Review: Microsoft Security Essentials

by djbaxter on October 4, 2009

Microsoft recently released their free antivirus and antispyware product called Microsoft Security Essentials, which appears to be based on the same engine that previously powered Windows Defender for Windows XP and Vista. Security Essentials works for both XP and Vista (and presumably also for Windows 7).

As I’ve noted previously (Basic Computer Security 2009 Part 2), I long ago became fed up with big commercial or freeware suites that hog computer resources in the name of security. I’ve been personally using Avast antivirus and recommending Avira as an alternative.

However, I decided to give Security Essentials a test drive. I installed it on a Dell Vostro desktop computer running Windows XP Pro SP3 with an Intel Core2 2.33 GHz processor and 4 gigs of ram, as well as a Toshiba laptop running Vista Home Premium SP2 with an AMD dual-core 2.4 GHz processor.

I found it was a little slower than Avast on the Vista laptop but tolerable, especially given that it scanned for spyware as well the virus family. My initial impression was uncertain but I was willing to work with Security Essentials for a while on the laptop.

On the desktop it was a very different story. It slowed my XP system to a crawl with almost constant activity that was using 20-50% of available RAM at any given time. I gave it a couple of hours in case this was just an initial scan but even following the Quick Scan I’d requested it continued to churn away. Even switching windows from email to my browser or to Word often took a few seconds.

I have reverted to Avast on both machines. Perhaps the fault lies with an imperfect release candidate (although this is supposed to be a debugged “gold” release) but I’m not willing to struggle with another resource hog when more efficient solutions are available.

Note: See Update: Microsoft Security Essentials.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Vince March 15, 2011 at 11:05 pm

I totally agree! I have installed MSE (when it was released) on all my computers at work and it slowed them down considerably. Today I ended the processes related to MSE and what a difference it made in computer performance.

djbaxter March 15, 2011 at 11:10 pm

That was true of the first release. However, did you see my updated review?

Vince March 15, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Yes I did, after I posted! It is a good anti-virus program and I am still willing to give it more time on some of the other computers as it is free. I am going to do some more monitoring as I also have MalwareBytes on the one computer. I will end the processes on MalwareBytes and see how MSE does. MalwareBytes is a really good program as it catches alot of malware that the others do not.

djbaxter March 15, 2011 at 11:32 pm

It’s never a good idea to have two anti-malware programs running in real time at the same time. I have Malwarebytes as a backup for manual scans if I’m worried but MSE these days is unobtrusive and handles the main load very well.

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