Microsoft advertises its Anti Spam program Windows Defender with the slogan spyware protection for free but is it really a good alternative to other anti spam and spyware programs like Ad-aware or Spybot search and destroy? It is only fair to compare Microsoft's free solution to other free solutions that you can download and install alternatively as well.
Microsoft's Windows Defender came under heavy fire recently when competitors released studies claiming that Windows Defender had far worse spyware and spam detection rates than other products on the market.
The question that I'm asking myself is if you really need the Windows Defender if you are using programs like Ad-aware or Spybot before, and I think the answer is pretty obvious: No, Windows Defender is not needed. It might be fine for users who do not know and care about spyware and may even help those users protect their computers in a more secure way from spyware and spam, but it does not make a lot of sense to switch to Microsoft's product yet as it is not superior to third party solutions.
This is backed up by some tests, for instance by Suzi Turner from Zdnet, who tested anti-spyware programs on a virtual system that she infected with spyware to see how effective Windows Defender was at removing the spyware and cleaning the system.
She came to the conclusion that Windows Defender was only able to detect 65% to 75% of the Spyware that was installed on the system while other programs were more effective at removing it from the PC.
I personally think that Windows Defender is just another program that is average at best. The same can be said for other software from Microsoft like the Windows Firewall for instance.
It is my recommendation to use free tools (or paid if you do not mind paying) instead to protect your PC from spyware as they are usually a lot better at what they are doing. Sure, some programs may be as average as Microsoft's product but if you pick the leading programs you will definitely end up with a far better solution.
It is furthermore a good idea to test your system from time to time with tools like Hijack This just to make sure nothing bypassed your anti-spyware program.
Update: Windows Defender on Windows 8 includes Microsoft Security Essentials now. It is still nowhere near perfect and solutions such as Malwarbytes Anti-Malware are in all aspects superior to Microsoft's implementation.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.