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Do I Need to Stop Using Microsoft Security Essentials?

Question: I read an article last week that basically said Microsoft had give up competing with other anti-malware tools and that Microsoft Security Essentials wasn’t going to be any good any more. The article recommended that I quit using it immediately and switch to something else. What do you think? Do I need to stop using Microsoft Security Essentials?


No you don’t. If you’ve been happy with it, you’re perfectly welcome to keep on using it as you have in the past.

To put it a different way, I’m not changing my recommendation. Microsoft Security Essentials remains my recommendation for most people. I’m also not changing what I use myself, which is MSE.

As it turns out, the majority of the “journalism” on the topic over the past couple of weeks has simply been repeating a single source of information. Worse, the repetition included not only a couple of quotes without full context from a Microsoft spokesperson and also additional speculation by the author of that original piece. As the story was repeated, even more speculation was added and assumptions were made.

The result was quite the kerfuffle.

Now, I don’t call myself a “journalist” – I’m just a geek with a voice on the web trying to help people use their computers. But even I know that just repeating and embellishing what others are saying about what others are saying isn’t the right way to approach something like this.

So I took a different approach. I went to the source and contacted Microsoft directly for clarification.

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Should people using MSE today be concerned?

I managed to contact Holly Stewart, the person quoted in the original article, who pointed me at some recently posted official clarification. She also directed me to others who were able to confirm my understanding of the entire situation.

At the top of my list of concerns was simply whether people currently using MSE  (Microsoft Security Essentials / Windows  Defender1) should be concerned – is Microsoft committed to making sure that consumers who choose to use MSE are safe and will remain so in the future?

The answer is clear: there’s no need for concern, MSE remains a fundamentally safe choice.

In a subsequent blog post on the Microsoft Malware Protection Center blog, Our commitment to Microsoft antimalware, Dennis Batchelder,  Partner Group Program Manager of the center concludes a general discussion about Microsoft’s commitment to the technology with this statement:

We believe in Microsoft antimalware products and strongly recommend them to our customers, to our friends, and to our families.

Recommending the technologies to your friends and families – especially when it’s the technology you’re responsible for – doesn’t sound like giving up to me. That’s a statement of belief in the product.

You're ProtectedIt’s one thing when I recommend a product to my friends and family – if it breaks I can blame the manufacturer. When you’re a Microsoft person working in the Malware Protection Center, making that recommendation implies that when something goes wrong you’re the manufacturer, and you’ll have to answer grandma as to why your product didn’t protect her computer. That takes commitment. (I know, I’ve lived this with other products. :-) )

A test is not the real world

One of the most unfortunate interpretations the original article deals with Microsoft seemingly “giving up” by saying that they were shifting focus away from “predicting test results”. Specifically:

“We used to have part of our team directed towards predicting test results and figuring out what might be in someone’s test. There’s always a cost to that. If they are doing that work, they are not looking at those threats that are affecting our customers. We always felt that was wrong. There’s something not right about that – we’re not doing the best job for our customers.” – Holly Stewart, quoted in  PCPro

What this says to me is that Microsoft has shifted resources away from trying to look good in random tests, and applied those resources to being good in the real world. It’s as if they had said “we’re walking away from the comparison testing game, because we believe our efforts are best spent elsewhere”.

That’s not giving up. You may disagree with the strategy, you may consider independent third party testing to be a valid and valuable approach for anti-malware tool comparison. However, simply choosing a different approach to making the product better is certainly not something you can interpret as “giving up”.

And those “efforts best spent elsewhere”? They benefit all the anti-malware vendors. Which is what makes this so complex.

The complex world of anti-malware tools and Microsoft’s role in it

Unfortunately Microsoft has a difficult time giving short, clear and definite answers in situations like this. While the published blog post Our commitment to Microsoft antimalware is strong on commitment to the process and technology, and to a certain degree a commitment to the specific products, it still reads as very … vague. Very “business like”. To me it doesn’t come out and nail the issue as clearly or as hard as I would like.

But I understand why it must be so.

In a word: partners.

When it comes to anti-malware tools, Microsoft actually needs to do two things:

  • Produce an anti-malware tool (MSE)
  • Help other companies – their partners – produce anti-malware tools

It’s not difficult at all to see that these two roles have the potential to come into conflict.

