Microsoft Security Essentials ranks dead last in anti-virus testing

Good afternoon —

Since Microsoft Security Essentials ranks last in all anti-virus testing since 2011; should I keep using Microsoft Security Essentials because it's Microsoft's product that's for their operating system or is it Microsoft recommendation that I get something more comprehensive and respectable?

As you can see by the latest charts; Microsoft Security Essentials performed so badly it’s not ranked on the chart.

See the chart comparison.

Please advise.



Discussion Info

Last updated September 21, 2018 Views 2,631 Applies to:

I've used MSE since 2010 with no malware issues but if your main concern about your antimalware program is how it is listed according to charts developed from tests in a laboratory setting then you probably should uninstall MSE and use another program – free or paid it’s up to you.  Pick whatever is rated number 1 on the chart and hopefully it will perform as rated.

Some reading material for you:

See the following compliments of quietman7 MS MVP: Choosing an Anti-Virus Program 

Good luck with your decision...

MVP Consumer Security 2014-2016
Windows Insider MVP 2016-2018

Microsoft isn't rated in the tests because starting in 2012 most testing groups started treating it as their baseline, since Microsoft provides all of the major antivirus vendors with much of their sample and other telemetry data in an attempt to help them improve their products, so of course the other products should perform well with this free "leg up".

However, Microsoft also commissioned AV-Comparatives to perform a special analysis of a recent set of results taking prevalence of samples into account, based upon the telemetry data that Microsoft collects via their telemetry from all of their security products.

Microsoft Goes From Cellar to Stellar in New Antivirus Test

Note that though even Neil Rubenking, the author of the story and a regular critic of both MSE and Microsoft in general, thinks this sounds like a good idea, nothing has changed in the way results are analyzed and displayed for current tests.

This is because nothing about this would help the vendors to sell their AV products any more easily and in fact might actually require them to work harder to make their products more truly effective at dealing with real-world threats, so why would they want the tests to change?

Microsoft originally created its first commercial product Windows Live OneCare and later Microsoft Security Essentials in order to "set the bar" for what a good basic security product should consist of and do in order to protect a consumer PC.  It wasn't ever trying to "beat" any of the existing products or replace them completely, only provide a truly simple and effective protection for those who might not otherwise even purchase one, whether due to cost or simply apathy.

Microsoft still recommends that you find the security product that works most effectively for you, which is exactly what AV-Comparatives recommends in their own disclaimer section in every single report they have released.

However, for me and several friends and relatives I support that has been OneCare, MSE and now Windows 8 Defender for several years and all of us have had less security (e.g. malware) and general operating issues using these than any of the commercial products we'd used in the past.


Le Boule,
Thanks for your comments and information.

I think it's very important that consumers be informed about software packages that they're going to use to secure their computer and prevent them from being maliciously attacked. Seeing as how most people do not have the architecture in place to test thousands of known viruses with such a wide range of antivirus software packages.

I think it's best to use the resources [AV comparatives charts] to show which software package is performing the best. I don't see how it's in anyone's best interest to use the lowest rated antivirus software is available.

Essentially this means that Microsoft Security Essentials is a passive antivirus software package, but more of a baseline, 'these are established viruses that we know about', type antivirus software. This also indicates that Microsoft Security Essentials is not going to be an aggressive antivirus software package available for users. And the likelihood of Microsoft Security Essentials finding a 'new virus', not previously found in the wild, is highly unlikely. Considering the track record of Microsoft Security Essentials over the past couple of years, neglecting the performance of Microsoft Security Essentials, I do find it interesting that Microsoft [recently] has found an interest in improving the status of Microsoft Security Essentials [referencing the article].

Overall, I think it's important for everyone to choose antivirus software that fits their needs, but I think for a large majority of the population, they may not fully understand what level of antivirus software they should have. And if they don't have a full comprehension level of antivirus software they should use; they should have a chart to show that the antivirus software is in X position on that chart for performance. Even a person with complete ignorance to what antivirus is and what antivirus software does, I don't think anyone would choose an antivirus software package that ranked dead last.

I greatly appreciate the feedback.



Unfortunately you are correct that many consumer PC owners are unable to understand the complexity of antimalware today.  Some also misinterpret the article by Neil Rubenking which is clearly discussing changes to the testing and analysis process for all antimalware products and nothing about changes to any specific product.

It's this inability for much of the non-technical user population to analyze that leads to the simplistic and often questionable "scoring" provided by the various testing groups.  Since these charts and awards are completely made up from often convoluted analysis of the raw results they can easily be distorted to indicate whatever the testing organization might want.

Unfortunately, most of the consumer population is unable to recognize even these simple manipulations of data and so they take the results as complete gospel.  Even though I personally respect AV-Comparatives for avoiding this type of gross manipulation, as the Microsoft sponsored re-analysis AV-Comparatives performed themselves clearly shows, the presentation of malware data as if they were all created and distributed equally creates its own issues as it relates to the "scoring" of the products.

So though it's better that less technically knowledgeable consumers at least use one of the reputable security products found in these more reputable testing groups lists, assuming that the order in which they are listed is completely accurate is a mistake.


The reality is no one Anti Virus or security suite is 100% all the time effective. Much of what is perceived as failure with MSE and Defender in Windows 8 is a test against old malware, new malware and detecting malware in the wild without a specific definition to detect it.  I could certainly find as many users upset with Norton, or McAfee or any other fill in the blank security application as we would with MSE.  Some security like MSE or Defender are low profile less resource intensive. Some users like myself like the less intrusive and annoying function of MSE. But the trade off is a lack of some features that may or may not be important. Such as password protection, search site monitoring, computer tune up features, and other features. I found that I am knowledgeable enough to avoid a lot of the potential traps of allowing malware on my PC's. So I am fine with MSE even though it may not be one of the best solutions. I rarely get any kind of virus or malware since I have been using MSE. Lately, because of the news about MSE lacking in detection. I have started using Malwarebytes as a secondary scanner just to satisfy my security. At worst MSE has allowed a couple PUP (potentially unwanted programs) to pass by of which Malwarebytes caught and removed.

Everyone must determine how at risk they are and then decide how much security they need. I know people who need a very robust security suite to protect them basically from themselves. Because they either are not very good at recognizing potential issues. Or they are simply too paranoid to feel safe otherwise. I personally find these robust suites annoying, troublesome, and resource robbing. I don't find they provide me any more peace of mind then simply being careful and wise and using a less invasive Anti malware suite. Unless MSE gives me a reason to doubt its effectiveness on my own devices. I will continue to use it.  

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Thank you.

~Robear Dyer (PA Bear)
Microsoft MVP (Windows Client) since October 2002