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Microsoft's Anti-Spyware (now called Windows Defender) turns out to be a reasonable anti-spyware solution.

There's been a lot of noise lately about Microsoft having released a new Anti-Spyware program. With Microsoft's own knowledge of Windows, I can see that it could be very good. On the other hand, their track record on system utilities is spotty ... so I could see that it might also suck. Have you tried it, and is it any good?

The program, Microsoft AntiSpyware, was released to the public in Beta form last week. You're right, Microsoft's entry into the Anti-Spyware arena did get a lot of press.

And yes, I've tried it, as have many others.

And it doesn't suck.

Microsoft AntiSpyware is actually an acquisition for the company. Last year they purchased GIANT Company Software (ah, the irony of Microsoft purchasing a company named "Giant"), and have repackaged Giant AntiSpyware as Microsoft AntiSpyware.

I've actually been running Microsoft AntiSpyware as my sole anti-spyware solution for several days now. I used to run Spybot Search and Destroy. So far I'm quite pleased with the application's performance. It did, for example, find and fix a couple of registry setting that Spybot had missed. And in fact, if you follow the early reviews, Microsoft AntiSpyware does seem to be finding spyware that both industry leaders Spybot and AdAware are missing.

Let's be clear, though - Microsoft AntiSpyware is Beta software. There are lots of different definitions of what that means, but ultimately it means "it's not done yet". While the core spyware scanning and detection engine seems solid, I noted several problems in the user interface, both technical and usability issues. Examples might include simple things like buttons and highlighting not lining up. By usability I mean that it isn't always obvious in the user interface exactly what you need to do. The former I expect to be cleaned up by the time the product is formally released, but the later I'm afraid might persist in version 1.0 of the tool.

Both issues are somewhat offset by the fact that program installation is easy and clean, and that the default settings mean that the average user rarely needs to visit the program again, but can just trust it to do its thing in the background or as part of a nightly scan.

One thing I do like about Microsoft AntiSpyware is the level of information that's presented as possible issues are found. I also like the ability to send feedback about the threats found to "The SpyNet AntiSpyware Community" for presumably improved future detection and elimination of spyware threats. Don't worry, participation in that community is optional, so you won't send information about what spyware has been found on your machine unless you choose to do so.

Once you've installed Microsoft AntiSpyware and run your initial scan, the most common interaction you'll have with it is the occasional alert that it will give you when some other application attempts to make a change to a sensitive area. For example after installing the program, I later made a change to a start-up program. Microsoft AntiSpyware presented me with a dialog describing what was happening and gave me the option to allow, or prevent, the addition to my start-up programs.

A final warning that's popped up in some discussion groups. As Microsoft's tool identifies certain types of spyware, the manufacturers of some of those spyware applications are beginning to protest as having been identified as such. The question is, will Microsoft bend to their pressure and relax the rules? There really is no formal definition of what "spyware" really is, so at the fringes the manufacturer's of the various anti-spyware programs each have to set the rules that their programs will use to determine what is and what is not spyware. Microsoft, being the new and very large player in this field will clearly annoy a few spyware vendors. We hope that Microsoft will hold a firm line, present a clear definition of what spyware is, and not bend to outside pressure.

But on that issue, only time will tell.

As for me, I'm running with it. In fact, I took an even deeper plunge.

I installed it on my wife's computer.

Article C2258 - January 10, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

January 11, 2005 7:51 AM

I find the new spywere as good and better than any i have used so far.And i have tryed most of them

February 17, 2005 1:29 PM

A Washington Post story on Feb 15, 2005 says that the hackers are already at work coming up with schemes to disable MS-Spyware (a trojan horse in the first instance). When you load MicroSoft software you load the most attacked software in the world and instantly become a magnet for more problems. I'm going to pass on it, on that basis alone. It's too bad that this is the reality of life, but it is. I don't use MS-Internet Explorer for the same reason. Netscape, mozilla, etc. are much safer, if perhaps not quite as elegant, solutions.