If Microsoft were to come out and say “Hell’s yeah, we’re making the best darned anti-malware tool on the planet! You don’t need those other guys!” those partners that Microsoft still needs to work with are not going to be particularly happy.

Heck, for all I know internally they are trying to create the best darned anti-malware tool2, but it’s not something they could ever say so strongly and so publicly.

Making MSE better makes everyone better

Microsoft’s ultimate commitment is to making Windows users safer and battling … the true enemy: malware writers.
What Microsoft does say publicly is simply this: “We share our telemetry and samples with the industry to collectively make all of us stronger against our true adversaries – the malware writers.” What this means is that what they learn about malware they share with other anti-malware tool manufacturers. This allows those other companies to incorporate that information into their own products, and all products to get better.

What this also means is that outside vendors get to use what they figure out on their own, plus what Microsoft has learned and shared with them. Does this make other tools “better”? Possibly, depending how good they are in general, and on your definition of “better”. Does it make Microsoft’s tools any worse? Not at all. Does it imply that Microsoft has given up on their own tools? Absolutely not.

Microsoft’s ultimate commitment is to making Windows users safer and battling, as Mr. Batchelder put it, the true enemy: malware writers. They simply use a two pronged approach: making a good anti-malware product, and sharing data with other vendors so that they can do the same.

The net result is more choice for the user and a safer Windows experience for everyone.

My Recommendation

As I mentioned at the start, my recommendation has not changed.

I continue to recommend MSE as a convenient, low-overhead, low impact anti-virus and anti-spyware tool. It’s easy, it’s reliable, and requires almost no effort to set up or monitor. As others often recommend, MalwareBytes is a fine companion utility to add an extra layer of security should you feel so inclined. (I run with only MSE, and pull out Malwarebytes only as needed, which is quite infrequent.)

There are other good solutions out there as well – in part due to Microsoft’s data sharing of information. If, for some reason, MSE doesn’t work for you or you remain uncomfortable for some reason, What Security Software do you recommend? lists a few alternatives.

It’s critical to realize that no anti-malware product will stop all malware. Your anti-malware tool, whatever you might choose, is simply an important part of a larger overall strategy that includes everything from keeping your system and all software up to date to your own behavior as you interact online and more. And of course backing up regularly. :-)

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Footnotes & references

Microsoft: Security Essentials is designed to be bottom of the antivirus rankings –

Our commitment to Microsoft antimalware – Microsoft Malware Protection Center

1: Microsoft Security Essentials is the downloadable anti-malware solution for Windows 7 and prior. Window Defender is essentially the same product already included in Windows 8 and on.

2: For the record I do not know. I’d certainly like to think so, but that’s purely wishful thinking on my part.

64 comments on “Do I Need to Stop Using Microsoft Security Essentials?”

  1. All I use on all my machines is MSE as the resident scanner. MBAM and Super anti spyware are used to scan at regular intervals. These keep me as clean as can be expected.

  2. At last, someone with knowledge on the issue giving a clear cut answer to all the confusion about this issue. I’ve used MSE for a long time (PC and Laptop) and have never had an issue with it. Out of interest I installed AVG 2014 Free for a little while, but it continually flagged errors in Windows event logs, and added considerably to my boot and shut down times. Now back to MSE and feeling quite reassured by your article. Just for that little extra I’ve added WinPatrol Free alongside MSE. Thanks, Leo. Keep up the great work…

  3. Just been called to help my blind, but tech savvy friend. His PC was very slow and had connection issues.

    My much trusted tech shop discovered 31 viruses. So not one rogue, but a major infestation.

    Does that not fit better with the AV league tables.


    • To Paul Jenkins:
      You don’t say whether your blind friend had any av software at all?? What did he have, if any, and what should he have had? Did changing the s/w make any difference – good or bad?

  4. This sounds like a problem which exists in education. With the No Child Left Behind policy, students have to take standardized tests to test the teachers’ effectiveness. Unfortunately, in many cases, teachers have been encouraged by principals to drill students for the exams. This has often resulted in quality teaching being sacrificed and replaced by exam prep. Reading the quotes in context leads me to believe that MS is no longer designing MSE for the test and getting down to fighting the real enemy – malware.

