microsoftsecurityessentials Microsoft will soon release Microsoft Security Essentials, free antivirus and anti-malware software for computers running Windows 7, Vista, or Windows XP. It is simple to install, effective, requires no attention, and uses almost no system resources. It is completely free – no registration, no login, no advertising for a “Pro” version.

DOWNLOADS  This is the website for Microsoft Security Essentials. I’ll let you know when you can download it. One reliable source says it will become generally available later today; an email sent to beta testers over the weekend said it would be made available within the next few weeks.

Installing MSE takes three minutes and does not require a restart. The window can be closed after installation, but it will keep working for another few minutes downloading virus definitions and doing an initial scan of the computer.

ONECARE  MSE is a replacement for Windows Live OneCare. I will be helping my clients using OneCare to transition over the next few months. OneCare is still being supported and there is no urgency, but OneCare users should plan to switch whenever convenient.

OTHER SECURITY PROGRAMS  If you are using another security product and you are happy with it, you do not need to switch. The security provided by Microsoft Security Essentials is comparable to products from Trend Micro, AVG, Symantec, and the rest. The other products typically offer more services that you may or may not need – firewall maintenance, defragging, backups, etc. For what it’s worth, Vista and Windows 7 already do an adequate job of handling the firewall, defragging the hard drive, and doing backups.

Uninstall any existing security software before installing Microsoft Security Essentials. You never want more than one antivirus program running on your computer.

BUSINESSES  MSE will likely not be used in offices with more than 25 employees; Microsoft’s enterprise security software Forefront and enterprise products from other vendors can be rolled out across the network from servers and have centralized management controls. MSE is so easy to install and monitor that it will be perfect for home users and very small businesses. Its icon is easy to interpret – a green check mark when things are good, a yellow or red icon when something needs attention. It will rarely need attention. (The icon is apparently intended to look like a castle and not a schoolhouse or a helmet, which were my guesses.)

MAINTENANCE  MSE will be updated with new virus definitions three times a day, and new definitions can be distributed in real time when necessary. Updates to the program will be included with the Automatic Updates that your computer installs regularly.

There are some settings that can be configured in the program for scheduled scans, excluded folders, and the like, but the default settings will be fine for almost everyone.

RECOMMENDATION  This is the security program that I will recommend for almost all my clients – home users and very small businesses. It is exactly what we have been looking for: free, easy, quiet, effective, and lightweight. This is a wonderful companion to Windows 7, which is also focused on being lightweight and responsive. Make no mistake – the hardware and software arriving this fall represents a huge step forward for you and the tools you use every day.

If you want more information, there are more details and screen shots in Paul Thurrott’s review of MSE.

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