Microsoft Security Essentials – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do – But, It’s Over; You’re Gone

imageSadly, Microsoft Security Essentials and I have had a falling out. We’re through – it’s over – that’s it. It’s broken the cardinal rule I’ve long established for all my applications – trust that it will perform as advertised.

It’s been replaced in my affection by another – one that lives up to its billing –  AVG AntiVirus Free 2013. Microsoft Security Essentials no longer does.

Frankly, I’ve avoided AVG’s products for years – with good cause I think. Applications that are slow, cumbersome, updates that crash systems ….. have a way of ending up in file 13 (the garbage), around here. In the past, AVG’s products were known for all of that, and more. It had its defenders of course, but I was not one of them.

As MSE has slowly lost its touch, AVG has bounded ahead. It’s sleek; it’s fast; it’s free – and, in the latest AV-Test.org’s (see AV-Test.org’s full results here), it pummels MSE – again.

In fact, for the second testing cycle in a row – Microsoft Security Essentials has failed certification as an effective security application.

Quick overview of AVG AntiVirus Free’s salient score points. Click graphic to expand.

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Courtesy – AV-Test.org.

I’ve been running with AVG AntiVirus Free 2013 on a primary home system (a Windows 8 machine), since September 5, of last year. The verdict? I’m impressed – very impressed.

As you can see from the following screen shot, AVG AntiVirus Free offers substantial protection – not quite up to the standard of the company’s paid applications – but, more than enough (in my view), that an aware user should feel comfortable.

Keep in mind, that an educated user understands the limitations of relying on a single security application and, is conversant with the principal of layered security.

Windows 8 users will notice that the GUI (as shown below) owes a little something to Windows 8’s Metro (or whatever MS is calling it these days) GUI.

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Multiple choices are available in the settings menu so that users can tweak and massage the application to meet their specific needs. I must admit – that was a major positive for me.

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Running a scan: As is my practice – I run a complete scan on my machine’s boot drive every day. And a full scan on all attached drives, weekly.

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Running a scan: 60 GB SSD – particulars as shown below.

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Scanning time – just under 5 minutes with “High Priority” set.

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Slip in a USB device – and….

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System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP.

Download at: AVG

A Major Bonus – From the site:

It’s not just the software that’s free. So too is phone access to our team of support experts 24/7, 365 days a year (USA, UK, Canada). Kudos to AVG!!

You’ll notice a basket-full of additional free AVG products on the download page – you just might find something that fills a gap in your overall security plan.

Whether you’re an experienced user, or you consider yourself “average”, I recommend that you spend some time scouting around the application’s GUI – there’s lots to be discovered here. All of it good.  Smile

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46 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Security Programs, Freeware

46 responses to “Microsoft Security Essentials – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do – But, It’s Over; You’re Gone

  1. Thanks for the review but I’ll stick with the free version of avast!

  2. I’m convinced.. it’s always good to have options Bill.

    Nhick

  3. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    As a user of MSE myself I’m disappointed by this, but very grateful to you for pointing out its shortcomings.

    I’m no stranger to AVG, in fact I have the free mobile version on my smartphone. Following a recent article in your blog, I’ve installed Sophos on my tablet; variety is the spice of life 🙂

    I’ll certainly be giving AVG Antivirus Free a whirl, then I’ll have to eat humble pie for recommending MSE to my daughter for her new laptop. Such is the nature of software.

    Kind regards
    John

    • Hi John,

      The only constant is? Now I love the “change” word – but, not when it’s applied to my AV apps.

      Microsoft seems to have become rather complacent with respect to MSE (Windows Defender in Win 8) – more than surprising given the chaos we face everyday on the Internet.

