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Microsoft Security Essentials installs quickly on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 machines. The free antimalware suite hit the streets yesterday in beta form.

The new software is extremely efficient offering minimal memory and processor usage, even during a full scans. Scans are also relatively quick.  (Source: The Washington Post)
Users will have to wait a bit longer to practice safe computing

Codenamed "Morro", Microsoft's free antivirus software offering has been one of the most anticipated software releases of the year, perhaps only playing second fiddle to Microsoft's own Windows 7.  The release is expected to shake up the security market, which is split currently between pricey offerings, and a handful of free competitors like AVG which assail the user with ads encouraging them to purchase "premium" versions.

Microsoft's new software, named Microsoft Security Essentials, comes without the sticker-shock or ad burden.  It was available yesterday for free download in beta form (read on -- it's no longer available, though).

For its part, Microsoft insists that the software isn't designed to make the antimalware paid software market obsolete.  It insists that its software is primarily for users who currently have no protection.  Indeed, the software lacks many of the bells and whistles that its predecessor, OneCare, had.  Among these omitted features are a dedicated firewall, data backup solution and restore or PC performance tuning.

On the other hand Windows XP (as of Service Pack 2) and Windows Vista already come with firewalls, so for most users the need for a second firewall is questionable (most users have trouble configuring one firewall, let alone two).  And most users don't ever use the data backup or tuning features offered on antimalware suites -- they just are looking for protection against threats.  In that regard, by offering equally strong or even stronger malware protection, Microsoft's new software threatens to make AV consumer software sales obsolete (though vendors may choose to move to Apple, which is a promising new target and offers no such free protection).

The biggest problem with the software?  It was released yesterday and the beta program has already filled up.  Microsoft released a message stating, "Thank you for your interest in joining the Microsoft® Security Essentials Beta. We are not accepting additional participants at this time. Please check back at later a date for possible additional availability."

That said, if you were lucky enough to grab a download, the suite appears to be working more efficiently in some metrics than competitive offerings from Symantec and McAffee.  Even when scanning, the software only used a scant 4 MB of memory in initial tests; processor use was also minimal.  Quick scans take a mere 10 minutes, while a full scan comes in at a competitive 45 minutes, despite the small footprint.  The software strives to perform most of the scanning when the system is idle, and even then maintains a relatively polite footprint.

The software offers real time protection and receives updates of new malware signatures 3 times daily, directly from Microsoft.  Some writers have complained about the fact that the system sends signatures of suspected malware back to Microsoft.  This appears to be nothing more than "big brother" paranoia, though -- outgoing traffic (to Microsoft) on installs is minimal.

One minor hassle is that USB drives are not automatically scanned, though they can be selected by the user.

The new software works on Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 (both 32-bit and 64-bit versions).  Installation is quick and easy, though there have been some complaints of installation problems on Windows XP Professional installations.  Installs must pass a check by Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy tool, so less savvy pirates are left out of the free AV fun.

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I have it installed
By mikecel79 on 6/24/2009 11:18:29 AM , Rating: 5
I grabbed a copy of it yesterday before the beta was filled up. Microsoft said from the original announcement this would be limited to the first 75k users. The article title makes it sound like the beta was pulled because of a problem....

For users reporting that it's only using 4MB of memory that is just the interface (aka the tray icon or msseces.exe) . The actually engine (MsMPEng.exe) uses about 30MB or so when idle. Most people reporting only 4MB of memory are showing all processes from all users in Task Manager.

Don't get me wrong it has been very lightweight and it's not always popping up messages every 5 minutes. So far it's been well behaved.

For people asking about Windows defender this replaces that entirely.

RE: I have it installed
By GoodBytes on 6/24/2009 11:23:15 AM , Rating: 3
Yes, I like it very much.
However, one downside is that when you compile a project (and I expect if you render anything as well), the CPU spikes up near max, and the process is slowed down by about 4 times.

The fix is to disable real-time protection from this A/V.
It's not the end of the world, but would like to see it fix. It's the only time that this beta A/V showed any any sign of slowing down my system.

(Running Win7 RC, on an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 with 4GB of RAM, on a 5400RPM HDD)

RE: I have it installed
By mikecel79 on 6/24/2009 11:33:47 AM , Rating: 5
You don't need to exclude real-time scanning for everything. You can exclude certain processes from being scanned. Just enter the compiler process under Settings > Exluded Processes and it will ignore that process from now on.

