How-To Geek

Microsoft Security Essentials is a Free Antivirus Utility

Microsoft Security Essentials is a free utility that provides real-time protection to identify and eliminate harmful viruses and other malware from your PC. Today we’ll take a look at how it performs and the protection it has to offer.

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is free Anti-Malware protection that replaces their previous “pay for” utility One Care. It has left beta and version 1.0 was released to the public yesterday. As with the beta we showed you before, this version provides real-time protection and runs quietly in the background. It actually runs a lot like the beta version and the user interface is the basically same.


Before installation make sure there is no other Antivirus or spyware application running on the machine. However, you don’t need to turn off Windows Defender, because MSE takes care of it for you.


You will have to validate your copy of Windows to be able to install and use Security Essentials.


The user interface is basic, simple, and easy to use. After installation it will update the virus definitions right away. After that it will update itself automatically in the background so once installed it truly is a “set it and forget it” process.


After the database is updated the computer status turns green. There are 4 tabs at the top that allow you to control different functions.


Under Settings you can choose what actions it should take with malware based on its threat level.


By default Real-time protection is enabled but if you want to disable it you want. The Real-time protection is light on system resources and doesn’t slow down other processes at all.


It shows a green icon in the notification area letting you know your system is protected.


Progress is displayed while a manual scan takes place and tells you the amount of time it takes. Scan times will vary between systems based on amount of files and hardware performance.


It works like most other Antivirus apps and lets you scan a single file.


If a threat is detected a red attention screen pops up in the Notification Area and you can clean the threat right away based on your recommended actions or find out more detail about the threat.


If you want more details, they actually provide a good amount of information on a threat. When in the details screen you can change the recommend action if you want and clean it from there.


During out tests we tried to download an infected file, but MSE stopped it and wouldn’t allow the download to continue unless manually selecting to ignore it. This is very nice so someone doesn’t ignore the warnings, click out of the screens, and try to download and install the app anyway.


For testing we ran this on the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium but it will also work with XP and Vista. It is light on system resources and runs quietly without constantly popping up messages and annoying you. It does pop up a message when it matters though. If a threat is found it will pop up a red alert to let you know about the malware and decide what actions to take. It’s nice to have a free anti-malware utility that is easy to use and effective. While Microsoft doesn’t always offer the best security solutions, they seem to have gotten this one right.

Download Microsoft Security Essentials

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 09/30/09

Comments (64)

  1. Shail

    Scanning Speed Needs Much Improvement

  2. liewzy

    Does MSE offer auto scanning virus when we plug in USB disk?

  3. Eddie

    I tried this software yesterday evening on one of my computers running vista 32bit. My computer immediately ran into problems with freezing and non responsive applications. Windows explorer became non responsive and I had to restart explorer, programs would not open and open programs would freeze.
    I have uninstalled MSE and reinstalled AVG free and now my computer is now running normally.

  4. Mike-RaWare

    Yes, but it’s disabled by default. You can find the setting for auto-scanning in the advanced settings.

  5. Ujjwal Kanth

    @liewzy .. yes MSE offers auto scanning when USB is plugged.
    A Great product from Mircosoft.

  6. venkat

    Yes it does scan USB drives automatically when plugged-in an the detection rate of mse is very good though it takes time to scan USB drive when compared to AVG free anti-virus. MSE is to be much more improved to heavily rely on it only for protection.

  7. Corey

    “make sure there is no other Antivirus or spyware application running on the machine. ”

    does that mean no Avira, Spybot, or malwarebytes? then too bad. im tot trusting my safety to just MSE

  8. Frank Thomas

    “Minimum system requirements for Microsoft Security Essentials ”
    “Internet Browser:

    * Windows Internet Explorer 6.0 or later.
    * Mozilla Firefox 2.0 or later.”

    Never thought I would see FireFox listed on a Microsoft site. :-)

  9. InDiSent

    I installed it yesterday on Vista Business good. It does take a long time to scan but hopefully they can get that fixed. I like how it checks for updates before a scheduled scan. It was reviewed in the October issue of PC World along with a few other Free Anti Virus apps. It didn’t do so bad and would have done better if it scanned a little faster. Over all i think it’s a pretty good offering in the Free category. Good Review Mysticgeek.

  10. Gavin

    @liewzy – MSE does scan removable drives, but not by default. You have to go into Settings > Advanced and check off “Scan removable drives”. Works great.

    Thanks for the post How-To Geek!

  11. techprism

    A new way to Microsoft is preceding, but a lot to do here also, as the WARS among antivirus providers is not a BABY game, its already a grown market.

