Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials

Download Editors' Rating:
4
Excellent
Average User Rating:
4.0
out of 663 votes

Quick Specs

  • Version:
    4.0
  • Total Downloads:
    3,489,989
  • Date Added:
    Apr. 24, 2012
  • Price:
    Free
  • File Size:
    10.58MB
  • Downloads Last Week:
    4,409
  • Platform:
    Windows
  • Product ranking:

Editors' Review

+

The bottom line: Microsoft Security Essentials 2 will protect you, and it will generally do it well. However, its impact on system performance could be improved, and it's still a bit light in the tool belt.

Review:
Now in its second iteration, Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) debuted as the lightweight, cloud-based successor to the paid security suite Live OneCare in 2009. Version 2 introduces deeper hooks into Internet Explorer and the default firewall in Vista and Windows 7. Security Essentials has begun to mature, although it's still rough at the edges.

Installation
It takes very little effort to get going with MSE. Microsoft politely does not opt you in to the program's customer experience improvement program; you must choose to opt in or stay out of it before you can finish the installation. It also lets you choose whether to run the Windows Defender firewall, and whether to run a scan once installation is complete, although both of those are opt-out.

Overall, the installation time ran around 4 minutes on our test computer. That's not as blazing fast as some of the paid suites, which can complete installation in less than 60 seconds, but it is respectable for a free program.

Interface
MSE 2's interface adopts a different color scheme than the previous version, going for various shades of gray to replace the vibrant blue and white look. It doesn't pop as much, but it also looks far less like a Windows XP relic.

For those unfamiliar with the design, MSE has four tabs across the top. The Home tab contains your security status and scan options, and you can run a Quick Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan. A link at the bottom of the pane lets you change the scheduled scan.

The second version of Microsoft Security Essentials changes its plumage to gray, and adds better heuristic detections and deeper hooks into the Windows firewall.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Update is where you manually get new virus definition files and program upgrades, History logs only detected threats, and Settings is where you go for advanced tweaking. The program looks simple, but don't be deceived: there are quite a few advanced options in Settings--just not as many as many competitors offer. Security Essentials uses labels imported from OneCare: green for all good, yellow for warning, and red for an at-risk situation.

Features and support
Under the clean and uncluttered interface, Security Essentials wraps up antivirus and antispyware engines, rootkit protection, and real-time detection courtesy of Microsoft SpyNet, the unfortunately named cloud-based service that anonymously compares file behavior across computers running various Microsoft operating systems.

SpyNet was introduced in Windows Vista and extended to Windows 7, but Microsoft Security Essentials is the only way to access the network in Windows XP. Unlike other security vendors that allow customers to take advantage of the benefits of their behavioral detection engines while opting out of submitting information, there's no way to do that with SpyNet.

Well, it's mostly anonymous. You can choose between two SpyNet memberships. The basic membership submits to Microsoft the detected software's origins, your response to it, and whether that action was successful, and the advanced membership submits all that plus the location on your hard drive of the software in question, how it operates, and how it has affected your computer. Both basic and advanced versions warn users that personal data might be "accidentally" sent to Microsoft, although they promise to neither identify nor contact you. New in version 2 is the option to opt out of contributing to SpyNet while still receiving the benefits of crowd-sourced security.

When you install MSE 2, it will automatically run a scan unless you opt out. Note that it will not consider your computer secure until that first quick scan has completed.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Microsoft Security Essentials 2 uses both definition-file and real-time defenses against viruses and spyware, and also offers rootkit protection. Along with the quick scan and the full scan, there's a Custom scan option that lets users select specific folders or drives to scan. It doesn't allow for customizing the type of scan used. For example, you're not going to be able to choose to scan only for rootkits or heuristics, as you can with other security programs. However, you can set USB keys and other external devices to automatically get scanned. The program installs a context-menu option for on-the-fly scanning in Windows Explorer, too.

The Update pane manages the definition file updates, with a large action button, and History provides access to a spreadsheet-style list of All detection items, your Quarantine, and items you've Allowed to run. Although it's a basic layout, this no-frills approach to security has proven appealing to people who are overwhelmed by more detailed security choices.

