Thursday, October 1, 2009

Microsoft Security Essentials: Freezing / How to Remove

Microsoft recently announced a free anti-virus application called "Microsoft Security Essentials" -

While most of my friends have installed this without issue, I had the complete opposite experience: immediately after the updating of the signature files, my computer froze.

Restart -> Freeze -> Restart -> Freeze -> Restart -> Freeze... grr...

Each time I would do a hard shutdown (by holding in the power button), and restart, I would attempt to remove the software. Unfortunately, my computer would freeze before this was possible. Although the installation does tell you to remove other anti-virus / anti-spyware software, which I did, I believe that my issue was the result of a conflict with a firewall. [Edit - 10/1/09, 3:10 PM - According to this comment and this other comment, it looks like my firewall was the likely culprit]

No big deal, I've had software conflicts before: boot into safe mode and remove the software.

That's when I saw this:

"Can't run the Microsoft Security Essentials setup on a computer running in safe mode." Great. I can't remove the software in normal mode and I can't remove it in safe mode. Now what?!

After a few trial and errors here are the steps I took to be able to uninstall the app...

To be clear, I'm not encouraging people to uninstall or avoid this software; if my computer hadn't exhibited this effect, I would be using it right now! These are just instructions you can use if you are having the same issues I was (i.e after installing MSE your computer freezes. You decide you want to uninstall it, but are unable to do so). For those of you that fit this description, you can follow these steps - at your own risk, of course :)

Step #1:
Reboot into Safe Mode. In most versions of windows, this is done by tapping the F8 key during boot-up.
If you are unfamiliar with how to do this for your specific version of Windows, just check google; there are tons of "how to boot into safe mode" websites out there...)

Step #2:
Start up MSCONFIG: go to the Start menu, type "MSCONFIG" in the search box.

Step #3:
Select the "Selective startup" radio button in the "General" tab.

Step #4:
Uncheck "Microsoft Antimalware Service" from the "Microsoft Corporation" in the "Services" tab.
If you are having trouble finding this, you can click the "Service" header and it will sort the list alphabetically.

Step #5:
Uncheck "Microsoft Security Essentials" from "Microsoft Corporation" in the "Startup" tab. Click "OK"

Step #6:
MSCONFIG should ask you if you want to restart (or it may do it automatically after clicking "OK"). Allow it to restart and after windows has finished loading, uninstall Microsoft Security Essentials as you normally would (typically through the Control Panel).

Step #7:
Load MSCONFIG as you did in Step #2, and return the "Startup selection" to "Normal startup." Click OK, and restart your computer.
Good Luck!!!



  1. Thanks for the great post! I had the same bad problem with my Vista notebook with Zonealarm free firewall freezing up at startup after installing MSE, as I reported at

    Peter Meijer

  2. Thanks for your feedback Peter! Just read your comment at the howtogeek site... I *almost* had to do use a restore point myself! Glad you were able to resolve your issue :)

  3. Thanks, Peter. I was tearing my hair out. Talk about a "catch-22!"

  4. Installed it on a Vista comp after hearing good reviews. That's when a lot of my programs would start freezing. Firefox would stall for about 30 seconds when it was opened for 5 minutes. Other programs would just lock up, to the point where I thought the comp was dead. If I just let it sit for a few minutes it would finally come to. Got a BSOD (!) the other day, too. I noticed MSE switched auto-updates on my Vista back ON (I had them off after a bad updating experience ... let's just say Vista is not smart enough to be left alone to update itself, you MUST hold its hand, otherwise you could reboot at the wrong time and seriously hose your comp.) I'm wondering if MSE let an auto-update roll in and reboot without me knowing, thus hosing up my comp. Or, MSE is merely screwing around behind the scenes playing police nation with everything I do on my comp now. Either way, it's very annoying haveing a once agile computer freezing up. Until I figure this out, I've turned off live scanning. If it persists, I'm going to uninstall it completely. I really find this insulting seeing that it's a product from MS themselves, for their own damn OS, and yet it causes issues for folks. Crazy.

  5. My brother just had this same issue on a pretty new Win7 64-bit PC. I think it did have Zone Alarm installed. Previously it had AVG, but he uninstalled that because of networking problems with the new version of AVG not working with ZA. After a few hung reboots, it came up enough that he could uninstall normally. My 32-bit Win7 PC has run MSE fine, but it never had AVG or ZA.

  6. Whats the best thing to run with Zone Alarm and Vista for antivirus/antimalware if not MSE or AVG?

  7. I can confirm these issues even in November 2010 (running XP Prof. SP3).

    I have had numerous complete freezes in the past few months and started to think my computer was going to die...

    Today, I definitely found out that it was MSE, to be precise: the security definition update for MSE that was downloaded AGAINST my intention (having windows update set to only notify, not install!) caused a complete freeze after having been finished downloading and installing.

    I found in the event viewer logs that it was at that time that my computer froze.

    I now took a few steps to (hopefully) avoid the issue:

    1) go back to "windows update" (abandon "ms update")

    2) set the registry key
    SignatureUpdateInterval to a value of "0" (zero).

    3) create a new additional registry key there:
    and -again- use a value of "0".

    This is meant to prohibit auto-updates for MSE definitions.

    It is still necessary to wait long enough and see whether this works, though.

  8. i dont have Microsoft Security Essentials in startup

  9. Thank you!!
    Mse was the problem.