Microsoft Releases Free Anti-Virus Software

Microsoft has recently released a beta version of Security Essentials (previously Morro), their free anti-virus security software. I’ve taken a look, and I’ve come to a rather shocking conclusion: it’s good. I mean, really really good. In fact, I think it’s safe to ignore my last post about which free malware prevention software is the best. Let me just come right out and say it… Microsoft Security Essentials is the single best product, free or otherwise, to protect your computer from malware.

From my tests and several other’s, Microsoft Security Essentials looks to be blocking almost every piece of malware you throw at it. Rootkits, drive-by downloads, trojans, spyware, viruses… Security Essentials catches it all. Not only that, but it has a surprisingly low false-positive rate. This means Security Essentials won’t be bugging you with nearly as many false warnings as, say for example, Avira AntiVir does.

The footprint is also minuscule. The installer is a mere 7.52MB in size, and once installed the program uses very few system resources. So, your computer will keep running fast even while Security Essentials is doing its work. Compare that to solutions from McAfee and Symantec which tend to slow your computer down to a crawl.

The interface for Microsoft Security Essentials is pretty simple, which is great for the less tech-savvy. If any problems are detected, an easily identifiable notification pops up with a “Clean Computer” button. Click that and the problem is solved. That’s about all there is to it. Updating happens automatically in the background, and a similar notification window pops up if the computer ever needs to be restarted. It’s also nice not having to deal with Avira’s annoying “Upgrade To Our Paid Version!” popup ads–there’s nothing like that here. Finally, there’s an advanced area where you can schedule scans, run scans manually, and set a few other options that the average user will never need to bother with.

Back on the subject of updates, it’s also worth noting that Security Essentials works a little differently than most of the other solutions available. Instead of downloading all malware signatures onto your computer, Security Essentials uses cloud-computing technologies to download and check files as they are needed. Not only does this save space on your machine and require fewer large updates, but it will allow Microsoft to detect new viruses on your PC as soon as they’re identified (instead of having to wait for the next batch virus-definition update).

All of this, and the software is actually completely free. It looks like Microsoft has really done it right this time! The only downside? Microsoft is capping their beta downloads to the first 75,000 users. So by the time you read this, the beta download limit will have been reached and you’ll have to wait until September to get a copy of the final version.

At that time, it will be interesting to see how a free, widely marketed and arguably superior anti-virus solution will affect the paid vendors out there. Could this mark the beginning of the end for Norton and McAfee? Hopefully it will just push them to release their own free solutions and improve their software so it can compete. I suppose time will tell, but come September I think Security Essentials will be my new malware weapon of choice.

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