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Your Windows 10 system is nice and shiny, but like any Windows operating system it is open to abuse and vulnerable to online threats. It doesn’t matter whether you upgraded from Windows 8 How to Upgrade to Windows 10 Now & Why You Should Wait How to Upgrade to Windows 10 Now & Why You Should Wait Have you been waiting patiently since July 29 for your Windows 10 upgrade? You should probably wait until you receive an official notification, but if you are determined, you can force the Windows 10 upgrade. Read More or purchased a brand new Windows 10 PC, laptop or tablet How Well Does Windows 10 Work on a Tiny Tablet? How Well Does Windows 10 Work on a Tiny Tablet? Windows 10 is taking the devices of disgruntled Windows 8 and curious Windows 7 users by storm. The PC experience is great, but how does it perform on small screens? Matthew tested Windows 10 on... Read More – the threats exist and probably always will.

Rather than enabling online attackers to freely copy your data, siphon off your personal details 6 Warning Signs Of Digital Identity Theft You Shouldn't Ignore 6 Warning Signs Of Digital Identity Theft You Shouldn't Ignore Identity theft isn't too rare of an occurrence these days, yet we often fall into the trap of thinking that it'll always happen to "someone else". Don't ignore the warning signs. Read More , and possibly destroy your reputation or credit rating (or both), you need to have some security software installed.

The best place to start is on Windows 10 itself, where you will find the updated version of Microsoft’s continually improving Windows Defender utility.

Getting Started with Windows Defender

Does your PC need protecting? With all manner of online threats, from data-hijacking ransomware Avoid Falling Victim To These Three Ransomware Scams Avoid Falling Victim To These Three Ransomware Scams Several prominent ransomware scams are in circulation at the moment; let's go over three of the most devastating, so you can recognise them. Read More  to malware that targets vulnerabilities exposed by rootkits, the answer is an unequivocal “yes”. Whether you’re happy to let Windows Defender handle this, or you’re more interested in a third party solution, you will still need the onboard security software to be set up correctly to bridge the gap until your third party choice is ready.

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Tap or click Start and type “windows defender” (you can also press Start + Q to open the search box, which may or may not be enhanced by Cortana How to Set Up Cortana & Remove Her in Windows 10 How to Set Up Cortana & Remove Her in Windows 10 Cortana is Microsoft's greatest productivity tool since Office. We'll show you how to get started with Windows 10's digital assistant or how to turn Cortana off for improved privacy. Read More ) and select Windows Defender at the top of the search results. You’ll be presented with the main interface for the app.

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As ever with security software, the first thing you need to do is update it. Go to the Update tab and note the details. If the Virus and spyware definitions are not listed as being “Up to date”, click Update. Wait while definitions are updated. You should update this daily, but if necessary you can download definitions manually.

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Next, you’ll need to run a scan, which you can do in the Home tab. Select your scan type (you should use Full for the initial scan) and then Scan now.

Quarantines and History

Any items detected by Windows Defender will be dealt with. You can see a list of those that have been quarantined in the History tab, along with any files that you have instructed Windows Defender to ignore, so that they might be run on your PC without any problem. These would typically be files detected by Windows Defender as being dangerous, but which you know to be safe (false positives).

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To see the items listed under History, select the type you wish to view, and then View details. Here you’ll see the file name, the alert level, and the date it was quarantined or released.

Excluding Items in Windows Defender

As well as ignoring false positives, applications, directories, and files can be excluded from scans in Windows Defender. This is one of several new features added to Windows Defender that can only be accessed via Settings > Update & security > Windows Defender.

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Scroll down to Exclusions and tap Add an exclusion to proceed. Here, you’ll be able to add Files, Folders, File Types, and Processes to the exclusions list, again minimizing the incidence of false positives and potentially speeding up scanning (for instance, if you had a large ZIP file that you don’t want to be scanned, you could exclude it).

Configure Real-Time and Cloud Protection

Although first introduced in Window Vista, Windows Defender has been given a series of important updates throughout Windows 8 and now in Windows 10 it has some impressive features that are intrinsic to its operation.

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You’ll see these in the Settings > Update & security > Windows Defender screen, where Real-time protection and Cloud-based protection can be enabled and disabled. For the best results, we recommend having both of these options set to On.

