Free antivirus software from Microsoft

Microsoft has now opened beta testing for its new Microsoft Security Essentials Beta.

I wrote about it last week at ZDNet and continue to be favorably impressed. It works on Windows XP (SP2 or later), Windows Vista, and Windows 7. You must be in the United States, Israel, or Brazil to sign up.

If you try it, leave a comment and let me know what you like/don’t like.

Update: Well, that was fast. Roughly 24 hours later, all 75,000 slots in the beta group are filled. Of course, if you can get your hands on a copy of the software you can still install and use it.

29 thoughts on “Free antivirus software from Microsoft

  1. Well, actually you don’t really need to be in those countries to sign up, Ed… 🙂
    All you must do is to create a Live ID account in which you say that you ARE in those countries! Then, you can use it to register at Microsoft Connect and get the beta!

  2. I already installed it and just like how simple it looks. Is it ok to install Microsoft Security Essentials Beta to other computer like my sister computer? she want to install it but don’t want to go through the whole sign up process.

  3. If your sister’s PC s is in your household, that is expressly permitted by the license agreement. And even if it is not, there is absolutely no technical or ethical reason why you can’t install it on her computer, in my opinion.

  4. I like’s every light and simple…I just wish they put back the startup explorer, it was a convenient way to disable unwanted startup items.

  5. I like it. Everything I hoped it would be.

    I’d only change one thing, and that would be stopping it from creating the shortcut on the desktop. Yes I have to be picky there’s nothing else to complain about.

  6. I have it installed on two machines so far. One is Vista 64-bit and the other is Windows XP running in a Parallels VM on Mac OSX Leopard. Both are running great. The only thing I noticed right away is that it needs to be simpler to disable it temporarily. Some software wants antivirus to be disabled during install. Although I think that really usually doesn’t need to be done for most installs that suggest it, many people follow the instruction by the book and will be confused when looking for an option to disable MSSE.

    On another note, it frustrates me to see how the mainstream press is reporting this release. They are spinning it as though it isn’t any good because it is free and with limited features. Free antivirus has been around for ages but the problem with most of it is that it pushes you toward their payed versions. Most “full” antivirus suites like Symantec and McAfee slow down computers to a crawl. In fact, most techies and tech journalists love to make fun of the Norton line for being bloated. Now, MS has released a simple, low footprint, free antivirus solution that does exactly what most people need from antivirus without the unnecessary bloat, and it is being dismissed in the press.

  7. The mainstream press can have Nortons and McAfee. MSE low footprint, Free and doesn’t bug you. What’s not to like.

  8. Hello Ed

    I just used my Windows Live account which says I’m in Costa Rica (in my preferences or course) and I was able to download it.. I think microsoft lift the restriction for those Countries


  9. I signed up from Japan, with my Japan-based ID. Am now using it happily on Win7 64-bit, though it’s the English-language version of Win7. Maybe it’s not the country but the OS language version that matters?

  10. Ed

    As per Antonio’s comment above I live in Australia and I had no trouble registering at Connect and downloading the MSE. I have installed it on a x64 Windows 7 RC machine and found it to be a fast install, got the updates and did a scan all in quick time. So far I am impressed by what Microsoft have come up with here and there is plenty of upside. I will be trying it out on my Vista PC also. Just a heads up to everyone to first uninstall whatever anti-virus program you have running before you install MSE. Running 2 anti-virus programs at the same time is not a smart idea. If only these other mobs like Norton, McAfee, Trend etc. could follow suit because I would never install one of their bloated security software programs on any of my systems.

  11. This beta is available only to customers in the United States, Israel (English only), People’s Republic of China (Simplified Chinese only) and Brazil (Brazilian Portuguese only)

  12. I, too, was able to download and install MSE on multiple machines from Phuket, Thailand.

    Perhaps using Firefox makes a difference? I used both direct transfer and the File Transfer Manager.

