For users seeking a free malware protection tool that performs decently and is user friendly, Microsoft Security Essentials comes as a top contender. Now available in its fourth edition, Microsofts free PC security software offers tighter integration with Internet Explorer and default firewall in Widows 7 and Vista.
While there are several malware protection tools available for Windows users, most of them offer rather basic features and cannot perform on par with commercial security apps.
Before being released as a freeware, MSE was known as Live OneCare and was a paid system security suite. In its freeware avatar, MSE has become lightweight, sleek, and more feature-rich. It can also be used by Windows XP users, but they need to have SP2 installed on their computers. The security app offers support for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows versions. It is targeted at home users, and small business setups can also use it on 10 computers at a time.
As far as general use and installation is concerned, users will not face any issues with Microsoft Security Essentials. Microsoft has made the app work in an unobtrusive manner. What it means is that users will not get many popups and notifications by the program. Upon installation, MSE replaces Microsoft Windows Defender. The latter is installed with Windows Vista and 7 by default.
Post installation, MSE performs a full system scan for existing malware and infections. Thereafter, it downloads the newest definition updates from Microsoft servers. Like most commercial antimalware suites, MSE also offers real-time protection against viruses and throws in heuristic analysis.
All activities and features of the program are divined in 4 tabs in its interface. The tabs are pretty much self-explanatory so that first time users do not feel uneasy. There are provisions for running custom scan and a scheduled scan in Microsoft Security Essentials.
The real-time protection options have been reduced from five to only one to simplify the use of the app further. Now the user has only to decide if MSE should run in real-time protection mode or not. Another new feature is that files are automatically removed after three months out of quarantine. This option was already available in the previous version but disabled by default.
At first glance, the interface of this program may look lackluster. However, there are some advanced options and scan customization features in it. It is possible to include removable media and Flash drives for scanning under the Advanced tab in the program. The suite also offers good protection from rootkits and spyware.
While this tool may lack some of the advanced features offered by commercial security apps, it offers what average computer users would require. The latest version does not slow down the system significantly and detects a good amount of malware. It also offers an integrated system restore feature.