Windows Defender, the free anti-spyware tool born out of Microsofts December 2004 acquisition of Giant Co., has hit the gold milestone, but Windows 2000 users might want to start looking for alternative protection.
At the RSA Europe conference in Nice, France, Microsoft announced the general availability of Windows Defender for Windows XP users and made it clear that the software will no longer support Windows 2000, which will be out of mainstream life cycle support in October 2006.
The final release is available Oct. 24 for Windows XP users, and Microsoft plans to ship it to other Windows-supported localized languages within a few weeks. Windows Defender will also be included as part of Windows Vista, which is scheduled for release in January 2007.
The anti-spyware tool gives users the option to remove or quarantine programs that serve pop-up advertising, install browser toolbars and reset startup home pages, and hamper computer performance.
In the final release, the Redmond, Wash., software maker said Windows Defender will feature delta definition updates, which means the program will download smaller delta definition updates when possible, reducing the time required to download and install updates.
For the first time, Microsoft will offer free support for installation, configuration, definition update, detection and removal errors. This will be available for a "limited time," Microsoft said.
The software will also require WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) validation before installation. Microsoft also warned that Windows Defender will only remove "severe threats" from unvalidated machines. Low, Medium and High threats will be detected, but not removed unless the copy of Windows is genuine, the company said.
In the first three months after shipping the Windows Defender Beta 2 anti-spyware application, Microsoft said it detected 22 million pieces of adware/spyware programs, resulting in roughly 14 million removals. More than 60 percent of Windows Defender users opt to programs when offered a choice.
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