Security Advisor

Security Essentials Scores Low in Windows Protection Test

Microsoft's free antivirus offering showed to be lacking when stacked up against its competitors.

In a test of 24 antivirus and antimalware software, Microsoft's Security Essentials finished second to last.

The evaluation, conducted over a six-month period by antivirus research firm AV-TEST, put a list of the top security market products through the ringer to analyze protection effectiveness, ease of use and system load (how much the product slows down a machine when in use) on Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 machines.

In a series of six rounds of testing, AV-TEST found that Microsoft's free antivirus offering was only able to detect 74 percent of known and unknown malware thrown at it, putting it in last place in that specific subcategory.

"The basic protection from Microsoft, namely Windows Defender or Security Essentials, combined with the Windows Firewall, is an insecure option. Its result in the test category of Protection is simply too poor," said AV-TEST in its report.

As for the three main categories, Security Essentials scored a 0 (out of 6) in protection for its poor showing in detecting and blocking threats, a 4.3 (out of 6) for system load (the higher the number, the better it did) and a solid 6 out of 6 for ease of use, which also factors in how often an antivirus suite returns false positives. That gives Security Essentials a total of 10.3 out of 18. Only AhnLab's V3 Internet Security finished worse with a total of 9.2.

AV-TEST concluded that your best security bet is to go with Kaspersky Lab's Internet Security, which finished the testing gauntlet with a score of 17.8 out of 18.

"The best suite in the endurance test was the protection package from Kaspersky Lab, which was one of a number of solutions to achieve top marks when detecting malware, but also managed to maintain a low system load," read the report. "Kaspersky Lab therefore also achieved the top result in this test category, scoring 5.8 of a maximum possible total of 6 points."

The only downside of choosing Kaspersky Lab's offering over Microsoft's is that unlike Security Essentials' free price tag, Internet Security will cost up to $79.99 per year.

Here's a look at AV-TEST's top-10 finishers:

Product Protection Score (Out of 6) System Load Score (Out of 6) Usability Score (Out of 6) Total Score (Out of 18)
Kaspersky Labs Internet Security 6.0 5.8 6.0 17.8
Bitdefender Internet Security 6.0 5.5 6.0 17.5
Avira Internet Security 5.5 4.8 6.0 16.3
G Data InternetSecurity 6.0 4.7 5.5 16.2
Qiho 360 Internet Security 5.2 5.3 5.7 16.2
Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 6.0 4.0 5.8 15.8
BullGuard Internet Security 5.5 4.5 5.5 15.5
Panda Security Cloud Antivirus FREE 5.7 4.0 5.8 15.5
Symantec Norton Internet Security 5.5 4.0 6.0 15.5
F-Secure Internet Security 6.0 4.3 5.0 15.3

Table 1. AV-TEST's top-10 tested antivirus products.


About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for and


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