  12. Nitpicker

    Is it any good? Is it worth deleting AVG Free and using MSE instead? How does it compare to other free anti-virus options? This article seems to be nothing more than a simple guide on how to use almost any anti-virus software, unless it is an advert also.

  13. John

    I have both microsoft security essencials & McAfee running on the same machine, at the same time.. It’s an old machine.. 3.0ghz single core, 1 GB of ram, XP pro.. Everything works fine.. The two programs can run in background at the same time.

  14. Ujjwal Kanth

    I am running Threat Fire along with MSSE, if u count it as antivirus.
    But in my opinion its sufficient for home and basic usage. It has a very good detection rate and has been given a thumbs up from one of the AV testing companies.

  15. Peter Meijer

    I installed Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) yesterday on a Vista 32 notebook PC, and the PC kept completely freezing up a minute of so after starting up. Happened every time I started the PC. Not even the mouse pointer was moving, and Control Alt Del did nothing: totally unresponsive until a hard power-down. Had to use a restore point to get rid of MSE (cannot be uninstalled from safe mode!) and the whole problem was gone. There was no other antivirus or other security software installed except for the free Zonealarm firewall.

    I also installed MSE on two 32 bit XP systems that used the free Zonealarm firewall, and there I had no problems and MSE seemed to work just fine. So it looks like there is some sort of nasty bug that only shows on (some) Vista systems with MSE.

  16. sean

    im running win7 and MSE runs great on it. less of a load on the system than AVG free, which is saying something. there were a couple other reasons i switched over. one is that MSE has no popups or prompts to buy the “premium” version all the time…what you see is what you get, and the thing doesnt bother you. no subscriptions or renewals or blah blah etc. that is just refreshing. also, it handles rootkits, which AVG free does not. it also uses the Dynamic Signature Service, which can protect you from things that your definition list hasnt even added yet. from what i am seeing and reading so far, this is a top notch free antivirus option.

  17. karen

    i am not sure of the web site. Will this protection run on windows vista 8? thank you.

  18. Corey

    so, has anyone tested Avira, Spybot, and malwarebytes with MSE?

  19. ii

    I’ve made the switch over on all my computers, which had Avast and AVG Free installed. No annoying ads, no nagging to upgrade to a paid version, no pointless yearly registration plus a clean and simple user interface all combine to make this the best AV program I’ve tried.

  20. Jason

    For those that are having the freezing problem mentioned by Peter (I had it too), check out: for the steps I took to remove the software.

    As Peter mentioned, it sounds like it’s the firewall that may be causing the issue (this is the reported common culprit in many threads I’ve been seeing).

  21. shelded

    This review seems weak as it does not deal with features added by the product. Unfortunately I’ll have to install it to know what it is. The review leaves me unsure whether the product has a firewall or relies on the Windows firewall (which I won’t use). Those who use a separate ZoneAlarm firewall seem to collide with something in MSE but I need a software firewall. Also the review doesn’t mention if MSE will block changes to browser settings (such as Hosts file). Does the product rely on the OS for Parent Controls, if any? Does it block URLS which may be harmful, as an internet security suite would? Am I able to turn OFF the Automatic Update once the software turns it on (I always approve the OS patches myself instead of automatic)? On the basis of this weak review it seems a bit premature for the Geek to endorse this product when we don’t even know what features it’s attempting to provide. If it’s strictly AV and download protection, well, I don’t need just a weak solution like that, and I hope folk won’t uninstall more capable products to begin using a weak one.

  22. shelded

    Question about the complaints about the scanning speed: why is scanning speed a matter of concern? If the objective was to create a lightweight application do we care if it takes forever to scan in the background? It does scan in the brackground, doesn’t it?

  23. netmastan

    It’s freezes my xp pc. So, i had to uninstall .. uninstalling took ages too

  24. Kevin

    To Shelded:

    I installed MSE and I am still able to decide what updates are installed. I agree with you as far as I like to know what’s installed by MS because some of their updates screwed my old XP computer up. With reguard to running other security software, I’m running SpyBot, Malwarebytes, and AVAST Home with no problems. I removed ALL ZoneAlarm software from my XP computer over a year ago when THEIR updates screwed up my system. I just could not figure out why Windows Defender kept being disabled with MSE. This site answered that question. Thanks GEEK!

  25. Mr. Anon

    I installed it. It caused my XP 32-bit to freeze. Completely unresponsive.

    Started XP in Safe Mode just to get the program to open so I could examine the settings.

    Beware… forces you to choose between two settings….Basic Membership or Advanced Membership in their “Microsoft Spynet” club. The program by default phones home, sending information to MS about any files you download or scan.

    It is possible to opt out of this only by changing a registry setting, but by doing so MS claims it disables an important part of the program.


