Trend Micro HouseCall review
Trend Micro HouseCall is a free program to scan for viruses, worms, rootkits, malware, spyware that can harm computers and laptops. It is a portable solution (sort of), which does not require full installation, just launching an .exe file. It works on all Windows OS versions starting from XP (XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10), and requires at least 256 Mb RAM, a 1024x768 pixels monitor - so not very demanding at all. There are also versions for Mac and Android devices.
What does the manufacturer promise?
- Customizable settings
- Detecting threats outside files (???)
- Perfect work in all browsers
- Constantly updated virus database
- Ability to recover infected files
- Advanced detection, e.g. rootkits
By contrast with previous versions of HouseCall, working entirely online, the current one requires downloading the executable file of 2.5 Mb. Developers claim this is aimed at solving incompatibility issues with browsers and Java versions. When you launch the scanner, it checks if there is a newer version to download. This is quite odd, as one would assume the official website publishes the latest version.
Online you choose an OS version, such as Windows 64-bit, and start scanning. There are three types of HouseCall scans available (click Settings to select):
- Quick scan - critical areas to detect and remove malware. As a rule, it takes a few minutes, and checks running processes, registry, browser plugins.
- Full scan - the whole system, thus it will take long.
- Custom scan - only specific folders, so it could be handy and quick.
Scanning process does not display the time it will take, not a great news. So we’ve launched a quick scan to start off. Several minutes in our Internet connection broke off and HouseCall could not cope with it and crashed. So we found out the first substantial flaw.
FLAW #1: If Internet connection fails, the HouseCall scanner crashes.
So we had to start the whole process from the beginning. This time it worked: Quick scan lasted 40 minutes and found 6 threats. Since HouseCall is only a scanner, detected threats are proposed to ignore (if files are critical to the system) or quarantine.
Note: according to Trend Micro, scanning time may depend on connection speed, as the virus database is stored in a cloud storage.
Threats are shown with name, location, type, risk level and action to take. Here you can decide what you want to do - skip or fix in the check box next to each threat. When we click the Fix Now button, the app cautions us not to close the window, as would have to start all over. Then it asks to restart the computer or continue scanning.
Then, we’ve moved on to Full scan. Admittedly, this type of scan always takes a very long time. Usually, we scan with office applications, browsers, etc. turned off, so as not to load the processor further. Therefore, with a hard disk size of 320 GB (of which about 25% is a free space), it was somehow unusual to see the following: full scan took 416 minutes, or almost 7 hours, without additional CPU load.
FLAW #2: Extremely lengthy full system scan.
Seriously, none of the common antiviruses and online scanners has ever analyzed our small laptop for so long. On the other hand, the result of such a lengthy process was a larger list of detected threats than in the previous try. This time we’ve chosen to ignore files and after this HouseCall has issued a warning about such action. That is, it gives you a chance to change your mind at each stage, until the system restarts.
We should also mention the issue with detection effectiveness, which is often reported by users of HouseCall scanner. To check this, we’ve tested crack files for Microsoft Office (KMSAuto), computer games (steam.dll) and Firemin utility for Firefox, which all have been previously defined by other scanners as malware. HouseCall alerted us about crack files only. We’ve sent a request to Trend Micro developers on whether the scanner can pick up apps like Firemin, although received no reply as of the time of this review publication.
Home network scan
After the first HouseCall launch and scan, for subsequent scans, the launcher checks for component updates. Under a big red Scan Now button we see a field called “Include my home network” with the box to check if desired. Of course, to test this feature, we select it and start a home network scan.
As shown in the images above, we can see what kind of devices our home network is composed of. When the scan is complete, we understand that our network is in danger. On the tab with the number of connected devices (5 devices), we see our list of devices with the unique IP address of each and its status. The home router is at risk. Specifically in our case, the scan found 3 risks:
- Unsafe password.
- One risky port, prone to hacker efforts.
- Unnamed home network.
Each danger has a detailed explanation of what the problem is, status (High Risk), and an active link with tips (How do I protect my devices?). In addition to the list of threats, we can additionally read the recommendations. You can identify the device, for which you have doubts, using an IP address or MAC address. You should check if the addresses match, and if they do, it means that all connected devices are part of a home network.
In order to avoid connecting dangerous devices to a network, we need to: upgrade the standard SSDI Wi-Fi by default, update the network password to a more powerful one, disable secure Wi-Fi setting (WPS) through the admin console of our router.
The general tips also include More Tips, where you will get to know how to update your software, how to block unsafe websites, how to use Home Network Security to protect children from harmful websites and monitor kids online activity.
An additional option in pre-scan settings is Smart Feedback - to share information about malware and threats within the global surveillance program. Additional attention is drawn to the fact that no personal information is collected if you participate in this program.
For the overall impression of HouseCall online scanner we’ve gone back to developer claims and compared it to our actual experience.
- Promise #1. Customizable user settings. Yes, the user has decent options: choose a degree of scan scrutiny (quick or complete), specify the area/section to look for threats.
- Promise #2. Fileless detection of threats. All viruses and malware are in the form of files, so it’s hard to determine what does the vendor even mean by this.
- Promise #3. No browser compatibility issues. True, as HouseCall is a separate application that does not relate to a browser in any way.
- Promise #4. Smart and fast scanning. This seems to be exaggerated. In our case fast scan lasted 40 minutes, and complete system scan took 7 hours. What database is in use and how often it is updated we can’t verify.
- Promise #5. Possibility to preview threats and recover files. Yes, after scanning is complete, we see a list of potentially dangerous files and decide what to do with them.
- Promise #6. Home network devices protection. HouseCall checks home network devices by default, so this feature is really and fully implemented.
All in all, 5 out of 6 claims are fully or partially true, and that’s impressive. Let’s conclude HouseCall pros and cons.
- Full, custom, quick scans
- Offline, portable, lightweight
- OS: Windows, Mac, Android
- Checks all home network devices
- Only in English
- Requires Internet connection
- Disconnection may cause program crash
- Time-consuming full system scan
To summarize: HouseCall has a fairly simple interface, 3 scan types, step-by-step instructions on how to fix detected threats. It can scan all devices connected to a home network. There is no technical support for it. There's a conventional full antivirus product by the same vendor - check out Trend Micro Internet Security.
Read next: Best free anti-malware.