Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Microsoft Security Essentials Beta (First Looks)

Its been in the news since November, but its finally here. The public beta of Microsoft’s new free security offering, known as Microsoft Security Essentials, Codename Morro. It is intended to replace Windows Live OneCare.

Microsoft Security Essentials is a free security offering that’s intended to replace Windows Defender and Windows Live OneCare. It offers real time protection and both antivirus and antispyware. Therefore, as you can guess, it was at very high demand.

It was released this morning as limited public beta to the first 75,000 people. I was able to grab a copy just a few minutes ago and install it on my Windows 7 RC system. The servers were extremely slow probably because of demand and the very small 4.7 MB download went no higher than 10 KB/s. To get it, you need to sign into Microsoft Connect with your Windows Live ID, then answer a quick survey. "This beta is available only to customers in the United States, Israel (English only), People’s Republic of China (Simplified Chinese only) and Brazil (Brazilian Portuguese only)" according to the beta site.

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Overall, this is an excellent new product and is likely to trigger some competition with the other free security products like AVG. It is based off of Windows Live OneCare, which has a reputation of having low false positives and strong new detection rates.

Being free and very light is already amazing. The scan took no more than 4.6 MB of RAM. However, I noticed that a SYSTEM process taking up almost 30-50 MB of RAM was always running and this was part of the program’s services. When I ended this process, Security Essentials gave an alert that the service was stopped. The process is MsMpEng.exe which is called AntiMalware Service Executable. In task manager, you need to show processes from all users to see this. The program overall is very resource friendly compared to other security products.

Update 6/26: I ran a full scan of my system (including both operating system partitions) and it scanned well over 2 million items and took 3.5 hours. If I recall correctly, my Windows Defender scan I ran in December 2008 when I only had one operating system took longer than that to scan around 600,000 items. In my experiences with MSE, it is faster than Defender.

The product, especially the About Window and the Settings tab looks very much like Windows Defender (Windows 7 version).

Overall, I’m very impressed by this new product. It would be nice however if they would bring back the Software Explorer from Windows Defender for XP and Vista.

My computer was not infected so I didn’t get a chance to test out the removal. While this is a great new product, I cannot place any recommendations just yet as there has not been any thorough testing for this beta product just yet for factors such as detection rates. It is likely to be similar to Windows Live OneCare, but there are no guarantees. However, I believe that this could be a great new product that could trigger some competition.

MSE also updates like Defender. Definitions are received through Windows Update. If will also disable Windows Defender after installing. You could turn it back on if you want but there isn't much benefit to that since both probably use the same engine. You could turn it on just to use Software Explorer if you are using XP or Vista, then turn if back off so your system performance won't be affected much.

Want to try it for yourself?

Microsoft Security Essentials

Keep in mind that this is BETA software.

Update 6/24: One day after the beta release, the 75,000 download cap has been reached and Microsoft is no longer accepting any more new downloads.

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