      BTW, humble pie is best served cold. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill

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  5. Fred

    Bill,
    When I first found your site I was using AVG and had multiple false positives. You really helped me during that crisis, and advised I use MSE. As I’ve said the fact is that these winners come and go, and what may be best at one time might be a poor choice today. What I do need to make clear is that I have dial-up and not high speed. For example, with pictures off, it takes over 2 minutes to load your website. So in the past I noted that AVG used large updates. Whereas, as you stated to me at the time, MSE had smaller updates by comparison, and that has proven true over these nearly 3 years now. How can MS not do anything about this? I’ve read here previously, as you have alluded to, that they failed last year. I said, at the time, that they would get cracking, but apparently not. So my question to you, Bill, is would it be OK to continue with MSE, hoping that they GET ON THE BALL, and continue to do SuperAntiSpyware, and I will add MBAM, again, in the layered approach?

    In the course of my sojourn here you have always been most helpful and it so greatly appreciated.
    Your fan,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      AVG’s updates are now quite small – just ran an update test (as I’m writing this) – only 3.2kb. So, allowing auto updating rather than manually updating once a day (bigger files), it’s probable that you won’t see updates much bigger than this.

      Alternatively, you can continue to use MSE. It may not be the best solution – at the moment. But your right, these rating go up and down like a toilet seat. 🙂

      You’re an experienced and cautious user and that matters – BIG TIME! Give you an example why this is important – one of my machines has been online 24/7 for over 4 years now – with NO protection. It’s never been infected – it’s the person at the keyboard that counts. You might be surprised just how many techs use little, or no protection.

      Hope that helps.

      Best,

      Bill

  6. Hey Bill,

    I actually thought Microsoft was getting it’s act together with MSE as far understanding that if your going to put out an antivirus\antimalware program, it better be good protection. I have not run MSE for awhile now so I am glad to read your article and get updated on how good it’s protection really is, otherwise I might be still recommending it to other people.

    As far as “Change” goes, I will refer you to Dilbert
    http://dilbert.com/2013-01-16/

    I know in the past a lot of people have recommended AVG to me but after trying it, I was not very happy with it for the exact same reasons you mentioned. I am currently using the paid version of Webroot Secure Anywhere Complete along with other layered programs but I will have to give AVG a second chance on your recommendation on the other computer.

    Thanks for the article

    TeX

    • Hey TeX,

      Yeah, I can’t feel my arm either. That Dilbert fellow has it together. 🙂

      I have no doubt that MS will respond to this poor test showing with the usual – but in real world conditions…….! I’m willing to listen.

      Cool – take this one for a drive and, if have the time maybe you could shoot me a note on your experience with it.

      Best,

      Bill

  7. I tried AVG… it still is in my ‘other’ computer, I really WANT to like it but it takes over three hours to run a full scan at ‘high priority’. I checked the settings you have shown and mine are basically the same, how on earth did you get it to do a full scan in less than 5-minutes!? As I have Norton enabled (free with new computer) I will wait until it expires before again attempting AVG. Thanks for the info! …khrys

    • Hey Khrys,

      Actually, I can scan this complete system – 3 drives (about 300 GB) in under 30 minutes. MalwareBytes (free edition), using the full complement of available MB resources, completes the same task in about the same time.

      The results you mention are waaaay outside the norm – assuming of course the data being scanned is relative to the size I’ve mentioned above. Driver conflict cannot be overlooked as a primary cause of the condition you describe. As a test, you might try an install of MalwareBytes (free edition) so that you can get a baseline to work with.

      Best,

      Bill

      • Yup… installed both and I kinda figured something wasn’t jiving… so I went out and got a new computer…lol Still takes between 3-5 hrs to complete on the old one. I think it’s just me… I do not have a tech-brain… still going to give AVG another shot on the new ‘puter…

  8. Richard J.

    Hi Bill,
    Your article has got me thinking that I might switch to AVG once more. I haven’t used it for a few years! Sound like it’s now a better product than it used to be. Just out of interest I searched the AV-Test.org site to see if a newly released AV was mentioned or tested anywhere on the site. Sadly I couldn’t find it. It’s called “Unthreat” and seems to have some good reviews. Personally, I tried it and had problems getting it to scan my email so removed it after running a quick scan of my system!

    Richard.

