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The Microsoft Safety Scanner was just released a few days ago. The free portable antivirus tool only comes as a simple EXE file and is available as a 32-bit and 64-bit version. The EXE file contains all the virus signatures.
A portable antivirus program is useful whenever you want to scan a PC that lacks antivirus software. If you don't have a Microsoft antivirus scan engine installed (Microsoft Security Essentials or Forefront), you can use the Safety Scanner if you need a second opinion.
Safety Scanner offers three scanning options: quick, full, and customized. Quick scan searches in "areas of the system most likely to contain viruses, spyware, and other potentially unwanted software." It is unclear where these "areas" are. Therefore, I wouldn't use this option because an antivirus scan only makes sense if you are more or less certain afterwards that the system is clean. The customized option is useful if you already suspect that a virus has infected a certain folder. In most cases, a full scan is the best option.
Safety Scanner has three major downsides. The antivirus patterns can't be updated, the tool can only be used for 10 days after the download, and it doesn't run on Windows PE.
I have been searching for quite a while for a portable antivirus program that runs on Windows PE. When I tried to start Safety Scanner on Windows PE 3.0, the anti-malware tool quit with an enlightening message "An error has occurred." Some viruses can only be removed in offline mode. Thus, it is somewhat disappointing that Safety Scanner does not run on Windows PE.
Online updates are probably not supported because the Safety Scanner only consists of a single EXE file. However, technically, it would be possible to modify those parts of the EXE. Thus I hope that Microsoft adds this feature in a future version.
The 10-day restriction is probably related to the fact that Safety Scanner can't be updated. This makes sense from a security point of view, but this means that you have to download the 70MB file every time you want to use the tool. This reduces the usability of Safety Scanner significantly.
Please let me know if you know of a portable antivirus program that works on Windows PE.