If you are a Windows user, you are probably using some sort of third-party antivirus solution like Bit Defender, Kaspersky, AVG, Avast, etc., to protect yourself from nasty viruses, trojans, malware, etc.
But are you aware that Windows has its own built-in antivirus software called Windows Defender? In fact, if you have no antivirus software installed, Windows will automatically turn on Windows Defender to protect you from viruses and malware. That is the reason Windows no longer bothers you with a warning message to install an antivirus software like in Windows 7.
Simply put, Windows Defender is less intrusive, lightweight, and is not bloated with unnecessary features and crapware like add-ons, extensions, etc. If you are using Windows Defender like me, here are some things you should know and do to use Windows Defender to its full potential.
Enable Real-time and Cloud-based Protection
By enabling the real-time protection, Windows Defender will be able to monitor your system activities and protect you in real-time from malware and viruses. This is a helpful and essential feature that every user should enable and use.
The Cloud-based protection in Windows Defender will work to complement the real-time protection. By enabling the Cloud-based protection, you will send info about any potential threats to Microsoft so that it can compare the results with others and determine if it is actually a threat or not.
By default, both these features and the automatic sample submission feature are enabled. However, if you think that they are not enabled or if you want to double-check, then press “Win + I” to launch the Settings app.
Navigate to “Update and Security” and then to “Windows Defender.”
On the right panel, toggle the buttons under “Real-time Protection,” “Cloud-based Protection,” and “Automatic Sample Submission.”
Add or Remove Exclusions
If you have some software like Nirsoft Utilities or other files that are throwing false positives, then it is good to add those folders or files to the Windows Defender exclusion list. This ensures that Windows Defender will not flag, delete, or quarantine them. The good thing about the Exclusion feature in Windows Defender is that you can exclude specific files, folders, file types and even specific processes.
To add an exclusion, open the Settings app and navigate to the Windows Defender settings panel. Here, scroll down on the right panel and click on the link “Add an Exclusion” under the Exclusions category.
This will take you to the Add Exclusion panel. As I said before, you can add different types of exclusions. To add a folder to the exclusion list, “Exclude a Folder.”
Select the folder from the browse window, and then click on the “Exclude this Folder” button.
That’s all there is to do. You’ve successfully excluded a folder from Windows Defender scans. You can exclude the files, file types, and processes following the same procedure.
If you ever want to remove an exclusion, simply click on the exclusion and then click on the “Remove” button.
Scan Offline with Windows Defender
Sometimes, even when you find the infections on your system, you might not be able to remove them using the regular scan and removal method. There are many reasons for this such as the virus being hooked to other processes, being buried deep within your system files, etc. No matter what the reason is, if you’ve found yourself with a persistent infection, you can use Windows Defender Offline to remove it.
To do that, launch Windows Defender from the Start menu and make sure that the virus definitions are up to date. If they are not, you can update Windows Defender from the “Update” tab.
Once you are done with that, make sure that you’ve saved all your work. Then launch the Settings app by pressing the keyboard shortcut “Win + I” and then navigate to “Update and Security -> Windows Defender.” Here, scroll down on the right panel and click on the “Scan Offline” button.
Once you click on the button, just wait a minute or so, and Windows will restart itself, scan your system and will remove any persistent viruses and malware.
If you are unable to use this option or if you are using Windows 7 or 8, you can download Windows Defender Offline from Microsoft and use it to scan your system. I’ve already written about it. Just follow the guide, and you should be good.
Schedule Full System Scan
By default, Windows Defender will only do quick scans on a regular basis. If you want to do a full scan of your system, then you have to manually initiate the scan. If you want Windows Defender to perform a full scan automatically at regular intervals, then you can schedule a task for that.
Do comment below sharing your thoughts and experiences about Windows Defender in Windows 10.