Royce Eddington

Nothing to see here. Move along people.

Date: September 30, 2009

Texas Railroad Tracks

Texas Railroad Tracks

Texas Railroad Tracks

I took this outside of Mission somewhat near highway 83. Near the tracks was that big underground ant colony from a few photos ago.

Microsoft Security Essentials review

Microsoft just released their own antivirus application, and based on my use so far, I have to say it’s not bad. Microsoft Security Essentials is a antivirus, antimalware and anti-trojan application. Pretty much the only thing it doesn’t try to be is a firewall.

When you install the application, the first thing it tells you to do is remove your existing antivirus application. You can usually do this for any antivirus application by going to START and then PROGRAMS and then to the antivirus’ folder. In that folder should be a REMOVE icon that will start the process. If you’ve paid for a subscription for your previous antivirus, be sure to check the option to save any settings during the uninstall process if you are prompted.

In my case, I had to uninstall VIPRE. One reboot later, the Microsoft Security Essentials setup was ready to go.

After double clicking the setup icon, the first thing it will do is download some extra components. Once it completes getting the necessary components online, the application will ask you to click a button to validate your PC (this is to make sure you don’t have a pirated copy of Windows). After that last part, it’s all progress bars and “installing this and that” dialog boxes.

When the install is complete, the application will ask you if you want to scan your computer after it grabs the latest updates. You should check that option to see if anything was missed by your previous antivirus application.

The definitions update process was faster than most antivirus applications I have seen. But since this application is only a few days old, the real test will come in a few months when a larger update is required.

Configuring Microsoft Security Essentials is pretty straightforward. This is what the main window looks like…

MS Security Essentials 1

MS Security Essentials 1

Your status, would you like to scan now, and when the next scan will be. Simple and a very basic overview. The UPDATE tab is similar in style…

MS Security Essentials 2

MS Security Essentials 2

When your next update is, what update you have and a giant UPDATE button so you can do it manually. The next tab in the application is HISTORY.

MS Security Essentials 3

MS Security Essentials 3

Here is shows you what it detected, what’s been quarantined and what you allowed. My initial scan picked up that I had a remote-access application installed, which I’ll go over in a few paragraphs.

The next selection is the SETTINGS tab.

MS Security Essentials 4

MS Security Essentials 4

Here you can configure some fairly basic settings. Scan time, what to do when it finds a virus, and if you want it to not scan certain file types or applications on your PC.

This is also the only location where you can turn Microsoft Security Essentials off. You have to go to the “Real-time protection” option and un-check the “Turn on Real-Time protection”. There is not a way to turn off Microsoft Security Essentials for a set period of time though. And there also is no option on a right click of Microsoft Security Essentials on the system tray icon to disable it. Very inconvenient.

The big thing that got me was the Microsoft SpyNet option.

MS Security Essentials 5

MS Security Essentials 5

There is no way to turn this off.

You have the option of Basic or Advanced membership, and a link to their privacy policy, but there is no way to disable it. This application will always send any problems it finds to Microsoft’s SpyNet service. Microsoft says this is to help them make better antivirus definitions, and your information will remain anonymous. But the specific name of every infected file, every hacked program, every trojan horse, every false positive, and the locations they came from will be sent with your anonymous ID tag on it.

Speaking of false positives, when I first ran the scan, Microsoft Security Essentials found this on my PC…

MS Security Essentials 6

MS Security Essentials 6

TightVNC is a remote access application. I use it to get back to my PC when I am in another part of the building and need a quick file or server tweak. It’s not the most secure software out there, but it serves my purposes. Microsoft Security Essentials didn’t say it was a virus or a threat, but a “potential” threat. But the big honkin’ red banner and X of death would probably make someone new to PCs remove the “potential” threat instead of allowing it to remain. Admins beware!

I also didn’t see a way to roll this out on a enterprise-wide scale. I’m not a fan of dump-and-forget applications, especially when I know that most corporate employees are far too busy to do technical maintenance on their PCs in addition to their everyday jobs.

Even though this is Microsoft’s first entry into the antivirus field, they have nothing but time and money to improve on it. And since there is no motivation to play nice with others who were in the field first, I would expect the next version of Security Essentials to be a vast improvement on this one. And from there to just get exponentially better.

PROS: Free. Fast. Easy updates. Fully integrated into your operating system. Already on par with “free” and “lite” antivirus applications that have been on the market for years.

CONS: No way to turn off application for a specific amount of time. No right-click disable option for taskbar icon. No way to turn off SpyNet option. No advanced settings to configure. No apparent server/management option for enterprise. Fully integrated into your operating system.

You can download a copy for XP or Vista directly from Microsoft here.

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