Do I Need Antivirus Software If I Have Windows Defender?

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Antivirus software has always been an essential component to keep your computer safe from online and offline threats. However in Windows 11 and Windows 10, antivirus functions are built-in and routinely updated through the Windows Security app and Windows Defender. The questions arise, do you really need a separate PC antivirus software in 2022 when you already have Windows Defender, and which antivirus programs are most compatible with modern-day Windows PCs? Here we discuss the current trends and features of Windows Defender-based device security.

Do You Need Antivirus for Windows 10/11?

The need for antivirus protection on a Windows device is as important as before. There is a reason that Windows 11 and 10 notifications prompt you to turn on and update virus protection.

However, since Windows Defender itself is a sophisticated antivirus and firewall solution, most users take its free, built-in security for granted. The program works silently in the background, does not hog system resources, and monitors threats in real time. So the correct question that needs answering is “do I need another antivirus besides Windows Defender?”

Users’ perception may be that Windows Defender is not a fully-fledged antivirus software, as it doesn’t cost you anything. Adding to the confusion, many websites compile a ranking scheme to rate antivirus software. This makes it appear that purchasing antivirus is necessary.

Need Antivirus Google Trends

There is, however, one interesting statistic to glean from Google Trends. The search trend for “antivirus” has progressively declined in the last decade. This search keyword was clearly at its peak in 2009 and is much less trendy today.

It is reasonable to conclude that fewer Windows users are actively looking for a standalone antivirus purchase. To increase its appeal, most antivirus companies are now adding extra features such as VPN, a password manager, mobile security, and even endpoint security.

Does this mean just a paid antivirus is obsolete? To understand that, let us explore what Windows Defender brings to the security table, followed by whether a separate antivirus program is able to complement the protection.

Windows Defender: How Good It Really Is

In both Windows 11 and Windows 10, Windows Defender can be launched from the Control panel as well as the Start menu search. By default, it is in active mode, which makes it the primary antivirus on Windows devices. When you install another antivirus program, such as AVG or Avira, it slides back into passive mode. Below you can find some standout features of Windows Defender.

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Protection History

Under “Virus & threat protection,” users can check “Protection history.” It gives a summary of all threats neutralized on your Windows device without you even knowing about them. This is what makes Windows Defender a cut above conventional antivirus programs, as it silently quarantines and isolates the threats in the background.

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Online Threat Severity Check

Windows Defender maintains up-to-date signatures of the latest zero-hour threats, and you can check the incidence and severity level of the threats online on the Microsoft Security Intelligence webpage. It also uses advanced heuristics and artificial intelligence to keep tabs on newer threat variants.

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Multiple Scanning Options

From the “Security at a glance” page, you get a quick summary of all current threats on your device. If you haven’t scanned your device for threats, a quick scan may be in order. (It will automatically be done with the next Windows version update.) For any other challenges, follow the on-screen instructions.

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As soon as you resolve an issue as per Windows Defender suggestions, the security and health status with respect to that problem will display a green checkmark showing that it has been resolved.

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To mitigate existing threats on Windows PC, you need to configure Windows Defender antivirus scan. It comprises file scanning and threat removal through various scanning activities.

  • Quick scan: it looks for malware in registry keys, Windows startup folders, and other high incidence locations. It protects against rootkits and kernel-level malware.
  • Full scan: true to its name, the full scan feature checks all drives and folders. While it can be time-consuming, you don’t need to perform them, as new Windows version updates takes care of previous threat locations.
Need Antivirus Windows Defender Scan Options

A custom scan focuses on specific locations of concern. If some malware is difficult to remove from your device, you can go for a Microsoft Defender Offline scan, which restarts your device to remove the threats in offline mode. This takes slightly more time but ensures and guarantees a clean device upon restart.

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At a Glance

Clearly, there is little doubt that Windows Defender has an abundance of useful features and capabilities to detect and neutralize threats to your PC in real time. How well does it compare to other popular antivirus software? According to a slightly older comparison study, quite good.

Let us remember this is a third-party comparison study. Windows Defender has been designed specifically for the Windows software version you are using. With each version update, the security is only strengthened further.

Disadvantages of Separate Antivirus Software in Windows

Having seen that Windows Defender gives top-notch performance in evaluating and neutralizing threats in real time, we should also consider some of the frequent problems you would face with separate antivirus programs.

