Security Advisor

Security Essentials Market Share Soars

Despite unfavorable testing scores from multiple security firms, Microsoft's Security Essentials market share sees huge growth.

When do poor consumer test scores not matter? When you're Microsoft's Security Essentials.

After reporting last week that security firms like AV-Test and NSS Labs gave Microsoft's free antivirus software low marks in doing its job, a new report this week by market analyst OPSWAT shows that the low scores hasn't stopped Security Essentials from claiming a hefty chunk of market share.

Microsoft Security Essentials increased its worldwide share in the month by 2.3 percent to settle with 15.3 percent of the total market share -- enough to make give it the first-place position. Avast! Free Antivirus came in a close second with 13.6 percent.

OPSWAT was quick to point out that this is the first time in its history of testing that Security Essentials is No. 1 worldwide.

In North America, the race isn't even close. Microsoft claims 30.4 percent of all those using some sort of antivirus program (and saw a huge gain of 9.1 percent for the recent monitored period). This is well above its closest competitor, avast! Free Antivirus, which clocked in with only 8.7 percent.

So what is the cause for Microsoft's recent gain? Has it benefitted from a huge wave of consumers purchasing new Windows 8 machines with Security Essentials built in? Based on the preliminary Win 8 sales numbers, this doesn't look to be the case.

Since security vendor tests have done little to slow down the adoption rate of Microsoft's antivirus offering, what's your theory on its growth? And what do you go with when it comes to virus protection?

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for and

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Dec 31, 2012 Marco Mexico

I believe MSE got low marks for "old" viruses, but has a good detection rate for current threats. I personally like the simple interface and low resource usage. I'm using it under Windows 7, as a standard user with software restriction policies in effect, and have not had a single infection in three years

Wed, Dec 19, 2012 Bill Canada

Was using MSE, but changed after reading about the poor test scores. Now using Bitdefender Internet Suite with Lifetime subscription. $80 well spent for full av protection and inbound and outbound firewall (which Windows Firewall does not offer).

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 LA NYC

Richard pay attention to this article

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 Cesar Atlanta, GA

Work In IT and discovered MSE when Kaspersky was not ablt to clean up my daughers system. Used MSE at that time and it saw and cleaned the system right out. From then on all home systems (about a dozen ... I trade online) are on MSE and all have been fine. Used MSE and Windows Defender to clean systems at my IT job (Big International Company) when Symantec freaks out and can't do the job. Thanks Microsoft ... don't care what others say :)

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 Scott

I used MSE for a while when it first came out, but I was never really comfortable having Microsoft protecting the security holes it was already unaware of. I personally use and recommend Avast! for home users. Never in the history of my household has a virus or spyware made it through to a family computer. The main reason -- diligent patching and banning the use of Internet Explorer except for specific websites that do not work correctly in Firefox. Internet Explorer is still the open door with the lighted sign flashing "attack here", and 99.9% of the time when someone I know or support (I'm an IT veteran) has gotten infected, it has been through IE.

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 Larry W Virden

I have been using MSE because it seemed simpler than the others to keep running. However, once I had installed MSE on my Vista Home system, Windows Defender ceased working. This is the first I have noticed an article saying how bad MSE is in detecting things. I have recommended it for years because of its ease of use and now I feel embarassed. Old dogs appear to need to learn new tricks.

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 m0te

IMO, readers of Security Advisor are more security-savvy than the average user. They're more likely to keep machines patched up and keep anti-malware defenses up-to-date. They're also savvy enough to identify and avoid the social-engineering attacks that are often the infection vector for modern malware. All these factors, plus a decent AV package like MSE, constitute good-enough security. People who visit shadowy corners of the Internet, download from questionable sources, click the link cleverly-designed spam message, etc, will often be compromised no matter what AV package they're running. Assume that every technical defense will fail eventually, behave accordingly, and chances are you'll remain safe. FWIW, I am an information security professional. I use MSE at home and on my family's machines. I also teach them about how to safely navigate the Internet, where the pitfalls are, etc. No infections within the last 7 years. They are safe because of the combination of technology and wisdom.

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 Steve F

I went thru using Norton, Mcafee, Avira, Avast, and AVG in the past. They all were unsatisfactory; they either caused some kind of conflict, or the hit on system performance was simply unacceptable. I find MSE to be the most unobtrusive, with the least system impact, yet effective enough to prevent viral infections (it foiled a few that I know of, and I haven't had any infections). Oh, and my corporate IT department, which is responsible for thousands of computers, uses Forefront Endpoint protection, which is the commercial version of MSE. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 Florida

I've used MSE since 2010. I discovered it after spending plenty on PC Tools Security Suites that kept going up in price year after year but kept my PC slower and slower. I have this MS software installed on all four computers in the house and I have had no single incident of attack by AV or a malware. The only PC Tools product I buy now is the Privacy Guardian.

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 Craig

I've been using and recommending MSE for a number of years. I've been on the beta test group a couple of times and found it to be a solid AV solution. Maybe something has changed or the other guys added something, so it's worth investigating again. Remember though security should be done in layers, Firewall, Patches, AntiVirus, Restricted Access Levels, Backups, etc. This makes for a more secure environment than just relying on one thing,such as AntiVirus.

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 80s Rocker

I have used WSE since released and have not gotten any viruses. I think the difference is that Windows machines using WSE also have Windows defender and the Windows firewall. So run together you have complete protection. Was the benchmarks run in standard configuration or WSE standalone. Also did they test latest version in Win8 that combines Windows Defender and WSE? If not, the benchmarks are flawed.

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 Dave Washington - the state

I got tired of the popups from all the other guys say how good they are. AV software is a necessary evil - pity the other guys have to pile on the noise

Wed, Dec 12, 2012


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 Darryl

PS: Guess what? No malware issues in all that time, since 2009. Though it helps that I and all my users run as "Limited Users" (in XP parlance) or with strict UAC settings. Well, 1 person week before last got a pop-up screen about doing illegal things and please send a PayPal payment to the FBI....We logged in as admin user and ran Security Essentials which promptly deleted the whatever it was. I then ran the free MalwareBytes program to get a second opinion -> clean machine.

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 Darryl

I've been using Security Essentials since 2009, I guess, and putting it on my client's machines unless they were big enough or willing enough to spend money on protection or needed to go with a managed solution or had other preferences. Now that it is in Windows 8, so much the better, no exposure time while downloading and installing it or whatever alternative you prefer.

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 Dan Canada

Interesting. I think it points to a theory I've had for a number of years: people are even more stupid than even I thought. This is like a car manufacturer declaring a death-threatening malfunction in one of its models and people rushing to the dealers to buy one. Maybe next week we'll hear about the misread stats from these two organizations and that MSSE is really in last place.

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