When using Windows, you’ll notice that it comes with its own antivirus called Windows Defender (now called Windows Security and Microsoft Defender in later versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11). For some, Windows Defender is more of a hindrance than a help, and 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 Defender off under “Real-time protection.” 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. 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.
- 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.
Note: if you’re already using another antivirus instead of Windows Defender, you may not see these settings at all – which is a fix in itself and will be detailed below.
Disable Windows Defender Permanently
Fortunately, there are ways to make it so that Windows Defender doesn’t reenable itself. Keep in mind that you’ll have to make sure you do not browse the Web without a functioning antivirus active! You need to have something installed beforehand to make up for Windows Defender being turned off.
You have a few options when it comes to disabling Windows Defender.
- The first is the simplest: just install a third-party virus program on your PC to disable the Defender in part.
- For a more permanent solution, you can go through the registry or Local Group Policy window. Typically, the Local Group Policy solution 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 aren’t 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.
Before you proceed with registry options, you have to disable Windows Defender Tamper Protection. This is a great feature that helps prevent another user or even a virus from disabling your built-in antivirus. Otherwise, any changes you make in the following sections will go away once you restart.
- Go to “Start -> Settings -> Privacy & security -> Windows Security.”
- Select “Virus & threat protection.” If you don’t see this option, select “Open Windows Security,” then select “Virus & threat protection.”
- Select “Manage Settings.”
- Toggle off “Tamper Protection.”
Using the Registry (Available for ALL Users)
- Open the Run command by pressing Win + R. In the box that appears, type
regeditand click “OK.”
Note: Make a backup of your registry before you make any changes. You can do this by opening the Registry Editor, then “File -> Export.” Place the copy in a safe place. If you want to clean up your registry from time to time, learn how to defragment it.
- 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 it. Instead, select the Windows Defender folder as shown 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 and go to “New -> 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 return 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 related to Defender 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. Right-click the “Windows Defender” folder and select “New -> Key.” Add three new Keys: “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.
Tip: if you’re having trouble opening Windows Security on your PC, here are some fixes.
Using Local Group Policy
- Press Win + R to load the Run box, then type
gpedit.mscinto 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 one of the other two remaining methods outlined in this article.
- When the Local Group Policy window loads, select “Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates” on the right.
- Go to “Windows Components -> Windows Defender (Antivirus).” Scroll down until you 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 and select “Disabled” instead.
Use a Third-Party Antivirus
You’re not under any obligation to use what Windows comes with. While it does work surprisingly well, you can use any third-party antivirus. This is also an easy way to permanently disable Windows Defender.
- Download and install the antivirus of your choice. We have several recommendations along with advice on using a third-party antivirus with Windows 11.
- Once installed, Windows Defender should go into passive mode, which means it’s no longer running. If your antivirus doesn’t have a firewall, the Windows Defender firewall will still run.
- Check that your system is using the correct antivirus by going to “Start -> Settings -> Privacy & Security -> Windows Security.”
- Select either “Virus & threat protection” or “Open Windows Security.” If you choose the latter, you’ll need to select “Virus & threat protection” on that page.
- Select “Manage providers.” Depending on your version of Windows, this may be listed in the center of the window or to the far right.
- Check that your third-party antivirus is turned on and that Microsoft Defender Antivirus is turned off. If it’s the other way around, select your antivirus and turn it on, then turn off Defender.
- If you have another firewall installed, you’ll also be able to change your firewall preferences under the “Firewall & network protection” section. Otherwise, the Microsoft Firewall will stay on.
Windows Defender issues might cause you to get a “This setting is managed by your administrator” error. Fortunately, we can help you solve it.
Disable Periodic Scanning
Even if you’ve installed another antivirus, Windows may still run periodic scans. These won’t run at the same time as your third-party antivirus, but if you want to fully disable Windows Defender, you’ll want to stop these extra scans. By default, Windows 11 turns periodic scans off when installing another antivirus, but Windows 10 doesn’t always do this.
- Go to “Start -> Settings -> Privacy & security -> Windows Security.”
- Open “Virus & threat protection.” If this isn’t an option, select “Open Windows Security” first.
- Expand “Microsoft Defender Options.”
- Turn off “Periodic scanning.”
Disable Windows Defender Tasks
If Windows Defender is still trying to run, you may need to manually disable a few tasks and services.
- Click the Start menu and search for “task scheduler.” Select “Task Scheduler.”
- In the left pane, open “Task Scheduler Library -> Microsoft -> Windows -> Windows Defender.”
- If you see any tasks listed here, right-click each one and choose “Disable.”
- As a final step, you may also need to disable one or more Windows Defender services. This is especially true if you’re having trouble turning off the built-in firewall and want to use something else. Press Win + R, type
services.mscand click “OK.”
- Look for both “Microsoft Defender” and “Windows Defender.” We had the following services listed: Microsoft Defender Antivirus, Microsoft Defender Antivirus Network Inspection Service, and Windows Defender Firewall.
- If the services are listed as “Manual” or “Disabled” under “Startup Type” and aren’t listed as “Running,” you don’t need to worry about it. If it’s running or listed as “Automatic,” right-click the service and select “Properties.”
- Stop the service if it’s running and change the “Startup type” to “Manual” or “Disabled.”
- Press “Apply” to confirm the changes. You may be prompted to restart your computer after disabling tasks and services.
Ever wondered if your antivirus is working properly? Learn how to test your program against real malware to get the answer.
Frequently Asked Questions
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 an antivirus, it’s not easy.
Can 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 fewer system resources than most antivirus apps. If your PC is running slowly, check Task Manager (Win + X and select “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.
Is it safe to run Windows Defender with another antivirus app?
Yes, but you can only use the firewall and periodic scans in Windows Defender while another antivirus is active. Consider Defender a backup antivirus. Or, if something happens to your third-party antivirus, Windows Defender will immediately take over until you resolve any issues with your other antivirus.
Why is Windows Defender coming back on after every restart?
Ensure you turned off Tamper Protection in the Windows Defender settings. Outside of installing a third-party antivirus, anything you do to disable Windows Defender will go away after a restart if Tamper Protection is left on. It’s also possible you don’t have admin privileges to change these settings.
Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Crystal Crowder.
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