Microsoft has announced the launch of a new beta for the next version of its Security Essentials anti-malware and virus protection software for Windows, formerly known as Morro.

The next version of Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) includes a number of new features over the first version of the free anti-malware service, which initially arrived in September of 2009.

Microsoft Security Essentials Beta

The beta version of Microsoft Security Essentials includes the following features:

Windows Firewall integration – During setup, Microsoft Security Essentials will now ask if you would like to turn the Windows Firewall on or off.

Enhanced protection for web-based threats – Microsoft Security Essentials now integrates with Internet Explorer to provide protection against web-based threats.

New protection engine – The updated anti-malware engine offers enhanced detection and cleanup capabilities with better performance.

Network inspection system* – Protection against network-based exploits is now built in to Microsoft Security Essentials.

To download the beta of Microsoft Security Essentials, click here to visit the Microsoft Connect page to register for the beta. Once completed – you will find the instructions for downloading and installing the beta.

*For Windows XP users: Please note that the network inspection system feature will not be enabled on Windows XP. This is because the network inspection system requires the Windows Filtering Platform (WFP) in order to run, and WFP is only available in Windows Vista and Windows 7. However, if you are running Windows XP, you can still use all other beta features.