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Trend Micro--one of the most respected companies in security software--offers HouseCall, a free Web-based utility that scans for and cleans your computer of all currently documented viruses, Trojans and other malware. In addition, HouseCall seeks out firewall problems and other vulnerabilities, and makes suggestions for correcting them. We do not recommend using HouseCall in lieu of an installed security program. But it has saved our computers numerous times, when all else failed. Its new version is not only compatible with Windows 7, but you can download either a 32-bit or 64-bit version of its launcher.
Setting up HouseCall is a breeze. You can choose to do a Quick Scan, Full Scan or Custom Scan (choosing which drives and folders-- including connected network drives--will be analyzed). If you're in a hurry, you may also want to check the option to have HouseCall fix all found problems. If you prefer to look at each problem found, and select which ones to fix, leave that option unchecked.
Then, click on Scan Now, and sit back and wait. Depending on the size and density of your drives, the type scan you choose, the speed of your computer, and the speed of your internet connection, it can take fifteen minutes (for a Quick Scan of critical system files) to several hours (for Complete or comprehensive Custom Scans). Our Custom Scan of all folders and files on two local and four network drives took five hours and four minutes.
Unlike previous versions of HouseCall, which ran completely online, this newest iteration uses a downloadable launcher. That means you no longer have to worry about browser compatibilities or having the latest Java installed. During the scan, the launcher first verifies that you have the latest version of the program, and automatically downloads any updates you might need, before actually launching. We feel that is an extra step that shouldn't be necessary, when you've just downloaded the launcher; shouldn't it be the newest version already? Once launched, HouseCall Then, it checks file patterns on your computer against Trend Micro's latest database of malicious files, via your Internet connection. A progress bar and timer tell you how much time has lapsed and the percentage of the job that is complete, so you can walk away and know approximately when to return.
When the scan is complete, HouseCall generates a report of all threats found and actions taken to fix the problems. It also provides information for any that were found but not repaired, so that you can investigate further. This time around, it found nothing on our test system--happily. Other times that we've used it, HouseCall has located and neutralized considerable threats to our systems.
Trend Micro is known for its aggressive and frequent updates of malware definitions, which means that HouseCall will catch the vast majority of active malicious files that might lurk in your system. But, because of its thoroughness, HouseCall can be time-consuming. It's best to run it at a time when you aren't planning to use your computer, such as overnight.
HouseCall is a great resource for anyone who suspects that their computer woes may be related to malicious files--or for those who just want to double-check that their installed security program is doing its job.