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Microsoft has released a new version of its freebie security scanner tool last week, following the conclusion of a five-month beta testing program.

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) 2.0 features a revamped heuristic (automatic malware detection) engine as well as the addition of network intrusion detection technology. Less significantly, the slightly redesigned dashboard allows users to manage Microsoft's firewall from inside MSE. MSE 2.0 also features tighter integration with Internet Explorer as a mechanism for protecting against web-based threats.

The software comes at no extra charge to users of Windows XP SP2 and higher, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. Small businesses with up to 10 PCs can also use the software as a defence against spyware, viruses, worms and Trojans.

Users are required to pass a Windows validation test before the software will install. Broadly speaking the software competes against freebie scanners from the likes of Avira, Avast and AVG in the consumer market. These packages come with a charge for small business users whereas MSE is available free of charge to small shops, a factor that irked establish security software suppliers, including Trend Micro and Panda Security.

A small footprint and nippy response meant that Microsoft Security Essentials earned largely favourable reviews on debut, behaviour that Redmond manage to retain with MSE 2.0 betas. The software is roughly comparable with other basic security scanner packages but has managed to minimise the number of false positives, especially (as might be expected) on Microsoft software components and libraries. ®

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