    • It’s actually in Microsoft’s best interest to keep MSE and its anti-malware resarch going. There are just too many choices on the market today: Apple, android, Linux, Windows, etc. Long gone are the days of Mac/Windows debates.

      If people find they have to continually fight with their computer for process time (which is what I found with AVG when I booted up my computer), or too much malware gets through, people are going to think that Windows is the problem. That means Windows users will start to look elsewhere and that’s bad for Microsoft.

      I’m actually surprised that they didn’t include something in every version of Windows prior to Windows 8.

      • So, MSE wasn’t included in every version of Windows 7? I’m running Win 7 Pro 64 bit and it was certainly included in that. I’m very happy with it, too, after too many years of chasing down a good AV when, as always seemed to happen, any good one I had installed (some free, some paid for) turned into a resource hog. The free Grisoft was an excellent antivirus program, IMO, until it became AVG.

        • Windows 8 is the only version so far that includes MSE (known as Windows Defender in Windows 8, as MSE is of course, based on Windows Defender.)

          If your machine came with MSE, either you got it through Windows Update without knowing, or if you’re running an OEM install of Windows, it your manufacturer included it.

          • Your timeline is wonky. Windows XP had windows defender made available to it long before windows 8 came around. Secondly Vista, was the one that switched the name to MSE which followed through to windows 7 (where it was included in pro versions). Windows 8 being convoluted went back on everything and started calling it MSE… There’s a step I’m skipping that windows sold a pro version of some networked MSE but it came off as (and likely was) a giant “Pay us to use this beta” version… it had full octet keys and everything, that now when trying to install takes you to the MSE webpage.

          • @SqueeMonkey

            Windows Defender in Vista, was not the same as in windows 8, which is essentially Microsoft security essentials. Previously to MSE, the full blown AV app by MS was called OneCare, and it required a purchase and monthly subscription. Once MSE came out OneCare was discontinued.

            Vista and 7 had defender, but it was useless, and only for spyware. You could install Microsoft Security Essentials separately. Windows 8 replaced defender with MSE, and renamed it to defender.

            Defender > OneCare > MSE > Defender
            The first defender was spyware only w/ OneCare for AV.

  5. I’ve been using MSE for several years, it was a real godsend on my old slow PC before I replaced it 3 years ago. I don’t often get attacked by malware as I’m reasonably careful in my surfing habits, but MSE has caught it on several occasions and, following a scan with Malwarebytes, nothing else was found. The one exception was a pretty bad infestation (40+ items found) that was my own fault for trying to find a streaming link that would work in my country on dubious websites (and downloading their software, yes I should have known better). MSE removed some of it and Malwarebytes took care of the rest. MSE is light on resources and as competent at detecting malware as any other AV software I’ve tried over the years (better than some), glad to hear they will be continuing to develop the software for the user rather than to pass malware “tests”. The main thing I am interested in is that MSE alerts me to the presence of malware, my trusty Malwarebytes takes care of the rest. I also use Secunia PSI to keep my major software updated and reduce the chance of infection in the first place ;o)

  6. It sounds like some of the tech ‘journalists’ are acting just like our political ‘journalists’ who repeat the same lies and half-truths enough times that the gullible begin to believe them!

  7. I gradually changed all of my office computers from an expensive, name brand anti-virus to MSE and Malwarebytes. So far it appears to be doing a good job, and as noted, not intrusive. Hopefully MSE will continue to work on XP for another couple of years.

  8. I am sorry, but it is very hard to understand why someone would use (and recommend) MSE as it has consistently failed AV-TEST.ORG tests, even more so when other free software (AVAST, AVG) pass this , as well as other tests, consistently . No, there is no perfect antivirus, but some are better than others and in this case, a lot better. In today’s world, you need to use every possible tool to be safe on the Internet – but the most important ones are common sense and, still, your antivirus, in my humble opinion.

  9. Let’s slow this train down. The first I heard of the MSE issue was on ” HOW TO GEEK”. I don’t always agree with them but in the article several of the respondents did run their own tests which seemed to bear out the thrust of the article.

    Another thing Leo seems to dance around is this; …. if Microsoft is shareing info …. are their “partners” reciprocating? Would this not make MSE stronger? I have been using MSE for a few years now and up to now have been happy, .. but.. benchmarks are important. Every engine needs a dipstick.

    I will continue to use MSE until I find definitive info, but this is making me nervous.

