Microsoft purchased an antispyware tool originally created by GIANT Company Software, called GIANT AntiSpyware. This product originally aided in the fight against spyware on Windows 95 and Windows 98. When Microsoft purchased the product, it did not keep support for these older versions of Windows.
Microsoft announced the release of Windows Defender (then called Microsoft AntiSpyware) at the 2005 RSA security conference. With the announcement, it stated that the product was freely available to all valid licensed users of the Windows 2000, XP, and Server 2003 products. It championed Microsoft AntiSpyware as a product to help users worldwide in the fight against spyware and malware. Windows Defender offers even greater capability than the older versions, helping to ward off infection by employing several real-time security agents monitoring well-known areas of Windows that spyware and malware change regularly.
Microsoft has also integrated support for Microsoft SpyNet into the Windows Defender product. This support allows users to report spyware and malware to Microsoft in an effort to help update a centralized database that Microsoft houses to thwart the spread of spyware and malware. Microsoft uses these reports to determine the validity of the code submitted. This helps all computer users fight the spread of malicious programs across the Internet.
Microsoft significantly redesigned its antispyware product in the release of Windows Defender. It has rewritten the core engine in C++, replacing the original GIANT engine written in Visual Basic. This change alone allows for considerably greater performance because it is now compiled code. Windows Defender also offers an easier user interface, and now runs as a service under the Windows 7 operating system, giving you greater protection because it runs all the time, not just when you log on and use your computer. To ensure that you have a valid license for the operating system, Windows Defender uses the Windows Genuine Advantage validation routine when updating content.
Windows Defender for Windows Vista was the first iteration of a code rewrite since Microsoft purchased the original GIANT product. Previous releases were rebrandings of the original GIANT product, with some added functionality. Microsoft has also introduced more points of entry into the Windows Defender program than previously available in the rebranded product releases, making it easier to find and manage the product in Windows 7.
Microsoft integrated Windows Defender into the Internet Explorer browser engine to offer protection from files downloaded during your browser session. Windows Defender scans programs in real time. This feature allows greater flexibility in the fight against malicious code on your computer. It also helps in identifying and removing accidental download of malicious code without your knowledge. Windows Defender also allows you to schedule scanning and removal of unwanted programs. This gives you the option of choosing a specific time that works better with your usage of the computer.
To keep the detection database up-to-date, you have the option of allowing Windows Defender to complete automatic updates. This lets you continue working without having to update your antispyware definitions manually. However, you should still check the program periodically to verify that it has updated itself correctly.
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