New in version 2 is integration with Internet Explorer so that downloads get scanned, and Windows firewall hooks so that your personal security net is tighter. For Windows 7 and Vista users, the Windows Filtering Platform that those two operating systems come with gets a boost from a new network inspection feature.

The Settings window allows you to further customize the program by scheduling scans, toggling default actions to take against threats, adjusting real-time protection settings, creating whitelists of excluded files, file types, and processes, and choosing from the aforementioned SpyNet options. There's also an Advanced option that is still fairly basic: here you can set Security Essentials to scan archives and removable drives, create a system restore point, and expand user rights to allow all users to view the History tab.

A nice feature in the scheduler forces MSE 2 to be respectful of your computer's processor usage.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Security Essentials comes preconfigured to run a scan weekly at 2 a.m., when Microsoft thinks your system is likely to be idle. New malware signatures are downloaded once per day by default, although you can manually instigate a definition file update through the update tab. Attachments and downloaded files will be automatically scanned by Security Essentials.

Help is only available in the form of the standard offline Help manual that comes with all Microsoft programs. There's nothing fancy here.

MSE abandons the additional heft of a firewall, performance tuning, and backup and restore options to focus on core security. However, the new version does include a system restore option, to back up your computer before you remove any detected malware. Most of the changes in MSE 2 are under the hood, but it's still a worthwhile program in terms of features, especially on lower-powered Netbooks.

Performance
Microsoft Security Essentials occupies a slightly different space than the rest of the security programs because it's the only one published by Microsoft, and, remarkably to some, it doesn't suck. Benchmarks by independent third-party efficacy testers and CNET Labs discovered that the program has uneven performance. (Read more on how CNET Labs benchmarks security software.)

Security program Boot time Shutdown time Scan time MS Office performance iTunes decoding Media multitasking Cinebench
Unprotected system 42.5 11.28 n/a 917 180 780 4,795
Microsoft Security Essentials 2 54 18 1,560 1,038 201 800 4,790

*All tests measured in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better.

AV-Test.org certified MSE 1 during one test this year, and then refused to certify it during a test several months later. When tested on Windows 7 in the second quarter of 2010, MSE 1 earned certification with a 15 out of 18 score. It achieved 4 out of 6 in the Protection category, 4.5 out of 6 in Repair, and 5.5 out of 6 in Usability, where the minimum required for certification was 12. However, when tested on Windows XP in the third quarter of 2010, AV-Test.org did not pass MSE 1. The program earned 3 out of 6 in both Protection and Repair, and 5.5 out of 6 in Usability. Given the more advanced native security in Windows Vista and Windows 7, this could indicate that Microsoft's own security program is unsuitable for its older operating systems.

On the other hand, AV-Comparatives.org awarded MSE 1 an Advanced+ certification in November 2010 for its retrospective/proactive test, finding the program to have very few false positives.

Those results don't come cheaply, as far as system performance is concerned. CNET Labs' benchmarks put MSE 2 at the far slower end of the scale, with a bigger impact on system performance in general than most other security options. System start-up was 11.5 seconds slower than on an unprotected PC, and system shutdown was more than 6 seconds slower whereas most suites affected the system by 2 to 4 seconds.

MSE 2's impact on the MS Office, iTunes decoding, media multitasking, and Cinebench tests was generally unimpressive. The program did very well in the Cinebench test, but in others its results were more middle-of-the-road.

Virus scan times were also slow compared with the competition. MSE 2 took 26 minutes to finish a full scan, and nearly 2 hours on a real-world computer. The 2-hour time is slow, although not the slowest out there. The first quick scan performed at installation took 4 minutes, which is a competitive time for that type of scan.

Conclusion
Security Essentials is basically a good set-it-and-forget-it security program, but if you want more options and better results from a lightweight security option, Panda Cloud Antivirus Free Edition 1.3 is the safer bet.

 
read more +

Publisher's Description

+
 
read more +
User Reviews
+
  • Current Version

    3.6

    out of 41 votes

    • 5 star 18
    • 4 star 7
    • 3 star 4
    • 2 star 5
    • 1 star 7
  • All Versions

    4.0

    out of 663 votes

    • 5 star 372
    • 4 star 122
    • 3 star 43
    • 2 star 48
    • 1 star 78
  • My rating

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1–10 of 41

5 stars

"AWESOME! CAUGHT 100,000 VIRUSES ON MY PC TODAY!"

