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  1. #1
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    LANGALIST PLUS

    Security Essentials test drive — month 6


    By Fred Langa

    After half a year of real-life testing, Microsoft's Security Essentials anti-malware application is batting 1.000.All nine test computers — a mix of Windows 7, Vista and XP systems (including two portables with 20,000 miles of travel) — remain malware- and virus-free.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/2010/09/16/05 (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by revia; 2011-01-19 at 15:06.

  2. #2
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    With a single large partition (yours is 145GB), system maintenance — disk checks, defrags, virus scans, and such — will proceed much more slowly than on smaller partitions.

    And as you found out, large partitions can also lead to wasted disk space when built-in system components use simple (and inflexible) percentages to set aside memory they might need.

    You might do better by manually dividing your hard drive into several smaller partitions. This will speed disk maintenance, give you more storage flexibility, and also make your Recycle Bin less wasteful and more manageable.
    What the heck!? Partitioning might have made sense years and years ago in the days of FAT32 and such forth, but not so much anymore.

    Disk Checks - When's the last time you had an error on an NTFS partition that wasn't hardware-related? Hardware-related problems are likely to affect your entire drive regardless of how it is partitioned.

    Defrags - Defragging a large partition with a substantial amount of empty space is much, much faster than defragging a small partition without much space. And if you've managed to fill up most of a 145 GB drive, you've got other things to worry about.

    Virus Scans - This makes no sense at all! If you are scrupulous enough to keep an entire partition completely free of any infectable files, you're also probably scrupulous enough not to get yourself infected by a virus. Otherwise, you're probably going to want to scan all files on all your partitions anyway!

    Storage flexibility - And this makes even less sense! The more you partition, the more likely you are to run out of space on a partition, and resizing partitions is still not a trivial operation - it's one of those critical operations that can handily wipe out all your data with little hope of recovery if you're not careful.

    If your recycling bin is taking up too much space, stop using the recycling bin. With privacy concerns running rampant these days, do you really want something that you thought you erased to be so easily recovered? I've been shift-deleting stuff permanently for years. Yes, I make mistakes sometimes, but that's what backups and unerase utilities are for.

  3. #3
    New Lounger
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    It seems to me partitioning would not save any disk because of the recycle bin lower limit of 1%. Each of the partitions would still have the 1% limit. The combined recycle bins would still add up to the 1% of one large partition, wouldn't they?

  4. #4
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    I too have been using MSE for the last 6 months and have been impressed with it's performance. In terms of
    system resources and simplistic interface I could not be more pleased. Lets just hope it stays that way.

    I have also not had any infections slip through so far.

    Partitions
    I've gotten away from using partitions in favor of more internal hard drives. I currently
    have only one partition that is more a temp area used for video encoding. If your wanting to limit the recycle bin down beyond the 1% range why not just turn it off altogether?

    If all one has is a single hard drive one would be far better off, from a maintenance stand point, to create a partition and get as much user data as possible off the primary partition.
    DRIVE IMAGING
    Invest a little time and energy in a well thought out BACKUP regimen and you will have minimal down time, and headache.

    Build your own system; get everything you want and nothing you don't.
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  5. #5
    Super Moderator Deadeye81's Avatar
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    I have used MSE for a number of months now as well, and have been similarly impressed with its performance, and so far have not had any infections arrive on the scene. I use it on two machines. I have Avast 5 Free edition on my wife's two computers, and have had the same results. We have been pleased with Avast as well.

    If I had to choose only one, I feel confident to go with MSE exclusively. But my wife explicitly told me "not to mess with something that just plain works for her."

