it. DrWeb is a program that scans the file at another location other than your PC. Meaning, you never have to download the file to scan it.

I would like to download graphic design software from piratebay, like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, CS4 version (software from the “creative suite” from Adobe (for Windows).
From your experience, have there been major complaints about bad viruses, malware etc regarding this software on piratebay?
Can it really be scanned before downloading? I have the latest norton antivirus instaled, which I purchased from the shop just to be sure:)

Thank you and best of luck with your good work.

Pirate software is not only illegal, it is often full of malware. It’s very easy to discover the IP addresses of people uploading via torrent files. (If you download, you are also uploading) as a list of the IP addresses are displayed by the torrent program which the owners of that software can check and get the courts to get the ISP to turn over your name and address. A friend of mine had to pay about $1200 for an illegal download.
Why can’t the poor just pirate software?

Howdly Doodly! Of course you can with Dr Web.

I wish everyone a Waddly Happy Doodly Easter!

You recommend SAVing a downloaded file vs RUNning a downloaded file. I agree. Then you recommend running an AV scan on the downloaded file. Why do that when one’s default AV program does a scan as part of the download? Wouldn’t this be two identical scans? I do agree that post-download rescans would be beneficial if scanned with another program — kind of like a second opinion, or applying a different type scan (Malware scan vs AV scan).
TIA, Dale….

I recomend using because it scans using a lot of different anti-virus software

I second use of for suspect files – though that’s an UPload of a DOWNloaded file. VirusTotal scans uploaded files with 50 or more anti-virus programs and gives the results. It also tells if that file had been uploaded before. With so many scans the probabilty of false positives are increased, but better safe than sorry with unknown downloads.
VirusTotal is also a good way to get new virus’ into AV databases, certainly upload the ‘receipt.pdf.exe’ file you received in spam!

I am a low-tech computer user but I read Leo’s articles with interest. The word which springs to my mind in relation to this query is – sandbox. Does running a downloaded program in a sandbox help to protect my computer in the circumstances described? If not, what is a sandbox for?

It depends on the specific sandbox being used, but yes, that’s essentially one good use of the technology.

Re the scanning after download.

Sure could use an ‘HOW TO’ – using Microsoft’s own – as securities Essential or Defender

Most anti-virus packages have the ability to scan a single file, or perhaps a single directory

With Windows Defender/Essentials and most if not all AV programs you can right click on the file in Windows/File Explorer and have it scan that file for malware using whichever AV program you have.

Most virus scanners integrate with Windows Explorer to the extent of providing right-click pop-up-menu functionality.

All that this means is that if you right-click on a file, one of the (perhaps great many) menu options which pop up as a result should be one that says, “Scan for viruses,” or something similar. Right-click the file you downloaded, peruse the right-click menu options, carefully, and see if there isn’t some such option listed. If there is… click on it! 😮

Hope this helps!

use this-this is a website that requires no download to use and it is free I use it all the time and it has saved me from trojan viruses to bit miner viruses you just put the URL in the box and press scan it’s very helpful

Leo, what about VirusTotal?

Just feed the URL of the program you want to scan into ViruTotal, and they (not you!) will scan it for viruses using (if remember correctly) some 70 different virus scanners (!) and then display the results.

In this way, YES, it IS possible to virus-scan a file without downloading it.

Hope this helps!

They have a good reputation. I do need to experiment with them more.

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Some Google Chrome users are experiencing the ‘File is not commonly downloaded and might be dangerous. Make sure you trust the file before you open it‘ error every time they attempt to download certain files. This article is meant to show you why this occurs and what you can do to bypass the error.

“File is not commonly downloaded. Make sure you trust the file before you open it” Error

This type of issue is most commonly encountered when users attempt to download executable zipped files and BAT scripts.

Why is the File is not commonly downloaded’ error occurring?

Keep in mind that Chrome has a built-in antivirus scan that is programmed to analyze every file before the download is initiated through the Chrome Browser.

You can expect to face this issue if you try to download files that Google deems unsafe or potentially dangerous.

