In this second lesson, we’ll talk about one of the most confusing security products that comes with Windows: Windows Defender.


  1. Protecting User Accounts and Passwords in Windows
  2. Disaster Prevention with User Account Control
  3. Windows Defender and Malware-Free System
  4. Windows Firewall: The best protection for your system
  5. Using Windows Firewall with Advanced Security
  6. Using the SmartScreen filter to identify suspicious websites and applications
  7. Using the Action Center for added security and maintenance
  8. Keep your system up to date for security and stability
  9. Beyond Defender: Third-Party Windows Security Products
  10. General Security Tips for Windows Users

This product has had a bad reputation in the past and for good reason — it was very limited in its ability to protect your computer from real malware. However, the latest version included in Windows 8.x operating systems is very different from the past and provides real protection to its users. The great thing about Windows Defender in its current incarnation is that it protects your system from the start, so there’s never a gap in coverage.

We’ll start this tutorial by explaining what Windows Defender is in Windows 7 and Vista compared to what’s in Windows 8, and which product to use if you’re using an earlier version. Next, we’ll look at how to use Windows Defender, how to improve its default settings, and how to deal with the warnings it displays.

As you’ll see, Windows Defender will use your Quarantined Items List much more often than other security products. That is why we will explain in detail how to work with it and permanently remove malware or restore those elements that are only false alarms.

Finally, you’ll learn how to turn off Windows Defender if you no longer want to use it and prefer a third-party security product instead, and then how to turn it back on if you change your mind about using it. Once completed, you should have a full understanding of the default anti-malware settings on your system, or how to quickly protect your system.

What is Windows Defender?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question due to the obscure way in which Microsoft chose the name of their security products. Windows Defender is a different product, depending on the Windows operating system you are using.

If you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7, then Windows Defender is a security tool that protects your computer from spyware. It is just one form of malware that is made up of tools and applications that track your movements on the Internet or the actions you take on your computer. Spyware tends to send information that is collected to a remote server and it is subsequently used for all sorts of malicious purposes, from showing you unwanted ads to using your personal data, etc.


However, there are many other types of malware on the Internet, and this version of Windows Defender is unable to protect users from any of them. That’s why if you’re running Windows 7 or earlier, we highly recommend disabling Windows Defender and installing a more complete security product such as Microsoft Security Essentials, or third-party security products from specialized security vendors.


If you’re using Windows 8.x operating systems, then Windows Defender is the same as Microsoft Security Essentials: a decent security product that protects your computer in real time against viruses and spyware. The fact that this product also protects your computer from viruses and not just from spyware is of great importance. If you don’t want to pay for security products, then Windows Defender in Windows 8.x and Microsoft Security Essentials (in Windows 7 or earlier) are good alternatives.


Windows Defender in Windows 8.x and Microsoft Security Essentials are the same product, just a different name. In this tutorial, we’ll be using the Windows 8.x version of Windows Defender, but our instructions also apply to Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) in Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

If you want to download Microsoft Security Essentials and try it out, we recommend that you use this page: Download Microsoft Security Essentials. There you will find both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of this product, as well as versions in several languages.

How to use and configure Windows Defender

Using Windows Defender (MSE) is very easy to use. To get started, search for «Defender» on the Windows 8.x Start screen and click or tap on the «Windows Defender» search result.


In Windows 7, search for «security» in the start menu search box and click «Microsoft Security Essentials».


Windows Defender has four tabs that provide access to the following tools and options:

Home — here you can view the security status of your system. If everything is in order, it will be colored green. If there are any warnings to be heeded then they will be colored yellow and if there are threats to be dealt with everything will be colored red.

On the right side of the Home tab, you’ll find options to scan your computer for viruses and spyware. At the bottom of the tab, you will find information about when the last scan was performed and what type of scan.


Update — here you will find information about whether this product is up-to-date. You’ll find out when it was last updated and the definition versions it uses. You can also start the update manually.


Story — here you can access quarantined items, see which items you have allowed to run on your computer, even if they were identified as malicious by Windows Defender, and view a complete list with all malicious items detected by Windows Defender on your computer. To access and work with all of these lists, you must be logged in as an administrator.


