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Microsoft Security Essentials Review

On September 29, 2009, Microsoft released Microsoft Security Essentials. The free security suite replaces Windows Live One Care which was a paid product. The release would change the scenery of the AntiVirus market (free and paid). This review goes through the user interface and features amongst other things.

System Requirements

At the time of release, Microsoft Security Essentials is compatible with Windows XP (SP2 and SP3), Windows Vista (Gold, SP1, and SP2) and Windows 7. Other requirements are 1 GB of available system memory with 500 MHz CPU clock speed for XP (1 GHz for Vista) and 140 MB of free hard disk space.

Installation and Setup

A validation check is performed as part of the installation to determine if the copy of Windows installed is genuine. Other than that, there is no further interaction. At the end of the install, you will be prompted to get the latest updates and scan the computer. When the update has finished, a summary page displays the version number and the date of the virus and spyware definition. The location of this information is available from the Update tab.

The User Interface

The simple interface consists of four tabs: Home, Update, History and Settings. A quick overview is available from the Home tab. On the same tab, there are also three different scan options: Quick, Full and Custom.  The default time, which can be changed, for scheduled Quick scan is Sunday at 2:00 AM. The History section acts as a log and displays information on detected spyware and viruses.

The advanced configuration can be set in the Settings tab. Introduced in Windows Defender, Security Essentials also features Microsoft SpyNet Online Community. According to the support page, Microsoft SpyNet Online Community  hosts information regarding virus, spyware and harmful software. This information would assist Microsoft to create a better product and new definition.  For details on what being sent and how the information being handled, check out the Microsoft Security Essentials Privacy Statement.

Usage and Performance

The Microsoft Security Essentials utilizes about 45 MB during idle period.  Full scan uses less than 70 MB. In Windows Task Manager, the process is called MsMpEng.exe. As good security product, it’s not easy to turn off Microsoft Security Essentials. The only option to “turn it off” is by removing the check in front of Turn on real-time protection.

Compatibility with other software

For testing, we have AVG Free 8.5 (Build 420 September 24, 2009) pre-installed on the computer.  When installed, Security Essentials displays a warning on issue that might occur if two different antivirus products installed on a computer. Then, it proceeds with the installation. Although Security Essentials co-exists well with AVG Free during the test, it is not recommended to have both products installed.


Security Essentials is another great product released by Microsoft. The simple user interface with detailed information makes it easy to use. It is also more polished than Windows Live One Care (which was not free). Only time will tell how it fares against other vendors in term of features and performance. It is interesting to see what other vendors would deliver especially when the solution is not free.

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