RE: I have it installed
By GoodBytes on 6/24/2009 5:51:08 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks! :D

RE: I have it installed
By Cypherdude1 on 6/25/2009 8:11:32 AM , Rating: 2
When Norton Anti-Virus first came out years ago, the virus signature updates were free . Then, the price rose to a reasonable $6. Now their yearly virus signature subscription will set you back a ridiculous $29!

Because Microsoft must hire expensive computer science staffers to create their virus signatures and place their files on their update site, expect them to do the same once their product gains market acceptance. It will not be free forever.

RE: I have it installed
By TomZ on 6/25/2009 1:03:42 PM , Rating: 5
Not necessarily. The difference with Microsoft is that they have a vested interest in keeping Windows reliable for customers, because that adds value to that platform. Therefore, they can easily justify the expenses you noted.

RE: I have it installed
By mikecel79 on 6/24/2009 11:40:23 AM , Rating: 2
That should read "Most people reporting only 4MB of memory are NOT showing all processes from all users in Task Manager"

Compare to Windows Defender
By deltadeltadelta on 6/24/2009 10:51:46 AM , Rating: 2
Does anyone know how this compares to Windows Defender? Does it supplant it?

RE: Compare to Windows Defender
By FITCamaro on 6/24/2009 11:03:24 AM , Rating: 2
I hope they're integrated together. We already get constant updates for Defender nearly daily.

RE: Compare to Windows Defender
By imperator3733 on 6/24/2009 11:19:40 AM , Rating: 3
I think Paul Thurrott said that it replaces Defender.

RE: Compare to Windows Defender
By RamarC on 6/24/2009 11:39:03 AM , Rating: 3
mse will actually deactivate/remove windows defender. windows live one care also deactivated windows defender.

RE: Compare to Windows Defender
By 67STANG on 6/24/2009 12:13:26 PM , Rating: 5
For all those who missed the chance to download it from Microsoft's site:

*Warning: If your OS "fell off the back of a truck" and does not validate, this software will not install.

About time
By mattclary on 6/24/2009 10:53:06 AM , Rating: 3
I have to say, "about time". IMO, it's arguable that this should have been part of the OS as much as IE is. I always found it amusing that IE was so important to integrate into the OS, but virus protection wasn't.

RE: About time
By cigar3tte on 6/24/2009 11:13:40 AM , Rating: 4
Don't blame M$ for this. Had they included AV with the OS, they'd get so many more lawsuits, especially from EU.

RE: About time
By Helbore on 6/24/2009 1:09:13 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the last thing the EU wants is to have their population running a secure, malware-free OS. Such despicable business practises - such as trying to provide a better system for your customers - should be smacked down as soon as possible.

We can't have the consumers being offered free software, when its far better for them to pay extra for it. After all, the EU is here to benefit the people, isn't it?

RE: About time
By EricMartello on 6/25/2009 2:58:39 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah I tend to agree with you.

If the software is free and is included as part of the OS software suite - such as IE and now this AV software - it should not be considered a violation of any anti-trust laws. I don't subscribe to the mentality that one market deserves to survive by forcing an inadequacy in another product.

If Symantec or McAfee decided to cry monopoly and file suit because MS includes their AV software for free and the software is as good as or better than their offerings...I'd call that quite pathetic.

I totally disagree with the whole thing about IE being "force out" of Windows back in the day when MS was sued for anti trust. People can still install another browser if they want to. It is not Microsoft's job to promote their competitors offerings simply to keep their competition alive...if the competing products are actually better than what's included, they will survive on their own merits.

Another misleading headline
By Jonh68 on 6/24/2009 11:50:20 AM , Rating: 5
When I first saw the headline, I got the impression the beta looks good, but it was having problems so Microsoft had to pull it. The "but" is a negative.

A better headline "MS pulls AV Beta because the beta program reached its limit."

RE: Another misleading headline
By KentState on 6/24/2009 4:52:09 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know, the only reason I read the article was because I thought something negative happened. I'm sure that's why it appears misleading.

RE: Another misleading headline
By johnsonx on 6/25/2009 5:25:01 AM , Rating: 2
come on, seriously, when has a Jason Mick article EVER had a misleading headline?

Assail Who?
By Ratinator on 6/24/2009 11:19:11 AM , Rating: 3
handful of free competitors like AVG which assail the user with ads encouraging them to purchase "premium" versions.

AVG doesn't come close to "assail"ing me with ads. The only add I see is if I open up the console for it which I rarely if ever have to do.

RE: Assail Who?
By Golgatha on 6/24/2009 11:45:25 AM , Rating: 2
No doubt. The ad can also be hidden with a single click if you don't want to look at it when you open up the console. Now, you do get several chances to purchase the non-free version while you're trying to click through on their website trying to get at the free version, but that's nothing unusual either.

RE: Assail Who?
By TomZ on 6/24/2009 12:09:28 PM , Rating: 2
I notice that incoming e-mails fro AVG users have an AVG ad at the bottom of the message. Can this be suppressed through some settings/options?

RE: Assail Who?
By Pr1mus on 6/24/2009 1:44:02 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. Go into the settings, find the option for "E-mail Certification". You can disable it there.

RE: Assail Who?
By fishbits on 6/24/09, Rating: 0
By Spivonious on 6/24/2009 11:06:25 AM , Rating: 2
I got a 32-bit and a 64-bit copy yesterday for my server and desktop, respectively. I didn't know it was a limited beta.

RE: Whew!
By crystal clear on 6/24/2009 11:24:31 AM , Rating: 2
The downloads will be capped at the first 75,000 users for now. Microsoft has indicated that the cap could be set higher if demand was strong enough.

The Microsoft Security Essentials beta antimalware service will be available to anyone in the U.S., Israel or Brazil running on 32- and 64-bit Windows XP SP2, Vista or the upcoming Windows 7.

RE: Whew!
By Patrese on 6/24/2009 12:11:27 PM , Rating: 2
It seems that either the download limit was dropped or it is region-related. I live in Brazil and just got it, no problems... all I had to do was use my Hotmail login on MS Connect website and download it. I'll only install it when I get home, on my Windows 7 RC1 x64 partition.

RE: Whew!
By neddy on 6/24/2009 7:12:21 PM , Rating: 2
I live in PNG, but got the download yesterday. Surprise!? It's running fine at 6mb on my win7 64bit core i7 rig.

Outside offical regions...
By Aloonatic on 6/24/2009 11:59:43 AM , Rating: 2
I live in the UK, and thought I'd have a gander, but when the official/main site screen loaded up earlier today it said that I was in a region that was not able to participate or whatever, and the "get a copy" button did nothing :-s

However, after a little searching it seemed that there were other ways to get a copy downloaded.

Seems to have been taken down now too. I haven't had a chance to try it out though (i downloaded xp and vista/win 7 32bit copies) but I wouldn't be surprised if they pulled all the downloads because they messed this up. it seems that there are many people who have downloaded it who shouldn't have?

Has anyone else from out side the official testing regions downloaded a copy and got it to work?

RE: Outside offical regions...
By SPARTAN VI on 6/24/2009 12:58:16 PM , Rating: 2
Who wants to bet that the EU will force Microsoft to remove this "feature" because it's anti-competitive (if they haven't already). How dare they make their own platform more secure!

By foolsgambit11 on 6/24/2009 6:11:14 PM , Rating: 2
They may, if MS is actually anticompetitive (and maybe only if they appear to be). For MS, that means that the A/V department must be totally separated from the OS department, with the exception of the 'validated MS' check, and that the program isn't part of the OS installation. If the A/V guys get inside information on interfacing with the OS (i.e., other than the APIs available to all A/V vendors), or other perks from having an 'in' with Microsoft, then there may be problems.

But as long as the program could be the work of avid freeware programmers, I think MS should be in the clear. (I have no idea if the conditions I just laid out are met. Are they?)

RE: Outside offical regions...
By Alexvrb on 6/24/2009 10:59:22 PM , Rating: 2
Ooh! Sorry. MS can't release their free anti malware software in markets where they'll get pinched for billions of dollars. That means anywhere that the EU has jurisdiction.

The first impression
By crystal clear on 6/24/2009 1:17:15 PM , Rating: 2
Independent testing lab put Microsoft Security Essentials through its paces, after downloading a beta version of the software following its limited release on Tuesday.

The application, which lacks personal firewall or spam filtering features, is designed to provide consumers with basic protection against Trojans, computer viruses and rootkits. ran 32 bit versions of the software on Windows XP (SP2 and SP3), Windows Vista (SP1 and SP2) as well as Windows 7 (RC) machines. It discovered thorough protection against malware known to be in circulation and, more impressively, no false alarms, Andreas Marx of reports

RE: The first impression
By crystal clear on 6/24/2009 2:12:07 PM , Rating: 2
First Look: Microsoft Security Essentials beta offers free protection against malware

Microsoft's latest anti-malware application uses the same engine as OneCare but is smaller, faster and more efficient than its predecessor

Not a minor hassle
By Yawgm0th on 6/24/2009 1:33:49 PM , Rating: 2
One minor hassle is that USB drives are not automatically scanned, though they can be selected by the user.
That is not a minor hassle. That is a major flaw, especially considering the target market.

USB drives have become one of the top methods of virus propagation within a network. Joe user is not going to think to go enable scanning of removable storage. It should automatically scan any filesystem as soon as it is accessed by default.

RE: Not a minor hassle
By ChronoReverse on 6/24/2009 3:13:10 PM , Rating: 2
Files will still be scanned on-access I'd hope. I presume he only meant that a USB hard drive that was plugged in randomly won't automatically be added to the scan schedule?

By swizeus on 6/24/2009 11:56:58 AM , Rating: 3
Sorry guys, we made it too slim, too fast and too good compare to yours (AVG,Avast,Norton,McAfee etc.).. we'll fix it immediately

By Yawgm0th on 6/24/2009 1:31:21 PM , Rating: 2
On the other hand Windows XP (as of Service Pack 2) and Windows Vista already come with firewalls, so for most users the need for a second firewall is questionable (most users have trouble configuring one firewall, let alone two).

Any aftermarket software firewall is going to replace the Windows Firewall, not supplement it. Running two software firewalls simultaneously is just a bad idea. Any (good) post-XPSP2 software firewall will automatically disable the Windows firewall as part of the install. I would expect you to know this.

I will agree that the need for aftermarket software firewalls on PCs is questionable at best.

Duplication or sort of.....
By crystal clear on 6/24/2009 1:39:06 PM , Rating: 2
One frequently comes across in Microsoft updates-

Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool
This tool checks your computer for infection by specific, prevalent malicious software (including Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom) and helps to remove the infection if it is found. Microsoft will release an updated version of this tool on the second Tuesday of each month.

I am impressed!
By Zorlac on 6/24/2009 4:52:49 PM , Rating: 2
I have been using it on Win 7 x64 and I can honestly say this is the first time I will probably keep an anti-virus app on my computers. I am super impressed so far and it has not slowed any of my apps yet.

MS is hitting home runs thus far with Win 7 and now MSE in my book. :)

Any plans for a WHS AV addon?
By imaheadcase on 6/25/2009 1:22:15 AM , Rating: 2
I don't really care if AV software is on this computer, but anyone know though if they are making this also available as a add-on for Windows Home Server? That would be the sweetest thing ever. Current AV offering cost to much for it or are unreliable.

Was able to download
By viperpa33s on 6/25/2009 1:43:44 AM , Rating: 2
I was able to download the program and installed it on my new netbook, replacing the McAfee trial version software that was on the computer. The program works so far with no problems cropping up. Let's see how it stacks up to the other well known anti-virus software.

Good so far
By darkxuy on 6/25/2009 12:42:07 PM , Rating: 2
Tried it at work, it detected a virus that Trend Micro OfficeScan did not. Pretty light and simple, probably my new AV for clients, but ill stick with Kaspersky @ home.

Useless Metrics 101
By Justin Time on 6/26/2009 2:20:54 AM , Rating: 2
"Quick scans take a mere 10 minutes, while a full scan comes in at a competitive 45 minutes"

What the hell is that supposed to mean ?

Do we all have the same size disk and file count ??

Windows Defender
By hemmy on 6/27/2009 12:35:11 AM , Rating: 2
Haven't used this new software, but has Defender EVER found an infection for ANYONE?

By rburnham on 6/29/2009 10:42:34 AM , Rating: 2
I love the condom picture. That made me smile.

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