Microsoft releases beta of Morro antivirus

The company has posted a beta of its free antivirus software, Microsoft Security Essentials, for testers in the US, China, Israel, and Brazil

Microsoft has made a beta of its free antivirus software, code-named Morro, available to testers in the US, China, Israel and Brazil.

Version 1.0.1407.00 of Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) was released on Tuesday, with a cap of 75,000 downloads.

The software has multiple scan options, a scheduler, automatic definition file updates, and rootkit protection, according to CNET Crave blogger Seth Rosenblatt. MSE runs Microsoft's antipiracy tool, Windows Genuine Advantage, before installing.

In 2008, Microsoft announced plans to discontinue its subscription fee-based Windows Live OneCare antivirus suite and to replace it with Morro. At the time, the company said that it would switch to offering a free product, as few consumers had subscribed to OneCare.

MSE will eventually compete with paid antivirus suites from the likes of Symantec and McAfee, which make millions of dollars in revenue from consumer products.

The official beta release is older than the version leaked to the web last week, which is version 1.0.2140.0, according to blogger Mary Jo Foley. "The Microsoft Security Essentials Beta build 1.0.1407.00 is the most current version available for public download," a Microsoft spokesperson reportedly told Foley on Tuesday. "An earlier leaked build was derived from the core Microsoft Security Essentials code and will be used for further testing."