The 120-day Microsoft security suite test drive

Fred langa
By Fred Langa

Frustration with most commercial antivirus suites launched a long-term, real-life test of Microsoft Security Essentials, Microsoft’s free anti-malware application.

In one of the rare extended tests outside a lab, Microsoft’s software has quietly kept two Windows 7 PCs free of infections, even in dangerous public environments.

I’ve tried many commercial security suites over the years and eventually grown unhappy with each of them. An anti-malware publisher would layer new features on top of old, and each new version would require more disk space and system resources — eventually making the software too big, too slow, or too hard to customize. Moving on to another publisher’s suite only restarted the same pattern.

So four months ago, I decided to look into a new option: the recently released Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) — the company’s first antivirus and anti-malware application. (MSE is available as a free download from the product’s info page.)

So far, my real-life test drive indicates that Microsoft may have finally got basic security right.

Three critical elements for basic security

I generally rely on three interlocking kinds of security protection: First, a firewall to protect against direct hack attacks. Next, various built-in filters and prescreens provided by online apps (browsers and e-mail, for example) to block malware downloads and prevent open doors to bad sites. Finally, an active anti-malware tool that monitors all file activity. The software screens out known or likely worms, viruses, Trojans, and other malicious code — either by identifying them directly or by watching their behavior.

For the first time, in Fall 2009 Microsoft provided all three pieces of the online security puzzle — and offered them free.

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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.