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Is Microsoft Security Essentials right for you?

Computer Tutor: John Lucas


Introduced in 2009, Microsoft Security Essentials is a free antivirus program for your personal computer that provides real-time protection against viruses, spyware and other malicious software. In 2010, PC Advisor magazine named Microsoft Security Essentials “the best free software of the year.”

According to a 2012 market analysis report, Network World reported last December that Microsoft Security Essentials software is the most popular and fastest growing anti-malware product for Windows PC users in the world. Perhaps Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is right for you?

System requirements

* Operating system: Windows XP, Windows 7 or Windows Vista

* 256 MB RAM (random access memory) for Windows XP

* 1 GB RAM for Windows Vista and Windows 7

* 200 MB of available hard disk space

* An Internet connection is required to download the program and to receive updates to the virus and spyware definitions

* Internet browser: Windows Internet Explorer 6.0 or later, Mozilla Firefox 2.0 or later

Since MSE did not come as part of the original operating system package with Windows XP, Windows 7 or Windows Vista, MSE must be downloaded and installed. Fortunately, the download is free and the installation process is easy. One caveat, Microsoft Security Essentials is not compatible with Windows 8. Windows 8 comes with its own new anti-malware program called Windows Defender.

Major features

* Windows firewall integration

During the setup process, MSE scans your PC to determine if your firewall is active and gives you the option to turn it on. An active firewall is always recommended to protect your computer from unauthorized access.

* Real-time protection

Once installed, MSE runs quietly in the background. Each day, the software updates itself automatically with any newly identified threats. MSE alerts you immediately to any problems by displaying a color-coded message in your notification area taskbar. MSE uses green, yellow and red color codes to designate the security status of your PC, so you can tell at a glance if you need to take action.

System scanning

In addition, MSE routinely performs scheduled scans of your computer for malware, automatically blocking most threats. You can also use MSE to perform a manual scan of a file, folder, or your entire PC, at any time.

System cleaning

When MSE identifies a possible threat on your PC, you are notified immediately by an alert message. Potential threats are categorized as severe, medium or low. You have the option to ignore, quarantine or remove the item from your system at your discretion. If you do not respond to an alert within 10 minutes, suspected threats are automatically handled by MSE according to the default actions previously defined by you in the application’s settings.

A word to the wise: If you decide to install Microsoft Security Essentials, it is a good idea to delete all your other anti-virus programs before you complete your installation. Two antivirus programs, both loaded and running simultaneously, will not only slow down your computer, the programs may also may conflict with each other, potentially causing other programs to fail.

To find more specific information about Microsoft Security Essentials, to obtain the free program download, to access Microsoft’s free online Malware Encyclopedia or to find additional computer security tips, visit the Microsoft Malware Protection Center: www.microsoft.com/security/portal/mmpc/default.aspx

John Lucas is the owner of Your Computer Tutor which provides personalized home computer instruction and technical support for both Macs and PCs in the Portland metro area. A retired teacher with a master’s in library science, Lucas welcomes questions about common computer issues. Reach him by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-333-8542.