Microsoft Security Essentials – Is it Worth Installing?

I get my dose of daily humor by reading certain other tech writers and reviewers, and yes, I know it sounds somewhat sacrilegious. But there you have it.

The ones that make me laugh the loudest, are those who will never admit that Microsoft EVER does anything right. The ones I like to call – the Microsoft haters and baiters. The sense of arrogance they display is truly mind numbing. People who couldn’t write a line of code on a bet, are operating system experts!

Equally as funny, at least to me, are the so called security experts who run a security application in a one time 30 minute test, and then pontificate as to the strengths and weaknesses of that particular application. As if real world conditions have no place in a review!

A case in point is the latest security application, Microsoft Security Essentials, just released by Microsoft as a freebie; a free replacement application for the late, and unlamented, Windows Live OneCare. Since it’s Microsoft, and for all the usual silly reasons, the reviews of Microsoft Security Essentials, by well known reviewers, are all over the place.

I’ve been running Security Essentials as a beta tester for months on my Win 7 machine, backed up by my usual, on demand, security applications, including Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware and SUPERAntiSpyware and I’ll state, without any hesitation, I’m impressed.

MS Security Essentials

I contrast my own experience, the experiences of other beta testers, known to me, as well as the experiences of beta testers I read in online forums, which have been overwhelmingly positive, with these shoddy reviews which in some cases contain incorrect information. Information, which would not have been included, if the reviewer had actually tested Security Essentials under real world conditions, or for more than 30 minutes.

MS Security Essentials 2

In my view these nonsense reviews, and the dissing of Microsoft, is not unlike the unflattering reviews that surrounded Vista on its release. Frankly, I have yet to meet an average user, running Vista, who is dissatisfied with Vista as an operating system. Go figure!

MS Security Essentials 3

Her are the Microsoft Security Essentials facts, as I see them:

Easy to set up and run, particularly for new users.

The interface is positively simple offering Quick Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan.

Scans all drives including removable drives, and creates a system restore point

Full real time protection against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

The Dynamic Signature Service (DSS), a technology that helps ensure users are protected by the most current virus definitions available, without having to wait for the next scheduled download, is a major positive step for the average user.

Using DSS, Security Essentials validates suspicious files in near real time – a huge advantage for average users.

Actions from unknown sources such as unexpected network connections, attempts to modify privileged parts of the system or the downloading of known malware, all trigger requests for updates from DSS – another major advantage for the average user.

Runs unobtrusively in the background with an easy to understand warning system. Green – you’re good to go. Yellow – caution. Red – action required.

Very lightweight in terms of system resource usage – as opposed to some security applications that are well known resource hogs.

Malware identification and removal, in my experience, has been much better than average in real time extended testing, and not just in a 30 minute wonder test!

Quick scans are very fast, but full scans are slightly slower than average. However, if I’m infected, fast or slow is not a personal consideration – detection and removal of malware is.

Conclusion: Microsoft Security Essentials is a no cost viable alternative to overhyped and overpriced more familiar security applications.

System requirements: Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7

Download at: Microsoft

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34 Comments

Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Microsoft, Online Safety, rootkits, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

34 responses to “Microsoft Security Essentials – Is it Worth Installing?

  1. Kai

    Thanks for the article, Bill. I’ve been running MSE for a couple of months too and it’s a really nice piece of software. It doesn’t slow down the system at all and the proactive protection is excellent.

    I do, however, experience random high CPU usage at times. I read something about this issue back then and it seems to be a bug or an incompatibility problem with other running apps. I just hope they fix it for the next update.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Kai,

      Like you I found the proactive protection, excellent. This, in fact, was the principal reason I became convinced that MSE should be a keeper on my Win 7 system.

      I haven’t heard of the random high CPU usage and I’ll have to check this out. Thanks for the tip.

      Bill

  2. proview

    Bill, to answer your question I say yes, it’s worth installing. In fact I already have done and so far, so good.

    It’s running on this system now and it seems to be a very lightweight piece of software, in terms of resource usage. Painless install, updates fine, scans reasonably quickly, although the full scan did take a little longer than other free AV’s I’ve used but that doesn’t bother me too much.

    I am not a Microsoft hater, far from it, and I really do hope that they develop MSE properly as time goes on and turn it into a top product, they seem to be off to a good start so far. I think they should have done this years ago, personally.

