Fast, full-featured, and free, Microsoft's new security suite is drawing accolades from experts and howls of agony from competitors. If you're tired of your bloated and expensive security suite exhorting/extorting you for more money — and you can't stomach the way free AV products try to scare you into paying — it's time to try something new and better from an unexpected source.
Last week, Microsoft released the final version of Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). The initial reports are remarkably upbeat, particularly for a Microsoft product labeled "version 1.0."
MSE takes over antivirus and antispyware duties while tossing in antirootkit features for good measure. If you have Windows Defender installed — Defender is a separate download for XP but comes with Vista and Windows 7 — MSE zaps it. There's no need for Defender if MSE is running.
Microsoft provides on its Security Essentials page downloads for 32-bit XP, 32- and 64-bit Vista, and 32- and 64-bit Windows 7. The correct version for your system will be selected automatically. Note, however, that there's no MSE version for 64-bit XP.
In order to install MSE, your PC has to pass Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage validation hurdle. (You've gotta wonder at how many bots out there are running on pirated copies of Win XP, which can't get MSE and other Microsoft updates.)
MSE conducts periodic scans and real-time malware monitoring. The program vets e-mail attachments and file downloads, too. By default, MSE deletes high-threat malware and asks for your permission to either delete or quarantine lesser threats. In general, the program does everything you'd expect an antivirus, antimalware, and/or antirootkit product to do.
The press likes to say that MSE is a stripped-down version of the late, unlamented Microsoft OneCare, a payola product I've deplored for years. As best I can tell, MSE has almost nothing in common with OneCare — except its target audience of individual users.
MSE is based on Microsoft's Forefront technology, which is designed to protect an enterprise's large servers. As a consumer product, however, MSE gains inspiration from Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool — a utility that's capable, targeted, and silent.
By the way, Microsoft maintains an active support forum for MSE on the Microsoft Answers site.