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Microsoft releases free Security Essentials 2.0

With an updated engine and closer integration with Windows Firewall, the latest version of Microsoft's free anti-malware software is out of beta status.

Microsoft has launched the latest version of Security Essentials.
Microsoft has launched the latest version of its free Security Essentials. Microsoft

Microsoft yesterday quietly released the latest version of its Security Essentials anti-malware software.

Security Essentials 2.0 is available as a free download with several changes over its predecessor. A Microsoft representative today confirmed the release.

Microsoft said the updated anti-malware engine makes the software faster and smarter at detecting security hazards. The software also now ties in with Windows Firewall, giving you the option of turning the firewall on or off. When I installed the 2.0 edition, it detected that Windows Firewall was not running and asked if I wanted to enable it.

The new version integrates with Internet Explorer to detect Web-based threats and can watch out for malware coming in through a network, though only for those running Windows Vista or Windows 7.

The successor to Live OneCare, Security Essentials 1.0 debuted in September 2009 and garnered positive reviews and user feedback. Microsoft released a beta edition of the 2.0 upgrade in July.

Initially, Security Essentials was legally available only for individual home users, but in October Microsoft relaxed the rules so that businesses with up to 10 users can install the product as well.

Updated at 8:30 a.m. PT with confirmation of the release yesterday.