    It’s too early to tell how well it compares to the competition but I’m prepared to put my trust in it and see how it performs for me.

    I do get tired of the ‘which is the best’ debates and I believe that Microsoft have the ability, and certainly the knowledge, to put MSE up there with the very best in the market. So let’s hope they step up to the mark with this because I think it could greatly benefit many average users today.

    I’ll run it for a good while, alongside a decent firewall, and see how it goes, although as of now I don’t envisage having any problems with it. I’m quite impressed with it.

    Cheers.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Proview,

      Thanks for the support on this. It seems you and I have had basically the same experience with this program, including the slightly slower than average full scanning time. Like you, I’m not concerned with slower scan times – I just want the job done properly.

      I throughly agree with you on ‘which is the best’ debate. Reviewers seem to think that both malware and applications are static, when the truth is change, in both conditions, is the norm.

      Bill

      • proview

        Well, I agree that some reviewers have their own agenda. I’m just hoping that the people at Microsoft are reading them and it inspires them to take up the challenge, roll their sleeves up and prove the doubters wrong.

        Going back to the issue that Kai raised, I have to say that I’ve not experienced any high CPU usage myself, MSE seems to tick over nicely for me so perhaps it depends on the apps you’re running with it.

        Maybe this link will be of use to some of your readers;

        http://answers.microsoft.com/en-gb/protect/default.aspx

        There’s some helpful MSE advice and a user forum.

        • Bill Mullins

          Hey Proview,

          I monitor my CPUs fairly closely, always on the lookout for unusual activity, and I’m not seeing any unusual CPU cycles either with MSE . I think you’re right – particular apps may cause a minor problem. If so, MS will work this out.

          Curiously, Microsoft dropped by my site today just minutes after I put up this article, so it appears that they may be testing the waters in terms of the acceptance of MSE by the tech community. On the less than candid reviewers out there, I’m with you – “I’m just hoping that the people at Microsoft are reading them and it inspires them to take up the challenge, roll their sleeves up and prove the doubters wrong”. Well put.

          Talk to ya later,

          Bill

  3. I also had a good experience with Microsoft Security Essentials I was running on my old PC and would’ve put it on my new one but the beta was no longer offered. I find it as light weight as Avast or Avira and easier to use. I used Norton antivirus 2009 and found it much better than the older versions but I’m not sure there’s a need with products as good as Security Essentials.
    Mark

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Mark,

      Your comment really sums up the benefit of running with MSE – it’s easy to use. I often wonder if most AV developers have ever heard of an “average user”. With some AV apps, one needs to be a techno wizard just to get them to run.

      I’ve heard good things about Norton 2009 but you’re right, a free application like MSE does call the price consideration into question. There is a lot of talk in the security business, at the moment, as to how the “pay for” guys are going to handle such a strong application as MSE. Initially, it seems to me, certain reviewers are literally paid assassins, writing pathetic nonsense reviews on MSE.

      Talk to ya later,

      Bill

  4. from me experience with the beta, MSE is definitely a winner. Totally worth installing.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Jgoto,

      Glad to hear that you agree on MSE, especially given that you’re a tech and beta tester.

      Thanks for this.

      Bill

  5. Hello Bill,
    I want to try MSE but is it alright to run it in tandem NOD32 for awhile or do you think they will conflict?

    • Bill Mullins

      Hi Leo,

      As a rule of thumb, it’s never really a good idea to run 2 antimalware applications concurrently. At the very least, system resources take an inappropriate and wasteful hit. Beyond that, serious issues including system crashes, are common.

      If you are interested in trying MSE, it needs to run as your principal security application. You can of course continue to run NOD32 (a great application in my view), as a secondary scanner, say once a week or so. You will need to stop NOD32 from starting automatically with Windows, by adjusting this in the program’s preferences tab.

      As I stated in the article, I run a number of secondary scanners (being the kind of paranoid surfer that I am), every day, and I strongly recommend that my readers do so as well. After the secondary scanner has finished, it’s important to remember to properly exit the program.

      Bill

  6. nice post, usefull information, I would like know more about it
    thank you

  7. Andrew

    I’ve been testing MSE for a couple of months now and MSE is a fantastic product. I’ve tested MSE against hardcore malware on a daily basis and MSE has taken on the hardcore malwar and defeated them ALL. I have tested numerous security apps and MSE is one of the best I have tested ( I did not think I would be saying that about a Microsoft antivirus).

