5 Microsoft Defend­er Tips and Tricks to Get Started

Gaurav Bidasaria

Microsoft renamed Windows Defender to Microsoft Defender with the Windows 10 November 2019 Update. It is now part of Windows Security. Microsoft Defender (previously, Windows Defender) has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years with lower false positives, better usability, and improved performance in detecting malware and virus. That's why I don't recommend turning off Defender like I used to, and recommend it over other paid alternatives in the market. I shall share some effective tips and tricks to help you start using Defender.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks

Microsoft Defender is also coming to Android and iOS devices soon. It will be interesting to see how that pans out. Anyway, let's get on with our Defender tips and tricks now.

Note: We estimate that Windows Defender will appear as Microsoft Defender on Windows after one of the Windows 10 updates due in the coming months.

1. How to Turn Off/On Microsoft Defender

There are a few reasons why you should know how to do it. One reason is software or app conflict. Another can be troubleshooting, something that I do on a routine basis. I have already covered how to turn off Windows Defender (linked again for those who skipped the intro) but still don't recommend it unless you are using a reliable alternative.

Microsoft Defender should be turned on by default unless you are using a third-party antivirus app. In that case, the rules will be governed by the installed app. More often than not, the installed antivirus app will turn off Microsoft Defender and that's how it should be. It is not advisable to run two antivirus apps on the same machine at the same time. Note that uninstalling any third-party antivirus app should automatically turn on Microsoft Defender. Else, you can enable it manually. Enterprise users should check the official guide.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks to Get Started 31

Windows Security comes with four options. We will go through each to make sure you enable all possible forms of protection available to you. Open Windows Security and click on Virus & threat protection.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks to Get Started 32

Click on Managed settings.

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You will enable Real-time protection, Cloud-delivered protection, Automatic sample submission, and Tamper Protection.

2. How to Add Exceptions/Exclusions or Whitelist in Microsoft Defender

Sometimes, a website or an app may not play well with Defender causing unnecessary conflicts and crashes. One way to solve this issue is to whitelist the app or site in question. Do so only if you trust the source and know that it contains no harmful scripts.

Press Windows key+I on your computer to open Settings and go to Update & Security > Windows Security > Virus & threat protection. Click on Manage settings under Virus & threat protection settings.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 1

Select Add or remove exclusions under Exclusions heading.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 2

Click on Add an exclusion and choose whether you want to whitelist (exclude from scans) a file, folder, file type, or process.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 3

Follow on-screen instructions.

Note: Can't see the Manage settings option as shown above? There could be two possible reasons for this. Either you are running an older version of Windows build or you don't have admin rights. You can update Windows from Settings > Update & Security and check out our guide that explains the difference between admin and standard user accounts. Working on an office computer? Contact your IT department.

3. How to Perform Quick/Full Scan in Microsoft Defender

Search for and open Windows Security from the Start menu.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 4

Select Virus & threat protection and you will find an option to perform a Quick scan.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 5

Alternatively, you can choose Scan options and go for a Full or Custom scan based on your needs.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 6

You can also perform various Microsoft Defender scan functions from the Command Prompt. You will have to open CMD (short for Command Prompt) with admin rights from the start menu as shown in the image below.

5 Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 23

In that window, navigate to the Windows Defender folder on your drive which shows the MpCmdRun.exe application. Usually, you can find it in this location:

C:\Program Files\Windows Defender

Then run the following command for a Quick scan:

MpCmdRun.exe -scan -1

That should initiate the virus scan and you can monitor it while keeping the Command Prompt window open.

4. How to Schedule Scan in Microsoft Defender

Search for and open Task Scheduler from the Start menu.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 12

Drill down to the below folder structure in the left window-pane.

Task Scheduler Library > Microsoft > Windows > Microsoft Defender

Select Windows Defender Scheduled Scan (Microsoft Defender Scheduled Scan) in the center pane now and then click on the Triggers tab.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 13

Click on New. Can't see it? Double-click on Windows Defender Scheduled Scan (Microsoft Defender Scheduled Scan) in the center-pane above to reveal a pop-up. You will find the New button under the Triggers tab there.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 14

You can now schedule a scan by choosing various parameters like date and time.

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5. How to Update Microsoft Defender

There are two ways to do that. Open Settings and click on Updates & Security. That's where you will find Defender, Security, and other OS updates. It is prudent that you check reviews on the web before downloading and installing a major Windows update. Sometimes, it can break things resulting in severe headaches.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 10

Open Windows Security again and click on Virus & threat protection.

Windows Defender Tips and Tricks 11

You can manually check for updates and install them even if Windows Update is turned off.

Secure the Defender

Microsoft Defender, which is part of Windows Security now, has come a long way. And it keeps getting better with new and improved features. For most users, it works right out of the box and there is nothing you need to do. Still, it pays to know your way around in case you meet a road bump.

I suggest Malwarebytes to everyone who is relying on Windows Security as their primary antivirus. They co-exist nicely and it adds an additional layer of security. Malwarebytes was designed to catch malware while Defender was designed primarily with viruses in mind. Both are different. Using a combination of these two apps is the best solution right now.

Next up: Own a Samsung smartphone and use a Windows 10 computer? Click on the link below to learn how you can unlock your computer using your smartphone.


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A C.A. by profession and a tech enthusiast by passion, Gaurav loves tinkering with new tech and gadgets. He used to build WordPress websites but gave it all up to develop little iOS games instead. Finally, he dropped out of college in the final year. He has over 5 years of experience as a writer covering Android, iOS, and Windows platforms and writes how-to guides, comparisons, listicles, and explainers for B2B and B2C apps and services. He currently divides his time between Guiding Tech and Tech Wiser.