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Do You Need Windows Defender if You Have Microsoft Security Essentials?

written by: dwlsn233•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 9/24/2010

There is an enormous number of choices available to the PC user deciding which anti-virus, anti-spy, anti-malware software to install on a PC. Microsoft Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials are both free to Windows users. Each has benefits. How to decide which one is right for you.

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    Essential Considerations

    First, there are some general “rules of thumb" to keep in mind when choosing security software that protects against malware:

    1. Compatibility and Conflicts. Running more than one software package at the same time to protect against the same types of malware can cause performance issues as well as conflicts both between security software packages and other programs running on the PC.

    2. Staying current with updates. Frequent updates is best practice when guarding against security issues. It is critical that anti-malware security software stay current to protect the PC from malware. Since new malware is released to the “wild" everyday, anti-virus and anti-spy software that is not updated daily is ineffective, and even worse, provides the user with a false sense of security that their PC and valuable information is safe and properly protected when the reality is that they are not protected.

    3. Performance. There is a vast difference in this area among anti-malware solutions. There are two ends of the scale. Those solutions that deliver slow steady scanning, consuming little computer resources, and those that scan extremely fast but utilize a high amount of resources. PC owners must choose carefully according to how they use their PC. Decision factors include how often the PC is used, and amount of down time, idle run time, and when each idle run time or down time block occurs per day, week and month.

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    Weigh and Measure

    So now let’s consider both Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials and where they fit within the categories above.

    First, Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials overlap in spyware scanning, removal, prevention, and scheduled scans. However, Microsoft Security Essentials also provides virus scanning and virus infection prevention (Windows Defender does not). Chalk one up for Microsoft Security Essentials.

    Next, both Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials receive updates from the same vendor and on the same schedule. So this particular factor is a moot point.

    So what about performance? Both run quietly in the background, utilizing a small amount of CPU and memory relative to other anti-malware solutions utilizing under 10 MB of memory with only occasional CPU spikes during updates. In addition, they can both be scheduled during times when the computer is not in use. So in the area of performance, both Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials are equal.

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    Final Cut

    Built into Microsoft Security Essentials is a detection mechanism that finds Windows Defender installations. Falling in line with point number two above, when installed on a Windows XP platform this mechanism warns that Windows Defender should be disabled when running Microsoft Security Essentials. On a Windows Vista or Windows 7 platform, Windows Defender is automatically disabled during the installation of MSE.

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    The Verdict

    Microsoft Security Essentials has all the capabilities and features of Windows Defender along with an anti-virus protection and a clean, easy to use interface. If users have a favorite anti-virus security software that they wish to keep (that does not support anti-spy features), Window Defender can meet the need. However, in all other cases Microsoft Security Essentials is the better choice when look for a complete anti-malware package at no cost.