    As far as partitioning, I do not have massive gigabytes of data, so I store everything on one hard drive. However, I keep all entertainment movies, music, and photos on two external hard drives (one duplicates the other), as well as on DVDs. Therefore my image backups are of a reasonable size.
    Deadeye81

    "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." Sir Winston Churchill

  6. #6
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Partitions do make sense if you do not fill up the hard drive. As Clint says, separating your data from your OS and Programs will improve scanning and backup (maintenance) performance. It will also result in smaller backup archives, if you are like me and do not image your data partition. (Sync or copy and paste the contents to an external drive -- it's just as fast, and space is not a limiting factor for anything smaller than huge media files or big photo files.) The fewer files on a partition, the faster both scanning and backup will run. I do scan my data partition as well, but a partition seems to scan faster when the data files are separated from the system files. This may be due to newer scanning engines using advanced heuristics, which can bog down when system and data files are mixed together.

    When in doubt about whether you have improved your computer's performance, get out a stop watch and do a measurement of the "before" and "after" times. This is the only metric I trust.

    By the way, there is no such thing as an uninfectable file. New exploits are being developed every day. All files should be scanned periodically.

    No matter how I slice and dice my hard drive, Defraggler or Smart Defrag are fast enough so that I do not notice any performance issues due to how full a partition is -- just as long as there is at least 15 percent headroom. Any less and defragmenting will run into issues. My partitions are at least 50 percent free space, even after shrinking Windows (even Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit) to run within 50GB, give or take (XP uses far less space). My data partitions run less than 10GB used, although backup images on external drives run much larger. I do not defragment backup archives, since they are prone to errors if their data are moved. Archives can be copied safely, but defragmenting them can confuse recovery software, So, partitioning does not cause problems with defragmenting for me in most cases.

    Big media files can indeed fill a 150GB hard drive, and much more. This includes photo files for those who do Digital Imaging. So it is not appropriate to chastise people who fill their hard drives without knowing what those people are doing with their computers.

    I recently had to do a checkdisk /r on my Windows XP laptop, just because I updated a security program. NTFS is not infallible, and frequently the security or indexing parameters get messed up and the NTFS Journaling has to be updated. This causes Checkdisk to run at boot, and it is a common occurrence, even with modern computers and modern software. Checkdisk should be run manually every month or so to avoid an accumulation of errors which could cause Windows to become unstable or to fail to launch entirely. I have seldom seen Checkdisk run on a heavily used active NTFS partition without fixing something.

    And finally, I NEVER resize an active partition without backing it up first. That is only common sense. So much for "little hope of recovery" -- True Image has only once failed me in a recovery operation through six versions and three computers.

    On the topic of Microsoft Security Essentials, I have been running it for only three months on my Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit laptop, but it has not had any failures. Then again, I don't get malware infections very often in any event. My Windows XP Pro SP3 32-bit laptop has only had four infections (all minor adware events) in six years, with various Anti-malware programs and firewalls, as well as some on line scanners and browser protections. Maybe none of this is necessary, but MSSE does about as well with the Windows 7 firewall as any combination I ever used with Windows XP. And it does not harm system or application performance in any way that I have noticed.
    -- Bob Primak --

  7. #7
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    A question: Were any PC based email clients used (Outlook, Thunderbird) during testing or were emails read via a web browser?

    I have seen a few discussions that state a virus scanner that scans emails as they are downloaded from the pop server (e.g. AVG Free) by a PC based email client (e.g. Outlook Express, Windows Mail) are unnecessary now because resident scanners are now more capable and scanning emails during download can cause major slowdowns and issues.

    Is there any feedback/knowledge on the security of only using a virus scanner like MSE that doesnt scan emails as opposed to one like AVG that scans email?

    Thanks
    Chris

  8. #8
    Super Moderator Deadeye81's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Betts View Post
    A question: Were any PC based email clients used (Outlook, Thunderbird) during testing or were emails read via a web browser?

    I have seen a few discussions that state a virus scanner that scans emails as they are downloaded from the pop server (e.g. AVG Free) by a PC based email client (e.g. Outlook Express, Windows Mail) are unnecessary now because resident scanners are now more capable and scanning emails during download can cause major slowdowns and issues.

