Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows


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Rating: 5 / 5 (1)

Free and simple antivirus software from Microsoft

Operating system, web browser, media player. Microsoft had everything covered, except for a security application. Until now, with the release of Microsoft Security Essentials .

After some months in beta stage, Microsoft has launched the final version of its security application. though I have to say Microsoft Security Essentials hasn't changed that much in the final release. It still features a simple, clear tabbed interface with four main areas in which the user can take a look at the system's security status, update virus and spyware definitions, check the history of previously detected items, and tweak the program's settings, respectively.

Microsoft Security Essentials includes three types of scan - quick, full, or customizable. They can be scheduled to run at a give time or particular location, and can be modified to work when the computer is not actually in use. Handily, Microsoft Security Essentials automatically updates its database, and is fully integrated with Windows Explorer and the Windows Firewall. It also boasts a system restore point, in case you need to undo any over-enthusiastic cleaning.

Microsoft Security Essentials is Microsoft's first attempt at a standalone security application for home use. Given its simplicity and suitability for beginners, it probably isn't the best choice for more advanced users or professional network administrators, but for the average user, it covers all the bases. Bear in mind, however, that Microsoft Security Essentials doesn't disinfect files - it only deletes them in case of infection.

Microsoft Security Essentials is a gentle introduction to the sometimes complicated world of home computer security.

Pros +

  • Easy to install and use
  • Automatic updates
  • Several scan types
  • Light and unobtrusive

Cons -

  • Doesn't disinfect files
  • Too basic for expert users
  • No firewall

Applies to Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1

We periodically release updates for Windows to include new features, the latest security protection, and the best drivers and software. Windows 8.1 Update and Windows RT 8.1 Update include improvements to make Windows more familiar and convenient for devices that use touch and mouse input and to make Windows available on a wider variety of devices, so you have more to choose from. Windows 8.1 Update and Windows RT 8.1 Update also include security and performance updates, and they must be installed for your PC to receive any future security updates for Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1 .

Getting the update

If you're already running Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1. Windows 8.1 Update and Windows RT 8.1 Update are available for free through Windows Update. To see if you’re running the latest update, see Which Windows operating system am I running? Otherwise, to install the latest update, see Install the Windows 8.1 Update (KB 2919355) .

Easier access to your favorite apps and key controls

Power and Search buttons on the Start screen. These buttons appear in the upper-right corner of the Start screen next to your account picture. You'll be able to quickly and easily shut down your PC or search for things right from Start. (Some types of PCs don't have the Power button on Start. You can shut down your PC using the Power button in the Settings charm instead.) For more info, see Shut down (turn off), sleep, or hibernate your PC and How to search .

Search and Power buttons on the Start screen

All open and pinned apps appear in the taskbar. If you like using the desktop, you'll see both desktop apps and apps from the Windows Store in your taskbar when they're running. You can also pin any app to the taskbar so you can quickly open or switch between apps from the desktop. For more info, see How to use the taskbar .

Access the taskbar from anywhere. When you're using a mouse, you can see the taskbar from any screen, including Start or a Windows Store app. Move your mouse pointer below the bottom edge of the screen to show the taskbar and then click an app to open or switch to it.

Go to the desktop when you sign in, instead of Start. If you spend more time in the desktop, you can sign in (boot) directly to the desktop instead of the Start screen. And if you want to sign in to Start instead, you can change this setting at any time. For more info, see Desktop .

Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

Microsoft Security Essentials is a free download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and always kept up to date so you can be assured your PC is protected by the latest technology. It's easy to tell if your PC is secure - when you're green, you're good. It's that simple.

Microsoft Security Essentials runs quietly and efficiently in the background so that you are free to use your Windows-based PC the way you want - without interruptions or long computer wait times.

How can I help protect my PC from viruses?

There are many preventive steps you can take to help protect your PC from viruses and other threats.

Use an antimalware app. Installing an antimalware app and keeping it up to date can help defend your PC against viruses and other malware (malicious software). Antimalware apps scan for viruses, spyware, and other malware trying to get into your email, operating system, or files. New threats can appear daily, so check the antimalware manufacturer's website frequently for updates.

Windows Defender is free antimalware software included with Windows, and you can update it automatically through Windows Update. You can also visit the list of Consumer security software providers to look for antivirus apps that work with Windows.

Don't open email messages from unfamiliar senders, or email attachments that you don't recognize. Many viruses are attached to email messages and will spread as soon as you open the attachment. It's best not to open any attachment unless it's something you're expecting.

Use a pop-up blocker with your Internet browser. Pop-up windows are small browser windows that appear on top of the website you're viewing. Although most are created by advertisers, they can also contain malicious or unsafe code. A pop-up blocker can prevent some or all of these windows from appearing.

Pop-up Blocker in Windows Internet Explorer is turned on by default. For more info, see Change security and privacy settings in Internet Explorer

If you're using Internet Explorer, make sure SmartScreen Filter is turned on. SmartScreen Filter in Internet Explorer helps protect you from phishing and malware attacks by warning you if a website or download location has been reported as unsafe. For more info, see SmartScreen Filter: FAQ.

Pay attention to Windows SmartScreen notifications. Be cautious about running unrecognized apps downloaded from the Internet. Unrecognized apps are more likely to be unsafe. When you download and run an app from the Internet, SmartScreen uses info about the app's reputation to warn you if the app isn't well-known and might be malicious.

Keep Windows updated. Periodically, Microsoft releases special security updates that can help protect your PC. These updates can help prevent viruses and other malware attacks by closing possible security holes.

You can turn on Windows Update to make sure that Windows receives these updates automatically. For more info, see Windows automatic updating: Frequently asked questions .

Use a firewall. Windows Firewall or any other firewall app can help notify you about suspicious activity if a virus or worm tries to connect to your PC. It can also block viruses, worms, and hackers from trying to download potentially harmful apps to your PC.

Use your Internet browser's privacy settings. Some websites might try to use your personal info for targeted advertising, fraud, and identity theft.

If you're using Internet Explorer, you can adjust your privacy settings or restore the default settings whenever you want. For more info, see Change security and privacy settings in Internet Explorer.

Make sure User Account Control (UAC) is turned on. When changes are going to be made to your PC that require administrator-level permission, UAC notifies you and gives you the chance to approve the change. UAC can help keep viruses from making unwanted changes. To open UAC, swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. (If you're using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and then click Search .) Enter uac in the search box, and then tap or click Change User Account Control settings.

Clear your Internet cache and your browsing history. Most browsers store info about the websites you visit and the info that you provide, like your name and address. While it can be helpful to have these details stored on your PC, there are times when you might want to delete some or all of them—for example, when you're using a public PC and don't want to leave personal info behind. For more info, see Delete your browsing history.

Microsoft Security Essentials Product Information

What is Microsoft Security Essentials?

There are a host of nasty intruders on the Internet including viruses, trojans, worms and spyware. Microsoft Security Essentials offers award-winning protection against these intruders without getting in your way.

The best brains and brawn in the background

Microsoft Security Essentials is built for individuals and small businesses, but it’s based on the same technology that Microsoft uses to protect giant businesses (security products like Microsoft Forefront, the Malicious Software Removal Tool, and Windows Defender). We have a whole team watching for new threats and coming up with ways to squash them.

We’re proud to have received great recognition for the protection we offer: the VB100 award from Virus Bulletin Ltd. Checkmark Certification from West Coast Labs, and certification from the ICSA Labs.

Easy to get, easy to use

Downloading and installing Microsoft Security Essentials is free* and easy. Once you have installed it, the software updates automatically once a day. We’re constantly tracking new threats and we keep your PC updated to help protect you. You don’t have to do anything.

Microsoft Security Essentials uses green, yellow and red color codes to designate the security status of your PC and a color-coded icon in the taskbar tells you at a glance if your attention is needed. It’s simple—when you’re green, you’re good. However, if there’s a red or yellow threat, Microsoft Security Essentials will alert you and recommend what to do (you can act directly from the notification area without having to enter the application).

Runs quietly without hurting PC performance

Microsoft Security Essentials runs quietly in the background. You’ll only be alerted when there are specific actions to take. When you’re away or busy, Microsoft Security Essentials can take the default action on your behalf and you can open the program later to review and undo those actions if you wish.

Microsoft Security Essentials is efficient and compact. Scans and updates are scheduled to run when the PC is idle and the software works in a way that your PC is still snappy when you’re using it. All this makes Microsoft Security Essentials friendly for all sorts of computers—your old PC, your new PC, your laptop, as well as your little netbook.

Publisher's Description

From Microsoft:

With Microsoft Security Essentials, you get high-quality protection against viruses and spyware, including Trojans, worms and other malicious software. Security Essentials is easy to install and easy to use. Updates and upgrades are automatic, so there's no need to worry about having the latest protection. It's easy to tell if you're protected - when the Security Essentials icon is green, your status is good. It's as simple as that.

Editors' Review

The bottom line: Microsoft Security Essentials 2 will protect you, and it will generally do it well. However, its impact on system performance could be improved, and it's still a bit light in the tool belt.

Now in its second iteration, Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) debuted as the lightweight, cloud-based successor to the paid security suite Live OneCare in 2009. Version 2 introduces deeper hooks into Internet Explorer and the default firewall in Vista and Windows 7. Security Essentials has begun to mature, although it's still rough at the edges.

Installation

It takes very little effort to get going with MSE. Microsoft politely does not opt you in to the program's customer experience improvement program; you must choose to opt in or stay out of it before you can finish the installation. It also lets you choose whether to run the Windows Defender firewall, and whether to run a scan once installation is complete, although both of those are opt-out.

Overall, the installation time ran around 4 minutes on our test computer. That's not as blazing fast as some of the paid suites, which can complete installation in less than 60 seconds, but it is respectable for a free program.

MSE 2's interface adopts a different color scheme than the previous version, going for various shades of gray to replace the vibrant blue and white look. It doesn't pop as much, but it also looks far less like a Windows XP relic.

For those unfamiliar with the design, MSE has four tabs across the top. The Home tab contains your security status and scan options, and you can run a Quick Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan. A link at the bottom of the pane lets you change the scheduled scan.

Update is where you manually get new virus definition files and program upgrades, History logs only detected threats, and Settings is where you go for advanced tweaking. The program looks simple, but don't be deceived: there are quite a few advanced options in Settings--just not as many as many competitors offer. Security Essentials uses labels imported from OneCare: green for all good, yellow for warning, and red for an at-risk situation.

Features and support

Under the clean and uncluttered interface, Security Essentials wraps up antivirus and antispyware engines, rootkit protection, and real-time detection courtesy of Microsoft SpyNet. the unfortunately named cloud-based service that anonymously compares file behavior across computers running various Microsoft operating systems.

SpyNet was introduced in Windows Vista and extended to Windows 7, but Microsoft Security Essentials is the only way to access the network in Windows XP. Unlike other security vendors that allow customers to take advantage of the benefits of their behavioral detection engines while opting out of submitting information, there's no way to do that with SpyNet.

Well, it's mostly anonymous. You can choose between two SpyNet memberships. The basic membership submits to Microsoft the detected software's origins, your response to it, and whether that action was successful, and the advanced membership submits all that plus the location on your hard drive of the software in question, how it operates, and how it has affected your computer. Both basic and advanced versions warn users that personal data might be "accidentally" sent to Microsoft, although they promise to neither identify nor contact you. New in version 2 is the option to opt out of contributing to SpyNet while still receiving the benefits of crowd-sourced security.

Microsoft Security Essentials 2 uses both definition-file and real-time defenses against viruses and spyware, and also offers rootkit protection. Along with the quick scan and the full scan, there's a Custom scan option that lets users select specific folders or drives to scan. It doesn't allow for customizing the type of scan used. For example, you're not going to be able to choose to scan only for rootkits or heuristics, as you can with other security programs. However, you can set USB keys and other external devices to automatically get scanned. The program installs a context-menu option for on-the-fly scanning in Windows Explorer, too.

The Update pane manages the definition file updates, with a large action button, and History provides access to a spreadsheet-style list of All detection items, your Quarantine, and items you've Allowed to run. Although it's a basic layout, this no-frills approach to security has proven appealing to people who are overwhelmed by more detailed security choices.

New in version 2 is integration with Internet Explorer so that downloads get scanned, and Windows firewall hooks so that your personal security net is tighter. For Windows 7 and Vista users, the Windows Filtering Platform that those two operating systems come with gets a boost from a new network inspection feature.

The Settings window allows you to further customize the program by scheduling scans, toggling default actions to take against threats, adjusting real-time protection settings, creating whitelists of excluded files, file types, and processes, and choosing from the aforementioned SpyNet options. There's also an Advanced option that is still fairly basic: here you can set Security Essentials to scan archives and removable drives, create a system restore point, and expand user rights to allow all users to view the History tab.

