Is Microsoft Security Essentials the best free Microsoft antivirus?

Is Microsoft Security Essentials the best free Microsoft antivirus?

Posted 07.13.2012 in News by Dan

It would be a fair assumption that Microsoft's free security and antivirus software, Microsoft Security Essential (MSE), would be the leader in market share and demonstrated performance, but that is not the case. One of the largest and most powerful software companies has struggled to achieve the dominant position among free antivirus software for it's own operating system.

Microsoft has been long criticized on its inability to effectively manage the security of its Windows operating system, and was scoffed at when it announced MSE's release. Since its conception in 2009, MSE has managed to excel towards the top of the some of the most popular antivirus softwares available, but has never been the top rated.

MSE's release was also met with some controversy. Independent software vendors such as Trend Micro argued that Microsoft's ability to integrate MSE into Microsoft Windows violated antitrust law. The controversial aspect of MSE was that with basic Windows updates MSE was a suggested free download. No other antivirus programs were able to incorporate into the Windows operating system or its updates, thus theoretically giving MSE an unfair and anti-competitive advantage. No suit was ever filed against Microsoft for MSE, but that hasn't stopped some companies from crying foul play.

Controversy aside, MSE focused on its simplicity and usability in order to best serve users. MSE can be used on Windows XP, Vista, and 7. MSE utilizes and simple 4-tab format interface. Under the “Home” tab, the user can easily choose between running quick, full, or custom scans. With the “Update” users can manually update MSE for program updates and new virus definition files. The other two tabs consist of a “History” tab where the user can check the results of past scans, and the “Settings” tab that allows users to customize MSE.

Unlike other free antivirus software, MSE includes a system restore option in order to back up the computer before any detected malware is removed. MSE also offers a choice between two SpyNet memberships. The basic membership that simply sends Microsoft the detected software's origins, the users response to it, and how successful the selected action was. The advanced membership completes everything the basic does but also sends the location on the hard drive, how it operates, and the affects it has on a system.

During a certified 1 year test of MSE on the Windows 7 operating system, AV-Test.org gave MSE a 14/18. The lowest score it earned was a 4/6 in Protection while grabbing a 4.5/6 in repair and its high score of 5.5/6 in Usability.

Some drawbacks of MSE were concentrated with the length of virus scans. On a real-world computer MSE completed a scan in almost two hours, and MSE ran for nearly two and a half hours to complete a full scan. The slow scan time may turn off certain users, but an easy way to avoid the inconvenience is by running any virus scans over night. Another shortcoming of MSE is its inability to remove already implanted malware, achieving less than 50% of the time. MSE also loses out on users due to the fact that it is not available in certain countries.

MSE is effective at protecting from intruding malware and its user interface makes it easy to use, but when put up against Independent antivirus software, it falls short in malware removal, repair and time efficiency. With it's its incapacity to perform those tasks to the level of other competitors, MSE will continue to fall short of being the best free antivirus for the Windows operating system.

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