September 25, 2012  |  By humbleantivirustester

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0

Pros

THE REAL DEAL

Cons

NONE WHATSOEVER

Summary

JUST TRY IT.YOU WONT TRY ANOTHER EVER AGAIN!!!

Reply to this review

Was this review helpful? (1) (0)

4 stars

"Doesnt hog the CPU like others"

September 24, 2012  |  By Toymit

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0

Pros

It is quick to install and very quick start ups when first turning the computer on.Others I have tried take ages to load the system.It doesnt hog the CPU "when Im using" the computer.Updates are quick to install too.

Cons

It hogs the CPU (100% )when my system has been idle for at least 15 mins.Once I move the mouse or do something it will quit using CPU,however, the system seems sluggish afterward with anything I do as if Ive just used a very intensive program so have to restart the comp for the lagging to go away.I found it was a process called 'MsMpEng.exe' that was the culprit which is associated with MSE.I have found others to have similar problems so Im guessing its more a bug within the program.

Summary

I am using MSE on Windows XP Pro(SP3).Overall it has been an ok experience with the one exception.

Reply to this review Read replies (2)

Was this review helpful? (1) (0)

5 stars

"My lovest!"

September 17, 2012  |  By Nacyblue

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0

Pros

Effective and less disturb

Cons

Need scan everyday, otherwise, the status color will change from green into yellow

Reply to this review Read reply (1)

Was this review helpful? (1) (0)

3 stars

"What was windows thinking"

August 30, 2012  |  By VirusSupport

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0

Pros

It's an easy to use interface and detects the light viruses like spyware. It is also free. The program itself is pretty small.

Cons

It uses the windows firewall which sucks and the scaanner isn't much better than windows defender. Very sad security.

Summary

Could be much better is suggest you find another product.

Reply to this review Read reply (1)

Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

1 stars

"Good Anti-Virus (you should also install anti-malware)"

August 24, 2012  |  By Tech-Guy-Az

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0

Pros

I am a tech guy. I regularly install MSE for anti-virus & anti-rootkit protection combined with Malwarebytes with real-time protection for anti-malware. These two programs combined do a darn good job together with a small performance footprint and low cost. However, either alone cannot protect your computer. MSE cannot be installed with other anti-virus programs ... it is a recipe for failure. This is pretty much true for all anti-virus programs, pick one.

Cons

I would have ranked MSE with 5 stars except for one new HUGE problem. Microsoft and others have been bought off by Babylon and IAC to ignore their Malware programs. Microsoft has joined this campaign to victimize uninformed PC users to allow ad-supported unwanted Malware. Don't believe what they say that Babylon and IAC's software cleaned up their malware characteristics. It is not true... Microsoft, Malwarebytes and many of the other big players are being paid off with our ad dollars. I spend countless hours (paid) removing this junk from people's computers. MSE, Malwarebytes, Norton, Kaspersky, etc. will not flag it anymore. BS. Look at Babylon's website or IAC's software websites. Prominent link is how to remove their malware software... And it is not easy. Get serious Microsoft -- do they pay you enough?

Reply to this review Read reply (1)

Was this review helpful? (1) (1)

2 stars

"MSE is the first thing Trojans & Viruses Attack"

August 21, 2012  |  By ddsmne

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0

Pros

Catches the light stuff. That's about it.

Cons

Easy target for severe malware. No web protection.

Summary

As soon as something bad is unwittingly downloaded from the web, the first thing it attacks is Windows Firewall and Security Essentials, and it's because Security Essentials doesn't detect these nasty marauders coming through the browser until it's too late. The best thing to do is forget about trying to save your OS. Just re-image your drive. It takes about 20 minutes, which is better than the hours it could take to scan your drive using several different antivirus software. Windows 7 has a nice System Repair/Recovery (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Back-up-your-programs-system-settings-and-files) feature that, for me, pretty much renders all antiviruses obsolete. Just make sure that your created image file is clean and has all the software you want on it.