  10. I, too, used MSE on all my machines and sent a lot of my friends that way as well. But my wife’s machine was just a dog. Click anything and it would just stare at you for about 30-45 seconds (and we know we are all impatient when it comes to computers) before it would react. I ran MBAM, CCleaner and a couple other apps (install, run, remove) without finding anything. I did see where MSE was taking about 50-75% of the CPU for very long periods of time. I also found the article about “removing…..”. So, I removed MSE and went to AVAST. Machine, while still not blazing, is much better. I don’t know if my wifes XP machine is just “one of those things” or not but MSE was killing it. I feel that MSE is not a right fit for everyone and you have to figure out what meshes well with your setup and go with it. There is no cookbook approach to computer setups.

    • To Cole Knight:
      I’m not an expert, but it’s quite likely that MSE uses proportionately more resources on an XP machine than on W7 or W8; XP machines probably need 1GB memory minimum to cope with MSE, whereas avg etc may need less memory. I have dealt with many XP machines, and all those with 1GB plus coped well with MSE.

  11. About a year ago I got a Trojan through email/Facebook (which I no longer use) and spent days finding and cleaning it out. After that I was obsessed with the idea my computer was infested for weeks after and spent many hours using various utilities to hunt down and destroy these non existent entities! It took me a while to realize I’m not finding anything because nothing is there! If it “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” by loading a bunch of junk in your pc.

    Today I use MSE, CCleaner (when I feel the need) and Spywareblaster. I am happy with all three and my machine, with Win XP Pro SP3 runs fine! When support for XP runs out I will move on to something else and continue to march, until then I’m happy with it.

    I have learned that traipsing around on “the internet” is like running through a minefield but with extreme caution and forethought many problems can be avoided. I think my biggest problem was I EXPECTED to find malware simply because I had the anti malware utility loaded on my computer. Paranoia big time!

    This site is a virtual treasure trove of info to help keep computers clean and running efficiently.

    Thanks Leo, and also to all the contributors in this forum.

  12. I get asked frequently from my customers why the name brand anti-virus did not remove the infectious rouge programs that mess up their computers.
    In one short answer – they don’t. As much as I like Malwarebytes, it too will miss obvious rouge programs wrecking havoc on people’s computers. With AVG, Avast and the rest attempting to trick us to buy “better protection” and failing to deliver when a “family” of rouge programs install themselves. MSE is a good alternative to the pay for versions.
    It seems to be easier on the processor. Is MSE any good/better with rootkits? Shrugs.
    Anyone remember how Norton ignored Gator in the good old days of win98?

  13. WELL!
    I saw that article in HOW-TO-GEEK also!

    I did NOT pay any attention to it!
    I LOVE MSE!!!!
    In fact, it is the only Microsoft product I whole-heartedly recommend to others …

    MSE is easy to use (the interface is very easy to navigate).

    It detects and cleans up the benign virus from (some other anti-malware products do not)

    I had an unknown entity which continually crashed my computer until I used a linux “live” USB to rid myself of this thing (along with a wonderful app called FreeFixer at which helped to Uncover it’s hidden folder in my C drive).
    Anyway, my MSE was unable to get rid of this thing via its scan BUT I am grateful to MSE for it alerted me that this entity even existed. I realized something bad was in the computer due to the computer crash that occurred every time I performed a MSE scan!
    I used other anti-malware program in an attempt to rid my computer of this miscreant.
    However, the others did NOT; could NOT detect anything!
    SO Yeah! in my household MSE is here to S-T-A-Y!!!

  14. Personally, I’m self trained to (I think) a slightly higher standard than most, in the terribly complex world of computer workings.
    Having used MSE for a number of years, and after having paid out lots of money, previously, I can only say a big thanks for this free software. It actually works and I have never been confronted with technical choices that I couldn’t answer, anyway – regardless of what I had paid out.

  15. Thanks Leo for this informative article. I too read the story about MSE’s demise from How To Geek, and have found similar tales on other computer sites. I liked how you got ‘down and dirty’ and went to the source for an accurate assessment and then explaining it to us in a succinct manner. I use MSE regularly and have no problems with ‘nasty’s’ on my computer. I appreciate it is free, as I’m on a limited budget, and every dollar counts. I have several other programs I use such as CCleaner (Use it every day as I’m on this computer most of the day and do a lot of work) I used to use AVG years ago, but it was such a resource hog, that it just seemed to take over my computer. I got rid of it quickly.

