Microsoft’s six free desktop security tools

Fred Langa

These free utilities can prevent or cure trouble caused by viruses, worms, spyware, keyloggers, and other kinds of unwanted software.

Whether you’re keeping your PC free from malware or cleaning up a PC that’s already infected, one or more of these tools should get the job done!

Most Windows users probably don’t know that Microsoft offers an array of free security tools. Some are included with Windows, others available by download.

At one end of the spectrum is a simple, lightweight utility — the Malicious Software Removal Tool — that protects against some of the most common malware in circulation. At the other end of the spectrum is a heavy-duty system-scanning tool — Windows Defender Offline — that operates from its own bootable medium. It operates completely outside the installed Windows, allowing the scanner to find and remove some forms of malware that standard Windows-based security tools might miss.

As is all too common with Microsoft, some of these tools (and their features) are somewhat difficult to find. Some tools are poorly explained; some tools’ functions overlap with those of other tools. Two of these tools even have the same name — but are totally different products!

This article should sort out the confusion; it briefly explains what the six tools are, what types of malware they target, how they work, how to access and use them, and other important facts. You’ll also find links to more detailed information — and, of course, links to the free downloads.

Let’s dive in!

The target: Malware, as Microsoft defines it

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2013-04-04:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.