    I uninstalled it….am forced to go back to Norton, which (despite it being a resource hog) performed flawlessly on my machine.

  26. James

    MSE tells you that it will disable windows defender upson starting..Its suppose to. Because it works better than Defender..and does same thing.Should have two programs doing same work on your pc,its a no brainer that will cause problems. I love MSE on my XP great and leaves small footprint on running back ground programs. I went from 36 to 26 background programs just from ANG alone.MSE rated second best antivirus malware program last time I checked. Some want to blame unkept pcs on programs they install..sometimes its not the program..its messed up registries. No company designs programs to run on faulty pcs.

  27. Shaun

    I run MSE and Malwarebytes together and have never had a problem with either of them.

  28. Bill

    I run MSE and Malwarebytes and ccleaner and spybot on both Windows 7 Pro and XP Pro with zero issues.

  29. Geoff777

    I have MSE running on 3 machines – with Windows XP
    I also have Malwarbytes and SUPER AntiSpyware running on the same machines :)
    (SAS slows the machines down the most and takes several minutes after everything else
    is loaded before it is fully up and running.)
    No serious complaints yet – does what it says on the tin as it were – only niggle is when it’s
    not running or uploaded the logo is in red and I always get this along with the red Shield on the
    bottom bar for a little while – but it turns green after a while. It just takes a little while to strart up initially.
    I am interested in above comments as I will shortly replace the PC with a W7 equiped machine.
    It is between MSE, AVG and Bit Defender for my AV

  30. senthil kumar

    hi,how can i download microsoft-security-essentials anti virous prtuction softwar

  31. Imran Khan

    This is Imran Khan n Im using microsoft-security-essentials n working fine.

  32. Tony

    Why does Mircosoft Security Essential – launch ever time a user logs on to my home computer – Although it is scheduled to run a comprehesive scan on Sunday Morning only? Its becoming a pain to minimise or close the window when I or my other users are in the middle of other tasks. I might add, no threat is ever found.

  33. Bill

    I tried to install MSE and it keeps telling me I have a 32, or a 64 or some other reason. Any Ideas

  34. george takenaka

    i had install the MSE on my computer about 45 days ago, and it worked fine , till today?? I don’t see the Icon on my screen any more?? nor can i click on it?? i get nothing/ what happen to it/ Do i have to re download it????If so, then do i click on add and remove first? and re download. Please advise

  35. Hank

    Similar question to george’s: I installed it a few days ago. But now I can’t open the user interface, plus the icon that was on the taskbar is gone. Program is running in background [per check of Task Manager]. Why can’t I get to the user interface anymore??

  36. Alex

    I have an antivirus Mikrosoft + NOD 32 all is well thanks

  37. Lilla

    I installed MSE a few days ago and tonight I opened my computer and could not get my home page to open. The address was totally reconfigured and I can not get it to default back. Any thoughts? I called M and was told it was not safe to remove MSE, which upset me but I removed it anyway. No change in homepage default.

  38. Keshav37a

    In my opinion MSE is the best antivirus. The best thing about it is that it is very light on the system and never slows down the PC.

  39. mohs

    You who do no feel any conflict with other antivirus may have a fast CPU, you will kill your CPU in time, because MSE is known for its CONFLICT.
    I don’t trust a light, poor, slow protector that checks windows Genuine everyday! and comes free from Micro$ost!

  40. Rolande

    In Vista takes care of removing “Micro Soft Security Essentials”. I am now hoping to go for a whole day without freeing my Inspiron.

    Essentials rather naughtily disabled Paretologic forcing a reinstall.

    Outlook, Word, and Microsoft Explorer all were subject to freezing after Essentials Install.
    Despite the problems I can report that twice essentials has caught a real piece of malware; lets hope my other protection will still keep me safe.

  41. buffy

    hi i got a windows 7 and i was wondering which free virus scan would be good for me.. i need to scan my latpop and uuugh… lol it’ s sony windows 7

  42. buffy

    hi i got a windows 7 and i was wondering which free virus scan would be good for me.. i need to scan my latpop and uuugh… lol

  43. voidler

    I am using Google Chrome as browser. Could this be why the update to MSE is getting stuck 1/3 way through?

  44. Bev

    It seems that periodically, MSE disables itself. There are times when I turn on my computer that I’ll find that the green logo on the bottom bar has turned red – when I hover over the logo, I’m told I don’t have protection – I then have to turn MSE protection on, when I DIDN’T TURN IT OFF in the first place.

  45. Kevin

    I run MSE on Vista and 7 and have not had any problems on either. For those of you that are having problems with XP, I think MSE was made for Vista and 7 and does not function properly on XP.

