Malicious Software Removal Tool
I already have a firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware protection. Do I really need the Malicious Software Removal Tool that Microsoft is recommending for me to download?
What is the Malicious Software Removal Tool?
The Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) is a component of Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. It does not run on older systems, such as Windows 98, Windows Millennium Edition, or Microsoft Windows NT 4.0. It's installed automatically with the rest of the operating system and updated regularly via Windows Update. It does just what its name says, and that's all it does. Then it deletes itself until the next time you update Windows.
The Malicious Software Removal Tool does not ward off infections by malware (malicious software) as programs such as Norton Internet Security and Avast! Antivirus do. It only detects infections that already exist on your system and removes them. Malware (viruses, spyware and other nasties) may have already done damage by the time MSRT snuffs it, so you should have preventive anti-malware programs installed as well.
Furthermore, MSRT detects only some of the many malware specimens that exist in the wild. It relies upon a database of known malware programs and their digital "signatures," patterns of bits and bytes that comprise a program. This database is updated often, but there will always be a large body of new malware being written that MSRT does not recognize yet. That's another reason not to rely upon MSRT exclusively for protection.
Another limitation of MSRT is that it only detects malware that is actively running in RAM on your computer. If a malware program is lying dormant on your hard drive it will escape MSRT's notice.
Do You Really Need the Malicious Software Removal Tool?
If this sounds pretty lame to you, you're in good company. There are lots of free antivirus programs available that do a much better, more proactive job. So why does MSRT exist, and why does Microsoft push it onto every Windows user via default installation and Automatic Update? Basically, MSRT is a just a perfunctory patch for Windows' wretched reputation as a security sieve.
Microsoft was taking a lot of heat from the entire computing industry in the mid-2000s. Its software was notoriously vulnerable to malware through many programming loopholes. The company vowed to improve the security of Windows, Internet Explorer, the Internet Information Server (Microsoft's basic Web server software), and its other products. MSRT is one of the bones that Microsoft threw to users complaining about lack of security.
But Microsoft did not want to offend its partners in the security business, such as Norton. So it did not make MSRT a serious competitor for commercial antivirus programs. It's a fig leaf, despite the company's claims that MSRT has eradicated tens of millions of malware copies from users' computers. As of May, 2009, Microsoft claims that MSRT has removed password-stealing malware from 859,542 Windows-using computers. That's nice, but just a drop in the bucket, really.
You needn't be concerned about MSRT wasting computer resources or disk space. The program takes up only 10 MB on a hard drive and that only temporarily. When you update Windows, MSRT is downloaded to a temporary directory. You are asked to accept its licensing agreement. Then MSRT runs a scan of your system for malware and removes what it can. Finally, it deletes itself. It doesn't run again until the next Windows update.
Bottom line, MSRT is better than nothing for those who have nothing. But it won't add much additional protection to systems that already have anti-virus and anti-spyware software in place.
Got something to say about the Malicious Software Removal Tool? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 2 Dec 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Malicious Software Removal Tool (Posted: 2 Dec 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved