With Windows 8, Microsoft is taking a distinctly different -- and likely far better -- approach to how anti-malware will run in comparison to earlier versions of Windows, says Aryeh Goretsky, researcher at antivirus software firm ESET. Microsoft's approach, called "Early Launch Anti-Malware," basically means the first software driver to be loaded into the Windows 8 OS upon its use will be the driver of the user's anti-malware software. This is a major change because "before, it was a 'no man's land,'" says Goretsky, meaning loading driver software on the user's machine was random and "a malicious device driver" could get there first, allowing the malware to trump the anti-malware and maybe turn it off.
Microsoft has put in some protections to ensure that anti-malware from vendors that have gone through Microsoft's digital-signing review process will be loaded up first to check to see if a system is clean before continuing the boot process, says Goretsky. There is one wrinkle in all this in that Microsoft itself is shipping its own anti-malware software with Windows 8 called Windows Defender.
So unless the user has Windows Defender uninstalled, this will be the first antivirus software to load up. Since some computer suppliers make money through partnerships with the larger anti-malware vendors such as Symantec and McAfee, they may uninstall it before the Windows 8-based computer makes it to the consumer, Goretsky notes. But in the uninstalling of antivirus software -- whether it's Microsoft's or another vendor's -- Microsoft has also made huge progress in Windows 8, according to Goretsky.