  46. PC Fixer Guy

    I fix computers for a living, and NOT for somewhere like Geek Squad. I work in a professional (government) environment where PC security, performance and reliability are a must. MSE has NOT been a problem on ANY computer I have worked on. I run it at work and at home, on my own computers as well as my wife’s. I also have AVG free running, Panda Cloud, Spywareblaster, Spybot S&D and also use Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware at times. Not once has there been a conflict or crash on any computer I have touched related to these programs.

    If you don’t do stupid crap with your computer and know how to keep it from breaking, you’ll have no problems with MSE.

  47. Kat

    I had a nasty redirect virus recently. AVG didn’t catch it, and after finding it finally could not remove. Anyway, I have since uninstalled AVG and installed MS Security Essentials and Avira. I also have Spybot S&D and IOBit Security 360 for ad/spy/malware stuff. Can I run Avira AND MSE at the same time? Should I? Do I really need 2 anti-virus programs?

  48. PC Fixer Guy

    @Kat – MSE has multiple functions, including malware detection/removal as well as being able to use it to scan removable devices (with a quick registry tweak – link below) so I’d say it is worth running it along with Avira. Install MSE first, then as you install Avira it will let you know if there is a conflict of interest. I got a message from AVG that it didn’t like MSE, but haven’t had a single issue with running both programs.

  49. Kat

    @PC Fixer Guy – Thank you so much for your quick reply. Much appreciated. I took your advice and so far Avira and MSE are running smoothly with no conflict. I am actually much more confident with these products as opposed to AVG which was proving to be less and less effective with time. Thanks again!

  50. manikandan

    i have a good experience with the MSE.

  51. Lassar

    Runs at a good speed on XP.

    But extremely slow on vista.

  52. jayar

    tnx for this

  53. joe

    I got MSE through advice of a friend who swears up and down by the product and has no problems with it on win7. I got rid of my AVG free and up until now I have been problem free running MSE with spybot S&D, malwarebytes, and superantispyware as back up. Last night I was researching war heroes from the show ‘Band of Brothers’ and one of the top google responses gave me the HDD defragmenter virus. . No detection from MSE whatsoever. AVG would produce a pop-up window letting me know that there were malicious threats on a website I was attempting to go to, giving me a chance to leave quickly before any threat made it onto my computer. Not so with MSE. I’m currently in safe mode running virus scans with malwarebytes and MSE. Unsurprisingly, my MSE has become unable to turn on, and my superantispyware has become completely useless. Once I’ve cleared my problem I’m unsure if I will continue to use MSE or if I’ll switch back to AVG.


  54. misdaroc

    MSE did not catch the virus “SystemTool” on my laptop.I was able to get rid of it but now i have no faith in MSE.

  55. jeff

    i had this computer for 10 yrs with no anti-virus— and had no problems- but after reading that i REALLY need some protection- i down loaded the microsoft security essentials last night– it went through the check and found nothing– i was surprised ——–
    ——- today when i turn on my computer- i get this —Antivirus 8 — deal that pops up continually- about every minute–telling me i need to buy there protection– there is now way i can uninstall it– it will not let me- — i finally got the microsoft essentials uninstalled—but this anitivirus 8 just will not go away—
    please help me

  56. bobba

    I installed MSE on dual core Dell laptop Vista 32 after a few instances of system lockups over a few days figured out the first or second time a USB device is plugged in the machine locks up. Must power cycle to get PC operational again. Uninstalled MSE no USB machine lockup issues any more. I don’t have much software on this machine or USB devices (key board, mouse). Over the last two years befor MSE this machine has only locked up once and suspect that was from a bad display driver version which was replaced/updated shortlay after that incident.

  57. jc

    i keep on seeing posts saying that mse works fine on xp PRO; but does it work as well on xp HOME PREMIUM?? thanks. If i get a new computer the first thing i’ll do is to destroy mcafee, and install mse. (it will b hard since im no computer whiz)

  58. fendy

    how don’t know why i cant update my microsoft security essential..
    anybody can help me??

  59. ryan barton

    i am very pleased with it and it is so user friendly and easy to understand i recomend it to anyone who hasnt tried it and im glad to see microsoft finally giveing us smething free that helps to take care of the products we buy from them

  60. ram


  61. shareef

    i am very pleased with it and it is so user friendly and easy to understand i recomend it to anyone who hasnt tried it and im glad to see microsoft finally giveing us smething free that helps to take care of the products we buy from them

  62. Gourav

    does this protect against internet threats in xp

  63. nitha

    im glad with my new antivirus,..but im a bit dissapointed with the time taken during update after the installation

  64. jesse

    beautiful, wonderful suggestion. McAfee is slower, more complicated, and way over priced… $99.99 every two years, for something as simple as security. Good for you Microsoft!

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