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Using Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSSE) is an excellent antivirus and antimalware program. It is completely free, and available and is a very good choice for  home computer users and small businesses. The main commendable features of MSSE are that it is extremely easy to use and 'quiet' (that is, it does not display messages unless absolutely essential). It also offers a very good rate of detection of viruses and many other types of malicious software.
 
NB: No single antivirus product can protect you agains all malicious attacks, so you should always use more than one approach and one product to handle your security, but MSSE is a good starting point.

Installing the software

If you haven't already got Microsoft Security Essentials on your computer, you can download it from HERE and install it. Note that when you reach the download page, you need to choose the correct language (e.g. English)  and version of Windows. Click on the download button, and once downloaded, run the installer. After installation MSSE will update itself  automatically and scan your hard disc.

Using the software
Most of the time, you don't need to do anything. MSSE simply 'sits there', monitoring your computer and keeping it safe. You can check, however, that all is well. Look at the system tray (bottom right area of the screen) and you will see a little green house flying a flag and showing a tick mark.

MSSE uses a traffic light system to indicate it's state:
 Green: all's well

 Amber: attention required

 Red: there is a serious problem

You can always double-click on the icon (or click and choose 'Open') to display the program's main screen. Let's have a look at a sampling of green, amber and red screens.

Green screen

MSSE automatically downloads updates for itself and scans your hard disc periodically to ensure it hasn't missed any malware. However, you can also also run these tasks manually by opening the screen and choosing the relevant option.

In the screenshot above, you see such a 'green screen'. If we go ahead and click the [Scan now] button, the screen will change to show us the progress of the scan:

You can close the window at any point and it will continue the scan in the background. The icon will change to a blue, animated one to indicate what is happening.

Amber Alert

If the icon is amber in colour, then some action on your part is required. In the example below, the hard disc needs to be scanned for viruses, probably because the PC was switched off at the time scheduled for an automatic scan.

All you need to do is press the amber button ('scan now') and MSSE will do the rest. If the problem was that the software has not been updated in a while, you will be prompted to press the 'update now' button, and so forth. In any event, you will be a description of the issue at hand, and a single amber button to press.

Red Alert

The same is true with red alerts. Clicking on the red icon will bring up the window, with an explanation and a single red button. In the sample screen below, I disabled MSSE manually (where's a good software problem when you need one?!). The program simply asks us to turn it on again. Simple!

However, by their very nature, red alerts signify a serious problem, and clicking on the red button does not always resolve it. For example, if an update failed to download properly, trying  to download it again may not work any better. If a virus has somehow managed to disable MSSE, you may not be able to turn it on, and so on.

IMPORTANT: if you cannot resolve a 'red alert' problem by clicking the red button call a professional for help there and then! If you can't get help immediately, switch off the computer, or disconnect it physically from the internet (e.g. by unplugging it from the network, or switching off the router). Do not leave your computer without an working antivirus program for any length of time!

Viruses

When MSSE encounters a virus on your computer, it will alert you to it with a pop-up message at the bottom right corner of the screen, and when you click on the message, it will advise you on the right course of action. Always read the message carefully and follow it if it offers a solution, or call a professional if you are unsure that you got rid of the virus.

Conclusion

All in all, you can see that Microsoft Security Essentials is a very straightforward piece of software to use. As with any software, there can be bugs, pitfalls and unexpected problems, but the designers have tried very hard to ensure that as long as you read the messages  on the screen and take action, you will either be able to resolve the problem there and then, or at least you will know that there is a serious problem.

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