Microsoft Defender Offline

Microsoft recently released another stand-alone malware scanning tool (although it’s still in beta as of right now) called System Sweeper. This utility is different from Microsoft Safety Scanner in that this is mainly for users who can’t actually boot in to the Windows operating system or Safe Mode. Rather than launching a simple executable, you actually have to either burn the .ISO file to a disc or stick it to a USB thumb drive and boot from it. Therefore, this bypasses Windows completely and allows a user to still clean their PC of malware should they find themselves in this unlucky scenario. Also, unlike Microsoft Safety Scanner, System Sweeper actually allows a user to update the malware definitions directly from within the tool. With the former, the tool expired after 10 days. To get the latest definitions, a user would have to re-download the utility. As with both tools however, Safety Scanner and System Sweeper is not meant to be a replacement for a traditional real-time antivirus scanning software. For that, you’ll need Security Essentials.

You can download Microsoft System Sweeper from here. Microsoft has discontinued System Sweeper and instead has rebranded the product as Microsoft Defender Offline. The product works pretty much the same in that it allows you to scan a computer without the need to boot into Windows first.
  1. The initial download is super fast because you’re not downloading the actual .ISO file. Once you open that initial file, you’ll be presented with a simple wizard to get you started. After skipping past the Welcome and EULA screens, you’ll need to select how to install System Sweeper. You can either immediately burn it to a blank CD/DVD disc, to a USB thumb drive or just download the ISO file itself. Either way, the utility will still need to download the resulting ISO file to your system.
  2. If you opted to just download the ISO file (and burn it with another tool), then the next screen you’ll get to select the download location. For simplicity sakes, I just threw it on my Desktop.
  3. The actual download process will begin.
  4. Burn the resulting ISO file using your favorite third-party burning application.
  5. Pop in the disc and set your computer to boot from the CD/DVD drive first.
  6. After initialization, you’ll be presented with the main menu screen. You’ll notice that the user interface looks and acts awfully similar to Windows Defender. Prior to performing a scan though, you’ll want to make sure that you are using the latest anti-malware definitions provided by Microsoft. If the host computer is connected to the Internet, you can easily just download the definitions right there and then within the tool. If not, you’ll need to make sure to manually download the definition file and save it to a thumb drive. You can then manually browse to that definition file within System Sweeper. You have to actually click on that little inverted triangle to get to the Updates page.
  7. For best results, it’s recommended to perform a full scan of the system. It will definitely take longer but if the computer is heavily infested with malware, this scan type should be more effective.
Microsoft doesn’t make it clear on their website where to actually download the stand-alone definition files until you actually boot to the System Sweeper utility! This may be too late for some. It could be that I have bad eyes but I definitely do not see the link anywhere on the main web page or in the help files. The website in question can be located here. Also, that page has nothing specified for System Sweeper. Therefore a user can easily get confused about which definition files to download. To clarify this, you can download the definition updates for Microsoft Security Essentials and it will work with System Sweeper. Some users might already have figured this out but but not for many others. I’m hoping Microsoft does a better job providing the information needed once the utility comes out of beta mode.

Microsoft has definitely provided a lot of security tools to help casual computer users stay safe. From Security Essentials to Safety Scanner and now System Sweeper, users now have different utilities to help them get rid of malware easily and efficiently. They are definitely not the best of the bunch but that’s a story for a different article.

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Comments

  1. I downloaded this at work today.  Wasn’t able to get the installation process to complete that part of the download.  Thought it was something i could setup on a share and run against multiple computers.

    • The Microsoft System Sweeper utility, from my understanding, is not meant to be used as a standalone program. That’s why the file comes in the form of an .ISO file. You need to burn that to a CD/DVD and then launch the utility by having the computer boot from the CD/DVD drive first. This utility is meant for users who cannot boot into Windows. Therefore, I don’t think you can just dump the file on a share and expect other computers on the network to be able to use it (while logged into Windows). If you are looking for a utility from Microsoft to run against multiple computers, you’ll want to take a look at Microsoft Safety Scanner: http://bit.ly/mBIfvG.

      If you are dead set on trying out System Sweeper from Microsoft, I can upload the actual .ISO file for you and provide you with the link to download it directly. My upload speed is horrible so if you can download it elsewhere, that would be awesome. If not, I’ll be glad to help you out.

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