Microsoft Safety Scanner

Category: Security

On April 14, 2011, Microsoft released a free malware detection tool called Microsoft Safety Scanner. It scans your computer for viruses, spyware, rootkits, and other forms of malware. Read on to learn more about the scanner, and if you should be using it...

Do You Need the Microsoft Safety Scanner?

This new Microsoft Safety Scanner is a standalone tool that replaces the defunct Windows Live OneCare Safety Scanner, which was a Web-based scanning system. While it's not comprehensive anti-malware protection, Microsoft Safety Scanner can be a useful supplement to your regular fully-featured antimalware program.

Most users will use Microsoft Safety Scanner to verify that their regular antivirus program is doing its job. Safety Scanner's main function is to scan a Windows system for viruses. But it does not remove them or prevent them from being installed. So what's the benefit of that?

The key advantage of Microsoft Safety Scanner is that it can be run while your regular protection is installed. Many active anti-malware programs run into conflicts with others that can cause slowdowns, false positives (malware alerts on a system that is actually malware-free) or even system lockups. Microsoft Safety Scanner avoids conflicts by simply looking for known malware signatures and not trying to do anything about them.
malware scanners

A second advantage is that the user doesn't have to think about configuring Microsoft Safety Scanner. Just run it and see what it finds. You don't have to worry about updating Microsoft Safety Scanner, either. Each download of the program expires after 10 days. To run it again after that time, you have to download the latest version with updated malware signatures from Microsoft Safety Scanner's home page. Microsoft Safety Scanner's malware signature database is kept up to date with malware reports submitted to Microsoft's Malware Protection Center.

Scanning Options

There are some optional configuration settings that can shorten scan times. You can choose a quick scan which checks only the file system locations most commonly targeted by malware. A scan can be limited to a specified folder or folders. You can do a full scan, which takes longest, of an entire hard drive plus RAM and the registry.

The Microsoft Safety Scanner installation file is a 70 MB download, too large for most users to download every ten days. Most users will turn to Microsoft Safety Scanner only after suspecting that their regular anti-malware program has failed to remove a stubborn bit of malware. It can also be run every few months to double-check your antimalware program's effectiveness.

No single Internet security tool will provide 100% protection against all possible threats lurking online. I think it's a good idea to use the Microsoft Safety Scanner occasionally for a "second opinion" and to give you guidance as to whether you should be looking for a new anti-virus program.

Got something to say about Microsoft Safety Scanner or other similar tools? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Microsoft Safety Scanner"

Posted by:

21 Apr 2011

Nearly a four hour download that is going to become obsolete ten days. Not for me.

Posted by:

Joe M
21 Apr 2011

This is exactly why I run Prevx Free in addition to Vipre Premium. One is not enough. Three is too many. Two is juuuuuust right! These two products play extremely well together. Prevx detects many java exploits that most other A/V products don't detect.

Oh, and I don't bother with Microsoft products as they have proven to be substandard over the years. Not to mention my intense dislike and distrust of the company after dealing with them for 20 years.

Posted by:

21 Apr 2011

Too large a download for what it does or maybe what it DOESN'T do.

Posted by:

Dan Suilem
21 Apr 2011

Isn't this the same scanner already included with "Microsoft Security Essentials"?

Posted by:

21 Apr 2011

I am presently downloading the MSS (as I write this) as per your recommendation.
I also use the test page at www, to see if my anti-virus software is operating the way it should.

I do recommend Eicar without hesitation - - It simply works and is consistent.
(word of advice: It is very important to you read the website's advisory prior to its use)


Posted by:

J Huff
21 Apr 2011

How does this compare to Secunia's PSI scanning?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Good question! They are very different. Secunia PSI scans your system for software that may not contain the latest patches for known exploits. You should run both.

Posted by:

05 May 2011

Not to mention my intense dislike and distrust of the company after dealing with them for 20 years.
But you continue to deal with them. Any behemoth is going to be unresponsive, but they do make the most popular software in the world, and I trust their virus/malware scanner because it is made for their software by them. If you hate Micro$oft so much, why dontcha go with Ubuntu?

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Microsoft Safety Scanner (Posted: 21 Apr 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved