My 2012 Review Of Microsoft Security Essentials


Reviewed by:
3 Stars
On October 23, 2011
Last modified:May 20, 2012


Microsoft Security Essentials isn't bad for a free antivirus program but serious internet users may want something with a few more features.

The latest in my series of reviews of free 2012 antivirus programs is for Microsoft’s Security Essentials. This free antivirus program has been available for about two years now and thats how long its been since I last looked at it. Back in 2009 I thought it was an excellent security program. Has that changed?

The Good:
  • 1. Free
  • 2. Capped CPU usage
  • 3. Fairly good detection rate
The Bad:
  • 1. It doesn’t have the feature set seen in other free antivirus programs
  • 2. Business users are limited to a 10 PC installation maximum
  • 3. Scanning time can be quite long

Microsoft Security Essentials is of course provided to you by the same company that likely wrote your operating system. With that in mind, they ought to know what they are doing!

MSE installation

Installation and first impression

Protecting your computer with Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is a remarkably quick and easy affair. Simply surf over to the appropriate page on the Microsoft site and follow the simple instructions. (You will of course need to ensure that you have a genuine copy of Windows installed because they check!)

MSE home

The actual program itself is small and downloads very quickly; seconds in my case. After double clicking the install file you can expect to have a completed installation within a minute or so. As soon as the program is installed it will update itself so you don’t need to worry about your protection being out of date.

As you can see in the image above, the interface is very sparse and simple which has both its good points and its bad.


Whilst MSE is a little light on features it does still have a lot to offer, including:

  • Antivirus protection
  • Windows firewall integration
  • Rootkit protection
  • Network inspection system

MSE settings

System Requirements

Microsoft Security Essentials has the following system requirements:

  • Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7
  • 500 Mhz processor & 256 MB RAM for XP / 1000 Mhz processor & 1 GB RAM for Vista and 7
  • 200 MB of hard drive space free
  • An internet connection
  • A genuine copy of your Windows operating system

MSE scanning

+ Plus Points

  • It doesn’t cost anything
  • Scheduled scans cap CPU usage at 50%
  • Independent tests show detection rates that are good rather than stellar

– Minus Points

  • Its simplicity means that there are less features on offer than in many other free antivirus programs
  • Ad hoc scans, at least on my machine, took much longer than any other AV program I’ve looked at this year
  • Free only extends to 10 PCs for business users
MSE history


I guess my overall feeling here is that MSE is simply ok. Some people may like its simplicity whilst others may desire more features (that other free antivirus programs do provide). It works well enough, though sometimes scanning does seem to take much longer than with other alternative programs.

I would imagine it would be a very good choice for someone who uses the internet very infrequently because it would be easy for them to setup but even some other novice users may just want more than what it offers.

Considering the rumours of this being bolted into Windows 8 I do wonder about its long term effectiveness – if the vast majority of the worlds’ computer users are using the same security program then that is going to make one juicy target…

More reviews

While you are here why not check out my other reviews of the latest security programs:

Microsoft Security Essentials isn't bad for a free antivirus program but serious internet users may want something with a few more features.
About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


  1. Used the paid versions of BullGuard, Avira etc and was quite happy with them. Time came to renew and thought “Why the hell not give MSE a go?”
    That was nearly a year ago and extremely satisfied. No problems and quite an unobtrusive program. If I wanted to be hypercritical: yes a Full Scan can take some time but “some time” away from the PC is probably not a bad thing. I also suspect that those who frequently visit “suspect” Sites are going to be more susceptible to security problems and will resort to Paid programmes that will still not meet their expectations.

  2. I’ve been using MSE for over a year now and I’m 100% satisfied. It does not interfere with the day to day work since it does not overload the PC when scanning. It doesn´t matter if it takes longer to scan since my PC performance is not affected while scanning.

    I decided to give MSE a try when the company I worked for switched to Forefront security for clients. Forefront is the enterprise version of MSE. If you are looking for more than 10 users with MSE, give it a try to Forefront 🙂

  3. sunil kumar says:

    i am delighted to use

  4. What an ignorant argument….

    If more people use it then that is bad…. wow…

  5. hi everyone…..just a review on my experience on ms essentials..
    ,,,i used it and i like it but in some instances, like the autorun.inf on my usb it didnt detect and delete it so i uninstalled it,,,,and put avira and it cleaned my usb though i like ms essentials thats why i install it again coz i dont like the free version of avira coz i feel like it has small security than the free ms essentials,,,
    thats all….hehehe

    .. i like microsoft products though…

    • Absolutely agry with you! It is strange, but I like modern Microsoft products too: Windows, MS Office 2010, MS Security Essentials, Internet Explorer 9…

  6. As I siad earlier, I installed this AV after deleting BitDefender. And I’m really satisfied:
    1. Its OS scan is not slow. Both Fast Scan and Full Scan are relatively fast (with loading my CPU ~ 25%).
    2. It is very independent.
    3. It has a lot of options (and you can easy set the rules for different programs and viruses). For example, BitDefender often were ingoring my rules and was doing what it wanted. When in MSE you once set some rules, it will follow them (or you can set to ask you every time). Very obedient 🙂
    4. I heared from some professionals, that this AV (due to its manufacturer) can protect the operating system on such deep levels, where for third-party antivirus software is simply impossible to get.
    I don’t like in it:
    1. When I had BitDefender I recieved evey day a few massages about scanning ports (some neighborhoods, I think). With MSE I have no that messages. And I can’t understand now: it doesn’t block them, or it just doesn’t inform me.
    2. MSE works in one team with Windows built-in Firewall. And this is incredibly hard to set it.
    3. Sometimes with BitDefender I had messages on screen about dangerous web pages… With MSE I have no such messages. And, again… may be BitDefender’s messages were fake, and MSE doesn’t see a danger there. But may be MSE just can’t detect such dangerous sites.

    Sorry for my often comparison with BitDefender. But I’m talking only about what I know and what I saw, without the fancies.

    • Ane one more… When I was worried about ports scanning, I tested MSE with Miscrodsoft Firewall on And they passed all tests.

    • “3. Sometimes with BitDefender I had messages on screen about dangerous web pages… With MSE I have no such messages. And, again… may be BitDefender’s messages were fake, and MSE doesn’t see a danger there. But may be MSE just can’t detect such dangerous sites.”

      Are you talking about web browser protection here?

  7. Hi
    Try MSE 4 beta and you ‘ll find what “lightness”,”effectiveness” and “simplicity” mean

  8. Also, i’d like to make the thought that antivirus programs can’t scan as fast as your hard drive will allow. As in, you can’t expect 200MB/s if your hard drive can’t go that fast, or that’s simply it’s limit. Of course though, some programs are just like that anyways with their scan speed. Plus, then you have to take into consideration your CPU, amongst other things.

    • Yeah, the hard drive is obviously a limiting factor but when scan speeds vary greatly between programs that are designed with the same task in mind then it is obviously down to other aspects.

  9. taank mittu says:

    mse scanning is not slow

  10. taank mittu says:

    its best free and best paid is eset nod32.

  11. I wouldn’t mind that scanning is slow. It means that MSE is honoring the 50% CPU Cap.

    Also, waiting for it to finish should not be an issue:
    #1 It can run in the background, do its thing, and we get back to use our PC as usual.
    #2 You can schedule a scan on times of day you don’t use your PC (like 3AM). Scan should be finished by the time you wake up.

    • I hear what you’re saying but you’d be surprised how many non-technical people have no idea how to schedule a scan for a more suitable time of day!

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