    I read ever one of your posts and appreciate your due diligence. Keep up the good work my friend.

  16. @ Joel . . .

    Reading your comment is something I would have written as I am Tremendous fan of CCleaner (named Crap Cleaner back in the day) as I used it often during the day as I am an Internet Junkie (so to speak) – – LOL!
    Anyway, I gave up on Norton; McAfee and AVG a long time ago as I found that they used up many resources and were basically ineffective in doing their job!


  17. Microsoft has always provided vague answers to direct questions when it does not promote their newest product. This MSE issue is no different. Since MSE is for OS’s in the past (7 and XP for example) they word statements about it that leave a taste of *FUD in your mouth. Why? Because Windows 8 does not support MSE ? If I am mistaken about that, so be it. However, I stand by my *FUD perspective which is a marketing ploy engaged in by all companies. Always manipulate the market place to your own advantage. (*Fear,Uncertainty and Doubt)

  18. I am using Microsoft Security Essentials for last 2 years. However, recently I have found some Trojans and other malware with MBAM, which MSE failed to detect. Now, I use both.

  19. After reading your advice and the collective wisdom of other readers on this topic , I decided to uninstall AVG . For some time ,my emachine E442 running W7 has been very sluggish on start up and not improving much when in use . The results are excellent Thanks you Leo , I always advise you as first call to friends and neighbours !!

  20. I see comments such as “I have been running MSE with no problem … “ Question … How can you know? We all use this stuff to squash bugs. If it is missing some sneaky ones how would you know? I have been using MSE and MBAM free thinking that between the two of them I would be covered. Now I am not so sure and more than a little bit concerned, especially since it was touted as a program that would do all kinds of stuff. Micro$haft was awful quiet about changing its tune. I disagree with Leo on this “We don’t teach the test” smoke. It can pass a test or it can’t. It can’t.

    I will miss MSE. I guess it ran smooth because it wasn’t doing anything.

  21. Immediately upon hearing this “news”, even though I was thinking I should await Leo’s expertise on this matter, I disabled MSE (called Windows Defender on my Windows 8 machine) and installed Avast Free, and advised the family and friends who come to me for advice to do the same. I knew it would not take long for Leo to confirm or deny this. Sure enough, I am happily back with MSE/Windows Defender, along with the new 8.1 update, and things are running as smoothly as ever). And I know it is not because I had a ‘hidden’ virus or other malware because Avast gave my PC a clean bill of health the short time I used it, just like MSE/WD.
    If the situation changes and Leo decides MSE/WD is no longer an asset he can recommend to his readers/people in need of assistance (many who are just embarking on this tech journey as I was 20+ years ago), I’m sure he will let us know in no uncertain terms. Most people I know named Leo or Leonard (I’m a Leonard myself!) pride themselves on their integrity, so my go to guys are Leo Notenboom and Leo Laporte, masters in their field. Leo has been a Godsend on my PC journey, dispensing great advice with no allegiance to a particular company or software. And as usual, the M$ haters will always crop up, with M$ as their bat signal (it was my signal once upon a time too, I must admit). My only gripe with MS now is we were promised (I thought) a smaller Windows install, and I was hoping the registry would one day disappear, but no such luck as yet. But at least my Windows 8 machine loads and is ready to actually work within 30 seconds after being turned on (I believe in powering off daily to avoid a glitchy computer). I’ve read this is possible because Windows 8 doesn’t actually power completely down, but as long as I see no lights on my tower or external HD, its good enough for me and a job well done by MS, IMHO.

