If your computer is sluggish, you may notice the antimalware service executable, or MsMpEng.exe, process in Task Manager hogging your resources. While you can disable it, it’s a good idea to understand the purpose of this process and how disabling it may affect the security of your PC.
What Is Antimalware Service Executable?
As the name implies, the antimalware service executable helps to defend your computer against malware and other virus threats. It appears in Task Manager as MsMpEng.exe and is the background process for the built-in Microsoft Defender antivirus tool. Microsoft Defender was formerly known as Windows Defender.
It’s designed to work like other antivirus tools by running constantly in the background. This helps to protect you from threats in real time. While it’s running, it scans any files you open or download, scans your system for potential threats, updates itself, and other common antivirus tasks.
During scans and updates, the antimalware service executable process uses more resources. This is common among all types of antivirus tools. During peak usage, they tend to use more resources. However, the usage should go back down after a scan or update. As you can see above, RAM usage went up while I was running an update. This dropped back around 150 MB and less after the update was finished.
Should You Disable the Process?
As long as the antimalware service executable process isn’t running hard all the time, it’s okay to leave it enabled. However, if you’re having issues with constant resource usage, you may want to disable it.
It’s completely okay to disable the process and even Microsoft Defender. While it’s built in, you’re not required to use it. Before you do this, though, install an alternative antivirus tool; otherwise, you’re leaving your system vulnerable. With the right precautions, you can be safe without antivirus, as Windows Security is a pretty comprehensive system that should keep you safe.
You can temporarily disable the Antimalware Service Executable process within Task Manager; however, it will restart when you reboot your computer.
End the task if it’s causing trouble by pressing Win + X to open the Power User menu. Select “Task Manager.”
Right-click Antimalware Service Executable and select “End task.”
This disables Microsoft Defender for the rest of your session.
Disable Microsoft Defender
If you’d rather not use Microsoft Defender, you can disable it temporarily. This stops the antimalware service executable from running. It won’t uninstall Microsoft Defender – just disable it. For some users, it remains off after a restart, but typically, it turns back on after a restart.
Go to “Settings -> Update & Security -> Windows Security.”
Select “Open Windows Security” in the right pane to open Microsoft Defender settings. Choose “Virus & threat protection.”
Select “Manage settings” under “Virus & threat protection settings.”
Toggle off “Real-time protection” and “Cloud-delivered protection.”
Once again, this is just temporary. You can disable it permanently via the Group Policy Editor, but this isn’t available in Windows 10 and 11 Home edition. In some newer versions of Windows 10 or 11 Pro, even the Group Policy option is unavailable.
1. Antimalware Service Executable high CPU usage
The foremost reason why this service is displaying high CPU usage is because it’s scanning your PC for malware. In the “Virus & threat protection” screen (under “Windows Security”), you can go to “Scan options” and set the default scan type to “Quick scan”, which is less resource-intensive.
2. “Access Denied” to Antimalware Service Executable
If you’re trying to end the executable process through Task Manager and you get the message “Access Denied”, then you’ll need to first disable Microsoft Defender as per our instructions earlier in the guide, and only after that try to disable the process through Task Manager.
3. Two Antimalware Service Executable process running at once
You may have noticed in the Task Manager that sometimes more than one Antimalware process is running at once. This is quite normal. You should see that one of the processes is expandable and will show you that the “Microsoft Defender Antivirus Service” is running (that’s the app for Windows Defender/Security).
The second process is the “Content Process”, which manages virus definitions. Both of these are important to keep the service running properly.
Since you can’t permanently disable the service, you’ll need to solve the high usage error another way. The easiest solution is to update Microsoft Defender. These are included in Windows Updates. Install the latest updates to fix any issue you may be having.
If you suspect you may already have a virus, download and run the Microsoft Safety Scanner tool. A virus that got past Microsoft Defender could be wreaking havoc with it. This tool includes the latest virus definitions to remove malware and get your system back to normal.
Overall, the antimalware service executable isn’t anything to worry about. For more insight on Windows security, see our guide on whether you need antivirus software if you already have Windows Defender. Also feast your eyes on our list of the latest Windows update problems and fixes.
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