Windows 8: Free Antivirus Software Included

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft now says its Windows Defender program, which includes the free Security Essentials antivirus software, will ship as part of the standard Windows 8 package when the new operating system launches during the fall of 2012.

However, the software giant cautions that the protection afforded by the Security Essentials antivirus software will be activated only in situations where no other antivirus software is installed on a PC.

Windows 8, which reached its Release Preview stage just under two weeks ago, has long been anticipated to be delivered with the Windows Defender system included. That package normally includes both anti-spyware and antivirus tools that, until the advent of Windows 8, have been available only through a separate download.

In other words, if they wanted it, users of Windows 7 had to go online on their own to find Microsoft's free-of-charge Security Essentials antivirus software.

Priority Given to Third-Party Antivirus Programs

That will be different with Microsoft's newest operating system, Windows 8. It will have Security Essentials already on-board.

However, Gary Davis, director of global consumer product marketing at McAfee, says that when Windows 8 launches it will still give priority to third-party antivirus programs.

In practical terms, Windows 8 will automatically disable Security Essentials whenever the operating system detects a more comprehensive (and perhaps not-so-free) antivirus and anti-spyware software installed on the computer.

Obviously, antivirus (AV) vendors are pleased with the news. "Looking at the way they're doing things in Windows 8, Microsoft is going to great lengths to let AV vendors keep customers," said Davis. (Source:

PC Manufacturers Pressure Microsoft

According to Davis, Microsoft made the decision to follow this route after receiving pressure from computer manufacturers. They usually have lucrative relationships with the antivirus software companies.

Those companies generally pay a lot of money to have their software pre-installed on new PCs.

As a result, Windows Defender (and Security Essentials) will hide in the background of Windows 8 until and unless the system detects that no other antivirus software is operative, or that a subscription to such a system has run out.

Even in those cases, users will receive a series of warnings about the change before Microsoft supplants commercial software with its own. (Source:

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