By Bob Rankin
How Good is Microsoft Security Essentials?
Can you dump both your current anti-virus and anti-spyware apps, in favor of Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE)? Reviewers are giving MSE favorable marks, but will it provide robust protection against all types of malware?
Microsoft Security Essentials works on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 (both 32 and 64-bit). It is available in 25 languages and is efficiently designed to avoid hogging system resources, an important consideration in user adoption and regular use. The fact that both virus and spyware protection are rolled into one program is a plus in this regard. Brian Krebs of the Washington Post found that MSE consumed only 4 MB of RAM even during active scans for malware. A quick scan took just 10 minutes in Krebs’ test, and a full scan only 45 minutes.
Reviewers’ mileage varies, just as yours will. On the downside, PC Magazine reported that MSE takes up 110 MB of hard disk space. If you have a typical 500GB hard drive, though, that’s hardly a blip on the radar. PC Mag also found that a full scan on a heavily infected system took over an hour, while the same scan on a virus-free system took only 35 minutes. Apparently, MSE’s malware-eradication routines take quite a bit of time compared to competitors. But regardless of the timings, is MSE effective?
The official release of MSE did quite well in the independent lab AV-test.org’s tests. MSE found 98.44 percent of 545,034 computer viruses, computer worms and software Trojan horses as well as 90.95 percent of 14,222 spyware and adware samples. It also detected and eliminated all 25 tested rootkits. It generated no false-positive at all. (A false-positive is when a legitimate program is mistakenly flagged as malware.)
In addition to receiving good marks from AV-Test, MSE has been certified by the International Computer Security Association (ICSA) Labs, it received the Checkmark certification from West Coast Labs, and won the PC Advisor Awards 2010 – Best Free Software award.
Even established anti-malware developers give MSE grudging respect – well, two of them do, anyway. AVG Technologies, developer of the free AVG Antivirus suite, stated that MSE is “a positive step for the AV (anti-virus) landscape.” Avast Software, maker of Avast Antivirus, allowed that “MSE is not the silver bullet but it is also not the bad sequel to One Care that some claim,” according to CEO Vincent Steckler.