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Microsoft Security Essentials flunks another antivirus test


By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 7 Feb 2013 at 13:25

Microsoft's Security Essentials has stumbled again in an independent antivirus test, after the company complained such testing wasn't realistic.

Last month, Microsoft complained that results from AV-Test labs showing it missing a majority of zero-day threats didn't accurately represent what happened in the real world, as its customers rarely came across such malware.

Those results contributed to Microsoft Security Essentials winning a single star out of six for performance in the security suites labs in the current issue of PC Pro.

Now, a test by Dennis Technology Labs (DTL) - a testing firm affiliated with PC Pro's publisher - has ranked Microsoft's free security suite last out of eight major antivirus providers, missing 41% of all threats.

The results add weight to AV-Test's findings that Security Essentials is falling behind rival security suites, with DTL saying Microsoft's software is "notably poor at protecting the system from malware".

"The effectiveness of paid-for anti-malware security suites varies widely but all beat Microsoft’s free product," the report said. "Nearly every product was compromised at least once. The most effective were compromised just once or not at all, while the least effective (Microsoft Security Essentials) was compromised by 41% of the threats."

The next worst score was McAfee, but it missed only 7% of threats.

Dennis Technology Labs chart

Microsoft Security Essentials did perform well when it came to the issue of raising false alarms, not blocking off any legitimate applications in the belief they were malware.

Pick up this month's issue of PC Pro for the full results of our security labs and click here to read the full results of Dennis Technology Lab's tests

Subscribe to PC Pro magazine. We'll give you 3 issues for £1 plus a free gift - click here
User comments

You guys really have a bee in your bonnet about MSE!

By Gogster on 7 Feb 2013

In my experience

I'm not particularly a fan of MSE, however reecently I've seen quite a few PCs with the MET Police popup malware. So far this week I've had 2 PCs that had AVG installed with it and 1 that had McAfee. In all 3 cases MSE removed it cleanly.

By JStairmand on 7 Feb 2013

Agent Kobie will be back tomorrow with a new edition of "Microsoft Negative".

Can't wait to see what else she digs up!

By ItsMe on 7 Feb 2013

Reporting the News and NOT generating it.

I see that you do not take criticism well. You tested MSE in test conditions, when MS point out that test conditions are not real life condition you get the hump. Then an (in your own word) affiliated with PC Pro's conducts the same type of test and it’s big news that they get the same type of results.

This is not reporting on the news but generating the news, frankly it’s something that I thought PC Pro was above.

By daron09 on 7 Feb 2013


Thanks for the comments.

I take great exception to the accusation we're either pursuing an anti-Microsoft agenda (if anyone can point out why that would be in a PC magazine's best interests, I'd like to hear it) or making up news stores.

AV-Test, which supplied the results for our most recent Labs, is a well-respected independent test laboratory that has been performing security software tests for many years. Its test wasn't commissioned by PC Pro and we had no input into the products being tested.

It's findings have been subsequently confirmed, entirely independently, by Dennis Publishing's DTL, using a different test methodology and a different sample of malware attacks.

Microsoft may well raise objections to the test methodology, but you would hardly it expect it to do otherwise. Both AV-Test and DTL use proven test methodologies that are evaluated by their peers and experts from across the security industry.

We're reporting these findings because we believe it's in our readers' best interests to know how security software performs, especially the security software that is now bundled with Windows, and which many people may rely on as their sole source of antivirus protection. There is no other agenda.

Barry Collins

By Barry_Collins on 7 Feb 2013

Rather MSE

Best not bite the hands that feed

By Glovepuppet on 7 Feb 2013

Presumably this ridiculous anti MS crusade ...

... is all part of your conversion of PC-Pro to Apple-amateur.

You really need to cool it because you're making yourselves look silly.

By qpw3141 on 7 Feb 2013

"We're reporting these findings because we believe it's in our readers' best interests to know how security software performs, especially the security software that is now bundled with Windows, and which many people may rely on as their sole source of antivirus protection. There is no other agenda."

