This one slipped out quietly, as most people don’t even seem to know it exists.
Anyway, fact is, Microsoft now give you complete anti-virus and malware protection, free of charge. So is it any good? Well that’s a very difficult question to answer, because unlike many other kinds of software, anti-virus is typically proven to be good over time, in the real world and with demonstrated resilience. Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) hasn’t been out that long, so its competency is yet to be proven.
I must say though, I already like it more than any of the other free offerings. It does exactly what AV should do, it installs without fuss and it leaves you alone. I wouldn’t necessarily advise you to bin the likes of AVG or Avast just yet, but I’d certainly recommend it over horrid, paid-for bloated-beasts like McAfee or the satanic monster known as Norton.
MSE replaces Defender (and the likes of Ad-Aware Anti-Spyware), wo what’s it like? Well from what I can tell, it’s a huge improvement! It seems to know that you haven’t used your computer in a while, so won’t bug you to do a spyware scan when the netbook you use once in a while gets turned on. Hmmm, nice feature.
There is, inevitably, an undeniable advantage to using AV from the same company who makes your OS. This would be true for Apple, were they to take viruses seriously (they don’t). MSE integrates with User Account Control and Data Execution Prevention. In Windows 7 64-bit, it’s also integrated with Patch Guard. In my opinion, these features are almost reason enough to switch to MSE right now.
The problem is, of course, that this is one of the many circumstances where Microsoft runs the risk of being a victim of its own success. There is an inherent risk in everyone running the same AV solution. Just as Windows is subject to infinitely more malicious attacks than “wannabe” systems like OSX, if everyone uses it, MSE will be a prime target. That won’t necessarily be a problem if it’s a tight, well engineered application. But I know Microsoft…
Overall, I cautiously recommend Microsoft Security Essentials. Put it this way, I’ve installed it on all my machines. I suppose that if you receive an unsolicited email from me in a few weeks, inviting you to buy penis enlargement cream or a time-share in Spain, we’ll all know I made the wrong decision!
You can Download MSE for XP/Vista/Win 7 from the Microsoft Security Essentials webpage.