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Is Microsoft Security Essentials supported on XP or not?

With the end of support for Windows XP, Microsoft is taking an above-average number of approaches to scare people away from continuing to use it.

It turns out Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) has one of those scary messages that seems exceptionally concerning. But when you look at it more closely, it’s not really the big red flag that it sets out to be.

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At risk?

After taking the most recent and final round of updates to Windows XP, many people are seeing this:

At Risk!

“PC status: At risk” is the warning that’s now being displayed by Microsoft Security Essentials’ red notification area icon.

In the past, the red icon was used to represent something actually being wrong – an infection that’s been found or the software’s inability to run.

None of that is the case here. In fact, MSE is running quite normally and no infections have been found.

So what’s the deal?

The  risk is XP

Microsoft Security Essentials

If you open MSE and look carefully at what it’s saying, the messages displayed are clearly confusing. For example:

MSE Not Supported

“Support for this operating system has ended, which means Microsoft Security Essentials is no longer supported and your PC is at risk.”

That would imply that MSE is no longer supported. However…

MSE is Running

Real-time protection is on and the virus database is up to date, but both statuses include explicit statements about “operating system support has ended.”

So what’s the deal?

When supported doesn’t really mean supported

Remember the goal here: Microsoft wants you to stop using Windows XP. And, to be completely honest, that’s the right thing to do.

In my opinion, the warnings have more to do with Windows XP than with Microsoft Security Essentials. Remember, Microsoft did commit to providing malware database updates to XP-based security tools like MSE until well into next year (2015).


  • The Windows XP operating system isn’t supported.
  • Anything Windows XP specific in MSE will not be fixed.
  • MSE will continue to run.
  • MSE will continue to receive anti-malware definition updates well into next year.

And apparently, MSE will continue to warn/nag you until you either get rid of it or upgrade Windows.

But is it safe?

Are you safe running Windows XP and MSE?

The answer is no.

Windows XP is no longer supported, and it’s likely that there will be problems discovered with it that will not be resolved. For the last five years, Microsoft has made that abundantly clear through every venue, including MSE,  that it has.

Is MSE part of the problem? I don’t know.

Would you be safer running something else? Perhaps.

The problem is that many anti-malware tools have also moved on to assume Windows versions beyond XP. Some may work, some may not. And from what I hear, many work, but work poorly or impact XP system performance adversely.

My recommendation?

  • Switch away from XP if you can.
  • Keep running MSE for now.
  • Backup your Windows XP machine daily, including the entire system and all your data. If there’s ever a problem, this is your most powerful safety net.
  • Consider an alternative to MSE if you feel particularly concerned, but be prepared for a little work and trial-and-error.

Me? Well, I’m upgrading my last production XP machine to Windows 7 as I write this. If I couldn’t, I’d probably leave MSE in place and see how it goes.

But I would back up.


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50 comments on “Is Microsoft Security Essentials supported on XP or not?”

  1. Microsoft would do well to hire some people who actually know how to write English. Their software is better than many people realize, but because of poor communication skills, the often confuse the hell out of people. This includes unclear messages like this and naming 3 different things Outlook etc. Oh yea an having to click the “Start” button to shut down your computer which the “improved” in Windows 8 by hiding the shutdown under “Settings”. My first programming job was with a company which hired English majors to write the documentation and check the program interfaces for clarity. My first system was documented by a guy with a degree in medieval English literature. Even Beowulf could have understood it.

  2. Hi,

    This whole “end of support” magilla is confusing. I am running XP inside MS Virtual PC, today I received 11 security updates which are described in this MS article, which is dated October 8, 2013. Just wondering why I am getting these updates now if support has truly ended?

      • I have this paranoid sneaking suspicion that one of the hotfixes for the end of life notification might have something to do with things but then again it’s just that I suppose. Oh well. It’s never been that I disbelieved the EOS was coming, it’s that I’ve got fifty things to do besides that and I’m broke. I still have a valid OS to reload if I ever have to and believe me, I have backup!

        So this will have to wait it’s turn. I lived without internet before and there’s always the library.

