Microsoft's new free Antivirus hits the streets

Wondering whether you should use Microsoft Security Essentials? Here's the under-the-hood info you need.

Microsoft today lifted the curtain on its Microsoft Security Essentials, the free successor to its OneCare security program.

MSE uses the same antivirus engine as the phased-out OneCare, but the new free program focuses only on malware blocking. It doesn't include a firewall, system optimizer or other security suite-type features.

When I reviewed a beta version of Security Essentials back in July alongside other free antivirus programs, MSE did a good, but not top-notch job at detecting Trojans, keyloggers and other malware, with a 97.8 percent overall block rate as tested by AVTest.org. It did shine in proactive tests that simulate how well an antivirus program can detect new malware that doesn't yet have a signature, and its performance there was topped only by Avira's AntiVir Personal.

The strong proactive performance may be thanks to its Dynamic Signature Service feature that checks new, potentially suspicious files against the latest available data on Microsoft servers . But its pokey scan speed held it back in our free AV software rankings - it was the slowest scanner we tested. For a full list of the MSE beta's performance results, see its lab test report.

Today's MSE, now available for download, doesn't add any new features or look any different from the beta version I reviewed, according to a Microsoft spokesman. The final version only includes some "code quality improvements, bug fixes, etc." when compared with that beta.

That beta looked good and was easy to use. If Microsoft has managed to ramp up Security Essential's scan speed, and ideally bump up its detection rate just a tad, since I checked out the beta, then it will likely be a good choice for budget-conscious protection. Tech-savvy users willing to put up with an at-times annoying interface, as well as a daily pop-up ad, might prefer the stronger malware detection rate in Avira AntiVir Personal, which took top billing in the free AV ratings.

If you do decide to use MSE, be sure you enable the built-in Windows firewall or use a third-party alternative. You might want to pair Security Essentials (or any other free AV app) with the also-free PC Tools Threatfire, which adds an effective additional layer of behavioral detection that can catch new, unknown malware.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoftsecurity products

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Erik Larkin

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?