Yes, but you've already had a go about this, once. The fact that you drag up the same story again with a slightly different slant is what makes it look as if you are on some sort of crusade.

By qpw3141 on 7 Feb 2013


DTL site states...

"We work with some of the biggest names in the anti-virus industry, providing data, reports and consultancy services."

By Glovepuppet on 7 Feb 2013

real world

have to say my real world experience is also excellent. lost count of how many sick pc's i've fixed with MSE and Malwarebytes after norton, macafee and avg have let people down...

By sihaz2 on 7 Feb 2013

Reality Check

We all know the AV-Tests can never truly reflect real world scenarios, but that does not change the fact that no business should ever trust their IT infrastructure to MSE..
I work for a Global Charity with 1000's of users and their is no way we would ever use MSE for business use, and no I don't need PCPRO to tell me that.. It's common sense... If MSE works for you good, I'm happy for you but don't slate PC-PRO(FESSIONAL) for warning businesses that using the likes of MSE, AVG and MCAFEE is risky.
The only criticism I have on the testing is that Norton ay have done better in these tests that ESET which we use, but I would never want to see such a disgusting pig of a program on a users PC... but I guess usability and programing quality is not what they are testing.. Now if they DID test for bloatware we all know what those graphs would look like then ;)

By churchrevolution on 7 Feb 2013

Surprised at the negative comments

I think Barry has responded rather well to the criticism of this article.
Microsoft responded that the first set of tests didn't reflect real-life. A second set of tests have also been conducted and reflect similar results.

I'd want to know about that, and I'm glad that a PC magazine has highlighted it. Or do you think that PC Pro should sweep it under the carpet?

Obviously this so-called "anti-Microsoft" bias of PC Pro means that they wouldn't possibly promote a (sponsored) article about Windows Server 2012, now would they? Oh they have! Presumably all PC Pro's articles warning you about malware is "anti-malware" as well?

Come on guys, grow up, read the article at face value as a legitimate report on some software which is duff and move on.

By MCunliffe on 7 Feb 2013

I'm glad of articles such as this one. When free AVG started to bloat and MSE was getting reasonable reviews I installed MSE on a number of PCs for customers that didn't want to pay for protection. Now I know better, thanks to these reports, and I won't be installing it again or until it starts getting good reports.

Just because MSE hasn't been a problem for YOU it doesn't mean that it's the best.

By Pantagoon on 7 Feb 2013

I have no AV software

Not really I have MSE and it works just fine, has done since it came out.

But I do have machine, not connected to the net with no av and no viruses - true! (It's connected from time to time)

By nicomo on 7 Feb 2013

Give PC Pro a break

Come on. They are not re-reporting old news. I use MSE because it's light and I feel it is enough to protect most users, especially if the are sensible.

However, PC Pro are reporting that two independent test show it performs poorly. That is news because it shows that AV Labs' results wasn't a fluke.

Just because those of us who post here with positive experiences with MSE doesn't mean we wouldn't have those same experiences with any other AV or indeed, no AV at all.

Of course, a true test would be to collect real world data which would be near impossible.

By josephlck on 7 Feb 2013

"I'm not particularly a fan of MSE, however reecently I've seen quite a few PCs with the MET Police popup malware. So far this week I've had 2 PCs that had AVG installed with it and 1 that had McAfee. In all 3 cases MSE removed it cleanly."

I have to agree with this comment. I disinfect a lot of malware infections in the real world for a living and we have seen many paid for AV products, and free (Malwarebyes, Stinger, Hitman Pro, SpyBot), all fail to remove or be blocked by viruses.

Installing MSE in safe mode then manually copying over the signature files has solved numerous infections that were seemingly unsolveable.

By mivecboy on 7 Feb 2013

Barry's Reply

Barry, you really shouldn't bite - a dignified silence was in order here.

I have been critical of the way PC Pro has gone in recent times but this criticism is not justified.

A good article - and I use MSE. I believe my internet use is low risk and all the other Anti Virus products I have tried slow my PC or stop legitimate software running etc - in other words, they cause the same problems as many viruses...

