Microsoft’s new virus scanner aims for simplicity, but most importantly, it’s free.
Dubbed Microsoft Security Essentials, the software removes some of the functionality of Windows Live OneCare, which cost $50 and featured firewall options, performance tuning and system restore tools. Security Essentials, by comparison, is a stripped-down virus scanner, performing regular checks of your computer and updating virus definitions daily.
Reading over CNet’s report on the software, it’s refreshing to see Microsoft offering a light, non-intrusive virus scanner. Running on Windows XP, Vista or the upcoming Windows 7, Security Essentials presents users with four simple navigation tabs. On most occasions, users will only need the “Home” tab to initialize a scan, assuming that they need to open the software at all with automatic scans happening behind the scenes.
Security Essentials has performed pretty well in benchmarks so far. PC Advisor notes that the software successfully fended off 3,200 common viruses, Trojans and worms, in testing by AV-Test GmbH. The software also consumes less memory than paid competitors, such as Symantec and McAfee. On the downside, CNet benchmarks found Security Essentials to be slower than the competition, taking more than twice as long for a full scan.
However, Microsoft could be competing more with free virus scanners, such as AVG, than paid subscription-based software. Even if that’s the case, it’s not direct competition. With no apparent way to upgrade to a paid Microsoft service, as AVG does, I’m thinking that Microsoft sees this more as a bullet point for its operating systems.
The real pressure, then, might be on Apple to offer a free virus scanner of its own. Apple has insisted that Macs have built-in anti-virus, but could install extra software for “additional protection.” Mac threats aren’t unheard of, after all, so Security Essentials could provide more fodder for the fanboys.