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Microsoft Security Essentials
Microsoft Security Essentials icon.svg
Microsoft Security Essentials.png
Original author(s) Microsoft Corporation
Developer(s) Microsoft Corporation
Initial release 29 September 2009
Stable release 1.0.1961.0 / February 28, 2010; 18 day(s) ago (2010-02-28)
Operating system Windows XP SP2 (32-bit)
Windows Vista and Windows 7 (32 and 64-bit)
Platform Microsoft Windows
Size MSE for Windows XP: 11.3MB
MSE for Windows Vista/7: 6.91MB
Virus Definitions: Approx. 50MB[1]
Available in English, Spanish, French, German, Hungarian, Dutch, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Finnish
Development status Active
Type Antivirus
License MSE-EULA (Closed source freeware)

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) (previously codenamed Morro) is a free antivirus software created by Microsoft that provides protection against viruses, spyware, rootkits, and trojans for Windows XP (x86[2]), Windows Vista, and Windows 7 (both x86 and x64[2]).[3] MSE replaces Windows Live OneCare, a commercial subscription-based antivirus service and the free Windows Defender, which only protected users from adware and spyware.[4] It is geared for consumer use, unlike Microsoft's upcoming enterprise-oriented product Microsoft Forefront.[citation needed]

Symantec and McAfee, two competing antivirus vendors, responded by claiming that MSE is not as good as their own software.[5][6] AVG Technologies viewed MSE positively, stating it reinforced the company's ideal of free antivirus software. Ars Technica reviewed it positively, citing its organized interface, low resource usage, and its status as freeware.[7]



Microsoft announced plans for a free consumer security product, designated “Morro” on 18 November 2008.[8] It marked a change in Microsoft's consumer antivirus marketing strategy: Instead of offering a subscription-based antivirus with a host of other tools, such as backup and a personal firewall, Morro would be free for all genuine installations of Windows not intended for business use (with an exception for small home based businesses) and offers protection against all types of malware.[9] Microsoft Forefront would be offered alongside MSE, with central management tools not present in MSE. On 17 June 2009, a leak of version 1.0.2140.0 revealed the internal name of Morro was changed to Microsoft Security Essentials.[10]

On 23 June 2009, Microsoft opened a public beta to 75,000 people in the United States, Israel, People's Republic of China and Brazil. At the time, Microsoft stated that MSE would be finalized and released before the end of 2009, in 20 markets and 10 languages.[11]

On 20 September 2009, Microsoft e-mailed beta testers and informed them of the upcoming release of the final build of the first version of MSE.[12] The final build was released on 29 September 2009[13][14]

Hardware requirements for MSE differ, depending on the operating system. For Windows XP, MSE requires at least a 500 MHz processor and 256 MB of RAM. On Windows Vista and Windows 7, MSE requires a 1 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM. Under any compatible operating system, a VGA screen of 800 × 600 or higher, 140 MB of free space, and an Internet connection are also required.[15]


MSE is a security suite designed for consumers. It is based on the Forefront Client Security desktop agent[citation needed], but solely provides malware detection and removal and lacks centralized management features. It includes the same anti-malware engine (dubbed "Microsoft Malware Protection Engine", or MSMPENG for short), and virus definitions that all other Microsoft desktop antimalware products share, including Forefront Client Security, Windows Live OneCare, and Windows Defender (Defender excludes the antivirus definitions which are separate from the antispyware definitions).[citation needed] Before installation, MSE checks for the validity of the installed copy of Microsoft Windows. MSE requires no registration or personal information.[16] MSE will disable Windows Defender, as it provides protection against malware, not limited to spyware and adware.[4]

Updates are published three times a day to Microsoft Update.[17] Using default settings, archived files are decompressed, and then scanned. File downloads and e-mail attachments are also scanned. Its Dynamic Signature Service attempts to better identify malicious files by checking for updates if an application exhibits suspicious behavior.[18] Before taking action against a suspect file, MSE prompts for user input. If no response is received in ten minutes, then the suspected malware is handled according to its default action, letting MSE determine what to do with the malware. System Restore points are created before removing found malware.[19]