    Is there any feedback/knowledge on the security of only using a virus scanner like MSE that doesnt scan emails as opposed to one like AVG that scans email?

    Thanks
    Chris
    Hi Chris, and welcome to the Lounge!

    I use Thunderbird, and I have not seen any slowdown caused by Avast! or MSE. All AV programs will scan e-mail attachments these days. MSE and Avast! scans anything that comes to your hard drive, including e-mail.

    Check out this thread in MS Answers for more info.
    Deadeye81

    "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." Sir Winston Churchill

  9. #9
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    Works great for me too. I also use www.mywot.com to help thawt stuff too and they both work great together. Actually I am using the public beta version which is supposed to have more monitoring of stuff
    Thank you,
    Eric Vogel
    www.ecvogel.com

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the replies.

    I think I need to do some testing to be completely comfortable with it myself ... will probably try something like outlook which stores emails in a database (pst) so the emails dont hit the disk individually and then see if MSE detects infected email scripts & attachments on opening direct from the pst rather than when saving them to disk ... it may be that the outlook saves them to disk during opening and so will detect the infection ...

    Best
    Chris

  11. #11
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Regarding e-mail scanning:

    AVG e-mail scanner never let me scan encrypted or SSL downloads. It also slowed down downloading large e-mails. So I disabled it.

    In Eudora , Eudora OSE, and Thunderbird clients, a separate e-mail scanner is totally unnecessary, as Avast and AVG scan files on access, and deep scanning with any AV/AS product will scan all files, including these clients' mailboxes or folders. My Super Antispyware Deep Scans always scan every e-mail file. Outlook's storage method could present a bit more of a challenge, since the messages are not stored individually, and therefore are not opened as files. Microsoft Security Essentials does scan files on access, last I read, but this may not include individual Outlook messages.

    If you use web mail, the usual web shields and browser shields, combined with decent e-mail filtering by Yahoo, G-Mail and Windows Live Mail (Hotmail) should be enough protection without any separate e-mail scanner on the local computer.

    I also disabled the AVG Link Scanner, because it was slowing down Google Searches. Sometimes the added protection is not worth the performance hit with some of these special scanners.

    The absence of e-mail scanning would not put me off from using Microsoft Security Essentials, as long as I do antispyware scans periodically with another product.
    -- Bob Primak --

  12. #12
    Lounger Will Fastie's Avatar
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    The article says that "MSE is free and is available for every version of Windows..." I'm not sure that is entirely accurate.

    MSE as currently constituted is intended for the consumer audience. ForeFront, of course, is what Microsoft sells to businesses. It would not make a lot of sense for Microsoft to let MSE cannibalize ForeFront. The system requirements for MSE, not surprisingly, do not mention Windows Sever 2003 or 2008. Whether you can actually install MSE on a server is something I have not yet tried.

    In addition, there is a teaser at the MSE site now - "Coming soon: Microsoft Security Essentials for your small business!" I don't know what this is yet but it may represent a middle-ground product (somewhere between free and ForeFront) at a manageable price that includes server support and perhaps even a management console.

  13. #13
    3 Star Lounger
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    I see some of you speak of the "beta" version of MSE.

    Is there only a "beta" version of MSE?
    If not, what exactly is the beta version of?

  14. #14
    New Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenXXXX View Post
    I see some of you speak of the "beta" version of MSE.

    Is their only a "beta" version of MSE?
    If not, what exactly is the beta version of?

    It is a public beta: https://connect.microsoft.com/securityessentials
    You will have to get a Windows Live! ID and join.
    Thank you,
    Eric Vogel
    www.ecvogel.com

  15. #15
    New Lounger
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    Even the latest beta version of MSE took 2 & 1/2 times as long to quick scan the same 545 MB folder on a flash drive as did Avast. I also find that accessing folder contents takes longer with MSE as it does its thing. Also, it seems you have to have automatic updates turned on and set to automatically download and install updates in order for MSE to update on its own. To me, MSE is still a work in progress.

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