  3. Good to see this article as it mirrors my exact thoughts. The only thing I’d add is the fact that MS keeps badgering you by turning off Virus Protection…forcing you to take action to turn MSE back on after any Startup. This to me was so aggravating that I took it off and went back to my paid subscription for Antivirus and Malware. I’ve always stuck with MS and IE but this action by MS has really bothered me…forget what you have to pay for a RETAIL Windows 7.

      • In the last week or two, I’ve seen a couple notifications that MSE has crashed and needs to be restarted. I have never seen this before. Curiously, I was careful and denied the last update to MSE, so I don’t get the red icon. So if this is something MS is doing, I’m not sure how they orchestrated it. But then why has MSE started having issues?

        • James B, i have gotten some of the messages about MSE crashing and need to be restarted. I have a copy MSE that was released just prior to the April 8,2014 version. It does not have the “nagware” that Micro Soft put into the last version, it does what it is supposed to do and updates normally. I agree with Leo and believe that MS put those messages into MSE not to scare you, because of their poor English that is scaring everyone.
          The version info on my MSE is:
          Antimalware Client: 4.4.304.0
          Engine version: 1.1.1050.0
          Antivirus definitions:
          Antispyware definitions:

          • Connie, Until Microsoft stops putting these nag messages into MSE I will continue to use the current version. When MSE first came out (as in most programs) I would not use it. I was using a copy of paid version McAfee recently all they seem to want is more money, not paying attention to their software I let the subscription run out and tried several of the free / paid version of those “wares”. I could not get proper protection I wanted without installing some several different programs, this wastes space on the HDD and uses more memory which is useless and stupid. Another way for companies to get more money. With the newer versions of MSE I was suprised to find out it actually worked better that some of the other programs. I purposely installed 3 different of programs at one time to their their “ability” I set them to notify me but do nothing to remove/ quarantine the system, and load a file that I knew was infected; some worked some didn’t.

      • Ever since the 8th…I continually get the threat messages from MS about XP. In addition, I recieve daily the message stating MSE is no longer supported for XP and that I should find another AV. MS turns off MSE and posts the warning in the System tray…you are not protected. When I click on it it takes me to the Control Panel folder for Security and it says there’s no AV installed. Check recommendations. I therefore got fed up with sucj aggravation and reinstalled PCMatic.

  4. Haven’t had the time to upgrade my XP machine yet but working to that end. I have a Win7 Ultimate upgrade package and Macruim Pro. Got really tired of the MSE warning so I removed it from my machine and installed AVG’s AV Trial Suite, it looks good. BTW PC Matic is now advertising their product as the answer to retain WinXP, seems sketchy to me.

    • PCMatic has always been sketchy and from what I hear does virtually nothing to help you — and sometimes makes things worse. It’s just an attempt at getting illiterate people to give them money.

  5. Dear Mr. Notenbloom,
    First of all, I do not like this marketing strategies from today, not only from Microsoft. XP was the best OS from Microsoft, and today only W7 is better than XP. This marketing war to coerce the people to abandon a good OS looks like the strategy of the Krupp bevor the Second World War had: first, they developed a better canon against the best blindage, they sell the gun, and after that they developed a better blindage witch was proof against this canon, and then a new better canon, and then a new better blindage, and so on… It sucks, because for the average peoples that means not only the costs of the new OS, but also the costs for a new computer to get the new OS installed…
    Because the most users are “home users”, and all they need daily is “internet access, mailing and MS Office”, I can not agree with this marketing strategy … Mr. Gates wants in every home of the world a computer… OK, I agree, it counts for the general educations more than anything else, but in the last time we have a gobal crisis and more and more peoples have no money for a new computer. Let the companies to purchase all what you have to sell, they earn money through the new technical IT discoveries, but what about the average peoples?

    • Meister Groe, there have been some excellent cars through the years, but most places don’t carry spare parts for a 1965 Beetle. How many CRTs TVs do you see at your local electronics store? In my field, instruments are considered orphans within 10-15 years. You may get parts and support after that, but it’s not always easy. I hate having to change as well, but MS can either spend its resources on improving OSes (whatever opinion you have of W7 and W8), or they can divert some of those resources to keeping XP going, and slow down new developments. The stockholders would go nuts over the second option. MS could also charge those people who want to keep XP alive, but most people would then scream that MS was gouging them. As they say, the only thing constant is change.

