What Is a Windows SmartScreen Filter?

Stop malware and other unknown programs from invading your PC

Windows SmartScreen is a program included with Windows that issues a warning when you land on a malicious or phishing website while surfing the web. It's turned on by default in Internet Explorer and Edge web browsers. It protects you against malicious advertisements, downloads, and attempted program installations as well.

Microsoft no longer supports Internet Explorer and recommends that you update to the newer Edge browser. Head to their site to download the newest version.

Windows SmartScreen Features

As you browse the web and use Windows, the Windows SmartScreen filter checks out the sites you visit and the programs you download. If it finds something that is suspicious or has been reported as dangerous, it displays a warning page. You can then opt to continue to the page, go back to the previous page, and/or provide feedback about the page. The same principle applies to downloads. 

It works by comparing the web site you’re trying to visit (or program you're trying to download and install) against a list of those labeled as untrustworthy or downright dangerous. Microsoft both maintains this list and recommends you leave this feature enabled to protect your computer from malware and to protect you from being targeted through phishing scams. The SmartScreen filter is available on Windows 7, Windows 8 and 8.1, Windows 10 platforms.

Additionally, understand that this isn’t the same technology as a pop-up blocker either; a pop-up blocker simply looks for pop-ups but doesn’t put any judgment on them.

How to Disable the SmartScreen Filter

The following steps show you how to turn of this feature, but understand doing so exposes you to additional risk. To disable the SmartScreen filter in Internet Explorer:

  1. Open Internet Explorer.
  2. Select the Tools button (it looks like a cog or wheel), then select Safety.
  3. Click Turn Off SmartScreen Filter or Turn Off Windows Defender SmartScreen.
  4. Click OK.

To disable the SmartScreen Filter in Edge:

  1. Open Edge.
  2. Select the three dots in the top left corner and click Settings.
  3. Click View Advanced Settings.
  4. Move the slider from On to Off in the section labeled Help Protect Me From Malicious Sites And Downloads With Windows Defender SmartScreen

If you change your mind, you can enable Windows SmartScreen by repeating these steps and opting to turn on the filter instead of turning it off.

If you turn off the SmartScreen feature and get malware on your computer, you might have to manually remove it (if Windows Defender or your own anti-malware software can’t).

Be Part of the SmartScreen Solution

If you find yourself on an untrustworthy web page while using Internet Explorer and don’t receive a warning, you can tell Microsoft about that site. Likewise, if you are warned that a particular web page is dangerous but you know it isn’t, you can report that as well.

To report that a site does not contain threats to users in Internet Explorer:

  1. From the warning page, select More Information.
  2. Click Report That This Site Does Not Contain Threats.
  3. Follow the instructions at the Microsoft Feedback site.

To report that a site does contain threats in Internet Explorer:

  1. Click Tools, and click Safety.
  2. Click Report Unsafe Website

There's one other option on the Tools > Safety menu in Internet Explorer that has to do with identifying pages as dangerous or not. It's Check This Website. Click this option to manually check the website against Microsoft's list of dangerous sites if you want some more reassurance.

To report that a site contains threats to users in Edge:

  1. From the warning page, click the three dots in the top right corner.
  2. Click Send Feedback.
  3. Click Report Unsafe Site.
  4. Follow the instructions on the resulting web page.

To report that a site does not contain threats in Edge:

  1. From the warning page, click the link for More information.
  2. Click Report that this site does not contain threats.
  3. Follow the instructions on the resulting web page.
Was this page helpful?