Yesterday Microsoft Security Essentials, Microsoft’s free Anti-virus solution, was released. I’ve been beta testing it for the last few months and have to say it is fantastic. It’s one of the few anti-virus solutions that is fully 64 bit. I’ve been using it on numerous virtual machines from XP to Windows 7 and everything in between. The CPU and memory usage is very minimal and I notice nary a slowdown even in virtual machines with limited memory. On my Windows 7 install it uses 336K to 5286K of memory. On a 512 MB install of Windows XP it uses 8556K
As far as detection, I’m smart enough to not download pointless things from websites I’ve never heard about. But when I do download something, that could possibly be questionable, I scan it. And that one time Security Essentials found something and automatically went and cleaned it up. It took a few minutes, but it was a rather large .RAR file. This article has a quote that Security Essentials detected and removed all 3,194 viruses on the AV-Tests “wild list.” Not bad for a free product. Why is it so good? It’s based on Microsoft’s enterprise ForeFront AV firewall program. This is the inbound scanner that many large companies use, so they see a lot of data.
Scan times are also improved from other solutions. Doing a quick scan on my Windows 7 x64 rig takes well under 10 minutes, and that’s with two 1 Terabyte drives. Updates take place automatically and I haven’t had a failed one yet, unlike with Norton or AVG free. And one of the greatest features is that you don’t have to reboot the system to upgrade the product. I have tested this on Win7x64 and Windows XP x86. Other reviewers have said that Security Essentials will not use more than 50% of the processor during a scan. I have to say this is true, running a quick scan on a VM of XP (which appears as a single core) it regularly runs from 15% to 50%, occasionally spiking to 90%, but still only takes 1.8 minutes.
The verdict? Definitely if you want a free solution this is the way to go. You really can’t go wrong. Even Steve Gibson of GRC.com fame has stated on his Security Now podcast that this is the first anti-virus program he will use. His biggest point to make was the lack of false positives, which if you have used other products has borked some windows installs deleting a “good” file. I’m running it on all of my installs and VM’s and can’t say one bad thing about it. It just makes it that much better that its free.
Get it here