  13. Ed,
    I sent you a message on my first impressions on MSE. My main concern is that MSE doesn’t have a plugin for email clients. I use Symantec Endpoint Protection at work and Avast at home and those clients have plugins for Outlook/Notes (SEP) and Outlook (Avast).

    Even though I can’t recall the last time I had an infected file attachment from my users at work or my home computers, having the av scan emails as they come in gives me some added peace of mind.

    I’d like to know from you and everyone else if my concerns are valid or if there is nothing to worry about.


  14. Overall, I really like the Security Essentials Beta. I could detect no deterioration in my work while it ran in the background. It’s scan seemed to take about the same amount of time as Defender.

    If I had one complaint, and it’s a tiny one, I wish I could get rid of the icon in my notification area. (I’m using XP.)

    Cheers, PW.

  15. I just ran an email test from GFI E-mail Testing.

    This includes

    o VBS file vulnerability test
    o CLSID extension vulnerability test
    o MIME header vulnerability test
    o ActiveX vulnerability test
    o Malformed file extension vulnerability test (for Outlook 2002 – XP)
    o CLSID extension vulnerability test (for Outlook 2002 – XP)
    o GFI’s Access exploit vulnerability test
    o Object Codebase vulnerability test
    o Iframe remote vulnerability test
    o Eicar anti-virus test
    o Fragmented Message test
    o Long Subject Attachment Checking Bypass (for Outlook Express 6)
    o Long Subject Attachment Checking Bypass (for Outlook 2000)
    o Attachment with no filename vulnerability test
    o Long Filename vulnerability test
    o Popup Object Exploit vulnerability test
    o Double File extension vulerability test

    The system passed every test, not because MSE detected them, but because Microsoft Outlook 2007 blocked them. I feel pretty secure on the email front. I recommend that all your readers try this test to see, 1. if their mail server passes them along, or 2. if their local email client blocks them.

    For the record, Gmail did pass them along, even though Gmail itself did not appear to be affected by them. I feel confident that even had Outlook opened the Eicar file it would have been detected by MSE. I already tried downloading Eicar from their website and MSE detected even the archived files.

    I am running MSE 64 bit on a Windows 7 RC machine. As many have noted, I too like the small footprint. Anti-malware programs have become so bloated, especially the so-called Internet Suites, that I will not use them. The way the operate reminds me of a root-kit.

  16. It appears that Microsoft has reached their 75,000 download limit. The site now displays this:

    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.

    I have it installed on two machines, both running Windows 7 64 bit. I replaced AVG on both and am quite pleased.

  17. I like it thus far. My only complaint is that the Tray Status Icon is not displayed today. It was yesterday after install and setup. Call me “old school”, but that tray icon is at least a quick visual that it’s running and I’m protected. Not seeing it there is a bit of a turn off (yes, pun intended but still turned off by the apparent turned off state of MSSE).

  18. ED the download link is close for Microsoft Security Essential, just wondering for the registered user what website do they go to get the download again? is it Microsoft Connect website

  19. Somehow, I was under the impression that Windows Update had to be in Auto update mode for Security Essentials to get new definitions. (a couple of articles)

    I am able, however to manually call for an update right out of the program off the notification area.

    That’s better for me because I am a little choosy about what Update wants to send my way.

  20. Hi Ed, et al.

    Thanks for all the great content and dialog. As a 10 year Microsoft veteran, I’m happy to see Microsoft take another positive step on the security front, and a brilliant one at that. I’ve long loathed the monolithic security suites that claim to be end all be all security solutions. In fact, the comments here alone pretty much confirm they do more harm than good. I can’t tell you how many I’ve removed from family, friends and customers machines, and replaced with free solutions. Looks like MSE may well be one of the primary solutions in the not too distant future.

    At first glance, things I like include:
    – Simplicity. Speaking of which, Microsoft would do themselves well to continue down the simple is better path for all their products. Much like they’ve done with Windows 7. After all, simplicity is one of the primary reasons Microsoft is where they’re at today (think back to the Novell days).

