Microsoft is to offer its Security Essentials tools free of charge to small and medium sized businesses for up to 10 PCs.
The company said that the offer, which will start in October, provides basic anti-malware protection for smaller firms that may lack a dedicated IT department and do not need centralised management tools or a more extensive policy.
"In many ways, Microsoft Security Essentials is an excellent solution for small businesses," said Eric Ligman, worldwide partner group experience lead at Microsoft, in a blog post.
"It is very easy to get, and very simple to use. The software requires no registration, trials or renewals, and is available for download directly from Microsoft."
The move adds Microsoft's name to a group of vendors offering free anti-malware tools, such as AVG and ClamAV.
However, Microsoft recommends companies seeking advanced protection to upgrade to a more comprehensive package.
Small firms should consider moving to Windows 7 for improved performance and reliability, the company said, while those wanting to manage security and enforce policies centrally should look to Microsoft's Forefront security platform.
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