Free Anti-Virus Comparison ReviewGuest_Jim_* - April 9, 2013
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Microsoft Security Essentials:
Microsoft Security Essentials, or MSE, is one of the two antivirus programs I run on my computers; the other being AVG which is on the next page. It is an evolution of the Windows Defender anti-spyware software first available for Windows Vista. It is also included with Windows 7, but MSE supersedes it, as MSE is a more powerful tool.
When it was first released, many were pleasantly surprised by its performance and light-weight design. It is not filled with un-needed features for an antivirus or anti-malware tool, and perhaps this is part of the reason why it is able to run its scans with a fairly minimal impact on computer performance. In the beginning it was also quite adept at detecting threats, but more recently it has fallen behind, especially when it comes to catching zero-day threats. This translates to it not being the best at protecting you, but if you are reasonably security minded in your activities, it should serve its purpose well enough. However, if you are so security minded that you want to be able to set every option for the scanner, you will be disappointed here. Aside from setting exclusions, the only option you have is if the scanner should analyze archive files.
A Full Scan of my laptop took roughly two and a half hours. Okay, it is a full scan, so it is not surprising that it would take so long. However, compared to the mode of the all the scan lengths, it would seem this is an outlier. One caveat to this point though is that, when completed, MSE does not provide any measure of how long it took. The other programs did, in one way or another. I had to actually watch for when it finished, but even then, a few days later I decided to have it scan again, just to make sure. The second scan also took over two hours, so it is very doubtful I missed when the scan completed.
Obviously it taking that long to compete a full scan is a knock against MSE, as is its lack of information when it completes a scan. It is feasible that someone could start a scan, leave the computer to watch a movie or something, come back having forgotten they started the scan and, unless it found something, they would never realize it ran. The only information is MSE saying when the last scan was and that your computer is clean and protected along with how any files it scanned, but this is not recorded. The 'History' tab only lists infections it has found and does not record information on clean scans.
I recorded the available resources before and during the full scan, to get an idea of its impact on performance. Unsurprisingly the CPU usage increased, at times up to around 97%, but tended to stay between 50% and 60%. The memory usage and disk transfers on the other hand did not seem to change much due to the scan, although, there are some points that both memory and CPU usage increase at the same time. This would make sense if MSE loads files into the memory for scanning. If that is the case though, the memory is promptly cleared as its usage varied little.
Perhaps this is part of the reason why the Full Scan takes so long: MSE is not pulling as many resources as it could. Is this good/bad? Depends on how you look at it. If you want the fastest full scan there is, this is not good. If you want to be able to run a full scan while still using the computer, this is good.