Herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) is the most common form of acute viral encephalitis in industrialized countries. Type I interferon (IFN) is important for control of herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) in the central nervous system (CNS). Here we show that microglia are the main source of HSV-induced type I IFN expression in CNS cells and these cytokines are induced in a cGAS-STING-dependent manner. Consistently, mice defective in cGAS or STING are highly susceptible to acute HSE. Although STING is redundant for cell-autonomous antiviral resistance in astrocytes and neurons, viral replication is strongly increased in neurons in STING-deficient mice. Interestingly, HSV-infected microglia confer STING-dependent antiviral activities in neurons and prime type I IFN production in astrocytes through the TLR3 pathway. Thus, sensing of HSV-1 infection in the CNS by microglia through the cGAS-STING pathway orchestrates an antiviral program that includes type I IFNs and immune-priming of other cell types.