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No additional cost
Tons of security features rare with free solutions
Strong parental controls for peace of mind
Frequent updating of virus definitions
Low overhead when scanning
Basic features are easy to use
Even checks for known vulnerabilities
Spyware scans only in Windows 7, Vista, and XP
Has high false-positive tendencies
Full scans take several hours to complete
Only for Windows-based operating systems
SmartScreen only available for Microsoft Edge
Windows Defender Security Center is a free feature-rich security and antivirus program for PCs that will provide most average users plenty of protection from malware.
Microsoft has finally developed a full-blown security suite with Windows Defender Security Center. It’s loaded with tons of features to protect your PC, including antivirus, firewall, and even device health, among other things. One might expect to see a hefty price tag with these features; however, Windows Defender comes free with Windows 10 and 8.1. However, for those who use Windows 7, Vista, or XP, you only get the ability to scan for spyware. Fortunately, Microsoft has Security Essentials to handle the needs of earlier versions of Windows. We tested the antivirus program, so keep reading to see how it performed in our trial run.
Windows Defender has a rare feature with its antivirus protection. Not only does it provide definition-based security, but it also monitors behavioral changes within your system. As malware becomes more sophisticated, Windows Defender will monitor for processes, actions, or other behaviors typical of all kinds of malware. If it notices the sudden activity of files being rewritten over and over, Windows Defender will compare that activity to known malicious behavior. The additional signature-based protection covers known malware as it compares to the virus definitions built-in and frequently updated in its database.
Windows Defender will not only scan your hard drive but any external devices you may use. By using the Custom scan in the Advanced Scan section, you can point the application to scan USB thumb drives, CDs, and external hard drives. With a bit of Registry tweaking, some users have even configured Windows Defender to scan drives on the network.
In Windows 10 and 8.1, Windows Defender will scan for viruses, rootkits, ransomware, spyware, adware, and known vulnerabilities as reported by MITRE Corporation.
Just like Windows 10, Windows Defender Security Center has a simple-to-use interface. Each feature has a brief explanation of its use and most have links for additional information online. Most of the language is suitable for users, with little to no technical jargon to confuse. However, users who opt to use the more advanced features of the program may get in over their head. Some features, such as the firewall have more technical interfaces, better-suited to an IT professional. Overall, most of the graphical user interface (GUI) is easy to navigate and use.
Windows Defender Antivirus automatically updates its virus definitions as needed. Just like its patches, Windows will actively scan and monitor for any necessary updates. You can also perform a manual check for updates if you want to be sure your computer has the latest and greatest protection.
Not only does it provide definition-based security, but it also monitors for behavioral changes within your system.
With the 4 types of scans, performance varies very little.
Overall, Windows Defender did not hammer the system to the point of being unusable. The only noticeable slowdowns were when Windows was downloading updates. However, many of these updates also included patches for Windows itself, so it is likely the virus definition updates cause little to no performance hits.
Microsoft has expanded Windows Defender into a full suite of tools to protect your computer. Besides the virus and threat protection, Windows Defender Security Center has account protection, firewall and network protection, app and browser control, device security, device performance and health, and Family options. Below is an overview of each additional tool.
Windows Defender SmartScreen will check your system for unrecognized apps and files from the web. You can set it to Block, Warn, or Off this feature.
For consumer help, there aren’t many options to talk to a live person. Microsoft has a thriving community where their techs and fellow community members can post issues and provide solutions. However, this can be very slow and unreliable as you are at the mercy of someone reading your post and giving you a proper solution. Microsoft has an online chat program to get help. While it may not be the most effective, you can many times get some direction of where to look. If you have some accessibility limitations, they do offer a special answer desk just for you.
Since Windows Defender Security Center comes standard with Windows 10 and 8.1, the lack of additional cost is hard to beat.
Both Windows Defender Security Center and McAfee Total Protection offer a similar variety of security features. You can’t beat a $0 price tag with Windows Defender; however, McAfee’s costs are reasonable considering the extra protection you can get. McAfee offers Identity Theft Protection and a Password Manager. Two tools vital for safe computing and protecting you and your family. Another negative against Windows Defender is the lack of support outside of Microsoft products. If you use Windows and Microsoft Edge, Windows Defender Security Center is the perfect solution for those on a tight budget. If you need security in another OS or browser other than Edge, McAfee is a good compromise between cost and features.
Better than average coverage at no cost.
While some reported tests state that Windows Defender gives a larger than normal number of false positives, for the average user, it provides a moderate amount of protection. With the feature-rich security center and the unbeatable free price tag, you get quality security at a cost any budget-minded person can love.