Microsoft Security Essentials vs. top third-party antivirus tools

Andrew Wafer
by Andrew Wafer
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  • Microsoft provides a powerful built-in tool designed to shield your PC against all kinds of malicious programs.
  • If you're looking for an extra security layer, feel free to explore our review of the top third-party antiviruses vs. Microsoft Security Essentials.
  • Here's more information on Microsoft Security Essentials.
  • Explore our Antivirus Solutions Hub as well to make the right choice for your specific needs.
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Microsoft Security Essentials is the built-in security solution developed and offered by Microsoft for business and personal purposes on older OS versions.

This is the basic antivirus software that can be used on Windows 7 for protecting your data and the actual firmware against malware attacks.

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However, the Microsoft Security Essentials features lack some important capabilities when discussing web browsing protection or malware database, which means that depending on your own needs, you can find better alternatives.

Well, in that respect, during the following review we will compare Microsoft Security Essentials with some of the best third-party antiviruses programs.

The top antiviruses that are currently available will be always under development stage, meaning that specialized developers are working on finding the best security solutions for your business or for your personal Windows 10 system.

That doesn’t mean Microsoft isn’t trying to do its best for improving its security solution, but sometimes it will be better to choose an external (usually more specialized) service.

So, do you really need Microsoft Security Essentials?

If you’re running Windows 10, the answer is no. Windows Defender already provides real-time protection and you don’t need to install Microsoft Security Essentials as well.

Keep in mind that running more than one antivirus solution at a time may trigger various technical glitches. So, do avoid that.

On the other hand, if you’re still running Windows 7, you can install Microsoft Security Essentials to keep cyber-threats at bay.

As Microsoft explains:

Windows Defender for Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1, and Windows 10 provides built-in protection against malware. You can’t use Microsoft Security Essentials, but you don’t need to—Windows Defender is already included and ready to go.
If you’re looking to protect a PC with an older version of running Windows 7, you can use Microsoft Security Essentials to provide comprehensive malware protection that will help guard against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. It provides free* real-time protection for your home or small business PCs.

Do you want to use Windows 7 after Microsoft officially ends support for the OS? Here’s how to do that.

Thus, below we will try to outline the most important differences between these top antiviruses and antimalware programs and the default Microsoft Security Essentials platform.

Hopefully, based on this review, you will be able to choose wisely the antivirus that best suits your needs.

Microsoft Security Essentials vs. top third-party antiviruses

Microsoft Security Essential vs. Bullguard


Bullguard is more than an anti-malware tool, it’s the most efficient and comprehensive security suite that covers all your needs in terms of protection.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • BullGuard Parental Controls (to monitor your children while performing online activities)
  • Identity protection system (to protect your data from data thieves and cybercriminals)
  • Next-gen anti-malware (triple layer protection to detect, quarantine and neutralize any malware)
  • Sophisticated behavioral detection
  • Vulnerability Scanner (to check the authenticity of apps and drivers by verifying their digital signatures)
  • Intuitive and easy to use interface
  • Integrated firewall (to block unauthorized attempts to connect a device to the Internet)

Of course, all these highlights can be yours only if you purchase the premium version. So, here we can talk about the main advantage of Microsoft Security Essential: it’s totally free.

Microsoft Security Essential might also run faster than Bullguard. Since it’s OS-integrated, the overall scan will require fewer resources so it might be better for slower Windows systems.

However, Bullguard is using a cloud antivirus database which means that you won’t actually observe important differences if your system runs on a decent to high-end hardware configuration.



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=> Check out Bullguard’s full review

Microsoft Security Essential vs. Avast


Avast has Email Shield, Behaviour Shield, Auto sandbox, and far more configuration options and lower resource usage.

And that’s only for the free version, which is way more than you can get with the default Microsoft Security Essential program.

The paid version comes with further improvements, but for a minimal, yet proper protection, you can successfully use the free package.

From this perspective Avast is comparable with Avira and maybe with AVG, another antivirus that offers sufficient features without purchasing the full program.

In that respect, AVG and Avast are now sharing the same platform as they are part of the same company.

Both have a light system-performance impact, which ensures a great and updated antivirus database (comparable with Bitdefender and Kaspersky), but AVG comes with fewer useful extra features than Avast.



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Microsoft Security Essential vs. Bitdefender


Bitdefender is one of the most appreciated antivirus solutions. The software is developed in Romania and was first released in 2011.

Since then, the devs managed to extend the actual platform and bring new security features that can protect your devices regardless of what you usually do on a daily basis.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • Safe browsing – web filtering technology for all your browsers (Windows Defender is integrated only within IE or Microsoft Edge).
  • Wi-Fi security advisor – protects your Wi-Fi connection.
  • Online banking protection – make transactions without worrying about malware attacks.
  • Password manager – a cyber-vault is there to store and protect all your passwords.
  • Anti-phishing and Anti-fraud – secure your online shopping experience.
  • Webcam protection – don’t worry about any unauthorized webcam access.
  • Parental advisor – learn how to set the right safety solutions for your little ones.


