Microsoft recommending you don’t just use their free antivirus product

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If you’d asked us what the best antivirus product on the market was we’d tell you hands down that you should use Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s the most un-intrusive, lightweight and simple product available that doesn’t prompt you to upgrade to a paid version since it’s built by Microsoft.

Alas, it looks like Microsoft has given up on the product. In a recent interview given by Holly Stewart, the senior program manager of the Microsoft Malware Protection Center the company has downplayed the importance of the product and recommends you use something else too.

Microsoft Security Essentials became one of the most popular antivirus products over the years and is now included in Windows 8 as a product called “Windows Defender” rather than not including any protection at all.

In an interview with PC Pro, Stewart downplayed the tools usefulness and said that the company only ever intended it as a “baseline” product that’s only intended to be “at the bottom” of antivirus tests. If you look at the ranking of protection on AV-TEST this is shown to be true with the product towards the bottom of the list in terms of protection but always near the top for usability.

“It’s not as efficient to have one kind of weapon”

You’re probably wondering why the company even bothered getting into the game in the first case, to which Stewart said “”We had an epiphany a few years ago, back in 2011, where we realised we had a greater calling and that was to protect all Microsoft customers” and then went on to point out that “It’s not as efficient to have one kind of weapon,” she said. “Like anything you must have that diversity. It’s a weakness to just have one.”

The company originally poured a lot of money and time into Security Essential’s performance but seemingly decided to switch to finding data about threats and sharing that with other antivirus vendors instead of improving their own product, according to Stewart. “We used to have part of our team directed towards predicting test results and figuring out what might be in someone’s test.”

“The natural progression is that we will always be on the bottom of these tests.”

Instead, the company “put half of those people on focusing on what we call prevalent threats. We developed this new telemetry to look for emerging threats – sort of an early notification system that new threats were emerging.” Stewart says that they then pass on that information to their partners directly. Unfortunately for those that love Security Essentials, this means that “the natural progression is that we will always be on the bottom of these tests.”

Oddly enough, despite downplaying the antivirus the marketing site for Security Essentials still touts the product as “comprehensive protection” for your PC and brags that is “award winning” which doesn’t really give off the impression that the company isn’t putting their full weight behind it anymore. Stewart does point out that it shouldn’t be seen as the company not protecting those customers anymore but instead says it means they’re just focusing on the most serious of all threats.

We can’t find anywhere else that they recommend installing another product, either, so it’s a little bewildering that the company is now saying that you should install something else. For ourselves, Microsoft Security Essentials is all we use so until the company starts advertising otherwise, we’ll be sticking with it.