Industry response

After Microsoft publicly announced Morro on 19 November 2008, Symantec and McAfee shares fell 9.44 and 6.62 percent respectively. Microsoft shares also fell 6 percent. However, Microsoft claims MSE will not directly compete with other paid-for antivirus software; rather it was "focused on the 50 to 60 percent [of PC users] who don't have, or won't pay for, antivirus protection, antimalware protection," according to Amy Barzdukas.[20]

Symantec, McAfee, and Kaspersky Lab representatives dismissed MSE as a competitor. Tom Powledge of Symantec claimed OneCare offered "substandard protection" and an "inferior user experience", implying MSE would be the same. McAfee stated "With OneCare's market share of less than 2%, we understand Microsoft's decision to shift attention to their core business." Justin Priestley of Kaspersky stated, "[Microsoft] continued to hold a very low market share in the consumer market, and we don't expect the exit of OneCare to change the playing field drastically."[21]

An AVG Technologies representative stated, "We view this as a positive step for the AV landscape. AVG has believed in the right to free antivirus software for the past eight years." Nevertheless, AVG raised the issue of distributing the software, "Microsoft will have to do more than simply make the product available."[21]

Bundling MSE with Windows may cause antitrust lawsuits.[22][23]

After a Microsoft spokesman stated on 10 June 2009 that a beta version of MSE would soon be released, Microsoft shares were up 2.1 percent. Both Symantec and McAfee shares fell 0.5 percent and 1.3 percent respectively. Daniel Ives, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets, stated MSE would be a "long-term competitive threat", though near-term impact would be negligible.[3]


A pop-up notification stating malware was found.

The public beta received several positive reviews, citing its low resource usage, straightforward user interface, and price point.[24][25][26][27]Brian Krebs of The Washington Post found MSE used 4 megabytes of RAM during testing, even during scans. A "quick scan" took about 10 minutes, and a "full scan" about 45 minutes on an installation of Windows 7.[26]

PCWorld noted its "clear-cut" and "cleanly designed" tabbed user interface. At the top of the main tab, the security status is clearly shown. The other three tabs allow users to manually update MSE, review its history, and change program settings. However, PCWorld found some of the settings to be cryptic and confusing. Settings, such as what to do when malware is found, default to "Microsoft Security Essentials' recommended action". There is no explanation of the recommended action except in the help file. The editor was also confused because MSE does not mention it automatically updates itself within the interface; some may believe they must manually update MSE through the "Update" tab.[25] However, this was included in the final release.

PC Magazine cited MSE's small installation package (about 7 MB, depending on the operating system) and its speedy installation. On the downside, the full installation occupied about 110 MB of disk space, and the initial update took 5 to 15 minutes. The editor also noted the fact MSE sets Windows Update into its fully automatic mode, which automatically downloads and installs updates although it can then be turned off again through the control panel. Installation succeeded on 12 malware-infected systems. Some full scans took over an hour on infected systems; however, a scan on a clean system took 35 minutes.

During an on-demand scan, MSE beta found 89 percent of malware samples; but only 30 percent of commercial keyloggers. Those results were average, according to the editor. MSE found 67 percent of rootkits. The suite detected half of the editor's scareware samples. The suite's real-time protection found 83 percent of malware and blocked the majority of them. In this test, 40 percent of the commercial keyloggers were found. MSE found 78 percent of the rootkits. The editor expressed optimism MSE would improve during its beta testing period.[24]

Malware impersonation of Security Essentials

In February 2010, a rogue security software package calling itself "Security Essentials 2010" appeared on the Internet.[28]


