Microsoft Security Essentials: Installation and Configuration Guide
Microsoft Security Essentials is the newest security offering from Microsoft superceding Windows Defender. You can install Microsoft Security Essentials for free on any genuine installation of Windows XP (with Service Pack 2 or higher) Windows Vista and Windows 7.
In this article, I will take you on a guided tour on how to install and configure Microsoft Security Essentials, step-by-step.
How to Install Microsoft Security Essentials
First off, you’ll need to uninstall all security software on your computer system. Head over to your Control Panel, choose Uninstall a Program, review all applications for security software and uninstall each of them. After uninstalling other software, restart your computer system.
You are now ready to start installing Microsoft Security Essentials. You will need to visit the Security Essentials website located at Microsoft.com/Security_Essentials. You should see a page similar to the one below.
This screen allows you to read Help and How-To Guides, as well as watch an installation video, which may be helpful if you would like an extra resource before installing.
You’ll want to click the blue Download Now button.
In the past, a prompt would come up, asking you to choose what version of Microsoft Security Essentials you wanted to download, such as Windows XP, Vista, and 7, as well as choosing between 32 and 64-bit versions. Now it seems, they have streamlined the process and automatically detected the version you are currently using. You should see a graphic similar to the one below.
After this window comes up, you should see a download prompt window almost immediately, if it does not come up within 30 seconds, you can click on Start Download shown in blue, to start the download manually.
Once you see the file download screen, you will be prompted to Run, Save, or Cancel. For this installation, we’ll choose Save. However, if you don’t want to keep a copy of the installer, you can simply click Run.
Unless you chose Run in the last step, locate the installation file and double click to start the installation.
If you are on Windows Vista or Windows 7, you’ll see a User Account Control (UAC) window pop up. If you are using Windows 7 (as shown below,) click Yes. If you are using Windows Vista, click Continue.
In the next window you will see is the Installation Wizard’s welcome message. This page outlines the applications features, provides a link to the Privacy Statement, and notes that it will need to check for updates after installed.
You’ll want to remember to keep your internet connection live, as you’ll not only need to update the definitions database, but you will also need to validate your copy of Windows during the install.
The next window you will see is the Microsoft Security Essentials License Agreement. Read through this carefully as it outlines liabilities, responsibilities, and rights of both Microsoft and the end-user.
Once you have read through the license agreement, click on I accept to continue with the installation, or I decline if you do not want to continue.
Next, you will need to validate your installation of Windows XP, Vista, or 7. This is a required step, if you pass validation, you will be taken to the next step of the installation. If you do not pass the validation for some reason, you will be directed to a page with information on how to rectify this issue. Once you have passed validation, you can continue the installation.
Once you have passed the Validation Check (WGA, Windows Genuine Advantage,) you will see a blue check mark with the text This copy of Windows passed genuine validation and will be immediately redirected to the first step of the install process.
The first page you will see is a warning to remove all anti-virus and anti-spyware applications from your computer system. Good thing we did that at the beginning of the article, right? As you may remember from my recent review of Microsoft Security Essentials, the application does not play well with others and can make your system extremely unstable, so be sure you double check and clean out all security suites from your machine before continuing.
You can disable Windows Defender, but it seems Microsoft Security Essentials will do this for you automatically if you let it, so it is not necessarily a big step. Once you are ready, go ahead and click Install.
Once you’ve started the installation, you’ll see a progress bar like the one below. This may take a while so a restroom or coffee break may be in order.
Once the installation is complete, the Microsoft Security Essentials icon will appear on your desktop and you will be presented with a final installation window with the option to scan your computer for potential threats after getting the latest update. Now, you could uncheck this box, however, even if the installation file is resent, updates to the definition files are released often, sometimes multiple times per day, and it’s a good idea to update as soon as possible. So my recommendation is to leave this box checked and click Finish.
Next, you should see the main page of Microsoft Security Essentials, which is now running on your system.
You’ll note the red bar set towards the top of the window which states that your computer is at risk, this is normal and is only there because the definitions file is not yet up to date. Once it has finished downloading, your computer will be fully protected.
Configuring Microsoft Security Essentials
So now that your computer is protected, let’s go into the configuration a bit so we can customize Microsoft Security Essentials to suite your specific needs.
Go ahead and click on the Settings tab towards the top right hand side of the window. You will see eight options along the left hand side, each allowing you to modify different settings within the application.
Scheduled scan allows you to set a day and time that you want Microsoft Security Essentials to scan your computer automatically. You can also choose what type of scan, whether or not to check for and download new virus and spyware definitions, and if you want to start the scan when the computer is in use or not.
Default actions allows you to set what you want Microsoft Security Essentials to do when it encounters a certain type of threat. From Low to Severe, you can choose between removing the thread, quarantining the threat, or leaving it up to what Microsoft has recommended.
Real-time protection allows you to choose if you want Microsoft Security Essentials to check for threats whenever you run or install an application, monitor file and program activity, and scan downloaded files and attachments.
Excluded files, locations, file types, and processes are essentially all very similar. You choose where you want Microsoft Security Essentials to stay out of. If you know a certain program or file always comes up as a false positive and are sure it is safe, you can add that file, location, file type, or process to the excluded sections so it will no longer come up in your scan results.
The advanced tab offers some beneficial options that I would recommend. First off, it can scan archive files such as ZIP and CAB files automatically, this is checked by default.
The next option is to scan removable drives. This can be a good or bad thing, it’s a good thing because it protects your computer from possible infections brought in from other machines, however, if other people use your computer, they may not want their drive to be scanned, and may have exception files they do not want repaired just like we set up in the last step. In most cases though, it is fairly safe to leave this option on.
Next option is to allow Microsoft Security Essentials to create a restore point. This is up to you, but can be helpful if there was a malicious virus removed that ended up leaving your system unstable and in need of a restore.
The final option allows you to choose whether or not all users can view the full history of results. This is completely by preference, generally, the more sensitive information is on your computer and the more public your computer is, the less you’ll want to keep this item checked.
Finally, you can choose to be either a Basic Microsoft SpyNet user, or an Advanced Microsoft SpyNet user. The isn’t too much of a difference besides a small amount of extra information being sent to Microsoft for their research purposes, however, you’ll note the end of the description stating that Microsoft will not use the information to identify you or contact you in any way. Because of this, either option would be a safe choice.
You have successfully prepared, set up, validated, installed, and configured Microsoft Security Essentials! Be sure to look into the Help menu on the top right hand side of the application if you need a bit of extra (even offline).