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This causes Windows 7 Action Center to pop up a message about that.
You can safely ignore that message and red status of Microsoft Security Essentials icon - after the service starts, the warning will disappear and the fortress icon will turn green.
Microsoft Security Essentials will run in the background and monitor files and settings.
The program will automatically update its virus and spyware definitions at least once a day.
To ensure that scheduled scanning really starts, uncheck this box.
If you are normally using your computer at the time of scheduled scans, select something lower than the default options.
If updates fail constantly, follow instructions in the Reinstall Windows Update article.
This will check essential files and settings only and the scan will not take much time.
Then decide when and how often a scheduled scan will be performed.
When it's yellow-orange, Microsoft Security Essentials has not been able to update its definition database or perform a quick scan for a few days.
It might also mean that an upgrade to the program is available.