  22. I am a totally blind computer user and have been using MSE for years. As for Avast and AVG, they are among the antivirus programs that I investagated once upon a time. AVG was at one time blind friendly, but is no longer so. Avast is not blind friendly at all. As for MSE? Once you figure out the simple interface, it is verry friendly… Though I still use Vista and not windows 8.1… so I can’t speak to the friendlyness of windows defender. For me it doesn’t boil down to what is the better program, it boils down to what I as a blind person can fully use. An example of this is Spybot Search and Destroy. Though I heard that it was a good program, I couldn’t get past the licens agreement. My speech software, Freedom Scientific’s JAWS program apperently interfered with the installation of the program. When I contacted the people behind it, I was told that an option was in the program for screen readers, but you had to get past the licens agreement first in order to activate it. I was advised to use sited help to do so. While the option may actually exist, I never went farther with it. I feel that if the option is actually there, it should have been placed before the licens agreement, or, as adobie Reader does, automatically detect that special software is on your computer and change the instalation options accordingly. In that case, I got a message on my computer when I was installing it saying that a screen reader was detected on my computer and that special options were available to accomidate it. Would I like to use them? I said yes and was able to install the program, including getting past the licens agreement. As for what I use now? MSE is currently the only antivirus/spyware/whatever that I have on my computer… And I have windows firewall as well. I set my windows updates for every day and have it set basically to search for everything, though I can’t remember the settting off the top of my head. I set MSE to do a quick scan daily and do a full scan weekly. I think someone should write an article on software that is blind friendly and what is not. This could include antivirus software, Bible study software, (as for that, even some of the companies that make the software don’t know that it isn’t blind frendly even if you ask them. I had an experience with that as well whereby the company said it was blind friendly and it wasn’t. I don’t blame the company, they are sited afterall and answered the question from a sighted perspective. ) You get the idea. Thanks for the reassurance about MSE though.

  23. One unique advantage of MSE is that the updates can be done using a Windows Server Update Server in your network. This saves a considerable amount of Internet data as we have experienced.

  24. Leo,
    weather a user likes using MSE or not; I think the most important thing to advise user is; not to rely on one anti-malware product, free or paid. Users should use more than one line of defense.

    Firstly, online searching protection:
    my personal favorite; McAfee’s Site advisor:

    An alternative: AVG link scannerm

    Secondly, secondary anti-spyware:

    Iobit, malware fighter;
    Emsisoft AntiMalware;

    Thirdly, keep software up-to-date:
    Glarys Utilities; Has a software updater besides other tools;

    Lastly, if you shop or bank online, I recommend you consider using k
    Trusteer Rapport; Free easy to use VPN software

    with any combination of these FREE programs, user are likely never to suffer from malware infections….

    Stay Safe Online


  25. I agree with you 100% Leo. I know you and Bob Rankin don’t agree on this matter but MSE has worked for me for many years just fine thank you.

  26. I have had great success with MSE and a lot less with Malware that has the Microsoft Partners (gold) seal (if its true). Lets face it, a great majority of the malware I’m fixing is related to “speeding up” the users pc and is often difficult to remove. Maybe MS should take a look at the software these users are deploying and making sure that the user experience is good.

  27. Thanks for this article, Leo! I, too, am blind and have been a screen reader user for several years. Formerly JAWS from Freedom Scientific, and now System Access to Go from Serotek. I also use the free and open-source Non-Visual Desktop Access from the NV Access Foundation. I’ve also found that Microsoft Security Essentials is the most accessible antivirus/anti-malware program I’ve used to date. I’ve never had a problem with it, except for the checkbox for automatic updates and scanning not working for the past year or so. But aside from that, I find Security Essentials very easy to use and I also think the price is right. A former sighted coworker of mine recommended it too, and I think he was Microsoft-certified. So thank you Microsoft for this great program, and please don’t cease its development! I just hope the refurbished Toshiba laptop that I’m supposedly getting has this on it. If not that’s most likely what I’ll be installing in place of the other one that is already on there. The motherboard on my Dell laptop fried not too long ago, but that’s another story.

  28. Finally,

    Someone who actually didn’t take Holly Stewart’s statements way out of context. I was disappointed in seeing sites such as How-To Geek and Lifehacker jump on the bandwagon and completely discredit MSE as an effective Anti-maleware program.

    Can’t thank you enough Leo for your input and putting everything back into perspective!

  29. Thanks Leo for your straight forward and clear advice. I have resisted the pressure from others to buy a commercial “security suite” and I’m happy with Microsoft Security Essentials and the free version of Malwarebytes. I’ve yet to hear a convincing case for doing anything else.

  30. No security suite is 100% effective. If their was one, I am sure we would all use it. Have I had malware get past MSE? You bet, and that’s why I also have Malwarebytes as a backup scanner which I occasionally use. I certainly believe most users are plenty secure with MSE and I think more emphasis should be on the users abilities to recognize and prevent malware. Their will always be zero day and new malware that affects PC’s that simply will get passed even the best defenses. But I also believe that if you have lost faith in MSE, then by all means find a product that works for you.

