a guide to antivirus security from Microsoft



  • Formerly known as Windows Defender, Microsoft Defender is an antivirus protection program included with Windows 10.
  • You can turn Microsoft Defender on or off at any time.
  • There are third-party apps that are free or require a paid subscription that also offer antivirus services.
  • Visit Insider’s Technical Reference Library for More Stories.

With so much of our life spent online and crucial files stored on our devices, it’s important to have protection against viruses that can wreak havoc.

For Windows 10 users, there is a built-in virus protection program called Microsoft Defender Antivirus. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Microsoft Defender?

Microsoft Defender Antivirus, formerly known as Windows Defender, is an antivirus protection program included with Windows 10. Unlike other antivirus programs like McAfee, Microsoft Defender is free and requires no additional installation. It is also regularly updated.

Microsoft Defender’s features include automatic file backup to OneDrive, extended parental control settings, and the elimination of any need for passwords, which have been replaced by facial recognition and fingerprint technology (known as the name of Windows Hello).

Microsoft Defender offers Tracking Prevention to help you manage the way websites track your data and to give you more control over your privacy settings as you browse the web. It also has a password generator, as well as a password monitor that lets you know if any of your passwords have been compromised.

When set to active mode, Microsoft Defender acts as the primary antivirus application on your device. It scans files, fixes threats and lists threats detected in security reports on Windows Security application.

How to activate Microsoft Defender

Microsoft Defender is automatically included with Windows 10, but if your computer is linked to a group or organization (such as through your workplace), you may need to verify that Microsoft Defender is actually enabled on your device.

1. Click it Start button on your Windows computer.

2. Type Group strategy in the search bar.

3. Click on Edit group policy.

4. Click on Computer configuration, then click Administrative Templates.

5. Click on Windows components, then select Microsoft Defender Antivirus.

6. Scroll down the list and find Disable Microsoft Defender Antivirus. Click on Deactivated Where Not configured (the one that is visible on your device). Note that while this may sound contradictory, you are on the right track.

7. Click on To apply, then click Okay.

How to turn off Microsoft Defender in 3 ways

You can temporarily disable Microsoft Defender if you try to install third-party software or programs on your computer and the antivirus blocks the installation. Another reason to turn off Microsoft Defender is if you want to use a different antivirus program.

Temporarily disable via Windows security

1. Click it Start on your Windows computer, then click the Settings icon (it looks like a gear).

Screenshot of the Settings button in the Start menu on PC

Go to settings. ”

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2. To select Update and security.

Screenshot of Windows Settings menu

In Settings, go to “Update & Security”.

William Antonelli / Insider

3. Then click Windows security, and select Protection against viruses and threats.

Screenshot of the Windows Security tab with "Protection against viruses and threats" Underline

In the Windows Security tab, go to “Virus and Threat Protection”.

William Antonelli / Insider

4. In the Virus and threat protection settings heading, click Manage settings.

Screenshot of Virus and Threat Protection section in Windows settings

Go to “Manage settings”.

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5. Click on the toggle under Real-time protection to turn it off. It will turn gray when Microsoft Defender is disabled.

Screenshot of the real-time protection toggle button in Windows settings

Click on the button to deactivate “Real-time protection”.

William Antonelli / Insider

Permanently deactivate through group policy

1. First of all, you need to turn off forgery protection. Click it Start on your Windows computer, and then search Windows security. Click on the application to open it.

2. Click on Protection against viruses and threats. In the Virus and threat protection settings heading, click Manage settings.

3. Click on the toggle under Self-protection to turn off this feature.

Screenshot of Tamper Protection toggle button in Windows Settings

Click on the button to deactivate the forgery protection.

William Antonelli / Insider

4. Click it Start button, then search gpedit.msc. Click on the first result to open the Local Group Policy Editor.

5. Click on Computer configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows components, so Microsoft Defender Antivirus.

6. Double click Disable Microsoft Defender Antivirus. Click on Enabled in the pop-up window, then To apply, so Okay.

7. Restart your computer.

Use a third-party virus protection program

If you choose to turn off Microsoft Defender, it’s a good idea to install another antivirus program to protect your computer from viruses and malware. Below are a few third-party options to consider:

  • Norton 360 with LifeLock Select ($ 149.99 per year, $ 99.48 for the first year): Enduring brand when it comes to antivirus software, Norton Security remains a top option. This all-in-one antivirus subscription includes malware and virus protection for your computer and phone, 100GB of cloud backup, secure VPN, password manager, and more.
  • Bitdefender Antivirus (free version available, paid versions start at $ 29.99 the first year): A more affordable option for security software, the free version of Bitdefender covers a Windows PC and protects against viruses, malware and spyware in real time. The paid versions protect more devices and give you a secure VPN.
  • McAfee Total Protection (starting at $ 84.99 per year, $ 34.99 the first year): Another long-standing brand in the cybersecurity world, McAfee continues to earn high marks for protection and performance from independent laboratories. With a paid subscription, you get virus and ransomware protection for an unlimited number of devices (depending on the plan you choose), as well as a password manager.


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