Microsoft Security Essentials 2.1 is something of a mixed bag. I like its interface, and it is reasonably good at cleaning up infections, but it falters at stopping new malware, and it plods through its chores.

The user interface is particularly straightforward - perfect if you don't want to waste time messing around with your antivirus software.

Microsoft Security Essentials 2.1 cleans up malware infections quite effectively: In our tests, it identified all active infections on our machine and disabled over 93% of the malware. It removed all traces of malware 80% of the time - better than any of its free antivirus competitors. In addition, it was one of only two free antivirus applications we have tested recently that didn't mistake a single safe file for malware.

While Microsoft Security Essentials 2.1 excels at removing malware from a PC, it doesn't do as well at keeping dangerous code off a computer in the first place. It fully blocked 71.4% of new malware in our real-world tests, slightly worse than average. In our zoo test, it detected 97.0% of known malware samples. With that result, it lags the competition - some packages detected over 99.9% of samples.

Microsoft Security Essentials 2.1 didn't unduly slow overall system performance, but it performed a good deal worse than average in file-copy tests and app-installation tests. In scan speeds it also fell behind the pack: Its on-demand scanner completed our virtual obstacle course in a worse-than-average 3 minutes, 56 seconds. The on-access scanner was poky too, clocking in at 6 minutes, 43 seconds.

Although Microsoft Security Essentials 2.1 has some good qualities, you would be better served by looking at some other options.

OUR VERDICT

Although Microsoft Security Essentials 2.1 has some good qualities, you would be better served by looking at some other options.