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.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
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
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.