    The CPU is an issue at the beginning but it does calm down after a day or two,my vista laptop had CPU issues buy my XP computer has had no issues whilst running MSE.

    To be totally safe, whilst surfing the Internet use a product like “SANDBOXIE” or “GESWALL” to run along side MSE.

    MSE has changed the face of the antivirus world for ever. Goodbye Malware & well done Microsoft.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Andy,

      Good to have another tester weigh in on this. I agree with you – “MSE has changed the face of the antivirus world for ever”. This is one industry that needs a complete shake up, in my opinion.

      You’re quite right in your advice on SANDBOXIE and “GESWALL. I’ve been testing GESWALL for several months now, and I have to say I’m impressed. In fact, I’ve reviewed both of these apps on this site.

      Bill

      • Kai

        Bill,

        Do you run Geswall with UAC disabled?

        kai

        • Bill Mullins

          Hey Kai,

          No, I think UAC performs a very valuable function, so I would never turn it off. Nor would I recommend that anyone turn it off – it acts as another layer in overall security.

          Currently 67 of my applications run isolated from the system via GESwall.

          Bill

  8. Kai

    Bill,

    Then how do you flag a downloaded file as trusted with Geswall? UAC won’t let me do it.

    kai

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Kai,

      Make sure you are running, or installing, the application with administrator rights. Right click on the file, choose “run as Administrator” before executing. If this doesn’t help, checkout

      GesWall Free Edition Questionson Wilders Security Forums. Sorry I can’t be more specific – I just don’t have the time today.

      Bill

  9. Hi Bill,

    I just downloaded MSE on your recommendation. I have been using avast but I find it always downloads updates when I start my laptop, and they take quite a while to download.

    I just wanted to ask: I have run SUPERAntiSpyware alongside avast for a while. Is it safe to run MSE alongside my SUPERAntiSpyware? It seems okay at the moment but will it cause any problems?

    Thanks Bill.

    Paul

    • Bill Mullins

      Hi Paul,

      There is nothing to be gained by running 2 anti-malware applications side by side. In fact, not only are system resources being utilized unnecessarily, but at some point, conflict is almost inevitable. I’ve been running with just MSE alone for 6 months or more, on my home machine. In that time, I have not had to deal with a virus, or any other form of malware, even though I go places on the Internet I would never recommend to my readers. LOL!

      For testing purposes of course, I purposely infect special test bed computers to observe how well a particular AV recognizes and disinfects. During the tests I ran with MSE, it proved to be better than average at both identification and removal, and so the strong recommendation.

      If you decide to run with MSE only, stop SUPERAntiSpyware from starting with Windows by changing your preferences in the preference tab of SUPERAntiSpyware. Continue to use SUPERAntiSpyware as an on demand scanner once or twice a week by starting from the program menu, or desktop.

      BTW, you can stop any program that requires updating from doing so automatically, by adjusting the preferences menu within the application. There is nothing more annoying than having to wait while an application updates when you first start up. Yikes!

      Talk to ya later,

      Bill

  10. Thanks Bill,

    You cleared up a few things for me. Your advice is much appreciated.

    I’ll do as you suggest and use SUPERAntiSpyware as a backup scanner.

    Thanks for getting back to me.

    Paul

  11. Pingback: Microsoft Security Essentials | The window to my world

  12. Hi Bill,

    Just wanted to say that when I ran a scan with MSE it actually found a trojan that Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware and Avast all missed. I was frankly amazed.

    I know it wasn’t a new infection, as it was in a piece of software I downloaded a while back.

    I thought my machine was clean. It just shows.

    I’m going to keep MSE as my main program.

    Thanks again Bill.

    Paul

    • Bill Mullins

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you for this very important comment.

      I keep reminding people how important it is not to rely on just one anti-malware application, for the very reason you have just discovered. The resistance factor however, still remains very high.The computer security industry has done a masterful job of convincing average users, that a single application is sufficient protection – and that is definitely not in the best interest of an average user.

      The issue is not that a particular product is bad (although too many are useless), it’s simply the overwhelming number of malware samples which make it difficult for a single company to keep up. Thankfully, we have a number of free applications that are very capable.