  31. I too have used MSE exclusively for several years, but lately I have had a lot of trouble with lots of Trojans and malware getting past MSE. In the last 20 years I’ve had no more than a couple virus infections using Mcafee, PCcillin, Avast, or AVG, but in the last 3-4 months I’ve been getting infected almost daily, and I don’t do a lot of browsing, I mostly play games like STO, Wildstar, or WoTs. The worst part is, even when MSE finds the malware it can’t clean it. Last night I removed MSE and put on AVAST free.

  32. I totally agree with leo per his recommendations i installed microsoft security essentials on my new laptop for real time protection.And I installed Malwarebytes Antimalware and Superantispyware free version for On demand scanning.I also installed Mcafee site advisor for gaining knowledge about a sites safety before clicking in to it.From then I am running my laptop too clean and speedy.It has core i3 2nd gen processor and 2GB ram,so its not an high end gamimg pc.But after having all security measures my cpu usage hardly rises above 25% and ram usage above 50%.Most of the times it remains 3% and 39% respectively.And I am confident and can challange any av software vendor to find single piece of malware from my laptop.If they do,it will be nothing but a false positive.Thank you Leo sir!

  33. Leo, I’ve read that MSE will not be provided for XP after the EOL. Will it still be possible to obtain definition updates through the MSE program itself if it’s already installed on XP? Another question, is using the offline definition updates available from Microsoft for 32 and 64 bit versions of XP, Vista and Win7 a workaround in case all else fails?

  34. Sir,is their really any way to know that if any malware is crawling inside the system which neither MSE nor MBAM detects?Others told me to use HijackThis.But I am not that pro to understand the log provided by Hijack this.I am just 16 right now.I currently use windows 7 32bit os,with windows firewall,malwarebytes with MSE.I just use the net for my study purposes.And checking mail from Known senders only.

  35. Thanks for clarifying. I’ll take your article over one from a “journalist” any day. You state the facts then give your well founded interpretation of them. I really appreciate that. I feel like I learned something today.

  36. I always look for independent test results, and I tend to use MSE only occasionally appears in the reports. In the latest real-world protection test ( MSE was described as “Microsoft’s out-of-box protection;” test results were 88.4% (“non-competitive”). By “non-competitive” I gather that means “don’t bother comparing this one with the others.” By “out-of-the-box” specifically means MSE on Windows 7 and Windows Defender on Windows 8.

    I see no reason to look further than’s test results (I don’t rely on any one month’s tests; I look at several recent monthly reports). No anti-virus program is consistently 100% in these reports.

    For free antivirus I use Avast!. I configure carefully, tightening up several settings. And I run a boot-time scan “whenever I get nervous,” which is about once a month. For subscription antivirus, I recommend Kaspersky because of its usually superior results in’s tests.

    I supplement any installed antivirus program with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, which I run manually “whenever I get nervous,” which again is about once a month — I first update it in normal mode, then boot into safe mode and do a full scan. I’ve paid for the full version to obtain an additional real-time protection.

    Somehow I frown everytime I hear someone advise using MSE (or, now, Windows Defender). I don’t think it stands up to the tests at Yeah, sure, Microsoft’s protection is free and easy (very little configuration is possible) and folks might not have discovered any infections on their computers using it, but modern hackers are smart and stealthy! It’s hard to know that a drive-by infection has occurred… or when it happened if a scan discovers it. And full removal? I’ll take Leo’s advice and restore my system from a trusted backup (or reinstall from clean media).

  37. Should one uninstall MSE and install a third party anti-virus or continue using MSE simultaneously with a third-party antivirus like Avira or Avast (free versions)?

    • @Rey N,
      Although it is possible to run multiple AV solutions that are third party, Windows Defender / MSE will automatically disable when a third party Anti-Virus program (not a malware program, there is differences) is installed.
      This behaviour is designed to prevent conflicts and reduce false positives and system resource hogging.
      In general it is not recommended to run more than one real-time Anti-Virus scanner at a time due to conflicts and resourcing issues.
      Microsoft themselves have it listed on their webpage that Windows Defender is created to be as unobtrusive as possible. It is designed to put itself right in the background if a different solution is installed.

