Windows Defender Security Center: What It Is and How to Use It

Stand strong against malware and malicious attacks

Windows 10 computers come with a security feature called Windows Defender Security Center, which offers protection against viruses, spyware, and malware. 

Let's take a look at what the Center has to offer, how to access it, and go over a few of its key features.

What is the Windows Defender Security Center?

Your computer's primary line of defense against malware and viruses is the Windows Defender Security Center.

Once you install third-party antivirus software, the Center becomes secondary. Many antivirus features become inactive, but you can monitor your device's security from the Center's dashboard. Other security settings, such as those related to Microsoft Edge, parental controls, and your Microsoft account's protection, can also be adjusted from within the Center.

Antivirus Programs vs. Windows Security Center

There are a few differences between the Windows Defender Security Center and third-party antivirus programs. The first is the Center doesn't require installation or a paid subscription to access its services, since the Center already comes pre-installed on Windows 10 devices.

Second, since Windows Defender Security Center is the in-house antivirus and security program for Windows 10, its security features are specifically designed for the OS.

Additionally, Windows Defender Security Center doesn't put security services or premium security features behind a paywall. Windows 10 users have access to all of the Center's features provided their devices are updated and have the hardware to support its tools.

The Center's Dynamic lock settings allow you to pair a mobile device with your PC via Bluetooth so you can lock your PC when you step away from it. Secure Boot is a security feature that prevents a type of malware called a "rootkit" from accessing your device upon startup. Rootkits can usually slide into devices undetected and record your passwords and keystrokes, grab cryptographic data, and more.

Access the Security Center on Windows 10 Using Search

There are two ways to access the Windows Defender Security Center: searching for it using the desktop's Search box or selecting the Security Center icon in the desktop's System Tray menu.

  1. Select the Search box.

  2. Type "Windows Defender Security Center."

    A screenshot of searching for the Windows Defender Security Center within the desktop's Search box.
  3. Press Enter, then select Windows Defender Security Center from the list of search results. You should then be directed to the Center's main screen dashboard.

Access the Security Center on Windows 10 via the System Tray

You can also access the Security Center in the Windows System Tray.

  1. In the bottom right corner of the desktop's screen, select the up arrow to open the System Tray.

  2. Select the Windows Defender icon, represented by a black and white shield.

    A screenshot showing how to access the Windows Defender Security Center via the desktop's System Tray menu.

    This icon may also contain a green dot with a white check mark in the center of it.

  3. The primary dashboard for Windows Defender Security Center should automatically open.

Use Windows Security Center to View Your Computer's Health Report

Regardless of whether you already have another antivirus security program running on your PC, the Center will still run a health scan of your computer to ensure everything's running smoothly. If not, the Health report feature will notify you. Here's how to access it.

  1. Access Windows Defender Security Center using one of the two methods described above.

  2. From the Center's dashboard, you can access the Health report in two ways:

    • Select Device performance & health.
    • Select the three horizontal lines on the dashboard's left side, then select Device performance and health.
    Device performance & health in Windows Security
  3. Your device's Health report should automatically load the results of the Center's analysis of four different performance categories: Storage capacity, Device driver, Battery life, and Apps and software. Each category will mention its status.

    Health report
  4. If there's an issue you need to resolve, a link to that issue will appear under its category. If there are no issues, a checkmark next to each category and "No issues" appears.

Set Up Windows Defender SmartScreen Settings for Apps and Browsers

Windows Security Center also offers a feature called Windows Defender SmartScreen. The SmartScreen feature helps protect against and warn you about threats like malware or phishing attacks. It can be especially helpful when browsing the internet.

  1. Access the Windows Defender Security Center using one of the two methods described earlier.

  2. From the dashboard, select App & browser control.

    App & browser control
  3. Under Exploit protection, select Exploit protection settings.

    App & browser control settings
  4. The App & browser control menu should offer several System and Program settings you can adjust.

    Exploit protection screen
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