I confess to a general loathing of antivirus software. For many years I ran Norton Antivirus on all my computers, gritting my teeth and forking over the subscription payment every year while wondering if it was worth it. And, over those years, Norton forced me to upgrade periodically or I wouldn’t continue to receive antivirus signature updates. Every upgrade was more bloated than the last and further degraded the performance of my computer. Norton and McAfee were in such a race for market share that their products were increasingly stuffed with “features” that I neither needed nor wanted. And never during this time did Norton ever report finding or protecting me from a virus. Was all this virus business just a bunch of hooey?

A couple of years ago I reached the breaking point with Norton, and I replaced it with the free version of AVG. AVG’s performance and footprint were definitely an improvement over Norton’s, and I wouldn’t have to pay for antivirus signatures. Of course, AVG has more “full-featured” versions that you pay for, but I was happy with just some basic virus protection. And, frankly, most of the advanced “features” in security products like AVG, Norton, or McAfee are based more on Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) than actual need or usefulness.

Even AVG had its drawbacks, though. It definitely made my PC start slower, and it nagged me every so often to either upgrade my free version or buy one of the “not free” versions. I resigned myself to these shortcomings in the name of getting something for free. That is, until I read about Microsoft Security Essentials.

One should always view a new product with a certain degree of skepticism, but Ars Technica and others gave MSE some pretty good reviews (and, unsurprisingly, other antivirus vendors poopooed it). So I gave it a whirl.

MSE is easy to install and configure, and it does what I want and only what I want. Its footprint is minimal, I don’t notice it hampering performance (even on my old PC), and its updates occur completely in the background. Once in a while it reminds me to run a scan (I don’t run scheduled scans), but other than that, its little icon sits in the system tray and it does its thing.

MSE continues to receive accolades, and I continue to be happy with it three months after I installed it. I’ve installed it on all the PCs in my household, too. I cannot understand why anyone would buy a product like Norton or McAfee these days when there are so many free alternatives available. Don’t believe the hype from these companies that “you get what you pay for.” With the free products (at least MSE, anyway) you get what you need, and you don’t get all the other worthless “features” that Norton and McAfee would like you to think you can’t live without.

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