How to Schedule a Scan in Windows 8 Defender

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Understand the Task at Hand

Windows Defender user interface.
Used with permission from Microsoft. Robert Kingsley

While many users were unquestionably delighted to hear that Windows 8 has a bundled antivirus solution, the fact that the software in question is Windows Defender may have tempered the celebrations a bit. Defender is not an unfamiliar name to Windows users, anyone with a Microsoft OS since Vista will be familiar with the lightweight malware scanner. But Microsoft would have to be crazy to ask you to trust your system's security to such a basic antimalware tool…or would they?

A More Robust Defender

Windows 8's Defender is not the lightweight spyware scanner you remember. Microsoft has overhauled it with the virus scanning capabilities of Microsoft Security Essentials making it a viable option to protect your system from all manner of web-based threats.

Windows Defender's primary task is to protect your system in real-time. It runs in the background and scans files as you download, open, transfer and save them to ensure that everything appears safe. While it aims to prevent threats before they end up on your hard drive, it isn't perfect. To give yourself a better shot at safety you'll want to schedule a recurring scan to check for malware on a regular basis.

You Can't Schedule Scans from the Defender Interface

Any user of any antivirus will be familiar with scheduling virus scans, but Windows Defender makes it a bit of a challenge. You'll likely notice if you poke around Defender's interface that there are no options to schedule a scan listed anywhere. You may think that means Defender doesn't support this feature, but that isn't the case. You just have to use the Task Scheduler.

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Open the Task Scheduler

To get started, you'll need to get to the Task Scheduler. Open the Control Panel, select "System and Security," select "Administrative Tools" and then double-click "Task Scheduler." You can also just search for "Schedule" from the Start Screen, click "Settings" and then select "Schedule Tasks."

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Locate Defender's Scheduled Tasks

Drill down through the folders in the first column to find configured tasks.
Used with permission from Microsoft. Robert Kingsley

Drill down through the folder structure on the first column of the Task Scheduler window to find Windows Defender: Task Scheduler Library > Microsoft > Windows > Windows Defender
Select "Windows Defender" when you locate it.

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View Defender's Task Settings

Double-click "Windows Defender Scheduled Scan" to view the settings for Defender's recurring scan. The task is already set up as a full-system scan. All you need to do is provide a trigger so it actually runs. Select the "Triggers" tab and click or tap "New."

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Configure the Schedule to Run the Task

Configure the task's schedule to make it run when you need it to.
Used with permission from Microsoft. Robert Kingsley

Select "On a Schedule" from the drop-down list at the top of the window. Enter the current date just below the drop-down list as well as the time you want the scan to run. Next, you'll need to determine how often the scan should run. You have a few options to choose from:

  • Daily - Select this option and place a number in the "Recur every: # Days" box
  • Weekly - Select this option and select the days of the week you want the scan to run
  • Monthly - We do not recommend going more than a week without scanning your system

Once you have your schedule configured, click "OK" to save the trigger. You can now exit the Task Scheduler.

Windows Defender will now scan your computer regularly to ensure that you haven't picked up any malware.