When it comes to antivirus software, Windows Defender seems to be an interesting choice. If you’re running one of the more modern iterations of the Windows operating system, Windows Defender comes with the package set up and ready to go. This creates an interesting premise for people who use Windows: does this free, default antivirus do a good job at keeping your computer safe from threats online?
The Hard Facts
To begin, let’s take a look at an element that can be proven using solid facts: its effectiveness. There are several websites out there dedicated to testing and reporting the efficiency of antivirus solutions currently on the market. What do these websites have to say about the effectiveness of Windows Defender?
AV Test helps users make educated decisions about what antivirus they should use. They rank each antivirus on three factors using a scale from 0 to 6, where 6 is the best. The three elements they test for are Protection, Performance, and Usability. So, how did Windows Defender fare?
At the time of writing, AV Test reported their results for Windows Defender v4.8 on Windows 8/8.1. It scored 4.5/6.0 for Protection, 4.5/6.0 for Performance, and a full 6.0/6.0 for Usability. Its main problems seems to be that it falls slightly under the industry standard for catching 0-day attacks and malware discovered in the last four weeks, and that it slowed down the computer when loading popular websites, launching software, and copying files.
The Windows 10 version suffers worse against the tests, with 3.0/6.0 for Protection, 4.5/6.0 for Performance, and 5.5/6.0 for Usability. It fell a considerable amount below the industry standard for catching 0-day attacks, shared the same slowdowns as its 8.1 brother, and also flagged legitimate software as viruses more often than other solutions.
It’s worth noting that AV Test’s scoring system isn’t incredibly harsh. While it’s somewhat rare for an antivirus to score straight 6s, it’s not uncommon for them to score 5.5 or above on all fields. Seeing scores below 5.5, or even 5, may mean that an antivirus is lagging behind the industry standards and its own competition.
Another website, AV Comparatives, also compares antiviruses together and rates them in accordance to how they perform. How did Windows Defender fare on their tests?
At the time of writing, if we take a look at their chart for Real-World Protection Tests, we can see that AV Comparatives gave Windows Defender a Standard award. This seems pretty decent, as it’s on par with other antiviruses such as McAfee. However, if we look at other popular antiviruses on this chart, we can see they often scored higher than Windows Defender. Avast, AVG, AVIRA, and Bitdefender all took the top award for an Advanced+ level antivirus.
The Personal Side
So now you know how Windows Defender fares against the competition. How does it perform as a general piece of software?
As far as actually using Windows Defender, it’s not difficult to navigate. It comes as both an antivirus and a spyware remover, and updates both at the same time. It scans and maintains your system in the background without being too obtrusive about it. Also, given how it comes with Windows, you can use it free of charge without it begging you to purchase additional products, which free antiviruses have to do to keep their business afloat.
That said, Windows Defender has a few issues which people have had to work around, such as randomly locking downloaded files for seemingly no reason and taking up 100% of the disk. You may find a few gripes with Windows Defender if you decide to use it as your main antivirus solution.
Is Windows Defender Good Enough?
Is Windows Defender good enough to keep your computer protected? The general feel for it in its current state is that it’s an average-level antivirus. It’s not snake oil by any means, but it’s definitely not the best protection you can get for your PC.
If you only use the Internet to watch YouTube videos and chat on Facebook, you may find Windows Defender is an adequate solution for your specific use case. The minute you start performing more dangerous actions, such as downloading files, you’ll want something more durable to help keep your computer safe. You may even change antivirus purely for the fact that other solutions will have less of an impact on your system performance than Windows Defender.
Even if you believe Windows Defender does the job for you, it’s a good idea to explore the free antivirus solutions on offer. A while ago, you may have “got what you paid for” if you opted for a free antivirus. These days, free antiviruses can detect threats as efficiently as, if not better than, paid antiviruses currently on sale. You can check tools such as AV Test to pick out the best free antiviruses, then give one a shot and see if it suits you. At best, you’ll find a more robust and effective antivirus to protect you from viruses and spyware. At worst, you can simply uninstall it again with zero cost to you, so it’s definitely worth a shot.
An Average Defense
In conclusion, Windows Defender is an average-level antivirus which might keep people who perform basic Internet browsing safe from harm. However, the moment a user finds themselves in a situation where they’re likely to obtain a virus, there are plenty of paid and free solutions out there that can do the job a lot better.
Are you an avid Windows Defender user? Or did you dump it for a different solution? Do you want to pitch your own opinions for or against Windows Defender? Let us know in the comments.