Microsoft registered more than 1.5 million downloads of its Security Essentials, its free antivirus software, in the week after it shipped.
Microsoft Security Essentials is a basic antivirus program designed to appeal to Windows users who don't want to shell out the £20 to £50 per year that most antivirus vendors charge. It was launched on September 29, and by October 6, the software had been downloaded more than 1.5 million times, according to a blog post by Microsoft.
That number jumped to 2.6 million in the first two weeks, an "amazing response" to the product, Microsoft said.
The free AV software has proved popular with Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system, which is available to business users now, but set to be made widely available on Thursday. According to Microsoft, 44 percent of users are running Windows 7, followed by XP (33 percent) and then Vista (23 percent).
Though XP is not the most popular platform for Security Essentials, it's where the software is doing the most work. Microsoft counted 4 million total malware detections on more than 500,000 machines during the one-week period; 52 percent of them were on XP machines. Vista was next, with 32 percent of detections, followed by Windows 7, with 16 percent. "This follows our usual observed trend of seeing less malware on newer OSes and service packs," Microsoft said.
The US, China and Brazil were the top three countries reporting malware detections, with more than a quarter of all detections occurring in the US.
But the nature of the threats varies somewhat from country to country. "Trojans are the top detected category in the US, China has lots of potentially unwanted software threats, and worms (particularly Conficker) are very active in Brazil," Microsoft said. "There are also many exploits being encountered in China, which may mean these PCs do not have the latest security updates."
Security Essentials is available in 19 countries.
Antivirus vendors have predictably downplayed the effect of Microsoft's free AV efforts, but the product has received generally favourable reviews as a lightweight but generally effective security product. It competes head-on with AVG's free antivirus software, which has about 85 million users, AVG says.