Microsoft has released version 2 of Microsoft Security Essentials, with some nice improvements and new features. It is visually almost unchanged; MSE continues to be almost invisible while it operates, providing all the protection that you need with a minimum of fuss. It continues to be my preferred solution for individuals and very small businesses – the only security program that you need to run on your computer if you also use common sense and follow the rules of safe computing.

The version 2 update can be downloaded and installed manually from the MSE web site, but you do not have to do anything. If you are using the program, it will be automatically updated soon. At most you will be asked to click okay on a license agreement – and probably restart your computer.

Microsoft has added a “heuristic scanning engine” that attempts to identify malware-like activity on the computer even if it’s caused by something that is not included in the traditional virus definitions. (It tells you something about our fast-moving world that this is necessary, since the virus definitions are updated every four hours.)

MSE v.2 integrates the controls for the Windows Firewall, although most people never need to tweak the firewall settings. The new version also inspects network traffic for signs of malware, although this enhanced protection only runs on Windows 7 and Vista computers – one more small way that Windows XP is being marginalized and allowed to become old and dusty.

If you’re not using Microsoft Security Essentials, you should be. Forget your investment in a subscription to another program that is slowing your computer down and causing way too many messages to pop up from the lower right corner of the screen. Install MSE and do your work without distractions.

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