When Security Essentials launched, many pundits heralded it as the end of paid security software. Not unsurprisingly, this doom and gloom was a little off the mark, but Security Essentials proved to be a very adept program.
In fact, in the entire testing period, Security Essentials missed only four unique files, putting it ahead of even AVG’s offering. We also looked at other aspects of the new Security Essentials offering. The latest version of the software monitors the Windows firewall, and when we installed it on our test system it applied settings that prevented our attacking PC from connecting or extracting any information. It also changed our Windows Update settings to automatic, which is arguably a good idea, although it’s bad form not to ask the user’s permission.
Apart from that blip, we found Security Essentials very user-friendly. It didn’t raise a peep during our false-positive test and there’s no nagging to upgrade to a paid-for program. Since it doesn’t try to do everything, the front-end is perfectly straightforward.
Given how little Security Essentials does, we were disappointed to find it was remarkably memory-hungry. When actively scanning it used a whopping 61% of the CPU, out-stripping its nearest competitor. RAM usage wasn’t nearly so bad, thankfully.
The sheer simplicity of Security Essentials remains appealing, and it’s certainly an option for new users or people who like to keep everything in the Microsoft family. But if you can live with a few advertisements, AVG’s free suite has more features and a well-proven track record.
Microsoft's Security Essentials is surprisingly excellent, but has a very big footprint
• Microsoft: www.microsoft.com