Is there such a thing antivirus that doesn't run in the background? Every antivirus I have tried runs in the background even if I stop protection, quit, or etc; there still are drivers/services of the antivirus that run.

When I want to scan for viruses I'll open it. Otherwise I don't want it running at all. How can I achieve this?

  • As a side note: Try to find a lightweight one. It's already too late if the online scanner finds it. The best products block them before they infect anything. (I use Comodo, which blocks everything, that are unknown. Blocks, as in ... puts them into a digital "jail". Where they can't harm your files, or computer. But I'm not a marketing guy, so just pick a product that won't slow down your computer.)
    – Apache
    Apr 14, 2012 at 23:13
  • looking for something like this too, especially for single file scans.
    – Baarn
    Apr 14, 2012 at 23:24
  • Do you want something you use to scan your entire system when you want to, or will you be selecting individual files and scanning them on demand? Apr 18, 2012 at 17:33
  • why don't you kill the process after scanning? Apr 19, 2012 at 3:29
  • @random i opened a question on meta why this has been closed and if it might be salvageable: meta.superuser.com/questions/4743/…
    – Baarn
    Apr 19, 2012 at 21:03

9 Answers 9


If you don't want active protection, most av programs you can disable "active" or "real-time protection", or use clamwin.

Microsoft Security Essentials for example, you can turn off "real-time protection" in the settings.



Please note that ClamWin Free Antivirus does not include an on-access real-time scanner. You need to manually scan a file in order to detect a virus or spyware

  • I was going to suggest ClamWin. That's what I'd go for it I wanted something that fitted your spec. Apr 18, 2012 at 19:35

As others have said, most antivirus software packages allow you do disable real-time scanning. That being said, most full-featured AV products, even when you disable real-time scanning, are still running in the background. They're just not scanning.

If you want something that resides in your right-click menu that will just run when and where you want it, a scanner such as MalwareBytes AntiMalware should work pretty well. You can set it not to run at all when the computer starts, and it can place a right-click option for scanning files, folders, or entire drives as you require.

Best of all, it's free and it's pretty well respected as an on-demand scanner.

Full-featured AV suites generally work better as "border protection", detecting and stopping threats before they actually get into your computer, and so need to be running and protecting in real-time to be truly effective. To go to an on-demand "police force" sort of setup, while the big AV products may work, they're just not designed for this method, and so you're better off selecting an on-demand program such as MBAM for use in this role.

  • It's been my impression that the background file scanning (of every file in the system) is more obnoxious than the "real-time scanning", and background file scanning is generally not controllable. Apr 22, 2012 at 11:59
  • There are full system scans, which scan all or specific files in the background at regularly scheduled intervals, and there is real-time scanning which scans each file as it is read or written depending on how you're set up. Different scanning engines excel at different tasks and have different latency issues. Any good tech magazine review of AV software will compare the system slowdown as well as total time to scan for the various products it reviews. Apr 27, 2012 at 13:42

You'd want to go for one of the solutions used when people suspect they have a virus, like Microsoft MSRT and stinger if you want a portable solution.

If you don't want a persistant AV, malwarebytes is a good option.

And as always, prevention is better than cure - run as a limited user if possible, and practice skeptical computing


I have several antivirus products installed on my computer that I have arranged not to run unless invoked.

What I have done is very simple :

  1. Install the antivirus
  2. Use its interface to turn off every runtime protection
  3. Polish it off by running Autoruns for Windows and searching for the name of the installation directory of the antivirus and turning off everything
  4. Reboot, and the job is done.

After the third step, most antivirus products will still work when invoked for scanning. This step is sometimes necessary, because for example the antivirus may turn off runtime protection but may leave its tray-agent running or its shell-extension (right-click menu in Explorer) etc.

However, some of them will not work without the need to reverse that step, and these are the ones that I normally uninstall.


Online scanners? These are free products, and you don't need to install them.
Ps.: If you need to scan a single file: Jotti's scan

(Another alternative for off-line scans is "ClamAV". But it's a terrible AV product IN MY OPINION. So... stick to the online scans.)


Avira Free is perfect for this. Just don't install the realtime protection, the firewall interface and cloud. I use it this way with a scheduled daily quick system scan.


The problems you mention here can be caused by virus or malware. As they try not to let the antivirus run or let you use Task Manager or regedit to remove them. Sometimes they stops the Command Prompt too.

So if you are looking for a good online scanner that will solve your problem for sure, then you can choose Bitdefender (as suggested by Shiki).

I have already used and satisfied as it restored my application and commands blocked by virus like regedit, taskmanager and a lot more too. It removed all the viruses. So go for it, but be aware that it may delete your infected files and folders too.


The problem the OP is complaining about is "background scanning", not "real time scanning". Most AV products will allow you to disable "real time scanning" (scanning files as they are fetched and/or downloaded). (Often this is necessary to install certain software packages.)

But I know of no product that will allow you to disable "background scanning" -- what Norton is talking about when it says "Norton 360 is currently performing background tasks while your system is idle," eg. At most they allow you to "schedule" the start of the scan, and perhaps adjust it's "priority".

"Real time scanning" can be an issue because it prevents installing some software packages, or because, on very slow, resource-constrained systems, it makes many operations run slowly(precisely because it's NOT in the "background", but in the application critical path). However, on most systems, most of the time, the "real time scanning" of a good-quality AV product causes no noticeable performance impact.

"Background scanning" is supposed to run in "background", using only "spare" CPU cycles, etc. However, on many (Windows) systems the scanning seriously pollutes the main store and disk management mechanisms, hogging RAM, creating long I/O queues, etc. Thus, even if the scanner "pauses" because it recognizes that the computer is no longer "sleeping" and is being actively used, it may take from a few tens of seconds to several minutes for the queues to empty and normal operation resume. During this time the disk activity light will generally be on solid.

There is some difference in the behavior of different AV packages in this regard. In my experience, Norton is halfway well-behaved (only pollutes the system moderately), while McAfee doesn't "pause" nicely when you're using the system (and thus causes the system to behave poorly for the roughly 24 hours required to scan even a relatively small 200G laptop system), and Kaspersky, though it seems to "pause" at least some of the time, leaves the system badly polluted.

So, to answer the OP's original question, I don't believe that there's any major AV product (at least not Norton, McAfee, or Kaspersky, last I checked) that allows you to disable background scanning. You could try killing the scanner task, but that might also disable other AV activities (or simply cause them to hang, hanging the system), or the AV software may very likely restart the task. And removing the AV product from the startup list would likely leave you totally unprotected.


I chose Avira free version for exact same purpose. User interface could be better, but it is the best product I've found that does the job.

Install, disable real time protection / on-access file scanning in the options.

Go to Services, stop and set Avira-related services to Manual start. This will disable automatic updates too.

Therefore, go to Scheduled tasks and configure automatic updates (unless you prefer to update manually). If it's not already there, create a task to run "C:\Program Files\Avira\AntiVir Desktop\update.exe" /DM="0" "/NOMESSAGEBOX" at your preferred times. It will run as foreground app, exit when done, but leave an ad window open (free version). Minor annoyance.

Right click file/folder to scan when you need to. No services or processes will be left running after scan is finished.

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