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Pros and Cons of Microsoft Windows Defender

March 25, 2009

in privacy & security,Vista,Windows

by David Hakala

Microsoft Windows Defender is an anti-spyware program included in Windows XP and Vista. Do you need it, and does it do its job well?

First, note that Windows Defender is only an anti-spyware program. Spyware intercepts or takes partial control over the user’s interaction with the computer, without the user’s informed consent. For example, spyware may log all of your keystrokes – including financial site passwords – and send them to an unknown party. That’s bad, but spyware is hardly the only kind of threat. You will still need anti-virus software, most of which also scans for spyware.

How well does Windows Defender detect and trap spyware compared to competing products? Not that well compared to products such as Spybot, Ad Aware SE, SpySweeper, and other anti-spyware programs; middle of the pack in terms of catching spyware. The main advantage of Windows Defender is that it’s free, and activated by default in Windows. It’s there. If, for some reason, Windows Defender is not installed on your computer and you want it, you can download the installation package on the Microsoft Web site.

Windows Defender features real-time monitoring of several vulnerable points in your computer. It can detect and block suspicious programs that load upon Windows startup, or warn you when a file you are downloading contains known spyware. It can be scheduled to scan your computer for spyware and altered security settings at times of your choosing, so its background operation does not slow down your normal work.

Like all anti-malware programs, Windows Defender needs frequent updates with spyware program “signatures,” bits of data that identify known spyware. It connects to Windows Update on a schedule of your choosing, or manually if you want to control when updated signatures are downloaded.

Windows Defender is just one component of Microsoft’s suite of anti-malware programs. Others include:

Windows OneCare Safety Scanner, a Web-based service that not only detects and removes viruses, but also removes junk files from your hard drive and fine-tunes Windows performance.

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool, another component that comes with Windows. Microsoft releases an updated version of this tool on the second Tuesday of each month through the Windows Update Web site and Windows Automatic Updates.

Other Microsoft anti-malware products and a chart comparing their features can be found at Microsoft’s Defender page.

David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at

{ 1 comment }

Eurshla 04.06.14 at 1:46 pm

So I have Defender, if I get the One Care safety scanner, do I need to purchase another anti virus program, like Kaspersky?

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