Real-time protection means that Windows Defender will actively detect malware running on your computer, and block it. Meanwhile, cloud-based protection uses crowd sourcing from all Windows 10 computers with Windows Defender enabled to help improve the identification (and thus correctly remove) detected threats. Therefore it is a good idea to have both of these options enabled at all times (although Windows will switch each back on if you temporarily disable them).

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One other thing to observe here is the Sample submission option. Again, this is a setting you can enable and disable, and is used to send malware samples to Microsoft Everything You Need to Know About Windows 10's Privacy Issues Everything You Need to Know About Windows 10's Privacy Issues While Windows 10 has some issues that users need to be aware of, many claims have been blown out of proportion. Here's our guide to everything you need to know about Windows 10's privacy issues. Read More . This will use bandwidth that you may not be happy about expending on such an activity, so you might feel happier disabling it.

Disabling Windows Defender

It seems pretty pointless to use Windows Defender if you have a third party antivirus suite installed. In this event, Windows 10 will disable Windows Defender.

Any attempt to change Windows Defender settings will be unsuccessful until the third party software is disabled or uninstalled.

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Additionally, the options in the Settings > Update & security > Windows Defender screen will be greyed out.

Should You Rely on a Third Party Suite?

This really depends on what requirements you have from your security suite. Windows Defender doesn’t have a firewall, but Windows 10 does. So you’re pretty much secure from the vast majority of threats, although several free third party firewalls are available Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? We place emphasis on antivirus and malware removal, but don't ignore firewalls. Let's take a look at the best free Windows firewalls, comparing ease of setup, ease of use, and availability of features. Read More .

However if you want the additional benefits of spam control, secure wallet encryption, easy firewall management, and all of the other features you might find in a paid suite like BitDefender Bitdefender Internet Security 2015: The Ideal Choice For Home PCs [Giveaway] Bitdefender Internet Security 2015: The Ideal Choice For Home PCs [Giveaway] Offering anti-virus, privacy protection, safe banking, firewall and parental control for just $79.95, Bitdefender Internet Security 2015 would seem to be the optimum choice for anyone looking to give their home computer security a boost. Read More , a third party tool is probably preferable.

Do you use Windows Defender? Have you found it easy to use? Unhappy with its ability as a security application? Tell us more in the comments.

Image Credits: 3d Virus via Shutterstock

  1. Lynne Healy
    December 2, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    I am really disappointed in Windows 10 defender. It had been running for a week and allowed a porn and also a false windows 10 download malware onto my computer. which I am now having trouble getting rid of.
    Very unhappy.

  2. Ken Driver
    August 24, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    I use Bitdefender Internet Security because I've read Windows Defender doesn't stay up to date with virus definitions. One issue I discovered is I have to activate Windows firewall in order to download Windows updates, then turn it off after installation is complete.

  3. hildyblog
    September 8, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    I use Defender as my only active AV and MalwareBytes as a periodically run second opinion. Combined with safe surfing practices, I haven't had any problems.

    One note on updating definitions - in Win8.1 and, I assume, Win10, definitions are part of Windows Update and are updated automatically once you've done the initial update.

  4. Bruce Epper
    September 8, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    I'll consider using Windows Defender to protect my Windows systems once AV testing labs are not using it as the baseline for its comparison of competing products.

    Its track record for false negatives alone are reason enough to stay away from it. Sure, it tends to be lighter on resources than its competitors, but it apparently manages that feat by not being able to detect malware on the system. How good is that?

    In the last run of tests by Dennis Technology Labs (April - June 2015), it had a respectable 90% accuracy rating compared to other recent runs there, but it still allowed 12% of the malware through to compromise the system.

    If I occasionally have to deal with a false positive, the overall impact on my time is insignificant when compared to the time required to clean up an infection because a false negative. That does not even consider the eventual bare-metal recovery that will be required.

    • Howard Blair
      September 8, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      Agreed. Even Microsoft *itself* has explained that Windows Defender/Security Essentials is designed to be a stopgap, a thin layer of protection for those who haven't yet installed a third-party antivirus, or who have no idea of how to do so...protection for the masses.
      If you depend on MSE to protect your system, you obviously don't know enough about antivirus to protect yourself...go get a free antivirus. AVG, Avira, and Avast are great products with free versions.
      If you disable Windows Defender because "I'm smart, and I don't surf on dodgy sites, and I know how to protect my PC," well, you're a dumb#@% and deserve what you get. You obviously *don't* know how to protect your PC.

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