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Microsoft Refreshes Windows Defender

Microsoft has issued a significant refresh to Windows Defender Beta 2 (build 1347), bringing new features and functionality to the anti-spyware software as it gets closer to official release. The software runs on Windows XP and is also expected to be incorporated into Microsoft's future Vista operating system slated to debut for enterprise customers by the end of this year.

Windows Defender was originally known as Giant Antispyware. Microsoft purchased its parent company, Giant Company Software, in December 2004 and spent more than a year upgrading the software, which was written in Visual Basic. During that time, Windows Defender has been rearchitected in C++ to run as a service rather than as an application.

The new build, Build 1347, was posted late last week and has a number of upgrades and improvements. The interface has been redesigned in response to user feedback and now operates as an icon in the taskbar like most anti-virus programs. This was one of the biggest user requests, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

The detection and removal engine has been redone to find more threats, and real-time monitoring has been upgraded to cover the operating system files, with or without Administrator privileges. Microsoft has also updated the signature updating functions, to make it easier to keep up to date with new detection rules. Microsoft also said it has improved detection accuracy and the gathering of new, unknown spyware.

Windows Defender has been available in localized German and Japanese versions, and with this refresh, corrections have been made to the UI and the globalized text in those applications.

While Defender is not a revolutionary, everyone should run spyware detection, regardless of the vendor, Michael Cherry, lead analyst with Directions on Microsoft newsletter in Kirkland, WA, told internetnews.com. "I think that the issue is that people do need a good spyware detection software, I don't think it really matters where they get it from," he said.

He says Defender does a good job and is easy enough to use that it should be friendly to non-technical users.

"I think one of the differentiators is that Defender is trying to be a product that works for the widest amount of users without having to set a lot of controls," said Cherry. "If you just want something that you can set it and forget about it, then this will be for you."