Microsoft Security Essentials review

Microsoft is having a second stab at the anti-virus suite, only this time its package is free. Has it got it right second time around?

Microsoft Security Essentials

And since there's so little to the program, its impact on your PC is low. On our test system it didn't add a single second to boot time, though it did continue to hit the CPU for seven seconds after the desktop had appeared. And it added just 120MB to our system's overall RAM footprint, making it a very light program by security suite standards.


This last point is, we think, what makes Security Essentials a success. Individuals and businesses alike are often saddled with relatively low-specification machines, not to mention limited budgets. Security Essentials, being a free, minimal package, assuages both these concerns.

For that reason, it has a real chance of making it onto machines that would otherwise be unprotected and thus of having a real impact on the spread of malware.

If you're half-way through a subscription to a paid-for security system, there's no immediate reason to leap to Security Essentials. The extra warnings and defence mechanisms offered by something like Kaspersky or Norton do have a value. But if you have one or more PCs that are currently unprotected there's really no good reason not to install Security Essentials.


This free antivirus software doesn’t set out to protect you from every possible danger. That may sound like a weakness, but it makes for a simple, lightweight package. There’s now no excuse for not running security software on every Windows PC.

System Requirements: OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7 CPU: 1GHz or higher Display: 800 x 600 or higher HDD: 140GB capacity free Connectivity: Internet connection required

Darien Graham-Smith

Darien began his IT career in the 1990s as a systems engineer, later becoming an IT project manager. His formative experiences included upgrading a major multinational from token-ring networking to Ethernet, and migrating a travelling sales force from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95.

He subsequently spent some years acting as a one-man IT department for a small publishing company, before moving into journalism himself. He is now a regular contributor to IT Pro, specialising in networking and security, and serves as associate editor of PC Pro magazine with particular responsibility for business reviews and features.

You can email Darien at, or follow him on Twitter at @dariengs.