Microsoft loves to confuse its users since most people already know about using Windows 8. Not only is Windows 8 confusing, but Microsoft is constantly changing the way a new operating system works with every update.
One of the most confusing aspects of Windows 7 and Windows 8 is the antivirus solutions provided by Microsoft. Should you need Windows Defender or Microsoft Security Essentials? What’s the difference? Also, what is Microsoft Safety Scanner and how is it different from other antivirus tools?
In this article, I will explain the differences between the different antivirus tools in Windows 7 and Windows 8 and explain where you can use each tool. Fortunately, things have become clearer in Windows 10.
Windows Defender vs Security Essentials
Windows Defender was originally called Microsoft AntiSpyware and was eventually included in Windows Vista and Windows 7. You can also download Windows Defender for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, although it looks like you can’t do that anymore. You can still download Windows Defender Offline, which is different from Windows Defender, and I’ll explain more below.
The main thing to note about Windows Defender is that it only protects against spyware on Windows 7 and earlier. This is why you’ve always needed a separate antivirus program in Windows 7 and earlier. Microsoft Security Essentials could be downloaded to replace Windows Defender because it could catch spyware and scan for viruses. Once installed, it will completely disable Windows Defender.
Windows Defender Offline is exactly what the name suggests: a standalone version of Windows Defender that you download and run from a CD, DVD, or USB drive. You can use Windows Defender Offline to scan for viruses before booting the operating system, which can greatly increase your chances of removing highly hidden malware or spyware. Again, it won’t catch viruses, only spyware.
In Windows 8 and Windows 10, Windows Defender has been updated to be able to scan for viruses as well. This is pretty much the same scanner found in Microsoft Security Essentials and it is for this reason that Microsoft does not allow you to install Security Essentials on Windows 8/10. It also uses the same virus definitions and the user interface is pretty much the same.
It might have been wiser to just keep the Microsoft Security Essentials name in Windows 8/10, but they chose to stay with the Windows Defender name, which is causing some confusion.
So here’s the current state of Windows Defender:
– Supplied with Windows Vista and Windows 7 and protects against spyware only. Can be used with Microsoft Security Essentials.
– Shipped with Windows 8 and 10, but includes an antivirus scanner. Cannot be used with Microsoft Security Essentials.
– On Windows XP, you can use Microsoft Security Essentials as Window Defender is no longer available.
– Windows Defender Offline can be used on any version of Windows up to Windows 10
Download Windows Defender Offline
Download Microsoft Security Essentials
Microsoft Safety Scanner software
Microsoft Security Scanner is another antivirus tool from Microsoft that is similar to offline Windows Defender in that it is a standalone virus and malware scanner. Basically it is an on-demand scanner that you can try as a last resort if a virus is disabled or interferes with your current antivirus program.
Unlike offline Windows Defender, you still run the Microsoft Security Scanner inside Windows and not from bootable media. You can simply download the EXE file containing the latest signatures and run it. Since it is an on-demand scanner, you should always re-download the program every time you want to use it, otherwise you will not be scanning with the latest virus signatures. The files are updated several times a day with the latest signatures.
Download Microsoft Security Scanner
Hopefully this makes sense for some of the security tools Microsoft provides. There are other tools, but they are less common and we will not mention them in this post. Windows Defender, Security Essentials, and Safety Scanner are essential tools you can use to remove viruses and malware in Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10. Enjoy!