Microsoft Security Essentials (beta)

This is set-it-and-forget-it software that handles the basic dangers, but doesn't try to compete with big-boy security suites

  • Review
  • Specs
  • Images
  • User Reviews
  • Buy Now 11
Microsoft Security Essentials Beta
  • Microsoft Security Essentials Beta
  • Microsoft Security Essentials Beta
  • Microsoft Security Essentials Beta

Pros

  • Free, easy to use, none of the software bloat and slow performance that bedevilled OneCare

Cons

  • Still only in beta, yet to be put through its paces by antivirus labs

Bottom Line

Microsoft Security Essentials — even in beta form — appears to be a success. It's exceedingly simple to use, takes up few system resources and doesn't cost anything. Those who want fuller-featured security suites that do backups and other functions, or who want to be able to tweak their protection levels in more detail, will look elsewhere.

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 11 stores)

See all prices

The beta of Microsoft Security Essentials is a solid, free tool that protects against malware while taking up few system resources and staying out of your way as much as possible.

This is set-it-and-forget-it software that handles the basic dangers, but doesn't try to compete with big-boy security suites such as those built by Symantec, McAfee or Panda. So you won't find extras such as a firewall, identity protection, anti-phishing technology or anti-spam. Instead, Security Essentials focuses on protecting you against viruses, spyware, rootkits and similar dangers, and does a very good job of it.

Those who have wrestled unhappily with the software's predecessor, Microsoft Live OneCare, will be pleased to know that Security Essentials suffers from none of the software bloat and slow performance that bedevilled OneCare. Unlike OneCare, Security Essentials doesn't do performance tune-ups, back up your PC, take up too much system resources - or cost a penny.

Installation and setup

Security Essentials comes in versions for Windows XP and Windows Vista (the Vista version will also work with Windows 7). Both are light downloads: The 32-bit Vista download weighs in at 4.8 MB, the 64-bit Vista version at 3.8MB and the XP version (there's only a 32-bit version) comes in at 7.6 MB.

Installation of the 32-bit Vista version on our machine took less than five minutes and was about as simple as an installation can be. There is one caveat, though: You need to have a validated copy of Windows. Not surprisingly, Microsoft's software won't work with pirated or non-validated versions.

Once installation is complete, the application downloads the latest anti-malware definitions. It then launches a quick system scan that took under ten minutes on my system.

Security Essentials uses a new feature called the Dynamic Signature Service, which employs a variety of techniques to check for malware even before that malware's specific signature has been identified. Microsoft says Security Essentials emulates the behaviour of programs before they run, and uses the signature created during the process to look for any suspicious behaviour or patterns of suspicious behaviour, such as starting an unexpected network connection or trying to modify certain protected sections of Windows. The Dynamic Signature Service then determines what action to take against the potential malware.

Once the software has scanned your system, you don't need to do anything else, unless it finds malware that it wants to kill or quarantine. New anti-malware signatures are automatically downloaded daily, using the Windows Update engine; you can also have the software to check for the latest definitions manually. Security Essentials also provides real-time protection, so it watches your system as you use it and warns you if you're downloading malware or if your system has been infected. The software also scans your system once a week by default. You can manually override the defaults and set up specific days and times to perform the scans; more about this later.

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

Be the first to comment.

Post new comment

Users posting comments agree to the PC World comments policy.

Login or register to link comments to your user profile, or you may also post a comment without being logged in.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest News Articles

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?