Note: Google maintains a database of files that are associated with malware and adware. If the file you are trying to download is featured on this list, you will get this error message when you try to download the suspicious file.

What to do with this error as a user?

If you get this error as a simple user attempting to download a file, keep in mind that you have two options:

  1. You can click on Discard to prevent the download from starting.
  2. You can click on the arrow icon and then click on Keep to start the download despite the warning that you just received.

Forcing the download of the problematic file

Before you decide to ‘keep’ the file and initiate the download, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you trust the website that you’re downloading from?
  2. Do you have an antivirus active in case the file you are downloading turns out to be malware or adware?

If the answer to any of the questions is No, don’t initiate the download before you make sure that a security option is in place.

In case you’re using Windows Defender, make sure you have the latest available virus signatures installed before choosing to download the file showing the ‘File is not commonly downloaded. Make sure you trust the file before you open it‘ error.

On the other hand, if you don’t trust your PC security in the hands of Microsoft, you can pick a suitable 3rd party antivirus suite from our updated list.

As an extra precautionary measure, you can also upload the file you’ve just downloaded on VirusTotal before opening it on your PC.

Upload on Virustotal

Dealing with False-Positives

If you scanned the file that is triggering the ‘File is not commonly downloaded. Make sure you trust the file before you open it‘ error and you confirmed that it does not contain malicious code, you should treat is as a false positive.

In this case, the first thing you should do is that you’re trying to download the file from the correct directory.

For example, if you’re trying to download a tool, make sure you initiate the download from the official website and not from an online repository.

Note: Online repositories are known to contain legitimate programs that are often bundled with adware or even malware. Stay away from them if you can.

If you encounter the ‘File is not commonly downloaded. Make sure you trust the file before you open it‘ error while you attempt to download a file from a legitimate vendor, try getting in touch with the developer and letting them know that the app is flagged.

Note: Most likely, their website is either hacked, or the file they’re offering for download is not signed with a valid certificate.

What to do with this error as a webmaster?

If you are a webmaster and you just found out that users attempting to download files from your website are getting the ‘File is not commonly downloaded. Make sure you trust the file before you open it‘ error, you will need to whitelist your company domain on Google and make sure that you meet a series of requirements.

Here’s what you need to do (as a webmaster) to ensure that your website visitors don’t end up getting the ‘File is not commonly downloaded. Make sure you trust the file before you open it‘ error when attempting to download files from your website:

  1. Make sure all the programs (executables) that you are offering for download are digitally signed.
  2. If your website contains .msi files, ensure that all of them contain a secure stamp from GlobalSign.
  3. In case this problem is exclusive to Chrome, make sure your company, organization, or website has its domain listed on Google. Use this official Google guideline as a reference.

Another thing that you can do as a webmaster is to check all the files that you currently have for download on your website on VirusTotal. Make sure that all of them are clean.

Note: If you already did all of the above, wait for 48 hours before taking further action. Google’s maintained database is typically updated every 2 days.

Before downloading a file online, you need to be sure that it’s clean and free of all possible viruses . As a control measure to reduce the chances of being infected as much as possible, you will even consider downloading and installing an antivirus that protects you in case a file or document that carries a virus is mistakenly downloaded into the system.

But then again, you have the option of scanning your file or document for malware using 60+ antivirus engines online before downloading it. There is just one tool needed to perform the check.

Keep your basic online security practices as they secure you from threats such as phishing and other cyber-criminal activities. You’re getting an extra layer of security for your files to be safely stored. If you are interested in learning how to ensure that a downloaded file is safe before opening it, continue reading and discover one of the easiest and free tools that most peers who download files online are using.

How to Check If a File Has a Virus Even Before Downloading It

You can copy the link where your file is and scan it for viruses and malware with the use of VirusTotal. Get the exact link, which is the direct link to the download of the file and not just the entire website where it’s being hosted. For instance, if you’re downloading a .doc file, you will need the direct link to the .doc file; the same is with an .exe file. Start by locating the file’s download link, then copy it.