      • I think it’s essential to say that a lot of us are just flat broke and are working as fast as we can on the matter. I think we WANT to upgrade, and most of us know what we want, which makes the debate disingenuous as we already know that it isn’t Linux or Apple.

        As for the Beetle, being the son of a mechanic I know where to get parts for that and I also know what to do with my computers *(all five of them) when I need to improve them.

        Perhaps you’ve never seen a trucking company or a railroad’s stock. I’ve seen my share of tiny 1950s ‘yard goats’ (switcher engines) and what gets passed down to small trunk lines serving our agribusinesses as much as old Kenworths.

        We all work with what we have and can afford.

        In the case of MSE, I don’t think much of it to start with and remove it first thing when I get a computer with it so the point of the article is likely lost on me. I have a different antivirus and have used it for maybe a decade as it has been improved, the free version is sufficient and I know how to maintain my computer security well enough. After 36 years of computer usage I’m almost certain the only sure, safe way to use the internet is to unplug the NIC anyway so I take my grain of salt and stay humored :)

      • David, you are correct in that the only constant is change. However, what most don’t understand is that not all change is progress. There’s a tremendous difference. Have a good one!

  6. I just ran into a problem with one of my Windows 7 laptops. I run Virtual XP on it. I saved off all I need and plan on rebuilding it tonight. Wonder if Virtual XP will still be on Windows site for download? (I have some old games that won’t run on anything after XP). I will find out tonight I guess (will post what I find).

  7. It’s not just Microsoft.
    I ran into this issue on a friend’s PC – so I uninstalled MSE and installed one of the other good free anti-malware programs.
    I was subsequently informed by the new program, that the company I had selected to provide protection would also drop XP like a hot stone in 12 months time.
    Looks like when Microsoft abandoned ship, it signaled all the other ‘rats’ to follow…

  8. My solution so far has been replacing MSSE with the free version of Bitdefender, which seems very low impact for computers with limited memory and doesn’t bother you with decisions or ads (though tough to tell what the heck it’s doing). I’m also running Firefox sandboxed most of the time.

  9. I believe one reason why a lot of people are screaming, and actually my case as well, is because they only have computers and internet because they have a second hand computer, one which was given them, or a resurrect from the company dumpster like my Dell745 and my wife’s was given her an old Acer FP2. Work fine on XP which I got off my mother so to afford Win 8? Out of budget and the old machine probably would run it so I am preparing to join the Linux revolution. Have so far got Mageia 4 running with Suse, Ubuntu and Win XP in virtual machine space – all free and very capable. So my belief is there is a whole generation of people out there who the system has now either demanded or educated them into the computer world, are now totally dependent on it but it’s a real matter of economics to keep up. Unless a free Win8 machine comes their way.

    • Dave, I share many of your thoughts on the subject. Yes, you are correct that a lot of older computers won’t run any Microsoft OS beyond XP. However, the majority of them will run either Ubuntu Linux or Mint Linux. This transition does require that the user be somewhat resourceful and have a basic knowledge of their computer operations in order to successfully enable this move. For the users that limit their involvement with their computer to social networking, e-mail, photographs, and general internet browsing and never do anything else, I would suggest that an iPad would probably be best for them. Anything else in these cases would be overkill and a needless expenditure of hard earned funds. Before anyone disagrees with me, I know that there are many alternative avenues and that’s a very good thing. Variety is, of course, the spice of life. Have a good day…….

      • Glad you mentioned those alternatives, Lee. I’ve worked with UNIX since ’82, so it’s a bit easier for me to program in that environment and its spin-offs; but your caveat about limited usage covers those who don’t program for a living. I can dual-boot on my desktop machine, so I have my choice of Win XP or Ubuntu Linux. I refuse to program in any Windows version. I’m much more comfortable n a stable, well-tested environment than one that changes every two or three years. (Linux was developed from UNIX version 7, the last free distribution before AT&T decided to cash in on it and started licensing it at exorbitant rates. v.7 was finalized in the late ’70s or early ’80s.)