  1. ^ "Install the latest Microsoft Security Essentials definition updates". Microsoft Corporation. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 15 March 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Drew; Frisch, Carey (1 October 2009). "Microsoft Security Essentials is now Final". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 8 November 2009. "It is available for XP x86, Vista/Windows 7 x86 & x64" 
  3. ^ a b Finkle, Jim (10 June 2009). "Update 3-Microsoft will soon unveil free anti-virus software". Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 4 July 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Thurrott, Paul. "Microsoft Security Essentials Public Beta", Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows, June 18, 2009, accessed July 4, 2009.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Keizer, Gregg (29 September 2009). "Rivals mock Microsoft's free security software". Computerworld. Retrieved 30 September 2009. 
  7. ^ Protalinski, Emil (29 September 2009). "First look: Microsoft Security Essentials impresses". Ars Technica. Retrieved 30 September 2009. 
  8. ^ Microsoft Announces Plans for No-Cost Consumer Security Offering
  9. ^ "Microsoft to offer free security". BBC News. 19 November 2008. Retrieved 4 July 2009. 
  10. ^ Protalinski, Emil (17 June 2009). "Leaked: Microsoft Security Essentials (codename Morro)". Ars Technica. Retrieved 19 July 2009. 
  11. ^ Foley, Mary-Jo (23 June 2009). "Microsoft Security Essentials beta to be capped at 75,000, kicks off today". ZDNet. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  12. ^ Protalinski, Emil (21 September 2009). "Microsoft Security Essentials release in the coming weeks". Ars Technica. Retrieved 21 September 2009. 
  13. ^ Mediati, Nick (28 June 2009). "Microsoft Security Essentials Launches Tuesday". PCWorld. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  14. ^ "Microsoft Launches New Anti-Malware Service". Computer Business Review. 
  15. ^ "Find out what you need to know about installing and running Microsoft Security Essentials". Microsoft Corporations. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  16. ^ Bott, Ed (18 June 2009). "How good is Microsoft's free antivirus software?". ZDnet. Retrieved 6 July 2009. 
  17. ^ Mills, Elinor (18 June 2009). "Microsoft's free antimalware beta on the way". CNET. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  18. ^ Hoffman, Stefanie (24 June 2009). "Microsoft Security Essentials Beta Reaches Max Downloads". ChannelWeb.;jsessionid=AGWJBXGOE4NHAQSNDLPSKHSCJUNN2JVN. Retrieved 19 July 2009. 
  19. ^ Krebs, Brian (24 June 2009). "Microsoft Debuts Free Antivirus Software Beta". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  20. ^ Hoffman, Stefanie (19 November 2008). "Microsoft: Morro Won't Compete With Symantec, McAfee". ChannelWeb.;jsessionid=FL5YJRP4Z50EAQSNDLOSKH0CJUNN2JVN. Retrieved 4 July 2009. 
  21. ^ a b Vamosi, Robert (19 November 2008). "Antivirus firms shrug at Microsoft's free security suite". CNET. Retrieved 6 July 2009. 
  22. ^ Fried, Ina (18 November 2008). "Will Microsoft's antivirus move draw antitrust fire?". CNET. Retrieved 6 July 2009. 
  23. ^ Schofield, Jack (11 June 2009). "Waiting for Morro: Microsoft's free anti-virus software". Retrieved 6 July 2009. 
  24. ^ a b Rubenking, Neil J.. "Microsoft Security Essentials beta". PC Magazine.,2817,2348998,00.asp. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  25. ^ a b Mediati, Nick (24 June 2009). "Microsoft Security Essentials: Basic, Automatic Protection". PCWorld. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  26. ^ a b Krebs, Brian (24 June 2009). "Microsoft Debuts Free Antivirus Software Beta". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  27. ^ Angad, Ulhas M.. "Microsoft Security Essentials Review". Retrieved 8 October 2009. 
  28. ^ David Wood (2010-02-24). "If it calls itself “Security Essentials 2010”, then it’s possibly fake, innit?". Microsoft. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 

External links

Simple English

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is a free antivirus software created by Microsoft that provides protection against viruses, spyware, rootkits, and trojans for Windows XP (x86 MSE replaces Windows Live OneCare, a commercial subscription-based antivirus service and the free Windows Defender, which only protected users from adware and spyware. It is geared for consumer use, unlike Microsoft's upcoming enterprise-oriented product Microsoft Forefront.

See Also


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