Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials

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

Quick Specs

  • Version:
    4.2.223
  • Total Downloads:
    3,489,989
  • Date Added:
    February 20, 2013
  • File Size:
    10.58MB
  • Downloads Last Week:
    4,409
  • Operating Systems:
    Windows XP/Vista/7

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.

 
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Publisher's Description

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User Reviews
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  • Current Version

    4.4

    out of 10 votes

    • 5 star 8
    • 4 star 0
    • 3 star 1
    • 2 star 0
    • 1 star 1
  • 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

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Results 1–10 of 10

5 stars

"Good and free"

July 15, 2013  |  By Zhilinsky

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.2.223

Pros

Free, working, easy to use.

Cons

Simple, low detection level

Summary

If there is no money - good choice.

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5 stars

"Excellent Product"

July 08, 2013  |  By ArJunte

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.2.223

Pros

Kept my computer system safe; I have been a user of this software since it's release in 2009, and am a happy user. In my own experience, it does not slow you down unlike others. I even use it at work.

Cons

Slow full scan time. It might also be considered a pro because it scans thoroughly.

Summary

BEST BY Test (my own opinion)

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1 stars

"You can't update MSE if u have Windows Update disabled"

June 24, 2013  |  By cjb3270

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.2.223

Pros

used to work great

Cons

update virus definitions ALWAYS fail now.

Summary

I don't like -- actually, I hate Windows Update. Every time I've 'updated', that's when my system starts running slower and more odd, so I just disable the damn thing. But I usually like Microsoft Security Essentials. However, they have a stipulation where you can't update that software if you have Windows Update service stopped, so... it's useless.

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3 stars

"Set and forget"

June 04, 2013  |  By FrankPizza

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.2.223

Pros

Inobtrusive AV which works well, generally

Cons

In my test it failed badly on ransomware.

To be safe you need to use IE, but IE is not a safe browser, so an oxymoron.

Some software will not work properly without an admin account, so recommending all users to use a restricted account is simply not practical.

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5 stars

"Work the best ever"

April 11, 2013

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.2.223

Pros

Can't think of any thing better on the market

Cons

none what ever

Summary

I give this product an 11 on a scale of 1-10

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5 stars

"Works well with no hassles"

April 09, 2013  |  By acerhater96

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.2.223

Pros

Strong protection, auto-updates several times a day, auto-scans, simple, and free

Cons

Fairly long scans (turn off CPU limiting for faster scans)

Summary

Do you want protection from viruses that is simple, not annoying, and will not slow down your computer? Than MSE is for you. Personally, I use it on a broad range of computers and they all have remained virus free. I simply would not use anything else, and don't believe those silly tests because they are false.

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5 stars

"Why worrying about av test..."

March 26, 2013  |  By TheHulkPower

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.2.223

Pros

Why worrying about AV test failed with AV-TEST. while other 3 still reward this software from westcoast labs, ICA labs and virusbtn.

Less problems than using Avast 8 or AVG and Kingsoft anti virus!
If you dont visit bad website you be fine! or you can use WOT web of trust to check the review of each website before you visit! SIMPLES!

Cons

None that i found!

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5 stars

"It's the best!"

March 01, 2013  |  By ThatGuy90

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.2.223

Pros

light, easy to use, simple (minimal settings, simple UI etc.)

Cons

scanning times could be a little faster.

Summary

this program is amazing if you want a "set it and forget it" program., despite what these so called "tests" say, this program is good.

Always practice safe browsing/downloading habits, no AV is 100%.

Updated on Mar 1, 2013

one other thing, false positives are extremely low to none so i have trust in MSE.

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5 stars

"Still simple and reliable"

February 25, 2013  |  By sarnnuan

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.2.223

Pros

It does exactly what it's designed for. Alerts only when something is really wrong.

Cons

not yet found

Summary

If you don't surf to the risky site, the MSE4.2 is just enough.

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5 stars

"Don't Believe Those Bought & Paid For Lab "Results!""

February 22, 2013  |  By EricVonZipper

 |  Version: Microsoft Security Essentials 4.2.223

Pros

Microsoft programs for actual, live, widespread malware that is actually down loading and able to run and infecting computers. Microsoft does not program for malware that is rare, not widespread, malware that won't even load and if it does, won't run and won't harm your machine, malware that is several years old, in other words stuff that isn't and won't harm your system.

Cons

If you are a geek tweaker/tinkerer, MSE isn't for you, it has a simple interface with only a few selections so you won't be able to tinker with settings and goof-up it's protection.

Summary

The other antivirus companies try to cram billions of signatures into their program---not paying attention to malware that is actually widespread, loading on people's machines and doing damage.
Only 0.003% of MSE users actually get any infections. Don't go by those lab tests which throw in dead, outdated samples that are unable to even load and run. MSE doesn't slow down your machine, gives off zero false positives, and doesn't conflict with other programs and software.

Updated on Feb 22, 2013

Use MSE with IE9 or IE10 with Smart Screen Filter turned on and in Protected Mode, TPL (tracking protection list) enabled (recommend NZ ad block list,) Windows firewall on.

Updated on Feb 22, 2013

Also, make sure your UAC (user account control) is using a non-administrator account and is password protected - that stops 99% of malware from even reaching your antivirus.

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Results 1–10 of 10

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Full Specifications

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General
Publisher Microsoft
Publisher web site http://www.microsoft.com/
Release Date February 19, 2013
Date Added February 20, 2013
Version 4.2.223
Category
Category Security Software
Subcategory Antivirus Software
Operating Systems
Operating Systems Windows Vista, Windows, Windows XP, Windows 7
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:

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