    Room for improvement:
    – Provide the ability to pause/disable for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours from the notification area icon. Much like
    – Speed. Admittedly I need to do additional testing here, but MSE appears to be a little slower in the scan department than some of the competition (e.g., Malwarebytes).
    – For goodness sake Microsoft, open the beta up to everyone. Not doing so is silly.

    happy MSEing.


  21. Thanks for the Softpedia link Ed.

    To me, the interface is simple and to-the-point. The product runs smoothly on my four and five-year old systems. It’s just what I need.

    I have been frustrated with all my previous security suites. Most of them are a rip-off. I’ve been using Windows Defender for about half-a-year. (I know that’s not an anti-virus measure.)

    Last several years I’ve been in a mode where I’d do virus scans on a reactive basis when something bad happens. I would try a different free package every time. I’d solve my problem, and then become dissatisfied with the CPU-suck. Finally, I would uninstall the package and feel guilty/stupid about ‘leaving my system unprotected’. Of course, I’d continue to use prophylactic measures like spywareblaster et cetera.

    I’ll leave this software installed if it continues to behave so respectfully. Yay!

  22. I tried to download it and couldn’t. My Connect account says I’m part of the beta, and gives me a download link, but nothing after that link. 😦

    One thing I’m highly concerned about is the direction Microsoft takes with it’s software now in making it “too easy”. So easy that they remove or hide features that would be highly beneficial. Like one personal already posted here, the ability to temporarily disable the services seems to be missing or hidden. Or, what if you do get a virus, how does it work after that? I currently use AVG, and dislike how it placates the virus detection. Often warning, but ultimately doing NOTHING to the virus, making you jump through pages of hoops just to 1. figure out what virus, 2. remove it , 3. take any other action you might want to take.

    All actions need to be plain and visible. I hope they don’t over-simplify the interface to a point where it’s unusable.

  23. Update:

    I was able to download it now (thanks for the link Ed) and installed it so far on an XP machine. I was impressed with the usability, it’s not nearly as bad as I had imagined it could be. Very flexible and easy to use.

    I’ll have to agree with the icon dislikes. The icon is UGLY! The castle idea is OK, but they outa remove the white background.

  24. Quick, clean and to the point. I too would like to see an email plugin for at least outlook and windows live mail, even though the future appears to be web-based mail and no local clients.

    One thing I did notice, (and not sure if other scanners do this since it’s been awhile since i watched a full scan) is that it parsed through every single .iso file I had, scanning each file in the image.

    I do think that a few things need to be changed for the end target user, but will save that for a connect feedback.

  25. 2nd Update: after using it for a few days now I have to say I’m very impressed. If MS does release this for free, I’m moving all my systems and any system I support outside of my business to it asap. That is, if they change the ugly icon 🙂

  26. I installed the beta on my Vista laptop. I had been using Avast.

    All seemed to go well during the install and initial quick scan until the Malicious Software tool tried to access the Internet. At that point, my laptop just froze. Nothing worked; although, the CPU must have been maxed out because the cooling fan was screaming. I waited for about 5 minutes to see if it would start responding — with my cooling fan protesting on high the whole time — but it remained frozen. The only way I could shut it down was by holding the power button for 10 seconds.

    When I rebooted, it would not reboot normally. It would start Windows, get past the login screen, start to finish loading…and then freeze up. Every time. Fortunately, I had a restore point from the night before, so I was able to rollback prior to the install.

    I tried re-installing it again, and the exact same thing happened. I finally gave up on it and went back to Avast (But not before a fairly major two-day detour experimenting with Win 7 RC instead of Vista — but even Win 7 had its issues and crashed my laptop, once with a BSOD. Ugh!).

    I have no idea what might have caused this problem. Can’t find any other similar complaints, yet.

    Has anyone else had any problems with MSE on Vista?

  27. Following up on my previous post about MSE freezing my laptop, preliminary indications are that MSE has a problem with Zone Alarm firewall. Stay tuned.

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