Microsoft Security Essentials

Category: Security

I just read something about a new security tool from Microsoft, that's supposed to be better than Windows Defender, which I use now. What is your recommendation?

Microsoft Security Essentials

What Is Microsoft Security Essentials?

You are correct, Windows Defender has been superseded by another free Microsoft utility. On September 1, 2009, Microsoft released Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). It protects against a broader spectrum of malware than Defender does, including viruses, rootkits, and trojans as well as spyware.

Windows Defender detects and removes spyware only. It won't protect your computer from other malicious software, such as viruses, worms, and Trojans. The new Microsoft Security Essentials, on the other hand, is a comprehensive anti-malware solution. MSE is meant to replace both your existing anti-spyware and anti-virus programs.

If you're running Windows Defender, you don't actually have to uninstall it. MSE is smart enough to detect and disable Windows Defender. But, if you are currently using some other anti-spyware program such as Malware Bytes Anti-Malware, SpyBot S&D or Ad-Aware, OR an anti-virus program such as Norton, McAfee, AVG or Avira, then you SHOULD disable or uninstall them before installing MSE. Anti-malware programs tend to fight with each other, if you have more than one active.

How Good is MSE?

Reviews have been positive, for the most part. A Washington Post review found that Microsoft Security Essentials is light on system resources, consuming only 4 MB of RAM, and fast. A "quick scan" took only 10 minutes and a full system scan only 45 under Windows 7. PCWorld lauded MSE's clean, straightforward user interface and small installation footprint.
MSE found 89 per cent of malware samples deliberately installed on a test computer, but only 30 per cent of keyloggers - programs that record everything you type and can capture passwords for bad guys. MSE found only 67 per cent of rootkits. Alarmingly, these results are considered "average" for the anti-malware industry.

Should You Install MSE?

It's fair to say that for most users, Microsoft Security Essentials is an acceptable alternative to other free security products on the market, and certainly preferable to pricey commercial products. From a user standpoint, it's certainly nice to have one program that provides comprehensive security protection, eliminating the confusion between anti-spyware and anti-virus tools.

But does MSE provide the best possible protection? Perhaps not. If you read the reports at AV Comparatives you'll see how various security programs compare in terms of detection rates. Many of them score in the high 90's for detecting viruses and malware. AV Comparatives has not yet tested MSE, so this may not be a true apples-to-apples comparison. Even so, I think it's fair to cut MSE a little slack, since it's only been out for about a month. Microsoft always did a good job of updating Windows Defender, so I think we can expect that MSE will get better over time as well.

Here's my recommendation... If you currently have a commercial anti-virus program, and you'd rather not be paying for security, dump what you have and give Microsoft Security Essentials a try. If you already have a free anti-virus program that you're happy with, AND good anti-spyware protection, stick with it for now. You may also want to check out my list of Free Anti-Virus Programs.

UPDATE: SEE Microsoft Security Essentials: EPIC FAIL

Have you tried Microsoft Security Essentials? Post your comment or question about MSE below...

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Most recent comments on "Microsoft Security Essentials"

(See all 23 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

27 Oct 2009

I've been using Windows Live One for two and a half years now, and been happy with it for 48 bucks a year. Is this new MSE better than Live One, or just a re-naming of Live One?

Funny I never see Live One advertised or even mentioned online, since it seems to do the job pretty well for 4 bucks a month.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I was under the impression that the paid-for Live One Care service had been discontinued, and that the free MSE was the replacement for it.

Posted by:

Joe M
27 Oct 2009

I wouldn't settle for an "average" product from a company whose bread 'n butter isn't security. Yes, Microsoft has the resources to make a top notch product in any market, but it would seem they don't have the interest. Why would they put out an "average" product?

I use Vipre from Sunbelt Software and am very satisified. I am disappointed that I didn't see it in the comparisons at

The only downside I've found to Vipre is it's lack of integrated firewall, which they say is going to change at the end of the year to a "complete" suite.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2009

I've been using Microsoft Security Essentials on my Vista x64 SP2 desktop since the day MSE came out of beta. It replaced avast! because a full scan MSE found a virus and Trojan not detected by avast!. Further research proved to me these ware not false-positive detections.

