Security

How do I install and configure Microsoft Security Essentials?

Mark Kaelin walks you through the steps required to install and configure Microsoft Security Essentials, a free anti-virus and anti-malware app.

It may be unfortunate, but the reality of the situation cannot be denied -- we live in a time where computer viruses, malware, spyware, Trojan horses, keyloggers, and other nefarious dangers are everywhere. Connecting a computer to a network, especially a network connected to the Internet, should never happen without at least the bare minimum of protections.

Microsoft Security Essentials is a decent antivirus and antimalware application available for free from Microsoft. It integrates seamlessly with the Windows operating system and takes up very little system resources. Installing Microsoft Security Essentials and running the required initial updates and configuration is relatively straightforward.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download and in a Photo Gallery.

Download

As you can see in Figure A, if your computer has no antivirus software, you will get some dire warnings in the Security Action Center. You navigate to the Security Action Center through the Control Panel.

Figure A

Heed dire warnings in the Security Action Center.
We can fix these problems in one action, by downloading and installing Microsoft Security Essentials. The first thing to do is go to the Web site and start the download, as shown in Figure B. You should also uninstall any previously installed antivirus software to avoid conflicts.

Figure B

Download the client.
When the Microsoft Security Essentials download starts, click the Run button, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Click Run.
The download and install is very quick. You won't even have time to go and get a cup of coffee (Figure D).

Figure D

The download happens in no time at all.
Figure E shows Microsoft Security Essentials ready to install and explain what it is designed to do.

Figure E

Microsoft Security Essentials is now ready to install.
Of course, you will have to accept the licensing agreement (Figure F) and validate that your copy of the Windows operating system is genuine (Figure G).

Figure F

Accept the license.

Figure G

Validate Windows.
The ready-to-install screen (Figure H) reminds you to uninstall previously installed antivirus applications. It would have been much timelier to have received this suggestion earlier as I suggested.

Figure H

Finally, you're ready to install.

Update

Once Microsoft Security Essentials is installed (Figure I), it will immediately update itself with the latest antivirus definitions (Figure J). This is an important step, as new variations of viruses and malware are released into the wild on a daily basis. No matter which antivirus software you choose to use, always keep it up to date.

Figure I

Microsoft Security Essentials is now installed.

Figure J

Update definitions.
Once the updates are in place, my test PC goes from a red warning that my computer is at risk to a green declaration that my PC is protected, as you can see in Figure K.

Figure K

My PC is now protected.
As further proof, head back to the Security Action Center (Figure L) and check the status of my PC now.

Figure L

Security is back.

Configure

From the main page of the Microsoft Security Essentials client application (Figure M), you can see the status of your computer's antivirus security and perform a manual scan. From the other tabs on this screen you can manually ask for virus definition updates and check the history of antivirus activity performed by the application.

Figure M

Configure your computer's antivirus secutiry on the main page.
On the last tab (Figure N), you can set a scheduled time to perform a Microsoft Security Essentials scan. The default is once a week, but you have flexibility to set the schedule to suit your needs.

Figure N

Set a scanning schedule.

Bottom line

Whether you are an individual computer user or the manager of an entire department of Internet-connected computers, the need for antivirus applications is very real. While Microsoft Security Essentials may be merely basic protection, it is an important first line of defense that can work for almost anyone or any organization. With the benefit of a clean install and tight integration with the Windows operating system, it is worth a look no matter how many computers are involved.

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About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

114 comments
Trentski
Trentski

All IT pros have installed this, having a how to for this really isn't necessary

phawtrey
phawtrey

It would be useful if someone could address the problems we face installing MSE when we already have anti-virus software running, like Norton et al.

jminifie
jminifie

I'm afraid to install MSE since I had a bad experience with MS's Genuine Advantage s/w. I installed it (a GA update) on my laptop and kept getting reminders to activate MS Office s/w that had been activated years ago. MS reluctantly removed the GA update and my system went back to normal.

rocketmouse
rocketmouse

The original MSE was running fine, and playing nice with the AV products I re-installed after installing it. But, then came the upgrade to 2. I've now uninstalled more stuff than I had uninstalled originally and to top it off a partial install of 2 (it crapped out part way) got rid of the original but won't let itself be uninstalled - just wants me to restart and try again. That goes for both the install package and the uninstall process. I've now re-downloaded it three times (from the MS source) in case it had been corrupted, but so far I've had no luck. I've cleaned up the registry, scanned for problems, etc. but I think I need help beyond "restart and try again."

icedcoke15
icedcoke15

How can i install MSE in a different drive? I have my system disk frozen so as to prevent my youngsters from breaking my system. Currently i have to unfreeze my pc once in a while to update the definitions.

jpbrowning
jpbrowning

Update is disabled when you are behind a proxy server. I'm fairly certain that the program only allows updates in an environment where the computer is directly connected to the internet. JPBrowning browninglegal.com/wordpress_tech

snarf54
snarf54

I cannot find a solution if yoiu are behind a proxy server details set in IE. Any solution available ?

