Will Microsoft Security Essentials Take Over the World?

Category: Security

Microsoft recently released Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) 4.0, their free antivirus software. And according to a recent market analysis, MSE is on the verge of becoming the number one antivirus product. Find out what's new in the most recent MSE 4.0 release, and if it's the right internet security solution for you...

Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0 is Here

Version 4.0 of Microsoft Security Essentials was released April 24, 2012. (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/products/security-essentials) MSE 4.0 is a modest improvement upon v2.0 of Microsoft's antivirus, antispyware, and network intrusion detection freeware. (Version 3.0 was never released.) Version 4.0 builds upon the impressive specs of v2.0, which I detailed here in my January 2011 article What's New in MSE2?

The biggest news is "enhanced automatic remediation," according to Microsoft spokespersons. That means MSE 4.0 will now immediately quarantine suspicious files instead of flashing an alert and waiting for user intervention. The user can still review quarantined files and take whatever action seems best in each case. This is good news for most users, who generally don't have a clue when intimidating popups appear, asking for their advice on how to handle a potential threat.
Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0 (MSE 4.0)

Like earlier versions, MSE 4.0 runs on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 computers. It also sports a more streamlined user interface (one of the program's main appeals to consumers) and improved performance. This version includes "minor bug fixes in set up, malware remediation and other areas," according to the company.

SpyNet, Microsoft's community-powered threats database, has been renamed Microsoft Active Protection Services. (Leave it to Redmond to take the faintest flicker of "cool" out of a product's name.) If you opt in to this feature when installing the software, and MSE later detects a suspicious file on your computer, it will report the details back to the mothership for further analysis. By collecting potential malware samples from untold thousands of users around the world, MSE effectively becomes smarter, and can react to new threats as they arise.

Microsoft says that MSE 4.0 will be pushed out to exising MSE users via Windows Update. It will disable Windows Defender, if that program is installed, because MSE performs Defender's functions in real time. If you don't have MSE installed, or you don't want to wait for the update, you can install it via the link above. If you are running a bootlegged copy of Windows, MSE will scold you and may stop running.

Move Over, AVG...

OPSWAT's most recent quarterly survey of Antivirus marketshare shows that MSE has muscled into second place in North America (pushing AVG down to third), and is fourth worldwide. (See table below.) In both markets, MSE had a very impressive 50% growth in users over the previous year. Given the fact that it's free, and is being promoted by Microsoft, I predict it will continue to gain marketshare, gaining a dominant position within the next two years.


Should You Install MSE 4.0?

MSE has been well received since its first release in 2009. It scores well on malware detection and removal tests, uses relatively few system resources, and costs nothing. So what's not to like? Although MSE will meet the needs of most users, it's definitely not the top dog when it comes to malware detection. In my article Which AntiVirus Software is Best?, you'll find links to the AV-TEST antivirus effectiveness reports, and the winners of the 2011 AV-TEST Awards. Because it's new, MSE 4.0 has not yet been tested. But recent MSE 2.x releases, although earning AV-TEST certification, have scored at or near the bottom of the pack.

In addition, some users will choose a commercial internet security suite over a freebie that just handles viruses and spyware. And there's definitely a place for the all-in-one packages like Norton and McAfee that include extras such as spam filtering, advanced firewalls, link scanning, parental controls and other features.

I'm a big fan of free antivirus software, and definitely not a Micsosoft fanboy, but I'll say this. MSE 4.0 is a good product that will continue to get better. As I've said before, it will probably provide adequate protection for most users. But I'm not ready to recommend it as my top pick, until those AV-TEST numbers start looking better. See my article on Free Anti-Virus Programs for a list of other alternatives you can try.

UPDATE: SEE Microsoft Security Essentials: EPIC FAIL

Have you tried MSE 4.0? What antivirus program (free or paid) have you chosen? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Will Microsoft Security Essentials Take Over the World?"

(See all 24 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

04 May 2012

I use Avast! and like it quite well. While it is not the top rated by AV-TEST it is in the top few. I chose it after reading your Free Anti-Virus Programs article because it includes e-mail scanning, which I consider essential since I use Outlook for email. It was interesting to see that worldwide Avast! has the greatest market share.
I went to the link that you provided for MSE and was disappointed that the pages there did not provide more information about just what its capabilities are. I definitely did not see any mention of email scanning. For now I think that I will stick with Avast! I agree that until MSE's AV-TEST numbers put it at or near the top of the pack there is no need to change. I also want to see its capabilities compared in a side-by-side table on the AV-Test site.

Posted by:

04 May 2012

I tried MSE about a year ago and found it to be terrible. Wouldn't recommend it to anyone. AVG FREE blew it away, even with AVG's somewhat large footprint and slow update installs. I'll give the new one a try, but if it's only a "modest" improvement, I don't hold out a lot of hope for it. By the way, love your articles. I find them very informative and interesting. Keep up the good work.

Posted by:

04 May 2012

I've used Microsoft Security Essentials since 2009, and we now have it in 4 computers. It works well, updates with Windows update and, most important isn't a resource hog. We back it up with a weekly scan by Malwarebytes and so far we have had no problems.
Another benefit we have found is that it hasn't glitched with other software; we have had 2 instances where paid for AV programs have glitched with other software and caused horrendous slow downs in processing.

Posted by:

Kearney Bothwell
04 May 2012

One thing you didn't address in the above article. Does installing MSE on a system with a commercial antivirus suite pose the usual problem of turning the computer into a glacier, or worse, a brick?

