Replacing Avira Free with Microsoft Security Essentials on Vista

By Lon Hosford

My log of installing Microsoft Security Essentials to replace Avira Free.


I had Avira installed on a Toshiba Satellite A305 S6837 laptop vintage 2008 running Windows Visa Ultimate. I was frustrated with the constant Avira popups especially on booting. I decided to install Microsoft Security Essentials after it being discussed by Bruce Arnold during the November 2013 club meeting Q&A.


First I downloaded Microsoft Security Essentials. Be sure you do not confuse that with Windows Essentials which includes various programs such as Photo Galleries and Movie Editing.

The download was the usual EXE file and I put it on the Desktop.

Removing Avira

Next I went to the Windows Control Panel to remove Avira. I was using Control Panel in Classic View. You use the Program and Features icon.

At the end of the uninstall, Avira opened my web browser asking me for my reason for removing it. So where would I be very vulnerable at the time I have no anti-virus? Well yes when opening a web browser which may be set to reopen tabs from last session. Avira cannot be considered a serious anti-virus company if they have not thought about how they could expose a user’s computer when they uninstall their product for their own needs to collect data. I quickly killed the browser.

Avira also informs you with a desktop window to restart the computer to remove all of its files. This I did.

Running Microsoft Security Essentials Installer Program

After the reboot, I launched the Microsoft Security Essentials installer program. It proceeded nicely. It did warn me about uninstalling other anti-virus programs. The information screen did not list any and you can see they were going to leave it up to you to know if any installed.

The Microsoft Security Essentials installer then had me reboot which I expected.

Reboot to Complete Microsoft Security Essentials Installation?

On the second boot, I got a information bubble on the task bar that I had more than one anti virus program running. I think it was over the Windows Defender icon, but I did not catch if that was true. Meantime I saw the Microsoft Security Essentials icon on the task bar and it has a circular activity indicator running. That was showing that it was doing something. I double clicked that icon and it opened the Microsoft Security Essentials program where you could see the progress of a Quick Scan. Eventually the Quick Scan did not reveal any issues or at least there was nothing shown.

Windows Defender Disabled

Meantime I wanted to run down the issue of more than one anti virus program running but could not find a place in the Windows Security Center showing that. Then I noticed a menu choice for Windows Defender. I clicked it and it showed that Windows Defender is turned off. With further research it turns out Windows Security Essentials turns off Windows Defender. I found a Q&A item at the Microsoft Community under Virus and Malware: Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials on Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP that stated

Q: Is Microsoft Security Essentials (XP/Vista/7)designed to replace Windows Defender?
A: No but if you are running Microsoft Security Essentials, you do not need to run Windows Defender. Microsoft Security Essentials is designed to disable Windows Defender in order to manage the PC’s real-time protection, including anti-virus, rootkits, Trojans and spyware.

Windows Update in The Middle of it All – No Surprise There?

As you might expect a Windows update was lurking. So after Microsoft Security Essentials completed the quick scan I did a reboot. There were 10 items to update.

No Warning of Multiple Anti-Virus Programs

After the reboot for the Windows update, the task bar did not have the info bubble warning of multiple anti virus programs running and the Windows Defender icon was now removed. A nice green check mark appeared in the Microsoft Security Essentials task bar icon.

Bonus: A Lighter Taskbar

One item I hate is a busy task bar of “background” programs. Losing one, “Windows Defender”, was truly a bonus.

Double Bonus: Faster Startup

With Avira gone, the startup has improved not only over speed, but also minus the Avira popups and bubble messages.

The Full Scan

Lastly I did a full scan. That took about 7 hours and covered 4.16 million files. The results was a clean bill of health. Says a lot for Avira Free if you take away the annoying parts of a slower boot speed and popups.

Postmortem : Onto the Dell XPS M1730 Vista Ultimate

I liked the Microsoft Security Essentials enough to boot, literally, Norton off my beautiful 2008 Dell XPS M1730 running Vista Ultimate. Again I received the benefit of a faster boot. Both the Toshiba and Dell are old machines in technology time, but now they function a trifle faster and with security. This may be one thing that Microsoft did that was worth the $$ which is Free!

Free because for customers to love your operating system, you need to protect them first and it should be an integral part of the OS if you plan to keep the OS proprietary.

One thought on “Replacing Avira Free with Microsoft Security Essentials on Vista”

  1. It’s a great anti-virus program. I’ve used it for years on many dozens of computers. It’s easiest to simply call it the “Microsoft Anti-Virus” program because MS keeps changing the name. In Windows 8 it’s called Windows Defender again. BTW, it’s included automatically in Windows 8 so you don’t have to worry about it.

Comments are closed.