Microsoft's new, free antivirus application Microsoft Security Essentials was released in a limited beta this morning, and now that we've got our hands on it, let's take a look at how MSE stacks up.
The first time you run the application, it'll automatically check for, download and install updates. It takes just a couple of minutes.
Your First Quick Scan
Once the update completes, Microsoft Security Essentials runs its first Quick Scan. It's not really joking about the Quick—on my fairly fresh Windows 7 system, it only took a few minutes. The application didn't find any trouble, so I didn't get to see it spring into action by quarantining or removing the problem.
All Systems Go
When the scan completes, assuming there are no problems, MSE heads to the Home tab, where it displays the soothing green that indicates that all systems are go.
Scheduling Your Scans
Head over to the Settings panel to adjust the nitty-gritty of MSE. You can adjust the application's schedule to run daily or on any specific day of the week. There's no intermediate option, unfortunately—meaning you can't do every other day, or Tuesdays and Saturdays, for example.
Setting Default Threat Response
The Default Actions section of the Settings tab allows you to set how MSE will treat threats depending on their threat level. You can remove or quarantine severe and high alert level threats, and you get the extra option of allowing medium or low alert level threats. The default setting for each is to stick with Microsoft Security Essentials' recommended action, but there's really no indication of what that action is, or whether it's determined on a case-by-case basis.
MSE can provide real-time protection, which is always a bonus from anti-malware applications.
Advanced Scan Settings
To save time (or not, depending on your needs), you can set whether or not MSE should scan archives, removable drives, or create a system restore point before taking any actions.
Apart from all the features we've highlighted, Microsoft Security Essentials has a few other notable features that round it out as a robust, competitive little anti-mailware application. I've only had time to complete the Quick Scan so far (which, as I said, took only a few minutes); according to the MSE Home tab, the Full Scan can take hours.
So while MSE might not be ready to dethrone every competitor in our Hive Five Best Antivirus Applications, it looks like it may actually offer some stiff competition. If you've given it a try, let's hear what you think in the comments.