    • Hi Richard,

      Sounds as if you and I had our “gotta get rid of this beast” (AVG) moments back in the day. 🙂 This new version is definitely worth a try – seems it’s been rebuilt from the ground floor and up.

      Hadn’t heard of “Unthreat” – but, I’ve just thrown it on my “let’s take a look list.” Thanks for that.

      Best,

      Bill

  9. Dave

    Bill. I started with MSE also, but it has went down hill terribly. On my machine, CPU spikes are unreal, slows my system to a crawl. I really do not think there development department gives a poop anymore. It was really good at one time, but not now. AVG is great, I am using Panda for now, no problems. Thanks for sharing. Regards, Dave.

    • Hi Dave,

      Very good to hear from you. 🙂

      Your point “I really do not think there development department gives a poop” is well made. It certainly appears as if the focus has changed – not for the better.

      Panda makes a great app – really like the community “cloud” aspect.

      Best,

      Bill

  10. James Hillier

    Knee jerk reaction? I don’t personally place a lot of store in AV test results. They rarely reflect real world conditions or examples. See here (the other side of the story?): http://blogs.technet.com/b/mmpc/archive/2013/01/16/lessons-learned-from-the-latest-test-results.aspx

    • Hi Jim,

      A very reasonable question. I’ll go on the assumption that you’re asking me directly if my personal response is a “knee jerk reaction”. Ah, no. I find that a calm, reasoned approach suits me better. 🙂

      I’ve made the point, on more than one occasion over the years (in truth, scores of times), that there is an over reliance on AV test results (in some quarters) – just as you pointed out. And, for the reasons that you pointed out.

      My comment (partial) on another tech site – July 2012.

      “As someone who watches a broad swath of independent testing laboratories, I can assure you – the results of these test go up and down like a toilet seat – often in less than 3 months. It’s important for users to understand that testing captures perceived performance as a “snapshot in time” – nothing more.

      A simple read of any security application market penetration report will show, not a single security application vendor has yet captured a significant share of the market despite (or, perhaps because of), overblown effectiveness claims. It seems that users just don’t buy the BS.

      Finally, the question is essentially redundant – the majority of malware makes its way onto a system by invitation. There isn’t a security product on the market which will override the lack of common sense. Ask any one of the hundreds of enterprises who have been penetrated (caused by careless employees), just in the last few months – enterprises which have installed security solutions that rival science fiction. In the end, a pointless endeavor, since no consideration was given to employee education.

      Perhaps more to the point is the following article – September 16, 2011 – Antimalware Application Reviews – Who Can You Trust? I think that you’ll find that this is not an issue I avoid.

      As I said in a comment response earlier today – I have no doubt that MS will respond to this poor test showing with the usual – but in real world conditions…….! I’m willing to listen. In fact they did – I had access to that response earlier today. And, I’m still listening.

      Over the years, I’ve had many opportunities to engage in conversation with testing labs – centered in Universities, private for fee application testing labs, etc. So, I’m not unfamiliar with testing methodology. Do I trust the methodology without reference to common sense? No. Even an uninterested observer would agree, that the computer security sector is prone to exaggeration, hyperbole, overstatement ….. and, in some cases, a certain sense of distortion.

      What I find disturbing about this latest MSE slide is – the “snapshot in time” has shown no improvement – in fact, the reverse. So, at a personal level I’ve made the decision to move on from MSE.

      I value your opinion – especially given your background and experience. So, thank you for joining in the conversation.

      Best,

      Bill

      • Chris J

        Seems quite a few comments relate to “AV virus score” – I must admit it did catch my eye. “Why is Bill recommending an AV product with such a low score?”

        As you’ve highlighted, one score is never enough (‘one swallow does not make a spring’ – is that right?) – the more reviews, tests, etc help to keep someone informed. From there? It’s down to trust – if you trust the product to do the job and it has decent reviews then you’ll probably not go far wrong.

        In fact, the danger from there comes from zero-day exploits (Java in the browser anyone?) and silly users clicking on dodgy links…!

        As for me…I use Linux! 🙂 Ok…most of the time I do!! 🙂

  11. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    Looking at the AV Test page, I’m a bit shocked at MSE’s rating. It is very poor.
    I don’t think I am going to go with AVG though. I have had bad experiences in the past with it. I like your review of it, but I think I might go back to Avira.
    I’m going to wait a week to do this though. Next week my brand new spanking machine will be on my desk. I guess in this case I will be breaking up with XP lol. Windows 8 it will be (or maybe 7, haven’t tried that yet either.
    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      Super cool – a new machine! XP is gonna miss you. lol

      WIn 7/Win 8 – you’ll love either one. Since you’ll face a bit of a learning curve with either one, you might be better (in the long run), to go with 8. That’s the future. Better security overall is also a prime consideration.

      Always liked Avira – still use their Rescue Disc (as do you, I know) often.

      MSE will be back – I have no doubts at all.

      Best,

      Bill

  12. These tests are difficult to gauge. How valid are the tests? I think that depends on who you ask. I doubt many people really understand the results or the parameters used.
    This is an interesting response to one of the recent tests that panned MSE:

    http://blogs.technet.com/b/mmpc/archive/2013/01/16/lessons-learned-from-the-latest-test-results.aspx

    Microsoft says in the article “Our review showed that 0.0033 percent of our Microsoft Security Essentials and Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection customers were impacted by malware samples not detected during the test. In addition, 94 percent of the malware samples not detected during the test didn’t impact our customers.”

    In other words, it’s not valid to test how well a fish can climb a tree, or how well a canary can swim.

    • Hey Darryl,

      Good to hear from you. 🙂

      Yep – read the MS response earlier. The only comment I have at this point is – the potential to infect is most significant. Not (at least in my view), the malware (samples or otherwise), that MSE users (according to MS), encountered. Using that type of logic, it seems to me that a preemptive flu shot is a pointless endeavor. The reality is – we know it’s not, since it guards against the potential of infection.

      Still, you’re quite right – “These tests are difficult to gauge. How valid are the tests?”

      In the end, as pros, we’re each driven to make choices based on our backgrounds and personal experience. It shouldn’t be otherwise, I don’t think.

      Good to get your input on this.

      Best,

      Bill

  13. I should also say that the last time I tried using AVG, I was surprised to learn that the format of my emails were altered. HTML was rendered very differently by the time it had gone through their servers. I really didn’t care for that at all. I’ll stick with MSE.

  14. Paul Thurrott just weighed in on this here: http://www.windowsitpro.com/article/paul-thurrotts-wininfo/microsoft-strongly-refutes-antivirus-test-145122
    He concludes his piece by saying “The message here is simple. You can conduct tests that prove almost anything. But in the real world, Microsoft’s MSE and Forefront Endpoint Protection products don’t just work, they work very, very well. And this isn’t based on anecdotal data—though this certainly mirrors my own usage and explains why I continue to recommend these products—it’s a fact.”

    • Hi Darryl,

      Paul Thurrott’s opinion (and yes, I read it this morning), is not as important to me, as my own. Is my 35 years plus experience in IT, less important to me than his more limited experience? The answer is self-evident – I think not. Thurrott’s piece is, as many of his pieces are, simply a rehash of Microsoft’s position on this issue. A common enough occurrence in his columns.

      On top of which, Thurrott has long been noted as an unofficial Microsoft spokesman – some say a paid spokesman. So, not exactly an unbiased opinion. And, as for his assertion as to “facts” – funny, I was under the impression that the recent AV testing brought these “facts” into question. Isn’t that the debate?

      Just a point: AVG downloads last week on CNET alone – 988,636. Total downloads are now approaching half a BILLION. Of course they could all be wrong and would be better served by using MSE, despite the questions now surrounding its efficacy.

      You’re more than entitled to your opinion – agree or disagree – but, I think you’ve managed to state it. I thank you for that. I suggest that you read my response to Jim Hillier.

      Best,

      Bill

  15. Another thing people need to understand is that a virus scanner is more like a seat belt than a bullet-proof shield. In an accident, you hope the seat belt will help, but it’s no guarantee. There’s no substitute for best practices and understanding. Easier said than done, I know, but people will jump onto the information highway without ever taking a driver’s test, and they are going to be at risk. A virus scanner might help them, but chances are, they are going to eventually crash. On the other hand, someone with good sense and understanding can likely function without a virus scanner (though I wouldn’t recommend it). The point is, the scanner can only do so much, and for some it’s really a false sense of security.

  16. Bob

    Prior to switching to Windows 8 and it replacing MSE with Defender, I found
    STANDALONE BOOT Cd using 64 BIT DEFENDER to cleanup my Laptop
    that had MSE which my son borrowed and got X TROJAN VIRUSES . It
    cleaned up and saved me from total reloading. BTW, this standalone boot
    is offered from SARDU as a freebie with multiple choices of many other AVs that it can create a standalone boot cd. So, I am sticking with Defender
    in Windows 8 due to what it did for me in cleaning up a bunch of viruses
    that MSE failed to do but probably was caused by my son not allowing it to update and scan drives. I am reluctant to go back to AVG at this time but
    do remember NORTON/SEMANTAC and McAfee turning into bloat ware
    when I dropped them. Yes, AVG might be the better one today and I suspect
    MS Defender in Windows 8 might have more going for it. Your article did alert me to be ready for AV/MALWARE getting thru Defender and will
    keep running Malwarebytes Anti-malware or AVG as a backup occasionally.

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the heads up on SARDU – downloaded and installed. Took a quick look – definitely worth an article.

      Nice recovery BTW.

      Best,

      Bill

      • Bob

        Howdy Bill !
        SARDU saved my day and I hope you never need it to get into Windows
        like I did. I never seen such a mean virus asking for credit card and no way
        to get around it. Defender took over two hours in the standalone mode but
        when it finished I was clean. My son learned a valuable lesson in the process. Note this laptop had an SSD(256gb) for C: which was infected and D:(300gb)drive for data that was ok.
        Regards,
        Bob

        • Hey Bob,

          A great example of why running with 2 drives can be a lifesaver. Personally – wouldn’t run a machine without at least 2 drives.

          Looking forward to going the full distance with SARDU. Hopefully, early in the week.

          Best,

          Bill

  17. Mark Schneider

    Hi Bill,
    I’m grateful for the update on AVG. It was my first free AV many years ago. I’m glad to hear they’re back on track as an effective, free, and light weight AV. Hopefully Security Essentials at least uninstalls easily, unlike some AV’s I could name.
    I don’t take much stock in a lot of AV tests, but I do in your opinion, it’s always reasoned and well thought out.
    Cheers, and Go NINERS!

    Mark

    • Hi Mark,

      I think some readers held the view that I was taking an empty swing at MSE – apparently unaware, that I was a staunch advocate for MSE since its release. As opposed to many, who denigrated Microsoft’s involvement in a consumer security product, I was among the first to strongly recommend MSE (7/8 reviews to that affect). One of the reasons for today’s quote – “I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed!” 🙂

      AVG 2013 is a vastly superior product to previous editions – not hard to do, given some of the history we’re both familiar with. Incidentally, you won’t have an issue with an MSE uninstall.

      Gotta tell ya – a couple of the games last weekend had me gulping for air!!! So yeah – Go Niners!! Although, can’t count Tom and the lads out – not yet. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill

  18. delenn13

    Hi Bill,
    Think I am going back to AVG for this year, anyway. I used AVG years ago until it got bloated and wanted to be the twin “Swiss army knife” of the anti virus set. As you well know, if you don’t keep up(as MSE has not), the consumer will go elsewhere. You snooze, you loose..etc etc…

    What did you use to remove MSE? AppRemover or I do have paid uninstaller..Your Uninstaller?

    • Hey Delenn13,

      Actually, I had just finished a reformat/reinstall – so, no uninstall.

      AppRemover, or Advanced Uninstaller Pro (free) should do the trick.

      Best,

      Bill

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