When using Windows, you’ll notice that it comes with its own antivirus called Windows Defender (now called Windows Security in later versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11). For some, Windows Defender is more of a hindrance than a help. As such, they’ll want to disable Windows Defender completely. As you’ll discover in this tutorial, disabling Windows Defender isn’t as easy as it should be. Regardless, making sure Defender goes down and stays down isn’t very tricky at all.
Why Not Use the Default Option?
It may seem a little confusing that turning off Windows Defender permanently is trickier than it should be. After all, there’s an option within Windows to disable Defender. You can access it by going to “Start -> Settings -> Privacy & security.” Select “Windows Security” or “Windows Defender,” depending on your version of Windows.
In Windows 10, you’ll see an option to turn off different options. However, if you read the description of the setting, you’ll spot the problem. Windows Defender will only stay inactive for a short period of time. When it detects that it’s been off for too long, it will automatically turn itself back on again. This means if you want Windows Defender to stay disabled, you’ll have to keep toggling this option off every time Windows resets it. What a hassle!
If you’re using Windows 11, the same settings exist, but you have to go through a few extra screens. Click on “Open Windows Security.”
Select “Virus & threat protection.”
Scroll until you see “Virus & threat protection settings.” Click the “Manage Settings” link.
Now, toggle the various options to Off, just like you would in Windows 10. It’s a pain trying to get to the settings, but once you do, they’ll look similar to Windows 10.
Also, just as in Windows 10, turning everything off is just temporary. This is great if you just need to turn Windows Defender off for a short while but doesn’t solve the ultimate goal of turning off Windows Defender permanently.
Disabling Windows Defender Permanently
Fortunately, there is a way to make it so that Windows Defender doesn’t re-enable itself. It’s not very obvious as to how to do it, but once you learn the basics, you’ll be able to turn it on and off without much issue. Just make sure you do not browse the Web without a functioning antivirus active! Make sure you have something installed beforehand to make up for Windows Defender being turned off.
There are two ways you can disable Windows Defender. The first is via the registry, and the second is through the Local Group Policy window. Typically, the Local Group Policy way is a little easier to perform, but you can only use it on Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions of Windows 10 and 11.
If you don’t use any of the above editions, or you’re not sure which one you’re using, don’t worry! All versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11 can turn off Windows Defender using the registry method. Just follow the steps below, and you should have your problem fixed in no time.
Using the Registry (Available for ALL Users)
First, open the Run command by pressing Win + R. In the box that appears, type
regedit and click “OK.”
Note: do make a backup of your registry before you make any changes. You can do this by opening the Registry Editor, then the “File” menu, and selecting “Export.” Place the copy in a safe place.
The system registry will open. On the left navigate to the following folder:
You may see a folder after Windows Defender called “Policy Manager.” Don’t click on that folder; instead, keep the Windows Defender one highlighted as in the following image.
On the right side of the window you may see a file called “DisableAntiSpyware.” If you do, that’s great! If not, we’re going to have to make our own. To do this, right-click in the empty space on the right side of the window, go to “New,” then “DWORD (32-bit) Value.”
Windows will create an untitled DWORD file. Right-click the file and click “Rename,” then call it “DisableAntiSpyware.” Make sure you enter the name perfectly!
Right-click the “DisableAntiSpyware” file and click “Modify … “
To enable the policy that disables Windows Defender, set the value data to “1” and click “OK.” This tells the computer that the policy that was just created should be enabled, and Windows will disable Defender for you. If you ever want to bring Windows Defender back, just come back to this file and change the value to “0.” This disables the policy and allows Windows Defender to work again.
The next time you try to load Windows Defender, you’ll see the following error message saying it’s been turned off.
If anything is still running, add the following DWORD values in the following folder locations using the same process as above:
- DisableRealtimeMonitoring (Set the value to 1)
- DisableRoutinelyTakingAction (Set the value to 1)
- DisableAntiVirus (Set the value to 1)
- DisableSpecialRunningModes (Set the value to 1)
- ServiceKeepAlive (Set value to 0)
You may also need to create three new folders under Windows Defender. Simply right-click the “Windows Defender” folder, select “New,” and choose “Key.” Add three new Keys called “Signature Updates,” “Real-Time Protection,” and “Spynet.” Next, add the following DWORD values to the corresponding folders:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\Signature Updates
- ForceUpdateFromMU (Set value to 0)
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\Real-Time Protection
- DisableRealtimeMonitoring (Set value to 1)
- DisableOnAccessProtection (Set value to 1)
- DisableBehaviorMonitoring (Set value to 1)
- DisableScanOnRealtimeEnable (Set value to 1)
- DisableBlockAtFirstSeen (Set value to 1)
While you’re in the Registry Editor, check out these useful registry hacks for a more optimized experience.
Using Local Group Policy
To start, press Win + R to load the Run box, then type
gpedit.msc into the box and press “OK.”
If you attempt to run it in a different edition, such as Home, you’ll get the following error.
This means you cannot use this method to disable Windows Defender. In this case, you’ll want to use the registry method above instead, which works for every edition.
When the Local Group Policy window loads, check under the “Computer Configuration” section for the “Administrative Templates” folder. Open it, then open “Windows Components -> Windows Defender.” On the right, you should see a file called “Turn off Windows Defender.”
Double-click it and click “Enabled” on the left. This turns on the “Turn off Windows Defender” policy, which disables Windows Defender. If you change your mind in the future, you can come back here and select “Disabled” instead.
For some, Windows Defender can be more of a hindrance than a help. Even worse, there’s not a straightforward way to permanently disable it. By following one of the two methods above, you can enjoy your computer without having to constantly keep disabling Windows Defender.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it safe to permanently disable Windows Defender?
Yes. However, you should immediately turn on another antivirus program. Windows Defender is designed to protect you from the moment you start using Windows, but you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to. That’s why it’s a good idea to leave it running until you’re ready to install something else.
Even if you’re extremely careful, odds are that you’ll encounter a virus at some point. Blocking it is much easier than trying to remove it. While you can remove it without antivirus, it’s not easy.
2. Will Windows Defender cause my PC to run slowly?
Unless you’re running a full scan, you shouldn’t notice any real interference. In fact, Windows Defender uses less system resources than most antivirus apps. If your PC is running slowly, check Task Manager to see what’s running and using the most resources. It could actually be a sign of a virus infection that got past Windows Defender or another antivirus app you have installed.
3. Will installing another antivirus app disable Windows Defender?
Partially. Windows Defender may still perform periodic scans and will receive regular updates. However, Windows defaults to your chosen antivirus. For example, when I installed Malwarebytes, Windows automatically turned off Real-time Protection in Windows Defender but left periodic scans on.
If you want to permanently disable Windows Defender, you’ll need to go through the options above.
4. Is it safe to run Windows Defender with another antivirus app?
Yes. The two rarely get in each other’s way. Just make sure the two aren’t trying to run scans at the same time, we or your PC will slow to a crawl. Think of Windows Defender as a backup antivirus. But, it’s not going to hurt anything to disable it and just use the antivirus you want.
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