Microsoft Security Essentials Review: Free AntiVirus Software for Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP

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Microsoft has been offering free anti-spyware software since 2005 following their acquisition GIANT Antispyware. The first and free antispyware by Microsoft was Windows Defender (former name is Microsoft Anti-Spyware). Microsoft is also offering Windows Live OneCare as fee-based anti-malware program, but they announced last year that it will be discontinued by the end of this month, June 30, 2009.

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) will replace Windows Live OneCare but will not entirely replace Windows Defender - you can either stick with Windows Defender or replace it with MSE but you should install MSE without another real-time antivirus protection. Microsoft made MSE has reach its final build and is available for public. It’s no longer a beta product which means you can now take advantage of it. So, is Microsoft Security Essentials be an effective antivirus program? Some of us have seen the antivirus testing report last June by AV Comparatives. Microsoft’s anti-malware joins Kaspersky and ESET in receiving the highest certification level. However, it received standard level when AV-Comparatives run another test during August 2009 but the detection rate is 90%. That shows that MSE has the potential to be an effective antivirus program as long as Microsoft continues to add detection signatures for known and zero day malware as fast as they can.

Installation and System Requirements (5 out of 5)

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) can only be installed if you have Windows XP with SP2 or SP3, Vista and Windows 7 systems

Installing MSE is straightforward by accepting the EULA then validating Windows. Since the product is offering real-time anti-virus and other malware protection, you need to uninstall the other antivirus program to avoid conflict.

The program will check for updates and offer to scan the system after installation. No reboot is required so you can start configuring MSE and use the protection.

Features and Options (5 out of 5)

The key feature of MSE is to protect the system against threats using its on-access and on-demand scanner and removal. MSE will detect spyware, virus, worm, Trojans, potentially unwanted programs and other type of malware. It does not include firewall protection because Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 have built-in firewall already.

You can opt to scan using Full, Quick or Custom scan. The program can be configured to scan removable drives (flash, USB drives) and archives. Another option in MSE is the exclusions of folder, file types, processes and drive. You can right-click a file, folder or drive for MSE to scan or use the schedule scan option in the program.

Like Windows Defender, MSE also includes Microsoft Spynet that will send to Microsoft Research Team the suspicious files or detected items that requires analysis. Allowing the program to send the files to research center will help in protecting not only your computers but all end-users of MSE and Windows Defender.

Updating Microsoft Security Essentials (3 out of 5)

It’s not required to turn on Automatic Updates (AU) in Windows to get the updates to MSE. You can continue to use “Notify you for updates” in AU. If you prefer to turn off AU, you should configure MSE to run a scheduled scan (quick scanning for example) and choose to check for updates before the scan. This means if you have daily scheduled scan, you have scheduled too the daily checking and download of detection updates for MSE.

The Update tab has “update” button that will connect to Microsoft Update servers. Other method is to update isby downloading the daily updates from Microsoft website. You can also download the update via Windows Update website. Watch the Microsoft Malware Protection Portal pages also for links in downloading the definitions for MSE or MSAM: Microsoft Malware Protection Portal

Update: The new build of Microsoft Security Essentials v1.0.1611.0 will now automatically update its definitions without the need to turn on Automatic Update feature in Windows.

Performance and Effectiveness (4 out of 5)

MSE is light to use while you are scanning or when the product is running. I run a test for the detection capability of MSE: Out of 201 samples, MSE detected 153 items. Not bad detection by MSE - the excellent NOD32 detected only a handful more items (165).

Price to Value (5 out of 5)

It’s free and effective. What more can I say?


Microsoft Security Essentials is light-weight and has good detection capabilities. Highly recommended.


User Interface of MSE

Alerts by MSE

Real-time Protection’s Threat Alert

Virtual Memory Usage