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=> Check out Bitdefender’s full review

Microsoft Security Essential vs. Kaspersky


Kaspersky is another antivirus program that ranks high in AV tests. It is a light antimalware platform that can offer full security protection for your Windows 10 system.

Similar to Bitdefender, for the full protection you have to purchase the product; once more, you can choose from three different paid plans depending on what you plan to do on your computer.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • Safe money – secures your online banking process.
  • Security for kids – blocks online content that can be inappropriate for your kids.
  • Secure passwords manager – keeps all your passwords secured so that you can easily and quickly access your favorite webpages.
  • File backup & encryption – you can safely backup your personal files and encrypt your data.

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Kaspersky is cheaper than Bitdefender but lacks some features and ranks a little bit lower in the latest AV tests.

However, it is lighter and still has a better antivirus database compared with what you get with the default Windows Security Essential software.

=> Get Kaspersky Internet Security

Microsoft Security Essential vs. Norton

Norton Antivirus

Among basic security features, Norton provides an extra 25 GB of secure cloud storage where you can add your personal files and data in order to increase the security settings for these selected files.

The antivirus also grants backups for your images, videos and other similar packages, secures your banking initiatives and protects the browser experience for your kids.

You can choose from 4 different pricing plans and you can also download a free version, but in that case you will get only minimal protection.

However, the Norton AV tests are once more ranking higher than Microsoft Security Essential which means that with this third-party security solution you can better secure your Windows 10 system.

=>  Get the Norton Suite

Microsoft Security Essential vs. Avira


Avira is maybe the best free alternative for Microsoft Security Essential. Unlike the other reviewed third-party antivirus programs, Avira is offering decent features even if you choose to download its free version.

The antivirus has a good score if we observe the latest AV tests so you can rely on the scan results that you will receive.

It will grant your browsing protection and your privacy all the time and you can customize its main scan engine.

For example, you can set the resources that will be used during certain scans and you can play with different add-ons. Its interface can be easily customized but it has a relatively intimidating user-interface.

However, thanks to the tweaks that are available the antivirus can smoothly run even on low-end configurations.

The paid version will feature additional protection for your e-mails and for your banking/shopping transactions.

=> Get Avira 

Did you know Avira Phantom offers free VPN service on Windows 10 devices?

Microsoft Security Essential vs. McAfee


McAfee is still working closely with Microsoft even if now Windows Defender is the built-in and default antivirus solution.

If installed correctly, McAfee will automatically disable Windows Defender from your computer; otherwise, you will have to do this process manually as the programs cannot properly work together.

Overall, McAfee offers better protection than Microsoft Security Essential with better results when AV testing is initiated.

McAfee features more options even though it isn’t offering too many customizations.

=> Get McAfee

Microsoft Security Essential vs. Malwarebytes


Malwarebytes will find infected files even when other antivirus programs will fail.

This is an anti-malware, anti-ransomware, and anti-exploit software that can successfully remove almost any type of virus and malware which tries or already managed to infect your files.

So, you should use Malwarebytes when everything else isn’t efficient enough.

From this perspective, it is way better than Microsoft Security Essential, though in this case, we are not discussing a classic antivirus program but about a specialized antimalware which isn’t coming with so many security features and add-ons.

=> Get Malwarebytes

The overall idea is not that Microsoft Security Essential is the worst antivirus solution to use.

The conclusions are more complex and there are better solutions than Microsoft Security Essential even when discussing free platforms, such as the already described Avira, Avast, or AVG platforms.

If you choose to test these antiviruses you will see that even the resources used are in most situations fewer, a strange aspect considering that Security Essential is part of the Windows system.

You can share your own observations with us through the comments field from below. Also, stay close as we will keep you updated with further security solutions available for your Windows 10 computer.

FAQ: Learn more about Microsoft Security Essentials

  • Do I need an antivirus with Microsoft Security Essentials?

If you’re running Windows 10, no. Windows Defender already provides real-time protection and you don’t need to install Microsoft Security Essentials as well.

  • Is microsoft security essentials good?

Microsoft Security Essentials is a powerful built-in tool that can protect your PC from malware and viruses. However, third-party antiviruses offer more complex security features.

  • Is microsoft security essentials good enough for windows 7?

Yes, Microsoft Security Essentials should be enough to keep cyber-threats at bay. If you’re looking for other alternatives, here’s a complete list of the best antivirus for Windows 7.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2019 and has been since revamped and updated in June 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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