But I accept that they may be better at detecting viruses than MSE - especially when labs without an axe to grind (as in this case) produce results showing this to be the case.

By neil_aky on 7 Feb 2013

From My Experience

To be frank when i used this antivirus, first i was very much ok , but after few days i faced lot of bad experience with this antivirus, presently i am using Comodo internet security which is very good to use!

By Lollita on 8 Feb 2013

Well said, Barry.

I, too, would have responded as Barry did in the face of these accusations of anti-Microsoft bias. I don't see any evidence where PC Pro has relished the opportunity to bash Microsoft undeservedly. If MSE has underperformed in two well-respected independent lab tests then I believe we are entitled to the unvarnished results.

Having said that, I have used MSE for a couple of years in conjunction with MalwareBytes plus daily scans from alternative products. It's always MSE that catches things first.

With all the vitriol spewed out at PC Pro over these tests I guess there really are some people in this world who love to take offence.

By AndyChips on 8 Feb 2013

Strange article

This article over MSE is strange as it was PC Pro that was promoting it not so long ago, and Paul said he had used it for a reasonable time with no problems or any malware getting through.
Now they are claiming that report was not valid and MSE does not protect you as well as many other programs.
Based on a study from a company that is affiliated to a malware software company and is in their interest to push their own above free options.

By curiousclive on 8 Feb 2013

I welcome the above article but..

First off some of the comments above about a PCPro's anti-MS bias are just childish, grow up! And anyway, there's no need when we have SwissMac - he/she/it usually pops up in the comments and finds some way to get an anti MS dig in, even if the story has nothing to do with MS!

When I read the piece, I was was worried at first because MSE is my default install on Vista and Win 7 machines. BUT then I read the report, the test environment is Windows XP Pro!!! No wonder MSE didn't perform well. True, it runs on XP but I never install it because it needs the security improvements in Vista / Win 7 to do a good job. When its XP, I install AVG.

And one final point, if you're running MSE on Vista /Win 7 and you are worried, make sure you are not logged on as administrator - that option works much better than it did under XP.

End of my 2'penneth ;-)

By rjp2000 on 8 Feb 2013

A bit over the top

I now avoid MSE, that's because I've found an excellent cheap system that's very fast and has a minute footprint.

For occasional use (test PCs etc) I often use MSE, but after these test results I'm not going to use it in anger!

By s8080 on 8 Feb 2013


I installed Avast, and all was fine. Then I had a problem. A program that 'phones home' (and I had blocked with Windows Advanced Firewall settings)presented me with an unsolicited window/popup. How so !!!
Disabling Avast, and testing if the advanced rules were now working was confirmed.
I sent feedback to Avast, after removing it.
I don't want a product that ignores/disables my rules without telling me.

By J______G on 9 Feb 2013

Not that unreasonable

The methodology may not compare with real world but is fairly common so MS should at least be aware of how their offering is going to be assessed. I use MSE as the choice for freeware because it is simple and light. Perhaps others would do better if they could strip down to the base function. The last install of McAfee I did put 6 preloaded applications into the Run keys

By MIssingLink on 10 Feb 2013

PC Pro probably misleading

The argument Microsoft made, and which seems quite sensible to me, is that their security product protects users against threats which users are exposed to in the real world and that are reported back by its product, not in some imaginary world generated by Dennis Publishing's tool. Frankly, as PC Pro well knows, there is no way that anyone else can know what information is actually reported by users' av software (including that reported by vendor software other than MS) - so in the absence of that they devise their own set of tests which seems to be based on little more than guesswork... PC Pro still hasn't addressed Microsoft's legitimate issues regarding real-world vs theoretical tests and until they do, repeating another set of tests with a slightly different methodology doesn't add anything to the weight of evidence for or against MSE or any other product. I understand PC Pro are in a difficult situation as they don't know how accurate their methodology is, but they shouldn't be misrepresenting it in the way they have in this article.

By daveharruk on 10 Feb 2013

Non story

Similar test yields similar result - what a shock.

By colin52 on 10 Feb 2013

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