Why I prefer Microsoft Security Essentials

For the past few months, I have been using Microsoft’s Security Essentials (MSE) as my anti-virus/anti-malware solution on all my Windows computers. I switched from another vendor after reading many reviews and looking at performance test results that said MSE was really good. Now this has been borne out by one more comparative test of anti-virus software from 20 different vendors.

Malware does not wait for signature updates from anti-virus vendors to hit you. Even if the vendors provided updates, there is usually a window, however small, that exists where you will have to rely on the anti-virus software to protect you proactively. AV-Comparatives did a bake-off of 20 anti-virus software to find out how they did at finding new malware, without relying on signature updates, using only generic or heuristic techniques.

The following anti-virus software were tested:

  • avast! Free Antivirus 5.0
  • AVG Anti-Virus 9.0
  • AVIRA AntiVir Premium 9
  • BitDefender Antivirus 2010
  • eScan Anti-Virus 10
  • ESET NOD32 Anti-Virus 4.0
  • F-Secure Anti-Virus 2010
  • G DATA AntiVirus 2010
  • K7 TotalSecurity 10.0
  • Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2010
  • Kingsoft Antivirus 2010
  • McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2010
  • Microsoft Security Essentials 1.0
  • Norman Antivirus & Anti-Spyware 7.30
  • Panda Antivirus Pro 2010
  • PC Tools Spyware Doctor with AV 7.0
  • Sophos Anti-Virus 9.0
  • Symantec Norton Anti-Virus 2010
  • Trend Micro AntiVirus plus AntiSpyware 2010
  • TrustPort Antivirus 2010

The graph below rates the on-demand capabilities of the software and also factors in the rate of false-positives. As you can see, MSE is 5th with 59%. One thing that is significant is that the difference between the first place finisher TrushPort Antivirus 2010 (63%) and MSE is very small.

As for false-positives (where an innocent file is flagged as harmful), MSE finished among the top group of products with the fewest false positives..

Very few false alarms (0-3): eScan, FSecure, BitDefender, Microsoft, ESET
Few false alarms (4-15): Sophos, Kasperky, G Data, PC Tools, TrustPort, AVG, Avast, Symantec, AVIRA
Many false alarms (over 15): Trend Micro, Panda, McAfee, Norman, Kingsoft, K7

MSE received the highest Advanced+ certification at the end of these tests. While it was not the best, it was the best free software among those tested. In any case, it performed better than the paid software that I was using for a long time. I am pretty happy with my move to MSE.

The thing to remember is that these are products that are dynamic. What is true today may not be true in 6 months. So, you should monitor the field to keep on top of developments and use your judgment.

Update: MSE, which is currently free for personal use, is going to be available to small businesses also starting October 2010.

You can view the full report here or from the AV Comparatives website.