Last week (as had been rumored earlier in the month) Microsoft started a limited beta of its upcoming free antivirus product which had been codenamed Morro, but was formally christened as Microsoft Security Essentials. The beta was limited to 75,000 downloaders and has currently reached the limit so would-be tire kickers will have to wait for general availability which is expected later in the year.
Frankly, it takes a brave person (or one with a dedicated test machine) to test something as vital and potentially intrusive as PC antivirus software, but so far there have been no complaints that I have seen and in fact, preliminary results from testing company AV-Test GmbH indicate that Microsoft Security Essentials is looking very good:
AV-Test GmbH tested Microsoft Security Essentials, the free software Microsoft launched yesterday in beta, on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, putting it up against nearly 3,200 common viruses, bot Trojans and worms, said Andreas Marx, one of the firm’s two managers. The malware was culled from the most recent WildList, a list of threats actually actively attacking computers.
"All files were properly detected and treated by the product," said Marx in an e-mail. "That’s good, as several other [antivirus] scanners are still not able to detect and kill all of these critters yet."
AV-Test also examined the program’s anti-rootkit skills and its ability to scrub a system of malware it finds with a limited number of samples and "found no reasons to complain," Marx said. "[Security Essentials] is able to remove found malware very well, but further tests against larger sets of samples are required before we can come to a final conclusion."
Microsoft Security Essentials also had no false positives in the preliminary testing.
In case you were wondering, the testing also confirmed that Microsoft Security Essentials is not a "cloud" virus scanner as had been suggested in some early speculations – it is a conventional scanner working off databases downloaded to each PC. Without any concrete evidence, my assumption is that Microsoft Security Essentials is just a spiffed up version of the antivirus portion of Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft’s failed commercial security package which will no longer be sold after June 30.