The Microsoft Defender SmartScreen filter in Windows 10 helps protect your PC from phishing and malware on the websites you browse and the applications you use.
Keeping the SmartScreen “always-on” is advisable, as it’s the easiest way to protect your device from undetectable threats. But sometimes you may want to temporarily deactivate this setting to download a game or application you know is safe but is flagged by SmartScreen. The following guide shows how to disable the SmartScreen Filter in Windows 10.
Note: even if you don’t want to run such an unknown file through SmartScreen, before downloading, you can check for potential malware online at this link.
What Is the SmartScreen Filter?
SmartScreen works as an early warning system to let a user know whether a site or app is suspicious or a downloaded file wasn’t found in its list of safe software programs. It essentially uses a big database of whitelisted and blacklisted sites to analyze whether a given thing is safe to open.
It runs in the background on Windows 10 and will usually manifest as a big blue box saying “Windows protected your PC” by blocking a given program or website. If it’s a program, you’ll usually have the option to “Run Anyway.” If SmartScreen pops up on a website you know is safe, you can click “More Information” and report it as a safe site.
Overall, SmartScreen is a handy security layer that you’re better off leaving on. However, there may be times when it’s getting in the way of you visiting sites or downloading things that you know are safe but just haven’t been verified by SmartScreen. At times like these, you should turn SmartScreen off.
Using App & Browser Control
The easiest way to disable the SmartScreen filter is to use a system settings menu called “App & Browser Control,” which can be accessed from the Start menu.
In the App & browser control window, click “Reputation-based protection settings.”
Here you’ll see all the layers that SmartScreen uses to protect your PC.
The option for SmartScreen is prominently displayed as “On” in the corresponding page. You just need to turn it “off” to disable the Windows Defender SmartScreen. You can switch off SmartScreen for Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Store apps and can get it to not “Check apps and files.”
We don’t recommend switching off all the SmartScreen filters. Just switch off the one that’s getting in your way at that moment, do what you need to do, then switch it back on.
Once you’ve switched off SmartScreen, you will get an alert by Windows Defender: “Your device may be vulnerable.”
Using Microsoft Edge
If you specifically want to turn off SmartScreen for sites in Microsoft Edge, you can also switch off SmartScreen directly through the browser.
In Edge, click the three-dotted menu icon at the top-right corner -> Settings -> Privacy, search and services.
Scroll down to Security, then switch the “Microsoft Defender SmartScreen” button to the Off position.
Using Group Policy Editor
Apart from the above methods, we will also explore some system or network administrator methods for alternative access to the Windows Defender SmartScreen.
For system or network administrators, Windows has a specific policy setting within the Group Policy editor to quickly disable the SmartScreen filter in Windows 10.
1. Open Group Policy Editor by searching for “gpedit.msc” in the Start menu. In the Policy Editor, go to “Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> File Explorer.”
2. Find and double-click the “Configure Windows Defender SmartScreen” policy.
3. In the policy settings window, configure it as follows:
- To disable the SmartScreen filter, select the radio option “Disabled.”
- To enable the SmartScreen filter, select “Enabled” and either select “Warn” or “Warn and prevent bypass” under the Options section.
To make the changes take effect, restart your system or execute the
gpupdate /force command as admin.
Using Registry Editor
Windows 10 Home users will not have access to the Group Policy Editor. However, you can use the Registry Editor to disable the SmartScreen filter. You just have to create a couple of values. Before editing the Registry, back it up.
1. Search for “regedit” in the Start menu and open it as an administrator. Go to the following location.
To disable the SmartScreen filter, create a new DWORD value by selecting “New,” then “DWORD (32-bit) Value.”
Name the value as “EnableSmartScreen.” Double-click the newly created value and set its Value Data as “0.”
3. To enable the SmartScreen filter, first set the Value Data of “EnableSmartScreen” as “1.”
4. Set the SmartScreen blocking level. For that, right-click the right panel and select “New -> String Value.” Name the value as “ShellSmartScreenLevel.”
5. Double-click the new string value and set either “Warn” or “Block” as the value data.
- Warn: shows a warning message, but you can bypass it.
- Block: shows a warning message and blocks you from running the app or file.
Once you are done, restart your system and you are good to go.
Here we have seen various ways to disable Windows Defender SmartScreen on the rare occasion when you may want to download the files or applications which are being flagged.
Do you want to know more about how Windows Defender is protecting your PC? We have a writeup of how it stacks up against other antivirus software (spoiler: pretty well). Also, check out our guide on how to capture a scrolling screenshot in Windows 10.