How Does Windows Defender Stack Up in Windows 10?

Dennis Faas's picture

How Does Windows Defender Stack Up in Windows 10?

Infopackets Reader Lisa K. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I read with interest your article entitled: 'How to Fix: Windows 10 Antivirus Missing, Not Compatible'. After upgrading to Windows 10, my antivirus also went missing. So my question is: how does Windows Defender stack up against popular antivirus or antimalware programs? Should I continue to use Windows Defender or should I reinstall my antivirus program? "

My response:

This is often simply a question of choice, but your computer hardware may also dictate what is most suitable.

In my opinion, Windows Defender - whether it's running on Windows 10 or not - does a very good job of protecting a Windows computer, plus it is relatively low key with its notifications. On the other hand, Norton 360 (for example) seems to provide an update notification for every single action done on the computer, and I find that highly annoying - though this feature I understand can be disabled. Norton 360 and similar antivirus programs (such as McAfee) offer a bit too much protection for my liking and end up slowing down the computer significantly, so I prefer the bare minimum in protection - but that is also my preference and may not be suitable for you.

For what it's worth and based on my experience, Avast! antivirus with real-time file scanning performed much better with less overhead and processing than Windows Defender on my netbook with a single core processor and 1.5GB of RAM. So if you have a slower computer, you might want to try Avast! or another antivirus program to your liking.

The More Protection You Add, the Slower Things Get

If you are a novice computer user or you share your computer with more than one person, than you might need more protection than what Windows Defender offers. Most antivirus programs offer browser scanning, email scanning, browser download scans, deep file scans - and the like. On the other hand, Windows Defender only offers real-time file scanning, which is suitable for most people since all files get scanned once they are activated (read).

As I mentioned previously: if you plan to add more protection, the downside is that it will slow down your computer for every layer of protection added. So if you have a slow computer to begin with, then I suggest you stick to Windows Defender or Avast! (or similar) with only real-time file scanning active, and nothing else.

Using Antivirus / Antimalware with Windows Defender in Tandem

One other option is to use Windows Defender as a "second opinion" by having it perform a scheduled scan in addition to using a third party antivirus program.

In this scenario you would use a third party antivirus program (such as Avast! or similar) as your primary antivirus to perform real-time file scanning, and then disable the real-time file scanning on Windows Defender. You can then set Windows Defender to perform a scheduled scan once a week - this would be your "second opinion" because Windows Defender will detect viruses and Trojans differently than another antivirus program.

Please note that by default, Windows Defender has real-time file scanning enabled even if you have a third party antivirus program already installed. It is therefore recommended you disable the real-time file scanning on Windows Defender as this will give you a boost in performance. This is especially important for slower and older computers.

Antivirus and Antimalware False Positives

With all of that to consider, no single antivirus / antimalware program is 100% correct all the time, which means that there are always going to be false positives.

As such, the only way to really know if you are dealing with a false positive is to compare a suspect file against other antivirus programs. For this job, my favorite tool is VirusTotal.com, which allows you to compare a file or website against 50+ antivirus programs. If the file or website is reported as containing a Trojan or virus by many antivirus suites, then it is a safe bet that you should avoid the file or website.

I hope that answers your question.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.3 (13 votes)