Ask the Experts: How can you make sure your antivirus software is working?

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Ask the Experts: How can you make sure your antivirus software is working?

Kevin R. Smith

April asks,
Other than using a real virus, which seems crazy to me, is there a way for me to test to make sure my antivirus software is actually working?
Another great question! And another one of our most frequently asked ones, too.

Here's my reply:

Yes, there's actually a harmless little test virus called, "EICAR," that's designed to do just that.

As long as it's downloaded from the right place, it's completely benign. It's only purpose is to trigger an alert from your antivirus software. That's it.

The official site, and only safe place to download it,, describes EICAR as a ...legitimate DOS program, [that] produces sensible results when run (it prints the message "EICAR-STANDARD-ANTIVIRUS-TEST-FILE!").

We actually use EICAR ourselves when we take our screenshots of each antivirus program successfully detecting a virus.

(We don't use real viruses for our screenshots because we don't want overly curious visitors to, upon seeing real virus names, then go searching for those real viruses on the Internet to try for themselves.)

So, leave the real antivirus software testing to us, but use EICAR when you want to test that your A/V software is really working.

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