This is Part Two of the series on Microsoft Security Essentials. We have seen How to download, Install and Update Microsoft Security Essentials in Part one. This part explains the options available in the program and how to choose the settings for an optimal scan and Part three deals with Microsoft Security Essentials – Real-time protection, Alert levels and Actions.
The Settings tab is greyed out till an update of the virus and spyware definitions is completed. Please update before proceeding further.
The Home Screen
The Home tab provides the status of Real-time protection and Virus and Spyware definitions. One can see at a glance whether the Real-time protection is on or off and if the Virus and Spyware definitions are up to date. The Home screen also has the option to change your scan schedule.
You can choose to perform various manual scans of your PC from the Home screen.
- Quick Scan: The MSE quick scan scans the areas of your system where the malware is most likely to reside. Select the Quick scan option, and then click Scan now.
- Full Scan: To scan your whole system. This scan takes the longest time to complete. Select the Full scan option, and then click Scan now.
- Custom Scan: This type of scan lets you select specific locations on your PC for scanning. Select the Custom scan option and then click Scan now.
- File or Folder Scan: You can right-click the file or folder on your computer, and then click Scan with Microsoft Security Essentials. This type of scan is useful where you want to check a specific folder or file for malware.
The amount of time these scans take depends on the number of files and folders being scanned.
The Update tab
This screen shows more details about the date and time of virus and spyware definitions and their version.
Here you can press the big Update button anytime to check for definition updates.
MSE depends on Windows Update for updating its virus and spyware definitions database. If the Windows Update service is disabled for any reason, MSE will not be able to update itself normally. In such a situation, you can use a small app called “MSE Update Utility” which utilizes MSE’s own command line tool MpCmdRun.exe to update the definitions.
Microsoft also lets you download and install the definitions file manually:
- 32-bit (x86-based) version of Windows – Direct Download
- 64-bit version of Windows – Direct Download
- How to manually download the latest definition updates for Microsoft Security Essentials
The History tab
Here you can view the details of previous detections made by MSE and the action that you took on them. The details can be viewed by the actions taken:
- All detected items,
- Quarantined items
- Allowed items
You may also delete the history of detected items.
The Settings tab
The settings tab lets you customize the working of MSE.
Scheduled scan – Here you can change the time and type of the scheduled scan. By default, Microsoft Security Essentials runs a scheduled quick scan on your computer once a week at 2.00 AM on Sunday.
Scans can slow down the performance of your PC, so it is wise to schedule a scan when it is least likely to affect your work. A quick scan once a week should be sufficient for most people.
Please make sure that “Check for the latest virus & spyware definitions before running a scheduled scan” is checked. Click on Save changes button.
Default actions – These are actions MSE will use by default when a potential threat is detected. These actions are based on four alert levels – Low, Medium, High and Severe. Advanced users may gain more control over how MSE handles detected threats by choosing to Remove, Quarantine or Allow a detected threat based on the alert level.
It is generally recommended to leave the defaults as it is.
Apply recommended actions: Help protect your computer by applying the actions above after Microsoft Security Essentials detects potential threats. Checking the box next to the above applies the changes that you make to any of the default actions.
Real-time protection – The real-time protection feature actively monitors files and programs as they are being accessed for signs of viruses, spyware or other potentially unwanted software and if it finds one, suspends the execution of the program and alerts the user.
In this screen, make sure that all the available check-boxes are selected.
Excluded files & locations – Advanced users may exclude certain files and folder locations from being scanned by MSE and its real-time protection.
Excluded file types – Here one can exclude files based on their extension from being scanned by MSE and its real-time protection.
Excluded processes – Here one can choose certain processes to exclude from the MSE scan and real-time protection.
Scan archive files – Make sure that this option is check-marked. This increases the total scan time, but it allows MSE to scan inside zip, cab, rar files for potentially unwanted software.
Scan removable drives – This option may also be check-marked. MSE will scan removable drives such as USB flash drives when running a full scan.
Create a system restore point – Make sure this option is check-marked. This will create a system restore point before proceeding with cleanup, so if it removes something inadvertently, it can easily be rolled back.
Allow all users to view the full History results – This helps to protect user privacy.
Microsoft SpyNet – An online community of users of Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials that helps in improving detection of potential threats and also stop the spread of new malicious software. More on Microsoft Spynet. I would suggest that the default setting may be persisted with.
Finally, click Save changes to apply the changes made to MSE settings.
In the next and final part of this series, let us look into the significance of real-time protection, recommended actions and various alert levels of Microsoft Security Essentials.