      I’m glad you didn’t suffer any permanent damage.

      Talk to ya later,

      Bill

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  14. Tim Gardner

    Hey Bill,

    I have been beta testing MSE for a while and it’s not bad… for free. One thing to keep in mind with with MSE is that is relies pretty much entirely on definition based detection and lacks more advanced detection methods found in many other paid security apps. It does lack a lot of the bloat you find with many other paid security apps, but it also lacks a lot of other mechanism used to protect your PC. Most notable is that is lacks email scanning. One of the biggest pipelines that malware has into your system. I do agree that it is a good alternative to other free security apps but not to other paid apps that offer much better security. You have to compare apples to apple and not apples to oranges. I will say that if I was going to rely on a free solution I would definitely look at MSE. But I think better security is well worth the investment. In my opinion free security is not worth the price you pay for lack of better security. Personally I use VIPRE by Sunbelt Software and their firewall. Together they offer outstanding protection at a very attractive price and not at the cost of slowing down the computer.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Tim.

      I agree that MSE’s shortfall in not scanning local email, will be a consideration for some prospective users. On the other hand, most casual, or average users, choose web based email solutions, so this is not likely to be a major consideration.

      I’m very familiar with Sunbelt’s VIPRE, and I share your enthusiasm for this application. Without a doubt, it is a highly effective security solution and I must admit, I find the cost very attractive.

      Alex Eckelberry, on the Sunbelt Blog (one of my favorite reads), provided a very balanced view on MSE, in my opinion. His statement – “The incumbents should not underestimate the wrath that many users have about their products. It’s not all fair — there have been many improvements (especially Symantec, which has done a truly remarkable job with their latest releases). But the anger is there, and you see it all the time on listservs, forums, etc. This emotional reaction may play a part in Microsoft getting traction”, dovetails with my own statement in a sense – “Microsoft Security Essentials is a no cost viable alternative to* overhyped and overpriced* more familiar security applications”.

      I’m not suggesting that all security developers “overhype” their products, but far too many are less than candid on the efficiency of their applications.

      Thank you for your comment – you have provided a well balanced counter view, and I appreciate that.

      Bill

  15. Hi Bill,

    I must confess that I like MSE. I’ve been running it since the beta release on one machine and IObit Security 360 on another.

    MSE has performed extremely well and stops most malware as it enters the system before it can do any damage whereas IObit allows users to download it and then blocks on execution.

    I’ve heard all the gripes about MS, but if it’s really so bad then why the hell are they all using Windows?

    Although MSE is claimed to be a realtime antivirus and antimalware, it is also designed to run alongside an antivirus – Alwil and MS working together to ensure compatibility for example.

    MSE could well change the way that other vendors package their products .

    I have found that several users are installing MSE alongside IObit, MBAM Pro and SUPER Pro and have had to remind them of the golden rules: 1 realtime antivirus, 1 realtime antimalware, 1 firewall, secondary scanners no problems, but need to be kept in moderation without bloating the system.

    For me, MSE is a keeper and like many others I visit many malicious sites….it adds to the fun :)

    For the average user this will be an ideal solution and at the best cost….FREE!

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Colin,

      Great comment! Thanks for the info on IObit 360 – I was thinking of giving it a spin. Like you, I tested MSE alongside a number of antivirus products and found no compatibility issues. But…….

      I agree with you – MSE is going to have a substantial impact on the malware industry; if we’re lucky truth in advertising, will be the first change.

      Glad to hear you’re a “darkside surfer” as well – we gotta have some kind of fun. LOL!!

      Talk to ya later,

      Bill * Note to readers:* Check out Colin’s site *Free PC Security* – definitely worth a visit. just click on Colin’s name in the previous comment.

  16. Hey Bill,

    The “darkside” is much more fun LOL.

    Seriously though, it does help us to get a better understanding of the malware that users unwittingly download without realising the consequences and also to test new and old apps to find what works and what doesn’t.

    Malware changes and we just try to keep up with it, and some of it can be pretty nasty stuff but fun to play with LOL

    Keeps me sane….I think!

  17. it’s look like NOD32 V.4
    but have more simple ui.

    nice article, Bill XD

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey NOD32,

      I hear ya. NOD32 is a great app – I highly recommend it.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Bill