MSE has to be manually updated by me for signatures, as I have Windows Update intentionally set to download and notify me of updates, but not install them automatically. However the weekly complete scan I have scheduled does first download and install updates, as I have that option checked. Microsoft offers another signature update solution. Downloading mpam-fex64.exe to get the latest updates also works for me using Vista Business x64 and MSE x64.

Posted by:

Murray W
28 Oct 2009

For years, many of the users and admins in PC Tech on Paltalk have recommended the use of Spywareblaster, Spybot, Iobit 360, AVG or AVira or Avast but the consensus now is to replace all of these with MSE and just keep Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware as a "spare tire". So far MSE has found and cured anything that users coming into the room with spyware problems etc has had thrown at it.

Posted by:

Charles Friederich
29 Oct 2009

Bob, your useful article on Microsoft Security Essentials said that other security programs should be removed before installing MSE. Does the same advice apply to CC-Cleaner?

EDITOR'S NOTE: No, CCleaner would not need to go. Only anti-spyware and anti-virus programs that are "always on" would need to be removed.

Posted by:

13 Nov 2009

Bob, does it make a difference which browser is being used? I wouldn't put it past MS if MSE only works if IE is the browser of choice. I would like to give MSE a try but I'm a Firefox user and I would like to keep it that way. TIA for helping me out.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm sure MSE will work regardless of your browser choice.

Posted by:

11 Jan 2010

Hi Bob, I have been using Norton 360 for last 2-3 years.

It does everything for me and I have no problems,except it costs about $ 100 in Canada per year. In a few months I will have to renew it. Should I stop using it and use MSE which is free? Or if I can afford $ 100 per year I should continue with Norton? my OS is Windows 7, 32 bit.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I just installed MSE on a machine that had been infected with dozens of viruses and spyware. It did a great job of cleaning it up. I honestly don't see any reason to buy anti-virus software.

Posted by:

25 Mar 2010

Yes, I agree with most of the other comments, Microsoft Security Essentials is a great piece of software. It is so easy to use, and the quick scan takes less than two minutes. So far, nothing has got through it, and I can easily say it's the best anti-virus program I've ever had.

It surprises me Microsoft is offering this for free, and it also surprises me that they have made this program in the first place, given they are partners with Symantec and McAfee.

Posted by:

23 Apr 2010

I just had a clean install and opted for windows 7. My XP had a nasty virus that I could not clean. After reading about the fiasco that McAfee caused by omitting an essential file on their updates, I trashed it and downloaded MSE. So far, no complaints.

Posted by:

10 May 2010

I'm in IT, so i get to hear everyone's PC problems. Countless times since MSE has been out I've recommended they give MSE a try when they have some virus their current AV solution isn't solving for them.

I can honestly post that 100% of them have returned the following day successful, or i don't hear back from them (always a good sign) and bump into them days later and it's a complete after thought, as it immediately cured the problem once installed.

The only other thing i hear back is how much faster their machines run after removing their current av and installing MSE.

Posted by:

13 May 2010

I used quite a few packages over the years. As a speed freak, I can tell when something isn't right and I recently suspected something was up. So, I downloaded SpyBot SD and scanned. It found nothing. So, thought I would try Microsoft Essentials and it immediately found a Trojan. Not only that, the next day it intercepted another Trojan which was attached it a software program I downloaded. Essentials will be my choice for the foreseeable future.

Posted by:

22 May 2010

i have been using MSE since the start of this year, and to be honest it hasn't let me down once since i first started using it. Am a student and at my university, they have this other Anti-virus program but my usb still gets infected at school any way, so i installed MSE on both my desktop (windows 7 64-bit) and my laptop (windows 7 32-bit) and both my computers have never been cleaner in years. I definitely give it a thumbs up and you should definitely give it a try. you won't be disappointed.

Posted by:

29 Jun 2010

My computer came with McAfee and Defender. I was thinking of switching Defender to MSE, but while investigating, learned (on your site) that Defender is only anti-spyware. Maybe this is why it doesn't conflict with McAfee. You say not to have 2 AVs, but many people commenting on your topics talk about having 2 or more products running successfully. What's the deal? I would like to replace Defender with MSE if this would be OK. A MS tech. told me on the phone it would be OK, but I don't think I can trust his knowledge. Can you clear this up? Thank you.

