Microsoft Plans Free Security Essentials for Small Businesses

Small businesses and other organizations are getting a small, but welcome, favor from Microsoft in the area of system security — for free.

In early October, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) will begin allowing users to download and install its Security Essentials anti-malware and security software on up to 10 PCs, the company said Wednesday.

Microsoft introduced Security Essentials in late September 2009. It was originally designed to provide single-PC users with “a comprehensive security solution in a lightweight package,” Jeff Smith, Microsoft’s director of marketing for Security Essentials, said in a statement.

“It requires no registration, no trials, no renewals. It doesn’t collect any information. It runs well on older hardware. It’s easy to use, easy to get, and it’s from a trusted source,” Smith added.

While technically users can download Security Essentials today and install it on as many PCs as they want, the license legally prevents that.

“This extended availability to small businesses centers on a change to the end user licensing agreement (EULA) that allows small business customers to legally download the software onto individually managed business PCs,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email to

It was user demand that drove the decision to modify the license.

“When we launched Microsoft Security Essentials last year, small businesses kept telling us that it was exactly the type of thing they need at work too,” Smith said.

Microsoft Security Essentials was at least partially an outgrowth of work that the company did on its Forefront Enterprise security products, and Microsoft says that the two products share the same core malware engine.

Security Essentials provides real-time monitoring for viruses, spyware and other malware, even getting new virus signature updates in the background.

“Threats are collected every month from more than 600 million PCs around the world and are assessed by the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, and new signatures are written and deployed daily,” Microsoft said.

Originally codenamed “Morro,” Security Essentials replaced Microsoft’s ill-fated OneCare subscription security offering, which was inexpensive but not free, and never quite caught on.

Further information regarding the package is available at the Microsoft Security Essentials website.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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