If you’re browsing on Chrome, right-click the link and select Copy link address. If you’re using Microsoft Edge or Firefox, right-click the link and select Copy Link.

In your web browser, open the site, which has been owned and backed up by Google since 2012. You should be able to see three tabs as soon as the homepage finishes loading with the options for File, URL and Search.

Click the URL tab and carefully paste the link to the original download into the box that opens. Now Enter or click the Search button to start scanning the file.

How Virus Total Works

Once loaded on VirusTotal, the specified file is uploaded to all servers and scanned using a lot of antivirus engines. If your file has been scanned recently, then VirusTotal will show you the last scan results for the same file.

Deducing the results and meaning is easy. After scanning and checking using all the different antivirus engines, the notification “No engines detected this URL” should come up if there were no issues detected. You might also see the results in figures presented as 0/65, meaning 0 of the 65 antivirus engines used by VirusTotal to search. Your file is clean and doesn’t come with any viruses attached.

When using VirusTotal’s antivirus engines to search for malware, you do so with caution. Not every virus is picked instantly as some of them might be exotic malware or recent additions and the search engines will not be able to recognise them instantly.

If any of the 65 VirusTotal’s search engines detect something, the results will indicate that ‘# engines detected this URL.’ The # stands for the number of antivirus engines that detected the URL as a problem.

There might be cases where a scanned file is unanimously found to have or not to have viruses. You can scroll through the website for more details and find what exactly the issue was. There might also be cases with false-positive results whereby a file will be flagged by a number of the antivirus tools but will have harmless content, for example bundled crapware.

If the file download page is scanned instead of the downloaded file, go to the Download File link on the page of VirusTotal. There should be an icon to the right of the Download File link; click on it and a detailed analysis about the particular file that this web page downloads will be displayed.

Make It Easier—Integrate VirusTotal into Your Browser

Did you know, just as is the case with all other assistive programs, there is a web add-on for VirusTotal? The service comes with browser extensions that easily integrate VirusTotal into your browser, making it possible for you to right-click on any web page and then select the option Scan with VirusTotal. No need to go the longer route of visiting the VirusTotal website and copy-pasting the link.

VirusTotal browser extensions can be supported on several browsers, including Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Open your web browser and download the correct extension for that browser, right-click the link and choose the option to quickly scan it and view the results.

Red Alert

A red alert means that VirusTotal has detected some dangerous viruses in the file. Stay away from such a file and resist downloading it. Try searching for an alternative link source. Act the same way if you get mixed results. Don’t just look aside and do further analysis until you get a better-detailed antivirus result report that clears the file you’re about to download.

Of course, if a file is clean, it means VirusTotal didn’t pick up any viruses from it. But this should not be your ‘clean bill’ to go with. Since antivirus software is never perfect and can miss new malware, you can get a second and even third opinion from other sources before deciding to trust the file.

If you are not certain about your file or feel unsafe, then check out the next section as it is most definitely your saving grace. The final word is that files from unchecked or untrusted sources are never safe. You will be doing yourself a favour by not even considering them.

If You Are Concerned with Safety, Use FileWhopper

You can avoid all these risks and stay safe by downloading files only from trusted sources. Use FileWhopper to send and receive files between yourself and other trusted sources. To get started on FileWhopper, visit the official site and select your file or folder that you would like to share. The FileWhopper quick tool, which is a tiny app, will assist you to upload any file or folder quickly. While still uploading, you get a personal link to the file and share it with the recipient. On FileWhopper, you know that you’re sharing securely as your file is encrypted with a password that ensures safe delivery.

The advantages of using FileWhopper include:

  • Safety, as personal information is never passed on but is securely stored on servers.
  • Fast transfer of files or folders without losing data.
  • Free storage for up to 14 days. The recipients have up to 14 days to open and download the file. Once opened, the files are deleted completely, leaving no trace behind.
  • Your data is secured as the files are encrypted with a password that can be shared between the right people, the sender and receiver only.

This is how to make sure a file is safe before downloading it and share safely between trusted sources. If you have a file needed by someone else, use FileWhopper to share it without risking the transfer of viruses.