Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Microsoft Security Essentials provides basic anti-virus and anti-spyware scanning for free. It appears to be a reasonable anti-malware tool for many.
I downloaded virus protection for my new Windows 7 based computer from Microsoft web site for free. It seems that I no longer need to purchase virus protection is that correct? I was confused to find that HP had installed a free year of Norton on my new machine. What gives here?
Well, to begin with, you never really needed to purchase anything - there have been lots of good, free security tools out there for a long time.
Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of opinion.
And in recent months my opinion has changed somewhat.
What's changed is my opinion of Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). I now believe that it's "good enough" for many circumstances. I'll probably end up giving it a formal recommendation in the not too distant future.
What's also changed is that I've added it as an exception to one of my rules of thumb.
I've never been a big fan of all-in-one suites like Norton, typically preferring to choose separate anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on their individual merits.
Microsoft Security Essentials does both anti-spyware and anti-virus. Throw in the built-in Windows Firewall and it's a good, basic and free security setup.
It does have some drawbacks. For example, it enables Automatic Updates for all of Windows whether you want that or not. Personally I believe you do want to automatically update. It's particularly good for people who just want an answer without having to think about the details. Others who might wish to pick and choose Windows updates may feel differently and will want to choose a different solution.
MSE appears to be solid, but certainly hasn't tested out as the best in most of the on-line comparisons. If you feel that you want better protection, then yes - you can go out and find additional or replacement tools that might catch a bit more. The tests concern me a little, though, as no matter how good the tools are, no solution or combination of solutions will catch everything. It can't be done.
I don't want people to get a false sense of security (literally), or become complacent because they picked a tool that rated slightly higher in some test. That's all well and good, but it's not an indication of absolute bullet-proof security.
Ultimately, there's still no substitute for common sense.
So I expect I'll soon be recommending MSE as a good basic anti-malware solution. If it doesn't feel "good enough" to you, based on others' evaluations or your own experience, or some other tool operates in more of a way that you're comfortable with, then by all means evaluate alternatives.
And of course you can choose from free or paid tools to do so.