May 19, 2005 3:29 PM

The first scan with MS beta identified a few definitions that SpyBot and Adaware did not. So I removed the spyware removal tools I had used during previos months. After all who could know more than Microsoft? Bigger looked like it was better. Four months later my browser was succesfully hijacked via AIM. Beta identified the attack but didn't stop a half dozen attatchments. MS email support was slowly troubleshooting the problem. I began following step by step instructions leading to a HiJack This scan; My computer was loaded with more spyware than I have removed previosly. Each tool has some benefit over the others. I use them all. There may still be new spyware deffinitions that are yet to be identified. Beta edition is good and likely to get better.

dave evans
June 7, 2005 11:23 PM

had microsoft antispyware for 6 weeks other day froze my whole system up using 100% of my system nothing would work messed up my whole system two words for it it sucks

June 11, 2005 11:12 PM

Well, I do disagree. I've been using Microsoft's Anti-Spyware continuously on several computers since I first wrote this article and remain very pleased with it. While they are also good, in my opinion it's better than both Spybot and Ad-Aware.

Though I doubt I would convince you of it, your uninstall problems are probably related to other issues. However if you're working well with Spybot, AdAware and Opera, then you're in fine shape. Whatever works.

June 17, 2005 5:35 AM

I agree with an earlier post by Dirk, I have found that MSAS is a solid beta product that will provide end users (novice and expert alike) with a solid option for fighting spyware\adware... I have also found that the industry leaders in *ware recognition (Spybot and Ad-Aware) work quite nicely in conjunctino with MSAS... I run all three as well as Symantec Anti-Virus and am extremely pleased with the results (or lack of results)...

MSAS when initially installed found almost 70 instances of *ware that the other two had not picked up on... On the flip side, when installed on another machine first and launched, it didn't find everything... A subsequent scan with Spybot and Ad-Aware found a host of other items that MSAS missed...

Conclusion: MSAS is a good start.. As the product matures, I am certain that we can begin to limit the number of tools we use to keep our computing environments maintained... but remember, adware as annoying as it is, is simply internet commercials... the main problem is - we can't change the channel to escape them... As someone with a marketing background, adware was the next logical step, I just wish the advertisers would allow me to add them to a no popup list like telemarketers...

Russ Harrison
June 18, 2005 3:00 PM

I have Microsoft's Anti on both our desktop, and on my laptop. Am I just lucky, or why have I NEVER had any "Spyware" detected on either computer? At my office, I have "Spyware Stormer", and every day I run it, it always tells me that it found 10-25 spyware's that it eliminates. What gives with MSFT Beta?

July 13, 2005 8:43 AM

I installed and un-installed MS Spyware in a matter of minutes. After initial reboot and program launch it did find a number of problems both Spybot and Pest Patrol missed; immediately after removing them IE stopped working. All is fine since uninstalling MS Spyware. Anyone else had that problem?

July 19, 2005 12:37 AM

I just downloaded this a couple of minutes ago and am already having problems with it. My computer keeps freezing up now, and I didn't have any problems with it before this. I've used Hijack This, AdAware, and CCleaner with no problems. Microsoft better improve things before they launch their new replacement for Windows. As of right now, Microsoft is convincing me to switch to a Mac. I am sick of dealing with all the patches and updates.

August 3, 2005 4:36 PM

Couldn,t agree with you more Kieth. I,ve had nothing but problems with spyware stormer. Just taken it off last night and so far no probs.
I,m using spybot,adaware, and avg with kerio firewall and all seems hunky dory so far.
Got to agree about all the patches and updates Pc,s really are a pain. I,ve got 2 Mac g4's and have never had a problem with them in over 8 years. Unfortunately I have to run a Pc for some apps.

August 20, 2005 8:50 AM

I cant uninstall. Registry entries are locked, etc. It works well until you uninstall.

August 26, 2005 5:18 AM

Actually i had the problem with IE, not working properly. As a matter of fact it was due to a IE spyware/adware/trojan/modifier!! Which has probably been there for months or years !

And I am pleased that MSAS, sorted this!

All what i need to do then was contact my ISP, who guided me through the Winsock Reset Procedure!! And after all was working well.

So stop dissing MSAS before you carry out your research!! NOOBS !

