Microsoft Security Essentials Update

microsoft security essentials

Guest Contributor, Bruce Berls. Originally posted at

An updated version of Microsoft Security Essentials is being installed automatically for anyone currently running the free antivirus program. It is being pushed out silently by the Automatic Updates system and will likely be completely invisible to most of you. It does not require a restart after the update is installed.

One recent report showed that Microsoft Security Essentials has become the most popular security program in North America and second worldwide. MSE is one of Microsoft’s best program designs precisely because it is nearly invisible when it is doing its job: it installs with two or three clicks and no restart, and there are virtually no popup windows calling attention to the program when it is running, unlike every other antivirus program on the market. It is free – no registration, no trials, no expiration date, no renewals. The license authorizes it to be used in businesses up to ten PCs (and personally I sleep well even if I discover that a business with 20 or 25 workstations is using it).

Windows 8 has the functionality of Microsoft Security Essentials built into the OS. At that point malware protection will finally sit where it has always belonged, as a function of the operating system rather than a bolted-on afterthought.

It’s important to keep in mind that most malware sidesteps your security program by arriving from poisoned web sites that attempt to convince you to click an OK button. When you click the OK button, you are telling your security program to stand down. Your most effective security is your common sense. Antivirus programs are just one item on theRules For Computer Safety. (If those aren’t taped to your refrigerator already, do it now!)

The interface for Microsoft Security Essentials is almost unchanged, other than a new background color. If you’re curious about whether you’ve gotten the upgrade yet, open MSE and click in the upper right on Help / About Security Essentials. The upgrade shows 4.0 for both the Security Essentials Version and the Antimalware Client Version.

Microsoft Security Essentials updated to version 4.0

The updates are all under the hood. One interesting improvement, according to Microsoft: “We have improved on Microsoft Security Essentials’ Automatic Remediation, which will automatically quarantine highly harmful threats without prompting the user to take action.” A reasonable interpretation: if a web page drops a potentially dangerous file into your Temporary Internet Files folder, MSE might remove it without bothering you.

The upgrade began to be rolled out on April 24. I got mine on April 25. I’ve seen several computers get the update in the last couple of days. If the update is installed while you’re using the computer, you may see a popup that Microsoft Security Essentials has been turned off. It will disappear in a minute or two when the updated version is turned on. (On one computer today, the old version was uninstalled but the new version failed to install correctly. Windows popped up its notice that no antivirus program was installed. Manually installing directly from the MSE web site cured the problem.)

Be careful out there!

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Bruceb Consulting is one of the leading IT consulting firms in the North Bay, providing computer consulting and IT support to law firms, small businesses, and individuals – onsite in Sonoma County and Marin County, and remotely for clients all over California.


4 Responses to Microsoft Security Essentials Update

  1. lincoln300 says:

    Is Microsoft Security Essentials really good? I’m doubtful about products from Microsoft….they always have so much bugs. I rather use other 3rd party anti virus softwares like AVG, Avast or Norton.

  2. I understand the feelings of doubt from Lincoln’s comment. It’s often hard for me to feel comfortable when antivirus or anti-malware programs are running in the background, or constantly trying to update themselves while you work or as you boot down. That applies to native OS applications like MS Security Essentials as well as 3rd party software (Norton, etc…).

    In some ways it’s hard to even tell the quality of any one security system, let alone compare it to others. The “trust” that we are asked to provide when any such program runs in the background (often at the expense of PC performance and consistency) seems to be the price to pay for a feeling of security. But you’re often left questioning whether you’re actually secured or how much better off you are with the security apps running. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who feels knowledgeable to compare Lincoln’s questions, including the relative quality of different security platforms, and the question of whether Microsoft’s reputation for ‘bugs’ is accurate.

  3. Bruce Berls says:

    Interesting question! There are a couple of ways to look at it.

    All of the security programs from the major vendors are more or less equally good at providing security against malware. I’m not persuaded that the differences reported by the reviewers or labs are significant any more. This technology is pretty well understood. That being said, Microsoft Security Essentials consistently ranks at or near the top of most recent surveys of effectiveness.

    MSE does not offer other services besides basic malware protection. Other security products frequently try to differentiate themselves by offering increased controls over your firewall or family safety or spam filtering or the like. Some people like that. In my experience, most people wind up ignoring them, or being frustrated and confused by them.

    There are two things that make MSE stand out.

    One is that it imposes virtually no load on your computer. It gets its updates frequently during the day and uses as little bandwidth as possible to do that, and it uses virtually no processor power or memory while it’s running. After the bad, bad years with Norton and McAfee, this is quite a blessing.

    The other is that MSE runs as quietly as possible. It is designed for people who do not want popup windows and choices unless they are absolutely necessary. I almost never run into problems with it. It just does its job, solid as a rock.

    MSE isn’t right for larger businesses or businesses that want to manage the security on workstations from a central location, but for consumers and small businesses it can’t be beat.

    And the crucial point to remember from my article is that the bad guys have focused all their effort in the last few years on bypassing your security program by delivering malware through poisoned web sites and convincing you to let them in. Be careful out there!

    Bruce Berls

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