How to temporarily disable Microsoft Security Essentials

Think your anti-virus program is causing a conflict with some other program? Here's how to switch it off for temporary troubleshooting.

When it comes to keeping my PC secure, I rely on a small handful of tools: Windows 7's built-in firewall, Gmail's spam filtering, Web of Trust's helpful browser plug-in, and Microsoft's free Security Essentials anti-virus utility.

At this risk of jinxing things, here's my score to date: My PC: 1. Malware of any variety: 0.

However, I recently needed to troubleshoot a program that wasn't working properly, and, as always, the tech support department's first suggestion was to "disable my antivirus program."

Normally I ignore this advice, but because the program in question involves a lot of file downloading from various protected servers, I thought it might actually be worth a try. Just one catch: How the heck do you disable Security Essentials?

When you open the tool, there's no immediately obvious way. But if you absolutely need to, here's how:

1. Find the Security Essentials icon in your System Tray (usually it's represented by a little green house with a flag on top). Right-click it and choose Open.

2. Click the Settings tab.

3. Click Real-time protection.

4. Uncheck the box next to Turn on real-time protection (recommended).

5. Click the Save changes button.

So that's the equivalent of switching Security Essentials to "off." Do that, then go back to whatever you're trying to troubleshoot and see if it solves the problem. (If it does, well, that's a whole other can of worms.)

When you're done troubleshooting, repeat steps 4 and 5 (this time checking the box, natch) to turn Security Essentials back on.

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