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Tech savvy users know that it's not necessary to pay for antivirus protection. The question is, how reliable is Microsoft's own Security Essentials software? In our own tests, Security Essentials has performed fairly well in terms of protection, though its slow scan speed and limited feature-set don't put it at the front of the pack when compared with other free (and paid) AV solutions. What's confusing, however, is Microsoft's own opinion on the matter.
There's an interesting article over on How-To Geek linking to some statements Microsoft recently made, and they're a bit contradictory. The first one points to comments Microsoft made to Dennis Technology Labs (DTL), a testing firm affiliated with PC Pro's publisher.
Holly Stewart, senior program manager of the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, told DTL that Microsoft had an "epiphany" a few years back that it needed to protect all Microsoft customers. Hence, Security Essentials emerged as a capable, free antivirus solution for Windows users.
However, Stewart goes on to call Security Essentials a "baseline" AV, and by its nature and focus, it will "always be at the bottom" of AV tests. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement and it strongly suggests that a third-party AV is needed for proper protection.
After Stewart made those comments, Microsoft felt compelled to post a blog entry reiterating its commitment to anti-malware protection.
"We are fully committed to protecting our consumer and business customers from malware," Microsoft explains. "Our strong solutions provide the comprehensive defense needed against malicious code and attacks. Our support of anti-malware partners helps in building a strong and diverse ecosystem to fight malware."
According to Microsoft, its investments over the past year have resulted in stronger protection with fewer false positives and fewer misses. In other words, Microsoft is saying that contrary to Stewart's comments, Security Essentials is awesome.
Confusing, isn't it? That's part of the reason why Maximum PC conducts an AV roundup each year. If you missed our last one, be sure to give it a read.