September 25, 2005 8:29 AM

It's ok. I run MS Antispyware and find nothing...or maybe 1 instance. I then run Ad-Aware by lavasoft and find 10. Why didn't MS find them. If Ad-Aware says it's spyware, that's good enough for me. As for MS Antispyware...well, they own enough of the computer industry. I love MS because they do OS's and Office products well. I'll leave the spyware up to Ad-Aware.

September 25, 2005 8:59 AM

lol, I just read Pele's post. It starts out professional and informative. It even gets me thinking positively about MSAS for a moment. Then it turns to sophomoric dissidence…at which point I lose all interest in his opinion.

October 5, 2005 12:44 PM

I have been using MS anti-spyware since its introduction. Previously I was using Spybot S&D and believe it is a great program but MS Beta1 is very user friendly, auto-updates and bottom line, it works!

December 10, 2005 11:32 PM

Ive been using ms antispyware tool & adaware without any problems at all and they both seem to work well together I also us avg anti virus & windows own fire wall & we run a network of 4 computers here and have had very few problems except with the kids machines as they are a bit lax as to what they download sometimes eg games with lots of spyware attached that then dad has the job of sorting out

December 22, 2005 7:36 AM

Can you install the new MS antispyware beta-1 on top of the beta, or does the beta have to be removed first? Thanks!

Leo A. Notenboom
December 22, 2005 3:03 PM

You should be able to install on top of it.

February 12, 2006 5:43 AM

I was running ad aware than last Sat got hit with the _p9hEPKqbj.exe and the lavasoft couldn't find it, MS did and cleaned it out. The spybor seems ok but the interface is really oldish. Plus spybot doesn't allow you to not run in the background. unless I'm wrong. The Adaware did however find quite a few things when I first installed it. Personally between Adaware and MS I feel covered.

Robert Peisch
April 13, 2006 6:47 AM

This may sound like a "cry-for-help" but the Giant/Microsoft Antispyware Beta program brought my faithful Win2000 laptop (ThinkPad) to it's knees...
Install/Uninstall & IE no longer run. This laptop has performed flawlessly for 5 years. Is there a safe manual uninstall for Antispyware?

July 2, 2006 6:14 AM

48::ln 5:Error in loading DLL::GIANTAntiSpywareMain:frmStartupWizard:LoadStep::4/22/2006 12:50:38 AM:XP:1.0.701
48::ln 5:Error in loading DLL::GIANTAntiSpywareMain:frmStartupWizard:LoadStep::4/22/2006 12:50:38 AM:XP:1.0.701
48::ln 5:Error in loading DLL::GIANTAntiSpywareMain:frmStartupWizard:LoadStep::4/22/2006 12:50:38 AM:XP:1.0.701
48::ln 0:Error in loading DLL::gcasServ:modMain:Main::4/22/2006 12:50:39 AM:XP:1.0.701
48::ln 20:Error in loading DLL::GIANTAntiSpywareMain:frmStartupWizard:LoadStep::4/22/2006 12:50:42 AM:XP:1.0.701
91::ln 22:Object variable or With block variable not set::GIANTAntiSpywareMain:frmStartupWizard:LoadStep::4/22/2006 12:50:42 AM:XP:1.0.701
91::ln 23:Object variable or With block variable not set::GIANTAntiSpywareMain:frmStartupWizard:LoadStep::4/22/2006 12:50:42 AM:XP:1.0.701
48::ln 70:Error in loading DLL::GIANTAntiSpywareMain:modMain:Main::4/22/2006 12:50:45 AM:XP:1.0.701

for the error above.
download the Spybot - Search & Destroy. then update it. after that,you go to immunize,it will tell you that you must immuniza the produt,then just press immunize. after that try to start the microsoft antispyware. i hope this can help.

July 2, 2006 6:17 AM

ya, forgot to tell. microsoft will never help us solve the prolem because we now are using the beta version. for testing only.

January 27, 2008 6:43 AM

I installed Anti-Spyware. It found over 500 spyware on my computer and removed them (after I paid a hefty price for it). I thought I read somewhere it was free?

April 21, 2009 8:11 PM

i read your article on microsoft anti-spyware. i am running windows live one care by microsoft how does the two compare.

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