DHCDBD
DHCDBD

A little late, but my $.02. A long time ago I used Zonelabs firewall and AV because they were integrated. I learned the hard way not to use any integrated product. Now I have a hardware firewall, software firewall by one company and AV by a third. I found that I can stop one companies snooping by using another companies product. Flashback to today, MS is using data collection practices written at the kernel level (if not explain all that encrypted traffic in the firewall logs on a monitoring machine), why would I want to add another product that opens even more holes for a company that entered into a settlement with DOJ that allows reporting to that and other Gvmnt firms?

tnboren
tnboren

Interestingly, upon downloading and running for the first time, after scanning memory it immediately starts scanning in the windows directory instead of aphabetically like most scanners do.

datdof
datdof

So that means that I have to uninstall McAfee and any other protection already on the PC. Currently, I believe that McAfee and others compete for memory and cause serious slow down. However, it seems no single package is adequeate. Will MSE be just another inadequate package that will cause problems if I attempt to supplement it?

ckensek
ckensek

It's free for home use only, but PC Magazine preferred AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition in a review written in October.

p_antonacci
p_antonacci

If SE is set it for a full scan it checks all mapped networked drives. When I try to exclude mapped drives, the only ones that show up as being available to be excluded are the local drives. Has anyone else run into this?

hoien
hoien

Can this be installed on business PC's? Or is it home use only?

ExcitingMike
ExcitingMike

We have company sales people who use personally owned laptops rather than corporate owned. Until recently I was allowed to install our company Trend A/V s/w on these machines but our corp. policy changed when we switched to Forefront. Our Corp. IT dept. suggested that our sales force d/l and install MSSE so that it what I have been doing for them. I also started using this on personal friends' PCs and laptops since AVAST started forcing a nagging re-register every 60 days. I recently disinfected a HD which was heavily plagued with several viruses including OLDIE Vundo.troj. This desktop had a current subscription-paid version of McAfee Security Suite. I ripped that out and installed MSSE and just for fun tried to infect with one of the viruses that was on it, it caught it immediately. I am installing this on all my friends/family PCs now.

rheinhard
rheinhard

I've installed Win7 64-Bit together with "Security Essentials" 3 times all with the same bad results. By bad results I mean that while trying to scroll through a huge amount of files the icons sort of freeze up. It takes the "Explorer" about 3 to 5 seconds before he moves to the next file to display the icons. Without "Security Essentials" installed everything runs smoothly. I run a 2.9 MHz ADM Processor with 8 GB ram. Please excuse my bad english.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

But back in 2010 when this was published it was a lot more relevant than it is today. ;) Col

JCitizen
JCitizen

that could be authorized under an update issue; even if you have an OEM installation, Microsoft will give you free phone support, and maybe even remote in to fix your problem. You will have to follow the paid support link at the MS site, though. They should not attempt to bill you though, because it is an update issue. The only way I can see around this, is if MS claims this isn't an integral part of the operating system and isn't available at the update site. I was pretty sure I saw MSE as an option on the update page for XP. Last I checked. With Vista/Win7 probably not. What could it hurt to try?

DNSB
DNSB

I tend to suspect that someone is using RemoveWAT (Windows Activation Technology) to bypass Microsoft's activation/antipiracy checks. If that is the case, any problems are your own to deal with.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's why it's recommended you only run one AV app at a time. What's 'WAT'?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Interesting. What AV and what is WAT which Security Essentials is conflicting with? Having seen McAfee and Symantec on the same machine break things badly I was surprised to find MSE ran well beside my other active AV. MSE + Avira, AVG or Kaspersky seems to be ok but that's not an indication that it'll conflict with no other option.