Security Essentials comes preconfigured to run a scan weekly at 2 a.m. when Microsoft thinks your system is likely to be idle. New malware signatures are downloaded once per day by default, although you can manually instigate a definition file update through the update tab. Attachments and downloaded files will be automatically scanned by Security Essentials.

Help is only available in the form of the standard offline Help manual that comes with all Microsoft programs. There's nothing fancy here.

MSE abandons the additional heft of a firewall, performance tuning, and backup and restore options to focus on core security. However, the new version does include a system restore option, to back up your computer before you remove any detected malware. Most of the changes in MSE 2 are under the hood, but it's still a worthwhile program in terms of features, especially on lower-powered Netbooks.

Performance

Microsoft Security Essentials occupies a slightly different space than the rest of the security programs because it's the only one published by Microsoft, and, remarkably to some, it doesn't suck. Benchmarks by independent third-party efficacy testers and CNET Labs discovered that the program has uneven performance. (Read more on how CNET Labs benchmarks security software.)

Efficient, intuitive and unobtrusive, how does Windows 8.1's latest built in security system stack up against the competition?

If you use Windows 8 then you're probably using Microsoft’s anti-malware package without knowing it; in the guise of Windows Defender, it’s the operating system’s default antivirus solution. For Windows 7 users, it’s a quick and easy download from Microsoft.com. See also: What is the best free antivirus of 2015?

Despite the name change to Windows Defender, Microsoft Security Essentials is designed to work with the other security features baked into Windows. This includes the Windows Firewall and the SmartScreen website and download filter, and its biggest selling point is that you normally wouldn’t know it’s there. It updates automatically through Windows Update, and sends the few notifications you might see through the standard Action Center in the Windows system tray. It protects in real-time but also allows scheduled and manual scans, and there’s little reason to even open its control panel.

If you do, you’ll find a simple UI with the focus on performing quick, full and custom scans, and on telling you whether the signatures are up to date. You can look through the history and see if any quarantined items deserve to be restored into the wild, while the settings allow you to exclude certain files, locations, file types or processes, and whether or not to scan removable drives.

That’s it. It’s a deliberately simple anti-malware tool, and speedy too, taking around 1min 33secs to complete a scan on our ageing dual-core PC. We also found it light on system resources, not noticeably affecting usability.

The problem is that Security Essentials can’t offer real peace of mind. While the latest update has managed to improve threat detection, in our tests Mirosoft Security Essentials was still compromised by 32% of threats. Its ability to allow legitimate software to work uninhibited did boost its overall accuracy score, but this is still a worrying result for Microsoft's built-in security tool. We wouldn't trust our PCs and our data to Security Essentials - and frankly, neither should you.

Does a decent job protecting an already-clean system. Good ratings from independent antivirus test labs. Free!

  • Cons Unusually slow scan. Failed to run on one test system. Low detection rate in malware cleanup test. Failed to thoroughly clean up threats it did detect.
  • Bottom Line

    Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0 does a decent job protecting a clean PC, but in testing its cleanup of already-infested systems wasn't thorough. You can get better protection for the same price.

    Many antivirus vendors announce each new version with great fanfare; not Microsoft. Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0 (free) released so quietly that I almost missed it. In truth, Microsoft doesn't refer to the version number at all, just to "the latest version of Microsoft Security Essentials." There isn't a lot that's new here, and my test results were about the same as before, so perhaps downplaying the new version makes sense.

    Microsoft Download Manager

    Why should I install the Microsoft Download Manager?

    Generally, a download manager enables downloading of large files or multiples files in one session. Many web browsers, such as Internet Explorer 9, include a download manager. Stand-alone download managers also are available, including the Microsoft Download Manager.

    if you do not have a download manager installed, and still want to download the file(s) you've chosen, please note:

    • You may not be able to download multiple files at the same time. In this case, you will have to download the files individually. (You would have the opportunity to download individual files on the "Thank you for downloading" page after completing your download.)
    • Files larger than 1 GB may take much longer to download and might not download correctly.
    • You might not be able to pause the active downloads or resume downloads that have failed.

    The Microsoft Download Manager solves these potential problems. It gives you the ability to download multiple files at one time and download large files quickly and reliably. It also allows you to suspend active downloads and resume downloads that have failed.

    Microsoft Download Manager is free and available for download now.

Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows

Best Antivirus News: Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows



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