How to Turn off Windows Defender

Disable your antivirus if you dare

Close up of an electric cord with a on and off switch.

Maciej Toporowicz, NYC / Getty Images

If you're interested in installing a different program to protect your PC, you might want to disable Windows Defender. If you're just looking to temporarily turn off Defender for troubleshooting purposes, that can be done as well by following the instructions below.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

Turn off Windows Defender in Windows 10

The method turn off Windows Defender in Windows 10 are unique to this version of the operating system.

  1. Select the Start button.

  2. When the Windows menu appears, select the Settings (gear) icon.

    Screenshot of Start menu Settings icon in Windows 10
  3. The Windows Settings interface should now be displayed. Select the Update & Security option.

    Screenshot of Update & Security button in Windows Settings
  4. Select Windows Security from the left menu pane found under the Update & Security heading.

    Screenshot of Windows Security in the left pane of Update & Security
  5. Click on the Open Windows Defender Security Center button.

    Screenshot of Windows Security and Open Windows Defender Security Center buttons
  6. Windows Defender's Settings should now be visible. Select the Virus & threat protection settings link.

    Screenshot of Virus & Threat protection button in Security at a glance
  7. Select the Virus & threat protection settings button.

    Screenshot of Virus & threat protection settings button
  8. Select the blue and white toggle button so that this feature is turned off. A User Account Control pop-up will appear, asking if you want to allow this app to make changes to your device. Select Yes.

    Screenshot of Real-time protection toggled to OFF

    Real-time protection will only be disabled temporarily, and will eventually be activated again on its own (typically upon system reboot) unless you install a third-party antivirus application such as Avast or Norton - at which point Windows Defender should be rendered inactive on a long-term basis.

  9. Repeat step 8 for both the Cloud-delivered protection and Automatic sample submission options.

Turn off Windows Defender in Windows 7 and Windows 8 

  1. Select the Start button, located in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.

  2. When the Windows menu appears, enter the following text in the search field provided: windows defender

  3. Select Windows Defender, which should now be displayed in the search results under the Control Panel heading.

  4. The Windows Defender interface will appear. Select Tools, located towards the top of the window.

  5. On the Tools and Settings screen, select the Options link.

  6. Select the Administrator option, found in the left menu pane.

  7. Remove the check mark accompanying the Use this program setting, which should instantly disable Windows Defender. Repeat these steps to activate it again at any time.

Most third-party antivirus applications will disable Windows Defender's active protection for you, so if you've installed and enabled an alternative program do not be surprised to find certain features of Windows Defender already turned off when taking these steps.