This is by no means a set of problems common to all of them. But with only Windows Defender on, you will never have to encounter even a single one of these issues. These mainly occur due to compatibility gaps between Windows 11/10 version updates and the threat visibility features of the antivirus programs.

Difficult to Uninstall

While most antivirus programs such as AVG and Avira can be easily uninstalled from your Windows device, there are a few, such as McAfee Total Protection, that can be particularly difficult. That is why we won’t recommend McAfee in our list of compatible antivirus software for Windows 10/11. You should not install them in the first place.

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High False Positives

Some antivirus software programs haven’t kept pace with the incremental changes in Windows OS versions. As a result, they’re unable to read and tell the difference between malware and valid files.

In the following example with Malwarebytes (a popular antivirus software), the threat scan led to a series of potentially dangerous programs that it was recommended should be removed. It turns out they were all components of Internet Explorer, and there’s no need to remove them.

Internet Explorer works as an underlying technology for several internal processes and Windows functions. Removing important registry keys or standard Windows processes just because the antivirus flagged them as malware can harm your PC.

Need Antivirus Threat Scan False Positives

Overburdening CPU

Some antivirus programs such as Norton 360 device security can rapidly scale to consume 100% of your Windows CPU greatly slowing down device performance. Do not install any antivirus program, as some can be a huge resource hog. With just Windows Defender on, you get all the desired security levels without any memory issues.


Some antivirus programs are extremely expensive, as they bundle all kinds of extra features that aren’t tied to device security. If your antivirus vendor promises you a bundled VPN, you shouldn’t go for it. It is far better to go for a standalone VPN solution.

As Windows Defender is absolutely free, there has to be a compelling reason to pay for antivirus software. Keeping that in mind, we bring you a list of useful antivirus programs which you can use on Windows 11/10. All of them can be used for free to serve as an optional secondary antivirus to Windows Defender on your Windows 11/10 device.

1. AVG

AVG is one of the few antivirus companies that truly delivers on its promise of a free antivirus for Windows. The software has a smart scan feature that does a decent job in tackling browser threats, viruses and other malware, and handles advanced threat issues.

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From the Settings, you can check the virus definitions, which are always up-to-date and can be useful in handling zero hour threats. AVG has a lightweight impact on a Windows device, and if you want, you can upgrade to the paid version for some extra security features.

2. Bitdefender Security

For those looking to have a few advanced security features on a Windows device, Bitdefender Total Security may be a good addition. It has covered the ground for elementary protection against zero hour threats and ransomware. A system scan and vulnerability scan feature keep you on top of emerging threats. If you need some extra features like parental controls and VPN without the solution burdening your device, Bitdefender feels lightweight enough.

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3. TotalAV

TotalAV is a decent antivirus program for the Web, email, and local file protection needs. The scanning takes place very fast and the results are impressive, as there are very small false positives to worry about. It comes with a system cleanup, which thankfully, does not burden the system.

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Verdict: Should You Purchase a Separate Antivirus?

It’s 2022. Windows Defender has come with many advanced security features hat make it worth the only antivirus software to be kept on your standalone Windows 11/10 device. However, that would work only if you keep recommended security options, such as Trusted Platform Module 2.0 and UEFI Secure Boot, which happens to be mandatory with Windows 11.

You can keep a secondary antivirus program as long as it uninstalls easily, does not cause a high degree of false positives, and does not burden your resources. If you have several computers in your location, you may need to go with end point security using software such as Hysolate.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I use both Windows Defender and a separate antiVirus simultaneously?

You cannot use both antivirus programs simultaneously on a Windows 11/10 device. While Windows Defender firewall is always set as a default, using a separate antivirus will make the Windows Defender antivirus run in passive mode.

2. My antivirus software is not compatible with Windows 11. What should I do?

If your antivirus software is not compatible with Windows 11, leading to high positive rates, it means there are unresolved issues which the antivirus vendor needs to fix on their end. It is recommended to uninstall that antivirus software which will automatically turn Windows Defender On, but you can install another antivirus which is more compatible.

Sayak Boral
Sayak Boral

Sayak Boral is a technology writer with over eleven years of experience working in different industries including semiconductors, IoT, enterprise IT, telecommunications OSS/BSS, and network security. He has been writing for MakeTechEasier on a wide range of technical topics including Windows, Android, Internet, Hardware Guides, Browsers, Software Tools, and Product Reviews.

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