JCitizen
JCitizen

you already have the guaranteed solution to the malware problem if you use Deep Freeze by Faronics or the free Steady State by MS for XP. So you could say, that simply updating it less would be okay. I've never looked at installing an AV solution to any other drive, because I've always understood that to truly protect the boot drive, the AV has to be installed on it. In fact you only need anti-virus to protect you while you are installing new hardware/software, and updating your operating system, so that is the ONLY time you need to update it. Just make sure you do that first, before completing the other tasks. It would be more important to update your malware protection during sessions online, as this would protect the current internet session from spyware. Using services that don't need much updating like Keyscrambler, LastPass, or Rapport, would be a good idea in that environment. CCleaner would help keep your temp files and cookies that guide them, from doing harm to anything existing during the extant session as well. Bottom line is that you have little to fear if you have the drive locked - other than what you've just downloaded during the real time sessions online. That is only a malware problem in your case; and running CCleaner several times a day can eliminate almost all threats in this case.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

For a proxy, one would likely need to set it at the OS level so all traffic tries to go out it. Proxy settings in IE may help also if MSE is using IE; it is using the Update service as it won't update if that is disabled.

kitekrazy
kitekrazy

I ran AVG Free for a long time. When v9 came out it killed the network on my HTPC. So it's gone. I always used Zone Alarm Pro, but when I installed MSE, my browser would freeze. If you go over to the Zone Labs forums, their solution is to remove anything that conflicts with Zone Lab products. The impression is if you want everything to work, then all of your security apps should be from Zone Labs. I don't like when developers blame everyone else for their product's bad behavior. I HATE security suites. I prefer my security apps a la carte. Suites=bloat. So I dumped ZAP, kept MSE. If it gets to the point security software conflicts with each other, I'd rather have a naked system. I've removed viruses before and it isn't the hassle at times when compared with getting security apps to play nice. Part of me doesn't trust MSE but I've ran online scans and it seems to be working. At least they got the idea right. It's there but not in your face. Seems like all the AV companies forgot that.

mike
mike

I got to say that since roughly November 2009 I have a had a rash of clinets get this damn Insternet Securtiy 2010 BS on thier systems. some infections worse than others. A rash of systems is just about every major and minor AV-malware protection available. Anyone seen if MSSE can stop it? Mike R Edit for spelling :(

PoppaTab
PoppaTab

I used a free McAfee suite from my ISP. It had 16 processes running on my XP machine. The ISP recently changed from McAfee to Norton. Running system processes went from 66 to 49 with the Norton offering installed. Not much to review yet with Norton, but I have had MSE on my Windows 7 pro machine. MSE is a "set it and forget it" type of AV that has a very low impact on the machine. I'm currently running a beta of Vipre suite and not seeing much difference. Paying for one of the huge system impact AV suites just doesn't make sense. Responsible web surfing is required with any AV products to keep you out of trouble anyway.

jim
jim

I became disgusted with AVG and Avira when they became bloatware like Norton. Within 24 hours of the official release of Security Essentials I have been ripping out all other AV products and replacing with this. Supposedly clean machines are found to have virii and trojans etc that were missed by AVG and Avira. Gave up on Norton and McAfee as bad jokes a long time ago. I say this although in the past I have been a constant basher of Microsoft. This just works and is effective. Remove all other AV products before installing. I suggest XP with SP3 and .Net 3.5 before installing. Install, run full scan and then install/run Little Registry Cleaner and ATF-Cleaner. Have it on a few Win 7 test machines as well. First MS product in a long time that I am enthused about. Way more enthused about it than I am about Win7. Jim H

JCitizen
JCitizen

I must admit, I don't see a lot of advertising for AVG in magazines, but AVG has been nothing but a qualified disaster for my clients. DON'T DO IT!! I do not work for any person or company; I just hate malware to pieces!

Northlite
Northlite

but was MS SE still in beta at that time? I have only been installing it on personal computers that need something for a little over a month now I think.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Do you remember the short list of key points for each offhand?

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

I believe the EULA says for small, home-based businesses. I run it where I work, which is a small home-based business.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We're considering dropping McAfee for Forefront. What do you think of the product? Do you have links to resources that would be helpful to get started? The site for Forefront is a typical MS page - long on marketing, short on useful 'how to' information.

john.light
john.light

This is a great article for individuals but any way to mass install and configure; silently. Does MS support that? Has anyone dumped their old AV for MSSE at a corporate level?

JCitizen
JCitizen

I certainly understood very well! Thanks rheinhard for the input. I hadn't tried it on by x64 system yet. So far the following work very well: 1. Avast 2. Norton Internet Security 2010 3. NOD32(pure 64 bit version coming) So far the majority of viruses are 32 bit, but I figure the 64 bit variety are already hidden among us!

bsmi021
bsmi021

make sure you down loaded and installed the 64 bit version of ms security, if not it may cause your issues, to get the 64 bit version click on other versions below the download button click TWICE on the version you need your case 64 bit and install that version ( uninstall first) see if that helps if not run a online scan from someone and run ccleaner to see if there is some else there and see.

