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Security Essentials Turns 4

I have a lot of old computers laying around. If something works, I just can't throw it away. In fact I am still trying force myself to toss out a Win 95 laptop. It doesn't have wireless (and doesn't even have an Ethernet port) so this thing is a Internet-less block of plastic and silicon. But it works, and I'd have to pay a dump or find an electronics drive to get rid of it. And it's my only machine that reads a 3.5 inch floppy.

For this artifact, a new version of Microsoft Security Essentials is, as Dr. Evil might say, inconsequential. For the decade-old XP box my five-year-old Kiley uses to play Candy Land (which is already well-protected by Security Essentials), version 4 of the software is of no consequence to her.

Kiley is old enough to have mastered XP, the iPhone, iPod touch and Nintendo DS (and, of course, the Comcast DVR controller) but she may not fully appreciate the fact that the free Microsoft tool now has the Active Protection Service, which used to be called SpyNet (a far cooler name). This service alerts Microsoft the moment malware is found so researchers can be constantly apprised.

There is good news and bad news for Microsoft. Because it is free and from Redmond, Security Essentials is number 2 tool in the U.S. market.

The bad news? An anti-virus researcher says Microsoft came in last out of 15 tools tested, finding little more than 93 percent of all issues.

Do you use a free AV tool? What are the goods, the bads and the uglies? You tell me at

Posted by Doug Barney on 04/27/2012 at 1:19 PM

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Reader Comments:

Fri, Apr 27, 2012

I've been using Avast anti-virus freebe for years, and never had any malware problems. One I had occasion to copy a file from my work computer, usin eTrust corporate version, an put on my home computer, with Avast. It found virus that eTrust missed. All that and no install conflicts or compatibility problems!

Fri, Apr 27, 2012

I have a friend who used to follow the best of breed AV tools and update what he was using every year or 2 accordingly. At the time, I stuck with Norton (now offered by Comcast free, I believe) even though it never was tops. I'd get flak from him but never had a virus/malware problem. On the other hand, he would have constant compatabilty, uninstall, installation, conflict, etc. issues. I gave up Norton (at the time Comcast offered McAfee for free which is the dog we were using at work and I refused to install it on my home PC) because of the high cost and general bloat of the software though, in fairness, Norton got better with performance in the last couple years I used it. I switched to Security Essentials because it's light weight, free and I've never had an issue with it. No viruses or malware problems either. By the way, my buddy switched to Security Essentials too and couldn't be happier. I also use the free version of passive SpywareBlaster since the Internet is a big source of the problem. However, common sense like keeping software up to date is the best defense and mostly free too.

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