  38. I am a computer consultant with 45 years experience. I have been using MSE since it first came out. I have small business clients that I have put MSE on all computers. It does a good job for all my clients. My major concern however has been from time to time when doing my audits of their networks or individual work stations I do find Malware PUP files and occasional virus or Trojan. For the life of me I can’t figure out how it got on the computer since MSE was up and running and up to date. I run an occasional MalwareBytes scan and find a few pices of malware, mostly PUP’s. To say I am 100% comfortable with MSE would not be correct but I have found for cost, performance and reliability you can’t beat it.

    • NO anti-malware tool – seriously, not a single one – will catch ALL malware. So an anti-malware tool is only a PART of an overall security strategy – a strategy that begins with educating users on what NOT to do, what NOT to run, and what NOT to click on.

      • Since I leave my computer on all night to back up and run a virus scan, I also run a MalwareBytes scan. You once said it’s normally not necessary to run the MalwareBytes scan regularly, but since my machine isn’t doing anything else, I figure, why not?

  39. I find it interesting reading over all the replies to note the people against MSE/Defender are basing it on test results from test pages, not real world performance (in general). I am sceptical of these AV test pages to be quite honest. Who runs them? Are they truly independent? Honestly, if you know what they test for, you can create an AV program to pass tests. That same AV program that gets 100% in tests will NOT catch 100% of viruses in the wild.
    I have used Kaspersky, that gets 100% in tests, and have had wild Trojans/malware slip through that have then been detected by Windows Defender/Malwarebytes combination.
    I prefer real world results over tests. To be honest, out of all the FREE solutions, the MSE/Defender and Malwarebytes combination has proven, in my usage on Windows 7 and above, to be the most useful at detecting and cleaning and also the least resource hungry. I run Windows 10 on an Acer Travelmate 7730 with 4GB RAM. Go look up the specs, it’s a pretty old machine. It smooth as silk. Defender and Malwarebytes (I run both the Anti-Malware and their new Anti-Exploit kit) don’t even put a dent in performance, even when running on Battery. I certainly can not say the same for the majority of other free solutions, and even paid solutions. (Norton in particular, and McAfee both killed performance and didn’t detect anything Defender hadn’t already found).

    Ending my rant now, but honestly I feel testing against known tests, like benchmarking, may give an idea of performance, but it certainly has no reflection at all on real world performance.

    Just as an after thought. I am Microsoft and Cisco certified and my work is in IT Infrastructure and Security support.


  40. I used to use MSE on my XP machine but after it was always showing a RED icon in the tray (“not protected”) I ended up switching to AVG (Free). I still have MSE on my Windows 7 machines. and since most XP users may have now discovered that IE8 does not work on many websites anymore (youtube for example) they have probably switched to a different browser (like Firefox or Chrome) – I do not know if MSE will detect issues with other browsers on XP.

    Minor gripe about MSE – it “requires” a scan about every 2 weeks (not really a big deal) and at that time I will scan every file on the machines (including inside archives). it would be nice if MSE would provide an option to turn off the machine when done – AVG and one of the pre-installed non-free virus scanners on one of my WIndows 7 machines both provided that option.

    Both MSE and AVG have reported virus/trojan “problems” at various times with programs found on old CDs – I was looking for stuff or copying files at the time and it complained about files that were many years old so either the virus/trojan was just discovered (after almost 20 years based on the file timestamp in one case) or some part of the programs in question just happens to match a virus pattern – I have not sent any of the offending files to either Microsoft or AVG (I probably should if they are still reported as a virus/trojan).

    AVG detected a problem last summer with XP code in memory for a few days but scanning the disk did not detect any errors in any of the files (did this every day till the memory error was no longer being reported). at the time it turned out to be a big problem for some people because the “offending” processes were being killed and resulted in the machine crashing or failing to boot. I have not seen a problem like that with MSE but would not be surprised if something like that has happened at some time in the past (or happens in the future).

    a recommendation for anybody using any virus scanner – use caution with any automatic virus correction (killing processes, not running, etc) – that seemed to be the biggest problem reported with the AVG problem on XP last summer.

    it would seem that since no scanner is perfect all of them can miss something and it is also likely that all of them can misidentify things too.

    we need a DWIM virus scanner….


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