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Microsoft came onto the antivirus playing field when it launched Microsoft Security Essentials, or MSE, in 2009. This is a tool that will run on Windows XP, 7, and 8. The industry praised this move because it was felt that it was long overdue that Microsoft provide antivirus protection. At the outset, MSE seemed to be just as good as many of the other paid security options out there.

The early praise soon evaporated however. Later tests revealed MSE to be lacking in features that an effective antivirus programs should offer.

Protection Is Everything

The level of protection offered by antivirus apps varies widely. They are not the same. The best apps are very different from the worst ones and the most important requirement of an antivirus program is being able to detect threats and remove or quarantine them.

MSE has failed to stay up with its competition. This shows how quickly the security industry can change. An app that is at the top of the game can drop behind its competitors in just a year or even sooner if it is not constantly updated to cope with new threats. This is why the smart consumer will consult with organizations that conduct independent testing, examples being AV-Comparatives or AV-Test, before making a decision on an antivirus program.

There Should Be More To An Antivirus Program Than Basic Scanning

Microsoft was undeniably on the right track when it launched MSE for Windows, but it transpires that it was terribly outdated, even at launch. Nowadays, consumers need much more than just simple antivirus protection.

For example, an antivirus suite should include features such as being able to identify questionable URLs and it should have tools that combat phishing etc. Unfortunately, MSE does not include these features.

These features are not the only ‘extras’ offered by an antivirus suite. Most of them also offer a way to securely shred your computer files, spam protection powered by the cloud, a sandbox for safe payments and a tool for removing the strongest threats, such as rootkits.

The Problem With Popularity

Windows is a major target of malware because it is the operating system used by a large majority of computers. Following MSE’s launch and its use by millions of people, it also has become a prime target.

It is hard to say if MSE’s reputation as a popular malware target has contributed to its low score in independent tests. Whilst difficult to prove, it most certainly is conceivable that when the developers of such malware create a new virus or Trojan, they include MSE as a target of their attacks.

What is unquestionable is the fact that fake anti-virus program developers have brought out many MSE fakes. Other security giants are similarly targeted, for example McAfee and Norton, but MSE tops them both. There is no guarantee that relative obscurity will protect an antivirus program from being targeted, but developers of malware are much less likely to spend a lot of time targeting lesser programs like F-Secure and Avira.


An effective antivirus program protects against and blocks a wide range of threats. Even if fakes exist and are designed to circumvent the real thing, its effectiveness is not reduced or otherwise affected by them.

Unfortunately however, MSE comes up short in these areas. Initial excitement soon faded away as users were disappointed by its lack of features. It has become apparent that a free, third-party antivirus program remains the best choice for users who do not wish to pay for such a program. There are many free apps that offer better performance and better protection, with more features, than does MSE and if a free, third-party antivirus program can do that, there is no need or reason to hang on to MSE.

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