EDITOR'S NOTE: It's not a bad idea to replace Defender with MSE, since MSE includes the Defender component. Just get rid of your other AV program, because it's not good to have two.

Posted by:

Glenn P.
25 Jul 2010

QUESTION: I have Windows XP Pro SP3 and am thinking of obtaining Microsoft Security Essentials.

One problem that I have heard of concerning this program is that it automatically sets Microsoft Updates to Automatic, whether the user wants this or not.

Now, I don't particularly mind this behavior, provided, of course, that I am allowed to reverse it after MSE is installed.

So, could someone please check and see whether, in fact, one is able, under Windows XP Pro SP3, and post-install of MSE, to de-select Microsoft Updates from Automatic? (Check it after a reboot in case it resets itself.) Or, does MSE somehow render this setting "permanent"?

--”Glenn P."

Posted by:

11 Oct 2010

I like MSE...

Its does a pretty good job and certainly beats symantec hands down.

I have see trojans now targeting it directly, like other antivirus programs so the hackers know its out there.

I saw one that disabled your antivirus and it would alter itself ever time and stop the MSE update.

Posted by:

09 Nov 2010

Hi, I just read all your recommendations & decided to install windows defender x 64, malwarebytes, & avast.
Is this an o.k combination?

I'm worried I may have to many things installed(or to few).

Thanks so much for your time... :0)

Posted by:

17 Nov 2010

You'll notice that MSE is recommended for home use only. For a business you should upgrade to Microsoft Forefront Client Security. If you don't want to do that, stay with GOOD commercial Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware programs.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I really don't accept the premise that the average small business with a few employees needs anything different than what a home user would need for security.

Posted by:

19 Dec 2010

Hi All,

So to clarify, if I am currently running McAfee, I can uninstall and just download MSE for free???

I'm sceptical.

Also, I thought Spybot was different than an antivirus. I usually use Spybot, manual cleaning along with McAfee.

Also, what about AdAware, asuming I can/should still do a regular manual cleaning?

So again to clarify. Get ride of all of the above and download MSE and be worry free? Still sceptical : )

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes! MSE includes both anti-virus and anti-spyware protection. You can dump both Spybot and the resource (and money) hogging McAfee, and install MSE as a complete replacement.

Posted by:

17 Jan 2011

MSE just updated their program to version 2. The Firewall is more involved and there are more options, making it a little more personally usable.

I had AVG for years and it was great, until they went overbloat in version 9 & 10. Then I tried Avast. I think it has too much nag for my taste. So I switched to Antivir. It was good, but my husband got a trojan and was so hard to get rid of, SP3 was unable to install.

So I switched to MSE and have installed the new version 2. I like it. It works, and it stays out of my face. You'd think that if MS makes it, it works best with Windows OSes.

I also do Spybot Search & Destroy, Malware Bites, and HiJackThis, but only manually. I often forget to scan.. so I like the fact that MSE scans for malware too.

And most of all it's FREE. I am a firm believer that "security" should be free. It just makes sense.

Posted by:

24 Aug 2011

Very interesting.

I have Comodo Internet Security (without the AntiVirus module) and Malawarebytes Free Ed., for occasional double checking: I believe there is no conflict because this is not proactive.

After problems and a complete dislike of PC Tools AntiSpyware + Firewall, I added Microsoft Security Essentials and as far as I know, it is brilliant.

I agree about the fast Quick Scan on MSE but not the full scan. I use about 80GB of my hard drive currently, and the MSE Full Scan takes SEVEN hours. It does not find any problems but seven hours is far too long. Given comments about full scan in 45 minutes, I wonder if there is something wrong with the programme or my installation. Perhaps Comodo slows it down?

Today, from Give Away of The Day, I can get Outpost Security Suite Pro 7.5.1 – Performance Edition as a freebie. It seems to be top of the class in performance terms but naturally Comodo and MSE will have to go.

I'm uncertain that I want to switch anything. What do you think, please?

I am happen to pay for a product if it is better. I had PC Tools as mentioned and it just got more and more expensive without doing a proper job, so, it was removed (no easy task with all it's registry entries etc) - I actually dumped it before the subscription ended, as it was causing no end of problems.

Thank you for this site.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Microsoft Security Essentials (Posted: 23 Oct 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved