Windows Live OneCare Safety Scan

Based on the content I write, I imagine that most readers of this blog will be IT professionals. That generally means two things:

  • Your family don’t understand what you do (e.g. “Mark works in computers”).
  • Your family and friends think that because you “work in computers” that you can fix their PC.

I fell foul of this a couple of times over the last few days. The first time was no big deal – a few months back, I had given my parents an old laptop and now they are really getting into e-mail and the web; however it was booting very slowly because a well-intended friend of theirs had installed the popular (and free for non-commercial use) AVG Anti-Virus (along with a load of unnecessary applications) and it was performing a full scan on every boot (I had already installed Symantec AntiVirus which was working quite nicely in a far less obtrusive manner). Once I removed AVG, performance was back to normal… so much for well-intentioned friends.

The second instance was last night, when my brother said he’d applied some updates to his PC and now he couldn’t get into Excel. That was easy enough (Microsoft Office XP required the original media to complete installation of an update), but I decided to check out the general state of the PC and was a little alarmed. Because the PC is only connected to the Internet via a modem, downloading updates takes a long time – automatic updates will trickle feed and my brother had kept his anti-virus definitions up-to-date but it still needed a lot of attention. Microsoft Update told me that it would need most of the night to download it’s updates, so I took it home (disconnected everything else from my LAN as a precaution) and hooked it up to my ADSL line, before spending the next couple of hours downloading and applying 61 Microsoft updates (as well as updating AdAware SE Personal Edition, which was over 700-days out of date).

Having given the PC a clean bill of health with AdAware (luckily the dial-up connection had minimised the spyware threat and it just had 52 tracking cookies to remove), I decided to check out another tool that, ironically, an Apple support page had alerted me to the existence of – the Windows Live OneCare Safety Scan.

Other antivirus vendors have online scanners (e.g. McAfee, Symantec and Trend Micro) but the advantage of the Microsoft version is that the full scan checks for viruses, spyware, disk fragmentation, temporary files, redundant registry data, and open network ports – what would appear to be a fairly thorough healthcheck, all through one ActiveX control.

Another feature is that you can run individual scans for protection, cleaning up or tuning the system (each effectively a component of the full scan described above). Finally, for Windows Vista users, the Windows Live OneCare site also provides a beta for a Vista-aware full service safety scan.

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