  10. On a somewhat related note, setting XP up on Virtual Ware may not necessarily be the best solution for those who want it for running programs that aren’t post XP compatible. I’ve installed this (Oracle VM VirtualBox.) on my wife’s PC Laptop, which is identical to mine, and I’ve found it to be fraught with problems! What has been the biggest stumbling block is that even though I designated 2 GB of RAM (With 3 GB RAM, including 1 GB of Paging RAM on the VM Ware based XP itself!), I can’t seem to get it to use more than a few hundred MB of RAM, while it maxes out the CPU, especially when I go online. Forget about playing YouTube Video Clips, or even YT Audio, for that matter! And yes, I did allot the maximum 128 MB for Video Memory as well!


  11. I’m keeping XP because I LIKE it, not because I’m stuck with it. Win7 is a decent OS and is installed on the laptop that I avoid using. For all the heavy work (and yes, I do heavy work, not just email and internet), I use my XP desktop, and I have no plans to change. There are several anti-virus apps who plan on supporting XP for at least the next two years. I don’t use online apps, I don’t use Facebook, or visit chat rooms, and I’m careful about what websites I visit. My work is backed up every day to two different external harddrives and one internal harddrive. A full system back up is done once-a-week.

    The way I see it, it is on the company to offer something appealing, something I want to buy, not something I’m being bullied into using. I will change my OS when Microsoft presents me with something I want, and not before then.

    Could I possibly get infected? Sure, and so can you, no matter the OS you are using. I am well-prepared for such an event, just as I would be if I were using Windows 8 — which I won’t be.

  12. Keep your XP for as long as you can. I’m running Win8.1 on a brand new machine and in the 3 months since I installed it I had to “refresh” it twice. with subsequent reinstalling of programmes.
    My old computer running XP on the other hand is steady as a rock. I’m using Avast free antivirus and intend to get the paid version if they continue their support for XP.
    Despite the hype about Win8 it’s not as stable as some would like you to believe, and quite frankly the Metro style interface does nothing for me. Never used one of the apps yet either. I installed Classic start at least it’s an improvement.

    • I’m sorry that you’ve had so much trouble with your new machine, Mark! I wonder if there might be some kind of issue with your PC Hardware that might be causing this. My wife and I have had our Windows 8 Based Laptops since last September, and haven’t had to do anything that drastic, as yet. On the other hand, with my Windows XP Setup, I’ve had to reformat that a number of times over the past 10 years. The worst of it was probably from the fall of 2008 through most of 2009, when I had to reformat our previous PC’s several times on account of that terrible fake “Antivirus” Virus that was raging during that period. As I recall, this insidious “Program” would literally block a User from performing pretty much any function, and whenever I encountered this, I knew the next couple of days would be extremely painful. For me, having to endure yet another marathon session of Windows Updates was the worst of it!

      Those were the days, LOL!

      Regarding Windows 8/8.1, I have no use for Metro and all of the App based Software. Strangely, the very “Charms” term reminds me of Lucky Charms Cereal, which I never did like, either! Getting back to business, I did install the Windows 1.4 Start Menu 8 awhile back, which does seem to have slowed down my PC’s OS Start Up quite a bit, so I might need to check up on that.



      • I’ve operated contrary to what most people have been doing with Start Button replacements. I used ClassicShell for years, ever since XP, as I didn’t like their scrolling all programs menu. I used it to return to the Windows 98 style, all programs on one screen menu. When Windows 8 came out, I found the search function to be so fast that I uninstalled ClassicShell, and now I run my programs much more quickly by clicking on the Windows key and start typing the name of the program I want to run, and it comes up instantly in most cases. So if your Start Button replacement slows things down, you might try that.

      • @Anthony Bensley
        The reason I ‘reset’ my machine because it started restarting itself with a “Bad pool header” message, this increasing in frequency where it was practically useless.
        After every ‘reset’ it would go faultlessly for up to a month and then start misbehaving again.
        I could understand your reasoning that it is caused by some faulty hardware, but yesterday my wife’s one month old Acer V5 laptop did the very same thing, also running Win8.1. Is it a coincidence or is there a software issue?
        The two machines are connected to a home network. If this will continue I will reinstall Win7 and be done with.
        Thanks for your thoughts

  13. For a short while before the 8th of April inst MS used the caption under “The Risk is XP” above warning me that I no longer was receiving their support. That was ok and my computer continued to work perfectly. However, TODAY, an additional caption reading as follows:- ” MSE – AT Risk. This app isn’t monitoring your PC because the app’s service stopped. You should restart it now” appeared.