Posted by:

04 May 2012

Have been using the MSE for a couple of years now, on the home desktop. It does a fine job, since I'm the primary user. For the laptop I use a different program, as it has more features and the kids use it for Skype and I just feel better.
Regards, Michael

Posted by:

Kenneth Hedden Sr
04 May 2012

I use MSE 2.0 with Malwarebytes Pro which I just started using about a week ago. I has caused me a problem with Save As applications.

I had used Avast with the MSE for over a year with no Save As problems. Which troubles me as I have not found a cure for a Paid program problem. I may be going back to Avast.

In reading your article I think I will wait a while until MSE 4.0 has been user approved. You have not steered me wrong since the Tour Bus days:)

Posted by:

04 May 2012

I currently use MSE. I will load up the new version. I have used almost everything else previously, Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky, Vipre, etc. Latest was Vipre because they had a "home site" license where one license covers all computers at one home address and we have 6 computers, so it was a great option. The license expires soon, but I wanted to get something else. When MSE came out, I got it. It was so low profiled but had a big name behind it, so I'd thought about it. So far all the publicized viruses have been caught. Many of the package ones also include "backup up" as part of the security profile. I find those backup solutions are not really good and some are really hard to (re)configure.

Posted by:

04 May 2012

I have been using MSSE for quit awhile now and I like it a lot. Because it's lightweight and it doesn't bug me. I also install it on all the computers that I reformat for customers. Before that I was installing Avira on everybody's systems. Well Avira blew it, because they started doing some nag screen insisting that I install the super horrible ASK Toolbar. And I couldn't get it to stop, it was acting like IT was malware by trying to get me to install malware on my system. Because of that I will never install Avira on another computer. I have run my computer for months at a time without getting a virus. I have also seen other people do it. I know quite a few people who can not be stopped from getting malware. I put "Kaspersky Internet Security" on one of the worst offenders computers and she still managed to get her system infected, more than once! I told her to just run the free stuff because nothing can save her so why spend the money. Odly enough she hasn't messed up either of her systems in quite awhile.

Posted by:

05 May 2012

Most microsoft programs are useless, generic rubbish.

Posted by:

Joe Jr
05 May 2012

For years I had from 6-10 computers on my home net and none have an anti-virus program. We also have 4 years old and her cousins (4 & 5yr old) playing online games. We all understand not to download from anyone they don't know and only go to safe web sites. Anti-virus programs tend to slow computers.

Posted by:

05 May 2012

I use Qucikheal Antivirus.It is a paid one,popular in India at least. Of course if somebody will test it ,all users will get a better idea

Posted by:

05 May 2012

I was told that AVG free was the best so I have used it but am very happy with Micro Essentials and also have Malware that has detected many suspicious threats and deleted them.

Posted by:

05 May 2012

I can't speak for Windows 7 users, but I have XP and have been using AVG and MSSE simultaneously for years. They do not conflict. I figure I'm getting a little extra protection when both are monitoring my PC. My computer almost never has issues virus or malware issues. I keep it clean with ASC and Glary Utilities when needed and always keep Malwarebytes handy. That's my elixir for extending the life span of my XP.

Posted by:

Steven Latus
05 May 2012

Currently using Bitdefender after having read various articles and reviews. Have previously used Norton, Webroot and McAfee. Bitdefender never bothers me with popups; it takes care of business and they have great online support.

Posted by:

06 May 2012

I switched to MSE from AVG + ZoneAlarm about 2 years ago. I also kept Malwarebytes (with real-time disabled) and Spyware Blaster. I have enjoyed not having the constant prompts from ZoneAlarm and the fact that MSE takes care of updates and scans automatically. I manually run a "quick scan" with MSE and MWB about once a week; and a "Complete scan" about once a month. I haven't run into anything that MSE couldn't handle in that time.

Posted by:

07 May 2012

how to fix acrobat: the computer must be restarted before the updating may continue

Posted by:

08 May 2012

Here's an oddity.
I've used MSE ever since you first reviewed it and have found it light and effective.
Now however it refuses to start when I reboot and simply states that it cannot be found as an installed service.
It does however appear in the add/remove programs window. The error message associated with this failure is 0x80070424.
I can uninstall and reinstall and it will run quite happily until I shut down, at which point the fun starts all over again. I don't find the MS help pages at all helpful.
For added information I've had the same problem with Panda free cloud antivirus.
A scan with Malwarebytes shows nothing suspicious.
Since you offer the most down to earth and easy to understand tech. advice on the web I thought you may have some idea what the problem is.

EDITOR'S NOTE: That is very odd, and not something I've heard of before. The fact that it affects more than one A/V program makes me think there is some hidden malware. Have you tried using System Restore to return to a point prior to when this started happening?

Posted by:

09 May 2012

Hi Bob. Thanks for your swift response.
I have tried system restore without success.
It could be that I didn't go back far enough. When I get some more free time I'll go back further and let you know the outcome.

Posted by:

Waqas Saeed
25 May 2012

I've been using MSE for about 2 years, it results are most satisfactory. I don't much about others AVPs but as for as MSE is free viruses/worms solution for your PC. For those opt for free AVPs MSE is the "YES". However, it doesn't operate unless your OS is validated first by MS.

Thanks a million Bob!

Posted by:

Chuck Etheridge
20 Nov 2012

I've had MSE since its' beginning ad now, through Auto updates fo course, have the latest version. I do a QuickScan" every day which generally covers about 150,000 items and takes about 8 minutes. A full scan takes several hours, but I've got a rather large system, and the scans don't interfere at all with overall compouter operations. I'm quite pleased with it. I run W7 Ultimate x64bit with 12 GB of RAM and a bit over 3TB of HD capacity. Now if M/S wold jsut remove its' head from its' rear orifice and render W8 useable I'd be pleased, though my W7 is very hard to fault.

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