Reply to this review Read reply (1)

Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

1 stars

"Didn't stop anything"

August 14, 2012  |  By Anonmyous

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0

Pros

Easy to use

Cons

I loaded it and ran it for a year and it seemed to be working. I suddenly had trouble with unexpected shutdowns. I manually ran a full scan even though i had it set to run automatically. The scan found several problems on my system and supposedly cleaned them up. It then told me to completely clean the system I needed to download and burn to a disc on a clean computer "windows Offline Beta". I did and then booted up the infected system from the "Offline Beta" disk. The program ran a quick scan automatically, it found nothing. I then ran a full scan, it ran for an hour and a half and it still found nothing. I rebooted the system from the hard drive and Microsoft Security Essentials said there were still problems and that i had to run the Offline beta again. I repeated this process three times before I gave up and went for the nuclear option of a complete system reload. Don't waste your time with this product.

Summary

It doesn't keep things out nor dose it remove things that it has found.

Reply to this review Read reply (1)

Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

1 stars

"Total piece of crap"

August 12, 2012  |  By pcdummy1958

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0

Pros

about the only thing i can say good about it is at least Microsoft does not ask you to pay for this Piece a crap

Cons

this program is about as useless as mammary glands on a bull detection rates are terrible & micro soft security support as of late is a joke they lie through their teeth & hang up or phone system goes dead the second you ask any serious questions on virus removal that there crap ware lets infect your PC I never had near the problems with virus infections with any other AV programs that I have used prior to MSE

Summary

DO yourself a favor & avoid this POS Program & if you want a free AV program use Avast Avira or AVG instead

Reply to this review Read reply (1)

Was this review helpful? (1) (1)

4 stars

"it work fine"

August 10, 2012  |  By salwa1983

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0

Pros

I have been using this software fore 2 years now. It work fine. The good thing about it it's free not like the other you download it then they ask you for money to buy it.

However, I know this software is not the beast but it's free

Cons

No firewall

Summary

ok software and free although it's not the beast

Reply to this review Read reply (1)

Was this review helpful? (1) (0)

1 stars

"I made a account jus to warn others about this program"

August 04, 2012  |  By So_Honest

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0

Pros

There isn't any. ABSOLUTELY NONE.

Cons

I already had avast and malwarebytes. Which are the best products I use for my Dell Windows 7 computer but I heard MSE is excellent too. TheAl12345 is absolutely right. MSE doesn't work well with other programs and froze my computer before it even finished downloading. I had to put my computer in safe mode and it still wouldn't uninstall. I restarted my computer, restarted my router, and eventually had to erase my original antivirus/ malware programs and shut all startup programs down to finally erase MSE. Also, after erased MSE my toolbar went back to basic which sucks but I fixed that by clicking on the desktop>personalize, and change themes. If you care about your computer DON'T download this garbage. Any positive reviews about this product are from people that work for Microsoft.

Summary

MSE like most Microsoft products is garbage.

Reply to this review Read replies (2)

Was this review helpful? (0) (4)

Results 1–10 of 41

Add Your Review

Login or create an account to post a review.

You are logged in as . Please submit your review for Microsoft Security Essentials
Add Your Review

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited.
Click here to review our site terms of use.

Update your review

Since you've already submitted a review for this product, this submission will be added as an update to your original review.
Submit

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited.
Click here to review our site terms of use.

 
see all reviews +

Full Specifications

+
General
Publisher Microsoft
Publisher web site http://www.microsoft.com/
Release Date April 24, 2012
Date Added April 24, 2012
Version 4.0
Category
Category Security Software
Subcategory Antivirus Software
Operating Systems
Operating Systems Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows
Additional Requirements None
Download Information
File Size 10.58MB
File Name security-essentials
Popularity
Total Downloads 3,489,989
Downloads Last Week 4,409
Pricing
License Model Free
Limitations Not available
Price Free

Previous Versions:

Add to my list Report a problem
 
read more +

More Products to Consider

Close[x]

Submit a problem report for Microsoft Security Essentials

Please describe the problem you have with this software. This information will be sent to our editors for review.

Problem:

The Download.com Installer isn't working as expected

The download link does not work

The software has a newer version

The product contains malicious software

Other

Description:

Please select a feedback type.

Please enter a description.

Submit Problem Report

Close[x]

Problem Report submitted

Thank you for submitting a problem report! The Download team is committed to providing you with accurate software information.

OK