Northlite
Northlite

It would appear that something else running on your computer is making SE stumble and fall, 3-5 second delays on a scroll means it's not keeping up well and something is preventing it from being a smooth process. You may need to consider some other free program for your needs and revisit SE at a later time to see if this bug has been worked out.

harryolden
harryolden

I have been running the sofware from the beginning, and find it excelent it has picked up numerous viruses and has stopt code from operating I do not use malware anymore Cheers Harry

JCitizen
JCitizen

get along very well with both real time protections schemes enabled. Prevx apparently works at a different level in the kernel than Avast. I saw absolutely no conflict in the event viewer for Vista x64 on those two solutions. I don't run them together anymore, because Prevx and Rapport don't get along. I am guessing the person meant WOT instead of WAT. [b]W[/b]eb [b]O[/b]f [b]T[/b]rust? NIS 2010 and AdAware with anti-virus supposedly get along if you configure the Norton console to allow it, but after seeing the normal conflict in the console history, I didn't see any need to run those two together anymore. Even turning off the anti-virus real time protection in AdAware didn't help. I just did not trust this arrangement. The only way to get it to shut off was to use the free version; so I don't buy it anymore. I swear the free one works better!

JCitizen
JCitizen

but as others have said; MBAM rocks! The real time protection is well under 30 bucks for LIFETIME protection!! Without the real-time protection most freebee malware utilities can't help. AdAware free used to be able to nail Internet Security 2009, but I can't vouch for the new heuristic kernel Lavasoft came out with a few months ago.

supermariodood
supermariodood

Yea, we've had about 7 incidents with Antivirus Live and IS2010. First one showed up in November last year, and they seem to be getting more and more difficult to clean. I just cleaned a PC using MalwareBytes, but I had to do some cleaning up before i could even install it.

JCitizen
JCitizen

system performance is so abysmal with McAfee I can't see how my one stubborn client that uses it, can stand it. I bet high odds that malware is slowing that PC down too!!

In2TheBlues
In2TheBlues

I'm not an IT specialists just an avid reader and self made geek of sorts. Myself, I have always followed the rule of thumb of not more than one AV running at the same time. And like many of you commenting here, I have also had my share of bad experiences with Norton's and MacAfee's bloated software and gave up on them years ago. Following that I have been alternating between AVG and Avast the past 4 years using the one that performs the best for me at the time. They have both gone through many changes and right now Avast is my choice and is the one that works for me. As I'm typing this my PC is currently running MSE and the new and current Avast together and I have not experienced any conflicts or problems whatsoever. I run these 2 AV programs together along with Spybot Search and Destroy, Lavasoft Adaware, and Spyware Blaster. All are configured at the setting 'realtime protection' and running in the background. I only recently added MSE to this mix (2 weeks ago) and the thought of running running 2 AV's at the same time together never really entered my mind for some reason or other until reading this post and all of your comments. It was totally accidental that I did that. For right now I'm just going to stick with what I got and use the mentality "if it ain't broke don't fix it" attitude. And if necessary I will make the proper changes accordingly if I experience any problems with this configuration in the future. I tend to believe and am sure that most of you do too, that some things work for some people on some machines and not for others on other machines. It is often a case of trial and error and coming up with a happy medium and the right solution depending mainly on what hardware and software that you are using or have installed on your machine.

AstroCreep
AstroCreep

Like all free AV products, this one is for private, home use. With that said, they do also say it can be used for "Home-based small businesses". I don't know how it compares to Forefront, but that is the "Corporate" AV/threat monitoring app Microsoft is authoring these days.

JCitizen
JCitizen

thanks for the post; I should put that on my next test list! :p

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'll replace 'All' with 'Most'. ThreatFire plays nicely with Avast, McAfee, and MSE in my experience, but I don't consider it AV as much as anti-malware.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I may switch my older PCs to it. I prefer Avast for now, I'm using the paid version. I recommend swapping the free version of AdAware for Spybot Search & Destroy. I've noticed performance gains over SS&D for 3 years now. I'm afraid the old soldier is obsolete. However, I have been tempted to download it and only enable the Tea Timer, as Lavasoft doesn't give their registry protection away for free. The sad thing is AdAware Plus(Paid version) is so bloated I can't stand it, and I couldn't wait for the subscription to expire so I could revert to the free one. I would gladly pay a stipend for the AdWatch malware protection, as it speeds my browsing tremendously. I'm not sure how they are doing that!!

JCitizen
JCitizen

definitely a bad happening if your a non-profit! Those kind of organizations don't like the bad publicity; most of them adhere to licensing standards like glue!!!

AstroCreep
AstroCreep

After all, how do software manufacturers/distributors find out about users (personal or corporate) who abuse license agreements? It's usually disgruntled employees or people who have had negative dealings with a company and turn them in to the BSA.

xtra
xtra

Hey Astro, What do you think - do free AV postings provide a treasure trove for license enforcement staff? Seems to me like loose lips could cost big bucks. jh

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