    This has caused hours of chaos on my pc – all sorts of problems such as crashing Firefox every few seconds, failing to illuminate my desktop icons and making others inactive and disabling Windows
    from switching off ( I have had to power down a number of times).

    On the last occasion I was able to operate the Recova icon which was illuminated in order to completely remove MSE from my system and thus enabling me to send this email (16/04).

    During the removal process MSE continually tried to obstruct its removal which took six attempts –
    as far as I am aware MSE did not detect one item of malware during the three years I had it installed.

    Yes, by the way, I am still on XP because I cannot find a dealer to sell me Win 7 Home Premium 64-bit in this neck of the woods. (Dealers in the US seem to wary to send me a new pc even by Fed-X or DHL)

  14. It sounds a bit scary all these issues.
    But the computer I make my money with is completely stand-alone, I trust nothing.
    I’ve a couple of XP computers, keep’m off for a few weeks and waiting for terrible stories in the news, if any.
    If they break, I’ve some Linux disks stand-by, so no big deal. It’s only software.
    It’s amazing kids never seen Linux before just start hammering around on the keyboard and get what they want. They’re more savvy than the old folks.

    I think the bad guys are less interested in people still using XP than they try to make us believe.
    Reason: most people with sensitive stuff surely already changed to a more modern OS, so the losers like me are not of so much interest.
    We’re just not important enough.

  15. I’ve had the MSE message pop up at least 3 times a day for the past week – like most (if not all) XP users worldwide. I never payed any attention to it because , IMHO, MS has done more than enough to scare the wits out of it’s customers re. this issue. During the last few months we’ve been so intensely flooded with all kinds of information and disinformation from reliable and less reliable sources that I myself have become blind to these pop ups – I’ve equally grown blind to targeted adds as well.
    I’ve had my firewall and antivirus regularly updated and running on my XP desktop for some 10 years and have had to deal with only 2 important infections (one of which was not even an infection but a faulty security update by MS itself!) I don’t expect to run into any problems soon but at some moment in the future I’ll become too vulnerable when on line. (I stopped using the machine for home banking.)
    So I decided to gradually switch from XP to Ubuntu or Mint Cinnamon and getting rid of all things MS (e.g. MS Office). And seeing that my desktop is really becoming of age there is no way I can move to anything more demanding than XP. (I’m one of the lucky ones who got a Win7 laptop as a present about 18 months ago… So my XP machine is becoming an instrument for learning and experimenting.)
    In the meantime I have installed an extra ‘line of defence’ which I did not know of until last week: EMET (Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit), downloadable from As far as I understand it this tool has some interesting features and is more effective for older platforms like XP than for the more recent ones (like Win7 or higher). For those to whom it is totally unknown but who might be intrigued I’m adding some references… (download page with info, in English) (about limitations of EMET)
    —– directly related: (a short expert appreciation) (announcing next version, technical preview of EMET 5.0) (short review).
    It obviously is not comparable with expensive and ‘bloated’ antivirus programs, firewalls and what have you (i.e. ‘bloated’ etc. even for the advanced home user; businesses have heavier issues to deal with). I can’t compare it with other freeware protection software either, EMET is really new to me. But perhaps it is worthwhile following up on the project…


  16. On my XP, not only did I get the nonsupport message, but my machine started hanging. Would boot up, but not allow the mouse to do its work. My tech guy removed MSE and it works fine. He said a friend of his had the same problem last night. Is Microsoft doing something to deliberately sabotage XP?

    • I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, so no, Microsoft isn’t doing this deliberately. Considering that MSE works just fine on many, if not most, other Windows XP installations, it’s more likely that there’s something unique about your situation. Not that MSE might not be to blame, but I’d blame a bug or other configuration issue over a corporate conspiracy any day.

  17. @ Phil Cowan

    Whilst agreeing with Leo about non-conspiracy theories – I feel that I must support your experience
    with the behavioural tactics shown by MSE (read my post above) and say that I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY WITH MY COMPUTER’S PERFORMANCE SINCE REMOVING MSE TWO DAYS AGO.

