4 free antivirus tools from Microsoft

There are many tools available for preventing, detecting and removing viruses and malware on PC computers.  Microsoft offers 4 such tools, all free, that I use and recommend

  • Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Microsoft Safety Scanner
  • Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool
  • Windows Defender Offline

Here are my notes on these tools and at the end of this post are some screen shots of the tools in use.

4 free Microsoft antivirus tools

Microsoft Security Essentials.  This is an antivirus program similar to the many others available such as Norton, McAfee, Avast, Kaspersky, AVG, etc, that [try to] prevent your computer from catching a virus from the Internet.  Like other antivirus programs it scans the files on your PC as you access them.  It also offers an on-demand scan of your disks and removable media (ie USB) for viruses and malware.  The user interface is simple.  Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) lacks features that other products have, such as anti-spam, suspicious web site blocking, social media scanning.  MSE  sometimes gets less than excellent ratings for virus detection but no antivirus product is 100% effective.  MSE checks your PC for a genuine license.  Available in 32 and 64 bit versions.

Microsoft Safety Scanner.   This is an on-demand malware scanner.  This scan would be useful if the suspect PC is not running an antivirus program or as a second opinion if the suspect PC is running an antivirus other than Microsoft Security Essentials.  The download file is named msert.exe and is about 70-80 MB.  Available in 32 and 64 bit versions.  Expires in 10 days, forcing you to use a reasonably up to date version.  Compatible with other malware products.

Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.  This is an on-demand scanner.  This scanner is downloaded and run every month (second Tuesday) if you have Windows Updates configured to download and install updates automatically.  The file name will be something like Windows-KB890830-V4.19.exe or Windows-KB890830-x64-V4.19.exe.  The download is about 20 MB.  Available in 32 and 64 bit versions.  Compatible with other malware products.  The program will create a log %WINDIR%\debug\mrt.log

Windows Defender Offline.  This is an on-demand scanner that boots from a CD, DVD or USB that you create.  The strength of this scanner is that it boots to its own clean minimal version of Windows and then scans for viruses.  This is better than booting a virus infected copy of Windows which gives the viruses time to hide their presence and block antivirus programs.  Rootkits are more effectively detected this way.  To create this scanner, first download the program mssstool32.exe or mssstool64.exe (32 and 64 bit versions) (about 1 MB) then run the program and follow the on screen instructions to create a bootable CD, DVD or USB that runs the scanner.  The blank CD, DVD or USB must have 250 MB free space.  The program can download the latest malware definitions when update is run if the PC is connected to the Internet.  Unfortunately Microsoft broke this scanner in late 2012 for older CPUs that don’t have NX bit capability – the scanner will hang on boot or crash with a 5D error.

Notes

Oh no, I have a computer virus!  The term virus is commonly used to refer to all malicious or undesirable computer programs that are usually installed without your knowledge or consent.  As commonly used, computer virus also refers to spyware, trojans, keystroke loggers, rootkits, worms, backdoors, adware, ransomware, rogue security software, potentially unwanted programs, trackers, unwanted browser add-ons and browser helper objects and so on.  I prefer to use the term malware to refer to all bad programs.  Mal (bad) + ware (software).

I often recommend Microsoft Security Essentials to people as their antivirus.  Windows Defender Offline is a good tool for cleaning an infected computer.

There are many other antivirus and malware programs available, free and paid.  Lately Norton and Avast have been getting good reviews.  Avast and AVG have free versions that I have used successfully.

Other antivirus companies offer boot and scan rescue disks like Kaspersky, BitDefender, F-Secure, Avira, AVG and others.  You can download and burn an .iso to create a bootable rescue disk.

There are also many on-demand scanners both programs and web sites.  I highly recommend MalwareBytes.  SuperAntiSpyware is good and can be run in portable mode.    There are also web sites from which you can launch a virus scan on your PC such as Trend Micro, BitDefender and AVG.

When running virus scans, be sure to update your virus definitions before scanning.

Screen Captures

Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials main screen
Microsoft Security Essentials main screen
Microsoft Security Essentials scanning
Microsoft Security Essentials scanning
Microsoft Security Essentials scan results
Microsoft Security Essentials scan results

Microsoft Safety Scanner

Microsoft Safety Scanner license agreement
Microsoft Safety Scanner license agreement
Microsoft Safety Scanner welcome
Microsoft Safety Scanner welcome
Microsoft Safety Scanner choose a type of scan
Microsoft Safety Scanner choose a type of scan
Microsoft Safety Scanner scanning
Microsoft Safety Scanner scanning
Microsoft Safety Scanner scan results
Microsoft Safety Scanner scan results

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool welcome
Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool
Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scan type
Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scan type
Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scanning your computer
Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scanning your computer
Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scan results
Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scan results

Windows Defender Offline

Windows Defender Offline booting 1
Windows Defender Offline booting 1
Windows Defender Offline starting windows
Windows Defender Offline starting windows
Windows Defender Offline starting WDO
Windows Defender Offline starting WDO
Windows Defender Offline definitions update
Windows Defender Offline definitions update
Windows Defender scanning
Windows Defender scanning
Windows Defender scan completed, no threats
Windows Defender scan completed, no threats

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