How to Turn Off Windows Defender

Disable your antivirus if you dare

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Once a program that scanned for and removed only spyware from your PC, Windows Defender has evolved into a full-fledged antivirus tool on newer versions of the operating system. While it does a respectable job of guarding your system against viruses, malware and other unwanted pests, Microsoft's integrated option isn't everyone's protection method of choice.

If you're interested in installing a different program to protect your PC, you may first 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.

It should be noted that 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.

Turn Off Windows Defender in Windows 10

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

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

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

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

  5. Click on the Open Windows Defender Security Center button.

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

    Virus & Threat protection button in Security at a glance
  7. Click on the Virus & threat protection settings button.

    Virus & threat protection settings button
  8. Select the blue and white toggle button so that this feature is turned off.

    Real-time protection toggled to OFF

    A User Account Control pop-up will appear, asking if you want to allow this app to make changes to your device. Click on Yes.

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

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

  5. On the Tools and Settings screen, click on 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.