    It was some three years ago that, even though I felt my computer’s performance was slowed considerably by installing MSE, I decided to accept Leo’s advice and to persevere even though at that time thousands of users seemed unhappy with same. I wish I had ignored his opinion.

    Leo’s quick defence of MS regarding conspiracy is clearly deserved, his defence of MS so often
    is somewhat partisan and leads me to wonder about misplaced allegiance he having been an employee many years ago. Also, I cannot accept that the problems with MSE are caused by “a bug or some other configuration” in my case either or any of the other complainants. There was
    something inherently with Microsoft Essentials!!

    And finally – I am a great admirer of Leo and have recommended his site to countless others in my position who are often seeking his professional guidance.

  18. Microsoft released two Windows updates regarding the end of XP: one was a simple pop-up with a check box that said, in effect, “go away and don’t bother me again.” That was ok.
    The second causes the big scary MSE warning, it also updated MSE from 4.4.x to 4.5.x. The are three choices: Ignore it (It comes back every book), remove MSE and replace with something else, or stick with version 4.4 of MSE. The 4.5 update can not be easily removed, but there are ways.
    Leo: Your call to include this link with this comment:!1150&authkey=!AB87CWSDv9S_uQE&ithint=file%2c.docx. That is a onedrive document I wrote for my Senior Center computer club on this topic. I include steps needed to replace MSE v4.5 with v4.4 which removed the big scary message. (We have lots of XP users that really, really, don’t want to switch!) It’s a bit technical.

  19. So, what do y’all think is the best free alternative to MSE, for old, typically underpowered, XP computers?

    Three possibilities which are available through Ninite are Avast, Avira & AVG. I think AVG bogs down slow machines too much, and they have a history of tricking free version users into thinking they have to buy the paid version, so I won’t recommend them. Avast seems better than AVG, but I don’t like the annual (free) registration requirement, and I hate that it chatters, right out loud, when it does updates. I have less experience with Avira — what do y’all think of it?

    • I haven’t done it yet but I’ll probably try Avira next. All three have supporters and detractors for various reasons, which makes it difficult to get a consensus. The good news if of those three whichever works well for you should be OK.

    • I used to use Avast (I loved their ‘talk like a pirate’ mod) until one version update simply prevented my machine from booting up. I moved to AVG for a while, until that wouldn’t update itself properly. Now I use the ZoneAlarm free suite.

  20. BB’s article/link is similar in some ways to what I’ve done.
    In short:
    1. Uninstalled MSSE via add/remove programs.
    2. In control panel I set updates to be downloaded but let me decide when/what to install.
    3. Re-installed an older version which I downloaded in January.
    ver. 4.4.304.0
    4. When the update is presented, don’t accept then tick box to not present again.
    5. I now have a friendly MSSE.
    In step 2 you could select just to be notified that downloads are available.

    As for other security systems I use Comodo Internet Security + and it’s free.

  21. There was an issue with the antimalware engine released on April 15 that impacted XP and Server 2003. A new engine was released April 17 to address the issue.
    See discussion thread in V&M forum.

  22. Howdy Friends and Neighbors, Please remember to have a good, solid backup system in place regardless of which operating sytem you use!! Don’t lose all those photos of your cute grandkids!

  23. Hi Leo,
    Below is only a piece of what this warning is telling me.

    Earlier today i received a different warning. I missed out on typing it out for you to see what it says.
    I did call the number it asked me to call, but when i did, it didn’t say or do anything, it just went blank
    on me so i hung up. I did this a few times before thinking this could be a virus or something. When the
    warning page comes up it places itself in front of a page i have open and it will not close unless i start
    task manager to delete it. So, this is why i figure it could be a virus. I’ve been running Malware and
    Anti-malware program all the time, but it says i don’t have any virus’s. I also contact HP Quick Connect Team,
    which i pay for monthly to fix my pc if i run into conflicts. I have them clean out my pc. Most of the time the i
    ssue is solved, but not for long before it comes back.

    I also run CCleaner and just checked to see if the box was checked off for Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. The box
    was not checked off.
    All i know is that it’s getting really tiresome dealing with this issue.

    Thanks for your time,


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