Microsoft Security Essentials – Accessible for the Visually Impaired

On occasion, someone from one of my non-tech interests overlaps with my “geek” interests. A blind friend posted a question to the “Twitter-verse” asking about anti-virus software that was accessible for the JAWS screen reading software.

My first response was to suggest Microsoft’s Security Essentials, but I didn’t know if it was accessible in the way that was needed. Turns out, not only does MSE rank well against a variety of other anti-virus software offerings, it is accessible with at least JAWS 9. I suspect it will equally accessible with the most recent JAWS version as well.

The only issue was that download the software itself wasn’t particularly accessible. This detailed post on the “Blind Access Journal” blog lists out how to download the software using JAWS. Once that hurdle is overcome, Security Essentials is a great fit for users who have special software needs and don’t want AV software to get in the way of other applications that make their computers such valuable tools.

Microsoft Security Essentials

This evening I installed Microsoft Security Essentials on my Samsung NC10. I replaced the free Avast! scanner that I’ve been using since installing Windows 7. Avast! certainly appeared to be meeting my needs, however I was hoping to lighten the load on the basic hardware this netbook is sporting.

The MSE installation was quick and easy, the longest part was waiting for the initial full scan that took about 8 minutes. The application seems very lightweight and has very few “moving parts” to configure. Outside of adjusting the schedule for the full scan and the desired actions for the various threat levels, it’s good to go. It’s advisable to check out what the “recommended levels” for the threat level responses are online (there’s a link) or in the help file, just so you have an understand of how it’s going to react. Unless you have some deep desire to review everything before it’s removed, I think the default settings will meet the needs of most.

The last setting that probably warrants a little attention is the level of information you can opt to send to Microsoft SpyNet. Now, while the name might be a little suspect, SpyNet the “community” all users running MSE must be part of to use the software. The basic setting will send information about detected malware, the action that was taken and the success or failure of that action. The advanced setting will also include the file names and location of the malware, how the malware operates and how it affected your computer. All this data is aggregated to improve signature updates and detection methods. It’s not possible to control which incidents you submit, so pick the level you are most comfortable with and accept that providing this data is part of what makes it “free” and will keep it up-to-date and useful.

Finally be sure to check out the Microsoft Security Essentials Community, part of the Microsoft Answers forums for Windows, Security Essentials and Windows Live. There are some lively threads about the feature set of MSE, as well as tips for troubleshooting and submitting possible bugs.

All in all, it seems like this product will fit right in with the other free scanners available and will be suitable for the average home user or very small business that doesn’t have a central way of managing virus and malware prevention.