How Can I Find Out If a File Really Has a Virus?

How Can I Find Out If a File <em>Really</em> Has a Virus?

Dear Lifehacker,
I recently downloaded a program recommended by Lifehacker, and after I installed it, my antivirus program yelled bloody murder and flagged it as a virus. No one else in the comments has reported similar findings, and my antivirus application has reported false positives before. I love my AV app, but is there a better way I can verify whether or not a file really contains a virus?
Overactive Whistle Blower

Dear Whistler,
While your antivirus application certainly has the best of intentions, sometimes it can make mistakes. We stick to a very strict download recommendation policy, but that doesn’t mean you should trust us over your antivirus application. Due diligence, that’s what we say.

When I run into a file or program that’s been flagged as a virus but I suspect a false positive, I upload the file to at least one of several online virus scanning sites that scan the file with up to 30 different antivirus applications and return the results of each scan. If it’s not flagged as a virus by the majority of scanners (especially the five best antivirus apps), I feel safe assuming that it was a false positive. These free online scanners include:


I’m sure more are available, but I’ve been happy with this list .

Ultimately it’s up to you to decide what your limits are for taking a chance, but I’ve seen a lot of useful software that’s been falsely identified as malware (including some of my own Lifehacker Code projects, which I assure you are not). Whatever you decide about the suspicious file, the tools above should go a long way toward helping you make up your mind about whether to trust it on your computer.

With love and life hacks,


  • Sometimes to define between real virus and not a virus is also hard task to do.
    simple example:
    – if you d/l tools such as UBCD (ultimate bootable CD) which use for emergency pc recovery some of the tools have trojan patterns, which actually need to be use for the software such as password recovery tools.

    I guess the best method to actually do some research for stuff that you d/l, if you really unsure you can always try google 🙂

    hopefully this will help 🙂

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