Security

Review: Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus application

Microsoft Security Essentials is the company's foray into the crowded antivirus scanning software market. Justin James reviews it for us.

Main screen

Microsoft Security Essential's main page is very uncluttered and easy to understand. It is a snap to start a scan from here and get a quick status update.

Update

You can easily update Microsoft Security Essentials from the application, or you can rely on its periodic updates that it automatically performs.

Problems listed

Here, you can get a list of all of the problems that Microsoft Security Essentials has found.

Scheduling

Changing the schedule for system scans is very easy.

Severity

Microsoft Security Essentials allows you to configure how it handles threats based on their severity.

Real-time protection

It also allows you to configure its behavior for the real-time protection.

Advanced settings

The "Advanced" settings screen has some very useful items in it. I particularly appreciated that it can create a system restore point before performing the scan.

Action center

This is the Windows 7 "Action Center" showing that Microsoft Security Essentials is protecting my computer.

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

41 comments
apmihai2005
apmihai2005

Microsoft bought a few years ago a romanian antivirus company (from GeCAD) which were at the time competing with BitDefender.

tequila89
tequila89

WIN 7 RC build 7100 - I am using MS security essentials with AVAST (free)- with NO problems. I have used AVAST (free) for about 15 years with NO problems, it works great & has a convenient auto updater when ever I log on or as updates occur while I am on line - I gave up on paid anti-virus programs - more problems than they are worth - many years ago - GO AVAST !!!

Chuck Sherer
Chuck Sherer

The title and the text make the reader think that MSE is an antivirus product only. However, the MSE web page states that MSE does more: "Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software."

david
david

IT COOL TAKES CARE OF SERIOUUS ISSUES ,I HAVE RECOMMENDED TO OVER 50 STUDENTS

anpollo
anpollo

I replaced Trend Micro with it just for test. Seems be fine it found one treat not detected by Trend and is really light on hardware resources

RayG314
RayG314

The installation indicates that in the event malware is detected, information from the system would be sent to Microsoft. Any privacy concerns?

cajun62234
cajun62234

I've just installed it, but would like to know how to turn it 'OFF' for downloading other stuff from the net?? I can't find a link to kill it for a few moments... any ideas??? Thanks in advance

twitteman
twitteman

I agree with Mr. James and have the same observetion: I've been using it, with zero system slowdown Dutch

Carlos.Barajas1
Carlos.Barajas1

Hola, I do thank you for this useful report, but: does this one replace Windows Defender or both are needed to be installed? Thanks again!

ckensek
ckensek

In online reviews in October, both PC Magazine and CRN's Channelweb preferred AVG's product(s) to Microsoft Security Essentials. Products looked at were AVG Internet Security 9.0 and AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 9.0 . Both contain LinkScanner which is designed to provide real-time safe surf protection (linkscanner.avg.com)

Slayer_
Slayer_

No need to change right now, but its worth a look in case I ever get a nasty one that even Avira can't solve.

skcomputing.admin
skcomputing.admin

The user license says it can be used for home or home-based businesses. The article implies it can be used for other small businesses - not true.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I have no way to test its effectiveness. It has a smaller footprint, both in terms of RAM and drive space than McAfee (my previous app).

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

This is our first close look at Microsoft Security Essentials, have you tried it? What did you think?

jdb
jdb

Symantec EndPoint send info to Symantec unless that is turned off. We use Symantec, One-Live-Care Server (moving to ForeFront) and Security Esentials. On different systems. So far the Security Esentials is the easiest to deal with, but that lack of any central controls are a big negitive. Except for home systems, we will end up with Either Symantec or ForeFront.

compuwysepc
compuwysepc

There are 2 ways to disable the Microsoft Security Esssentials, but I don't recommend turning it off when downloading from the internet. That kind of defeats the entire purpose of having security software installed in the first place. But if you're really feeling fortunate you can use 'ctrl+alt+delete' to launch Task Manager and kill the process 'msseces.exe'. A reboot will be required to restart the process. Alternatively; you go to 'Control Panel>Administrative Tools> Services' and stop the 'Microsoft Antimalware Service'. You you will receive a warning that you are not being protected, but at least you can restart the service without having to reboot from there.

apete
apete

. . . and what kind of "stuff" are you trying to download that you would need to turn it off?

Justin James
Justin James

I'm fairly certain that it replaces Defender; Defender is more limited in the things it looks for. J.Ja

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm using Avira at home also. The only hitch is that I have to wait for it to check for updates and plaster a huge "say,.. wanna update to the full paid version?". If I don't, I'll be reading that sometime within the first five to ten minutes of whatever game I'm actually using the system for.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

under a different license that requires purchasing the application / license.

old.dad.72
old.dad.72

I tried Security Essentials and was quite pleased with the program until I wanted to update it. From there on out it was all up hill. I never did get it to respond to the update screen it kept taking me to. If that irritating function was fixed I believe it could be a winner.

harryolden
harryolden

I was using another antivirus program till I got a virus it killed my system this happend 3 times it had taken complete control of my computer, so I have given Microsoft ago and all seems to be running happely till the shit hits the fan will have to see what happends then, all is running fine Capten ahoy Sir BING BING BONG.

catcinq
catcinq

Can't speak for it's efficacy But found it was eating approximately 40% cpu. Admitted my test platform is fairly low powered (Pentium/celeron 2.4G with 760MB RAM) But runs fine with Avira free and Comodo Firewall. Run MalwareBytes on an AdHoc basis to cover other potential issues.

