Thursday, April 21, 2011

Microsoft Offers New Portable Anti-Virus Tool

When it comes to your anti-virus software being up to date on the latest virus definitions is extremely important. Occasionally, however even the most up to date computer can be infected. So where do you turn when your AV fails you? Well you might try this new portable scanner from Microsoft (yes I know Microsoft?.)

Microsoft has released its free Microsoft Safety Scanner (MSS). The Microsoft Safety Scanner is a downloadable security tool that provides on-demand scanning and helps remove viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. It works outside your existing antivirus software to provide a secondary option in case the first one fails.

According to Microsoft, the scanner can only be run for up to 10 days after the initial download, after which it must be re-downloaded – this ensures that it always has up-to-date signatures.The scan performance is comparable to that of Microsoft Security Essentials 2.0, which from my personal testing has been very much acceptable.

MSS comes in either 32 or 64 bit versions and because the file size is around 64 MB and the fact that MSS does not need to be installed it is ideal for downloading and running from a USB flash drive.

My testing and opinion

I've used several rescue and recovery disks such as those offered by Avira and Kaspersky as well as online scanners. So I was interested in testing the Microsoft tool to see how well it performed.

The first thing I liked about the tool was the small download size. I could install it on just about any USB drive. The interface was rather plain, simple and easy to use with options for quick scan, full scan and a custom option. Unfortunately that was about the only thing I liked.

I figured being a stand-alone application it would have a smaller resource footprint. Sadly that wasn't the case. It utilized a fair amount of CPU resources and memory. In comparison to Microsoft Security Essentials it did use slightly less resources but it still seemed high to me. The other downside was that unlike the rescue CDs there isn't an option to create a stand-alone disk to boot from. This is something that would have been a nice addition.

I didn't have any files to test it on so I can't speak to the accuracy of the tests or the ability of the scanner to detect infections.

Given the 10 day usability feature and hopefully consistent updates from MS it might be a slightly more viable option than a rescue CD, or offer a bit more usability than an online scanner. So I won't completely discard it from my toolkit, but I would like to see a stand-alone boot option.

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