Protect Your Windows PC For Free With Microsoft Security Essentials

Virus infections are on the rise these days, and they are not going to stop anytime soon.  Like it or not, it’s an unfortunate side effect of the digital age we live in – if you read my article on the Flashback Trojan virus, you know that even Apple computers are now succumbing to virus attacks. While it may be virtually impossible to protect yourself from every virus out there, there are certainly steps you can take and anti-virus programs you can install to protect yourself and the priceless information you store on your computers.  I typically recommend Kaspersky for anti-virus protection, but did you know that if you have a Windows computer, there’s a free alternative that’s also making a name for itself?  Read on to find out more….

Microsoft Security Essentials Overview

When it comes to protecting the vulnerabilities of a computer operating system, who better to know the ins and outs of that operating system than the company who made it?  That’s the theory behind Microsoft’s Security Essentials anti-virus program.

Security Essentials aims to provide a seamless, rock solid virus defense for your Windows XP and Windows 7 computers – without the expense and confusion of selecting a third-party anti-virus software option. For anyone running a genuine version of either Windows XP or 7, you can get your free download of Security Essentials direct from Microsoft, which really adds to the appeal of this software.

Once you install Security Essentials, it’s pretty much set it and forget it.  The software will automatically update every day, so that you’ll always have up to date virus protection against the latest threats such as viruses, trojan horses, worms, and spyware. Since Security Essentials was built by Microsoft it integrates nicely into the background of your computer, silently protecting you and your files from malware. Since Security Essentials runs in the background and does most of the heavy lifting while your PC is idle, you won’t have to worry about negatively affecting your PC’s performance, even with older, slower computers, laptops, or netbooks.

About the only thing you will notice after installing Security Essentials is a small icon in the taskbar that will be color coded to show you the status of your virus protection. Microsoft uses the typical color code of green, yellow, and red to show you the status of your computer at a quick glance. Any time you see a yellow or red icon, Security Essentials will assist you in resolving the issue by providing recommendations on how to resolve and remove the threat or issue affecting our computer. If Security Essentials detects any issues while you are away from your PC, the software will automatically take action on your behalf to protect your files, giving you peace of mind 24 hours a day.

Microsoft Security Essentials Features

Real Time Virus Protection

Real time virus protection means that Security Essentials is constantly monitoring your computer for potential threats before they become problems. Security Essentials alerts will notify you when spyware, viruses, or other malicious software attempt to run or install on your PC 24 hours a day.

Full System Scans

Security Essentials will run complete system scans both scheduled and on-demand. You can set the scans to run at a set time (by default this is 2 a.m.) or run a manual scan anytime you fear you may have a virus. When performing a scan, you will have three scanning options:

  • Quick Scan (default setting) – Performs a quick scan of your computer which quickly checks the most common locations malware is likely to reside on your system, including open programs, system files, and your Windows registry.
  • Full Scan – Performs a full scan of your computer which checks all of the files on your PC, plus the Windows registry.
  • Custom Scan – You can choose to perform a custom scan, which will allow you to select specific areas of your computer you’d like to scan for threats. (This is mostly a setting only advanced users will utilize.)
System Cleaning

If Microsoft Security Essentials determines a potential threat on your PC, alerts will notify you of the threat. All threats are categorized as either Severe, High, Medium, or Low, and you will be able to choose whether you want to ignore the threat, quarantine it or remove the item from your PC entirely.

  • Allow – This action will stop Microsoft Security Essentials from alerting you when it detect the item in the future, and add it to the Allowed Items list. (If at some point in the future you change your mind, you can always remove items from the Allowed Items list.)
  • Quarantine – This action will block less severe threats and move them to a quarantined area where you can choose to restore the file or permanently delete it.  Placing a questionable item in quarantine will allow you to test the effect of the item’s removal before permanently deleting it from your computer.
  • Remove. This action will permanently delete the infected item from your computer.
Dynamic Signature Service

Dynamic signature service is a fancy way to so say that Windows will check whether a questionable program is actually malware or not. Before a suspicious program starts, Security Essentials will simulate the program running so that it can determine what the program is going to do. This protective service will give all programs a special “signature” that will be cross-checked against Microsoft’s database of valid programs. Security Essentials will also monitor programs signatures even after they are approved to ensure that they don’t do anything potentially harmful to your PC such as make unexpected network connections, download malicious content, or modify core files in the operating system.

Microsoft Security Essentials Summary

Security Essentials does a pretty solid job of integrating into your Windows XP or Windows 7 PC and providing basic anti-virus protection. Like I said earlier, since this software comes directly from Microsoft, it runs pretty seamlessly in the background, and won’t make much of a performance impact on your computer. For anyone looking for a quick, free, and simple solution to your anti-virus worries, Security Essentials is a no-brainer – download it, install it, and then forget about it.

With that being said….

I still have minor reservations about relying solely on Security Essentials for my own personal Windows computers. Microsoft primarily builds operating systems, and not anti-virus software. That’s not to say that Microsoft isn’t capable of making a top shelf anti-virus program, but I personally rest a little easier at night putting my valuable files and information in the hands of a company that ONLY does anti-virus and security, like Kasperky (click here for more information about Kaspersky’s security software lineup).

Your mileage may vary on this, so please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your personal experiences and views on this topic.

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- By Jim Sabellico