Hot on the heels of a SNAFU (acronym for “Situation Normal – All Fouled Up”) where a Microsoft Anti-Spyware definition update identified the Norton Anti-virus Corporate Edition as spyware and recommended removal, Microsoft released the next version of its anti-spyware / anti-adware program.
Still in “beta” after over a year of public release by Microsoft, and very wide-spread use, the program formerly known as Microsoft Anti-Spyware now has a brand new name — and it is still called a “beta” version. Of course, this was a commercial program before Microsoft bought it.
Microsoft has released the beta 2 of the renamed Microsoft Anti-Spyware program. Consistent with previous announcements, the program is now called Windows Defender.
All users of validated copies of Windows XP should be able to run Windows Defender’s beta 2 version, which will run until December 31, 2006.
Installation was straight-forward and uninstalled/overwrote the earlier Microsoft Anti-Spyware Beta 1 with no difficulty.
Previous settings in Microsoft Anti-spyware Beta 1 were apparently discarded in the upgrade to Beta 2. I realized this because I run the remote control software RealVNC on my home network. While I had previously told Microsoft Anti-spyware to ignore RealVNC, the new Windows Defender beta 2 discovered it and flagged it for a decision.
I don’t like one feature of the new interface, though. I had to click on a link to see what it had found. However, from the main window — without looking at the detail — I could tell Windows Defender to do whatever MS had set as the defaults for each application found.
There was another setting about which I want to warn you. Windows Defender is set to automatically scan daily. The setting that concerns me is the “Apply actions on detected items after scanning,” which is checked by default.
I want the scan to wait for a choice by the user — whether it is to change some of the actions or to blindly accept the default recommendations. Any other action would leave you open to problem such as the Microsoft Anti-spyware removal of Norton Anti-virus — and you would not know why you had a problem! Go into the Tools, General Settins, and uncheck the “Apply actions…” checkbox.
As I expected, WD only found RealVNC, so I don’t know how it recommends handling some of the adware and spyware out there.
Hopefully, Microsoft has changed its ways. This staunch defender of the EULA (End User License Agreement) was reported to recommend “Ignore” on adware whose long, boring, seldom-read EULA informed the user that it would be installed. With the outrage this created in the technical press, perhaps Microsoft has reconsidered that decision.
Microsoft has recently announced that Windows Defender will be built into Windows Vista, the next version of Windows. I suspect we’ll never see a real, official release of Windows Defender for Windows XP.
Meanwhile, neither the old Microsoft Anti-spyware nor the new Windows Defender work on any Windows version before Windows XP.
If you’re running Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, I recommend the anti-spyware/anti-adware/firewall program that I use with Windows XP — VIPRE Antivirus Premium.
Followup: Another Look at Windows Defender