Settings is a tab where you can enable the real-time protection service, exclude files, file types, processes, and locations from your scans, and access a few more advanced settings. The only difference between Windows Defender in Windows 8.x and Microsoft Security Essentials (in Windows 7 or earlier) is that in the Settings tab, Microsoft Security Essentials allows you to specify when to run scheduled scans when Windows Defender does not have this options. ,


How to improve Windows Defender default settings

If you are logged in with a user account that is set as an administrator, you can change the default settings in Windows Defender and improve them a bit. Launch Windows Defender and go to the «Settings» tab, then select «Advanced» and consider enabling the following settings:

  • Scan for replacement drivers — If enabled, Windows Defender Full Scan will also scan external hard drives or flash memory cards connected to your computer.
  • Create a system restore point — If this setting is enabled, Windows Defender creates a system restore point before deleting, running, or quarantining items that it considers malicious.
  • Delete files from quarantine after — The default value for this parameter is three months. If you don’t want Windows Defender to quarantine malicious items for that long, consider reducing this period to a month or less.
  • Submit sample files automatically when further analysis is required — Leave this setting enabled as it helps Microsoft more quickly identify and respond to malware samples in future Windows Defender updates.


When you’re done setting up, click «Save Changes» and your new settings will be applied.

Working with warnings displayed by Windows Defender

One of the downsides of Windows Defender is that when it detects a threat and cleans it up, it doesn’t show much in terms of useful information. For example, in Windows 7, MSE shares this prompt when it detects a threat, but the prompt doesn’t say anything about it and you can’t click on it to find out more.


In Windows 8.x, Windows Defender has a similar prompt. If you click or tap on it, Windows Defender will launch, but again, you won’t be shown any meaningful information that you can use to figure out what’s going on.


When threats are detected, the standard behavior is to neutralize them by quarantining them. That’s why you’ll end up using the Quarantined List much more often in Windows Defender than you would with third-party security products.

How to work with quarantined files in Windows Defender

After you see a warning from Windows Defender, the best thing to do is run it and go to the History tab. There, select Quarantined Items and click View Details.


A list with all quarantined items is displayed with the newly found items displayed. If you select an item, you can view additional information about it: category, description, location, warning level, and the date it was quarantined.


Based on this information, you can either delete this item permanently by clicking Delete, or you can restore it to its original position by clicking Restore. Obviously, malware recovery is not exactly what you should do unless you are 100% sure. it’s a false alarm. By clicking «Restore», Windows Defender informs you well about the consequences.


If you want to delete all quarantined items, click the Delete All button.

How to turn off Windows Defender

When you install a new security product, Windows Defender usually turns off automatically. For example, if you’re running Windows 7 and installing Microsoft Security Essentials, the old Windows Defender product is automatically disabled so you don’t have to do anything.

However, not all third-party security products disable Windows Defender on their own, and you may need to do it manually.

Windows 7

If you’re using Windows 7 and want to disable Windows Defender because you want to use a third-party security product instead, go to the start menu and search for the word «defender».

Click on the «Windows Defender» search result to launch it.


Then go to «Tools -> Options». Here you will find many settings divided into several categories. Select «Administrator» in the column on the left. Uncheck «Use this program» and click «Save».


You have been informed that Windows Defender is now disabled.


If you installed Microsoft Security Essentials on Windows 7 and want to use a third-party security product instead, disabling it means uninstalling the program like any other. Go to «Control Panel -> Programs -> Programs and Features». There, select «Microsoft Security Essentials», click «Uninstall» and follow the wizard.


Windows 8.x

Launch Windows Defender and go to the «Settings» tab. There, select the «Administrator» category on the left and uncheck «Enable this app» and then click «Save Changes».


You are being told that Windows Defender is disabled and is not in control of your computer or device. Click «Close» and you’re done.


Windows Defender is no longer enabled.

How to enable Windows Defender

If you want to turn Windows Defender back on, you can do so if you haven’t installed any third-party security products such as antivirus software or Internet security suites.

You can use the Action Center to enable Windows Defender.


In Lesson 7, you’ll learn about the Action Center, its role in keeping your system safe and healthy, and how to use it.

Further …

This tutorial ends here and we hope you find it useful. In the next lesson, you’ll learn about the Windows Firewall, how it protects your system from network attacks, and how to use it to control which applications get access to the network and the Internet and which don’t.

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