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.
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 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.
Click on Managed settings.
You will enable Real-time protection, Cloud-delivered protection, Automatic sample submission, and Tamper Protection.
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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.
Select Add or remove exclusions under Exclusions heading.
Click on Add an exclusion and choose whether you want to whitelist (exclude from scans) a file, folder, file type, or process.
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.
Select Virus & threat protection and you will find an option to perform a Quick scan.
Alternatively, you can choose Scan options and go for a Full or Custom scan based on your needs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can now schedule a scan by choosing various parameters like date and time.
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.
Open Windows Security again and click on Virus & threat protection.
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.
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