Strange as it sounds, one of the best antivirus apps on any given Windows PC is...Internet Explorer.

That's right: Internet Explorer.

I've worked as a field tech over the last few years. I learned early on what a time killer it can be updating someone's AV client. Or replacing it. Brand name AV apps can be a big headache. Sometimes you need a special file just to remove them. You can lose some real time there. So I just by-pass them now and go straight to IE.

The much-maligned (deservedly so) ActiveX technology, embedded in Windows and Internet Explorer, has one redeeming feature. It enables a user to scan their computer for viruses from a number of commercial AV sites. Some popular ones are Trendmicro and Panda. There's dozens out there, including spyware scanners. Most are reputable, though I'm leary of some spyware scanners. But our focus here is viruses and, by and large, these sites are great. In fact, the good online AV scans will find spyware too.

My personal favorite is Panda's online scan. For others, it's Trendmicro. Norton, McAfee, I believe they have online scans available, too. RAV had an absolutely great scanner until Microsoft bought them out and shut it down. These scanners, in fact, rival any of the AV clients for finding viruses. But don't count on them to remove much of anything. That's OK though.

Finding viruses is one step, removing them is another. Don't worry, there's a slew of great removal tools. Norton's tools rank among the best. I've got a thumbdrive (usb drive) full of them. F-Secure and other outfits offer them too. These small exe's are only designed to remove a specific virus. They aren't going to find or remove anything else. You'll find readme's with these AV tools, so RTFM! Pay attention.

The one requirement for running these online AV scans is that ActiveX must be enabled in Internet Explorer. Being the default setting from Microsoft, this is seldom a problem. Any user advanced enough to disable ActiveX and tweak Windows' security settings probably isn't going to need a technician anyway. With XP's service pack 2, you are going to be prompted to install an ActiveX applet. No applet, no scan.

Also note these online scans aren't going to typically work using Firefox, even with their ActiveX plug-in. All of the ones I ever tried required IE. Once in a while, the online scans will generate false positives, so you want to do your homework and google file names if need be.

Happy Hunting (again)!

p.s. -- let me add, IE as an AV app is no substitute for an updated AV client on your PC. It's a great supplemental tool and very useful in the field.