Microsoft Security Essentials: Hype or Reality?

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Released , Microsoft Security Essentials is a product that advertises itself as a free solution for “Virus, Spyware, And Malware Protection” by our favorite Corporate Giant, Microsoft. The product is the result of a recent push by Microsoft to force OEMs to offer free, non-expiring programs for fighting malicious software. Available for Windows XP (x86), Vista (x64 and x86), and 7 (x64 and x86), Microsoft seems to be actually trying to help consumers overcome the every day threats of the Internet, and not force users to upgrade to their newest platform, Windows 7, and all for free (assuming that you pass a Genuine Advantage test). Now, as for the review:

I’ll be straightforward. Although I love Windows and technology, Microsoft usually disappoints me in the products that they produce, although I have to work with them daily. Other than Windows 7, XP, and the MSN protocol, I tend to avoid Microsoft products. However, Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is a prime example of Microsoft’s recent steps in the right direction (along with Windows 7). MSE is a solid, powerful product that every Windows user needs, and it has helped to restore my faith in the Redmond giant, even prompting me to replace my security suite (ESET Smart Security) with MSE (I considered going without a suite entirely as I can handle any threats myself, but I decided to keep MSE for the reasons stated in this article).

Firstly, I am also not a big fan of bloat. I was pleasantly surprised to see that MSE weighed in at a mere 4.28 MB for the installer. After installation, the folder for MSE was also only 10.8 MB, a very light amount considering that this is a fully featured anti-virus solution. Then, after I ran MSE for the first time, it immediately updated the definitions (which was very quick) and started scanning (I was smiling already). The default scan wasn’t a basic check of %WINDIR%, %WINDIR%\System, and the My Documents folder; rather, it scanned my entire drive, and also lasted for all of three minutes.

Straight To Work
Straight To Work

I quickly surfed through the settings and configured the program entirely to the way I want it in about five more minutes. If the download took a minute and the installation took a minute (actually much shorter), then a reasonable computer should average at ten minutes or less for a complete setup. Not bad, Microsoft.

Now, onto the features themselves and not my personal experience:

Main Menu (10 Out of 10)

The main splash page is very simplistic and basic (but not in a bad way). In fact, when I first saw the main page, I could tell that this was a step ahead for Microsoft. It didn’t contain features that the average user wouldn’t use, it was clean, simple, and easy to understand. “Microsoft Security Essentials is monitoring your computer and helping to protect it” can be understood by anyone, even the most unknowledgeable of users. There were only three things I could do: change my scan type, change the next time of scan, and flip to a different window. Nice. An anti-virus shouldn’t be flashy and over the top, instead, it should get the job done and be simple enough for anyone to understand; Microsoft definitely succeeded in this aspect.

Simplistic: Take That, Mac Users!
Simplistic: Take That, Mac Users!

Update Menu (9 Out Of 10)

The update page was a difficult one to judge. It followed along the same lines of the Main Menu, but even more extreme, maybe a little too much this time. I took off a point because I thought that MSE should provide an option to check for updates at certain times (such as 03:00, my preferred idle time). Other than that, the same can be said about the update page, except that this one has a “Did You Know!” feature. Interesting, especially considering that it explained exactly what definitions were (something that an average user may not know).

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