apete
apete

And, finally, Microsoft got its act together. When you install it, it automatically disables Windows Defender. Also, the Installer recommends uninstalling other malware software. (Why wouldn't you, dumb idea to have two competing product that go deep into the OS. That's a long-known good advice. Small footprint, transparent mail scanning (fast), detects and removes malware, adware, trojans, rootkits . . . Are you nuts? . . . Why wouldn't you try it. Merges nicely with the Windows Firewall (Vista, Win7). I used to have 3 icons in the system tray . . . two Avast and Windows Defender. Now I have one icon, and it beat everything I've used before. I was a skeptic until I tried it. It's transparent and part of Windows . . . until it finds a nasty. Then it lets you know it. It's nice to be able to quarantine the offender (which I always do) in case of a false positive. I expect I won't need Avast, AdAware, Spybot, ZoneAlarm, etc. This one replaces them all!

old.dad.72
old.dad.72

I have had Security Essentials on my 64bit computer for about a month, and it appears to be doing a decent job. I also have MalwareBytes and SuperAntispyware Pro on it, working on the presumption that not any program gets everything. I have used these two programs with other products without any problems (AVG and Avast, to name a couple, without any complications. However, I put Security Essentials on a couple of 32bit machines that belonged to a couple of old ladies who live in my apartment complex and Security Essentials didn't like them being on their computers at all. So, as I stated, school is still in session...

compuwysepc
compuwysepc

Security Essentials will work along side of AVG Free 9, but there are some installation issues. Either install AVG 9 first, or kill the msseces.exe process before starting the AVG Free installation or that will fail.

andronin
andronin

I have been using it since release and have been fairly impressed with the lack of performance hit on the two PC's I have it on. So far it has blocked about 40 infection attempts from drive by's and "cleaned" the test flash drive I threw at it with a nice collection of virii on it.

A. J. P. Wall
A. J. P. Wall

A while back I read on a blog somewhere that all AV products catch only about 65% of the malware out there. I believe Microsoft is much more intimate with its code, so it should be able to trap many more problems inserted into its code than other AV vendors. However, will MS Essentials be as thorough detecting problems in non-MS products as another AV product might be? Still, it is free, for the moment, so maybe one should set their expectations accordingly.

Justin James
Justin James

I've been using it for a few weeks now, and I am happy with its lack of impact on my system's performance. J.Ja

Slayer_
Slayer_

Change the NTFS permissions for AvNotify.exe (I think thats what its called) to not have read/execute or delete, but still have write/modify. You can just do it for the system user, or remove all users and just set it for "Everyone". no more nag screen. If you don't give it modify permissions, it will tell you to restart your computer after each update. I took screenshots for a friend on the permissions to set. http://trevorsarchives.selfip.net/funpics/images/Defeat%20Avira/

gatorshop
gatorshop

I installed Security Essentials with AVG Free already in place. a week or so later malware I had managed to pick up somewhere was detected and removed by Security Essentials, AVG didn't detect it. Has got my vote!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've got it on a few testing machines. The only impact has been a lag when reading files. The test machine that is doing that also has Kaspersky (rebranded) installed so it could be that or passing the file through two scanners in a row each read.

compuwysepc
compuwysepc

I also had no issues installing Security Essentials with AVG 8.5 or AVG 9 in place however; updating 8.5 to 9, or installing AVG 9 with Security Essentials in place required additional steps as decribed in my previous post.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Other companies that focus on security and AV may continue to do a better job especially thing's like Fsecure retail versions. I'm interested to see how it goes compared to the free offerings also; MS budget and potential size of bought and collected signature database may make the difference. Anything that can reduce the amount of malwar floating about is worth consideration and MS AV is in a better position than most.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The short answer is that resource usage is not yet a concern in testing. It's a quick and dirty look and I'm more interested in what it may or may not catch in comparison to the existing AV. If resource usage and responsiveness was part of the testing then the older AV would be gone. For now, I'm looking at how effective it is while building trust in it and read over AV comparison sites. My comment on read times was because that's the only thing I've noticed while running it so far. It was more about the not finding anything anything beyond that so far. I included the mention the combination of a second AV to recognize that the momentary pause may be due to the double scan rather than MS AV or the older AV independently. More of a "it's doing X by that may also be due to W or Y being present". MS does have the size and financial pockets to collect a pretty big signature database so there is potential. Now it's a matter of watching how it matured in general use and if it becomes more effective than the other free offerings. Anyhow, it not fighting with other AV is a very nice thing to find. It could prove a good second active scan or simply a manual scan to confirm the finding/cleaning of the active scanner. It also wouldn't break my heart to drop Avira Free for my own use in favor of it.

blackepyon01
blackepyon01

Microsoft makes good stuff, but some of it isn't so good. I personally have a hard time trusting their AV when their popup blocker has trouble. But that's just me. On the other hand, since nobody knows Windows' inner workings like Microsoft, it may be able to run more effectively than some of the other free AVs out there. It'll have to stand the test of the internet to find out. Many free AV soulutions only offer partial protection, limited features, or simply don't protect from as wide a range of badware as the professional products. We'll see how this goes.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

But if you have a substandard testing environment, why do you comment on file reads then? Was it that slow of a day? :)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

My first consideration was if the two AV scanners where going to fight as I've seen Norton and Mcafee on the same machine kill the system. I also wouldn't look at two AV scanners on the same machine for a standard build or production environment. I've also got a test VM with it running beside Fsecure. It seems to run ok along side other AV. Again, I also wouldn't consider this for a production environment or standard build image. In that case, I just dropped it on the VM quick to have a look and haven't had to bump the VM back to a restore point yet so it's still running.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

I wouldn't call that a good test environment.

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