Today, Microsoft released a new, free (free as in Free Beer) antivirus program called Microsoft Security Essentials. This new program is available for Windows XP 32-bit, Windows Vista and Windows 7 32-bit, and Windows Vista and Windows 7 64-bit operating systems.
I decided to give this new antivirus program a try on my installation of Windows 7 Release Candidate. The download was straight forward and the installation was almost straight forward. My first attempt at installation failed due to my Windows 7 OS not being activated. After downloading updates from Windows Update and rebooting, I was back in business. Here's some screen shots of the installation.
After the update was complete MSE launched into a system scan.
I didn't stick around to see how long the scan took. Either way, your mileage will vary based on the size of your system.
Overall, the interface looked clean and straight forward, unlike some of the other free alternatives. (Yes, I'm talking about you, avast!)
MSE has scored well in independent benchmarking for virus detection, so it appears that it may be a good choice for users who don't want to fuss with settings and scan schedules.
It's too bad Microsoft chose to only offer their antivirus to validated versions of Windows, but I understand their reasoning. If they did remove this restriction it could help make the internet safer for everyone considering the number of botnet zombies in the world. There are common hacks to make a pirated Windows installation appear to be properly validated, so the validation check may prove to be moot anyway.
I applaud Microsoft for making this software available to their users for free. It's a good step toward making the Windows OS more secure.