Ask just about any Windows administrator about a favorite tool and many of them drop a list of free ones they can't do without.
Some of these free tools and updates come from the Microsoft Download Center, such as the security management ones featured in this article.
The popularity of these downloads changes as new tools become available and new products are released, so be sure to check the download center for the latest links to the most popular free security management utilities.
Windows XP Service Pack 3 Network Installation Package for IT professionals and developers
When it was released: 5/6/2008
What it does: A service pack, designed for IT pros updating multiple machines, that includes the most recent updates and fixes for Windows XP. For those running Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System, you should install this hotfix for RMS before you install Windows XP SP3.
Where to get it: Windows XP Service Pack 3 Network Installation Package for IT professionals and developers
System requirements: Supports Windows XP Professional Edition, Windows XP Service Pack 1, Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows XP Home Edition.
Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool
When it was released:10/14/2008
What it does: Checks computers for and helps remove malicious software like Blaster, Sasser and Mydoom. Also generates a report of infections that were identified and removed. Microsoft releases an update of this tool on the second Tuesday of each month when new security patches are released.
Where to get it: Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool
System requirements: Supports Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP and Windows Vista.
When it was released: 5/23/2007
What it does: Blocks security threats, pop-ups and performance problems caused by spyware. Compared to older versions, this update has a redesigned UI, support for 64-bit, two free support incidents and improved threat detection and removal.
Where to get it: Windows Defender
System requirements: Supports Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, Windows XP Service Pack 2. Windows Defender no longer supports Windows 2000 because mainstream support for this OS ended in June 2005.
Windows Search 4.0 for Windows XP
When it was released: 6/3/2008
What it does: Lets you search computers for documents, email, music files, photos and other data. It also indexes encrypted documents of local file systems, supports client-to-client remote queries for shared indexed locations and has per-user Group Policy settings.
Where to get it:Windows Search 4.0 for Windows XP
System requirements: Supports Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows XP Service Pack 3.
Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Five Language Standalone
When it was released: 3/18/2008
What it does: Service Pack 1 has many reliability, performance and compatibility fixes for the Vista OS, and supports new hardware. This edition includes language support for English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.
Where to get it:Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Five Language Standalone
System requirements: Supports Windows Vista.