Microsoft Security Essentials (2015) review

13 Jan 2015

Simple, quiet and unobtrusive, how does Windows 8.1's built in security system stack up against the competition?

Microsoft Security Essentials 2015 review - interface
Price when reviewed: 
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If you use Windows 8 then you may be using Microsoft’s anti-malware package without knowing it; in the guise of Windows Defender, it’s the operating system’s default antivirus solution. For Windows 7 users, however, it’s a quick and easy download from Microsoft.com. See also: What is the best free antivirus of 2015?

Microsoft Security Essentials 2015 review - interface

Security Essentials is designed to work with the other security features baked into Windows, including the Windows Firewall and the SmartScreen website and download filter, and its biggest selling point is that you normally wouldn’t know it’s there. It updates automatically through Windows Update, and sends the few notifications you might see through the standard Action Center in the Windows system tray. It protects in real-time but also allows scheduled and manual scans, and there’s little reason to even open its control panel.

If you do, you’ll find a simple UI with the focus on performing quick, full and custom scans, and on telling you whether the signatures are up to date. You can look through the history and see if any quarantined items deserve to be restored into the wild, while the settings allow you to exclude certain files, locations, file types or processes, and whether or not to scan removable drives.

That’s it. It’s a deliberately simple anti-malware tool, and speedy too, taking around 1min 33secs to complete a scan on our ageing dual-core PC. We also found it light on system resources, not noticeably affecting usability.

The problem is that Security Essentials can’t offer real peace of mind. In our tests, Security Essentials/Windows Defender allowed the system to be compromised by 41% of threats. Its response to legitimate software boosted its overall accuracy score, but this is still a worrying result. With that the case, we wouldn’t trust our PCs and our data to Security Essentials. Frankly, neither should you.