Windows 8: How to Enable Windows Defender

Dennis Faas's picture

Here's a really interesting question from an reader:

"Hey there Infopackets team,

I just bought a Windows 8 PC that came with a third-party antivirus program already installed. But the subscription has already run out. I want to try Microsoft's Windows Defender program, but can't seem to figure out why it hasn't automatically turned on.

With all you seem to know about Windows computers, I'm pretty sure you can help me with this problem. Please!

Jeff G."

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Jeff. Of course we can help you.

Windows Defender is just a new name for Microsoft's well-known and free software: Security Essentials. One of the best new security features in Windows 8 is that the operating system will enable Windows Defender whenever it fails to detect some other antivirus program.

Windows Defender in Windows 8: OEMs Cry Foul

Microsoft's decision to include Windows Defender in Windows 8 has aroused lots of anger among computer manufacturers, who are paid hefty sums by antivirus companies in exchange for installing trial versions of their software on the manufacturers' new PCs.

In order to keep manufacturers (or 'OEMs') happy, Microsoft allows them to disable Windows Defender in order to install their trial-version antivirus software.

However, there is a problem with this approach: if a third-party antivirus program (from companies like McAfee, Symantec, or Kaspersky Lab) trial subscription runs out, Windows Defender may not automatically see the lapse of computer protection and jump into action.

And that will leave your PC vulnerable to viruses and malware.

How to Activate Windows Defender

Fortunately, you can manually activate Windows Defender after a trial antivirus software package has expired.

To do this, first go to Windows 8's new Start  screen and type in the command 'Windows Defender' (no quotations).

When the Windows Defender icon appears, click on it.

If Windows Defender is disabled, you'll be warned that Windows is "At risk" with a big red 'X'.

To enable Windows Defender, go to the Settings tab at the top of the Windows Defender window. Select and enable 'Real-time protection' and then click 'Save Changes.'

If the "At risk" warning is no longer visible, you know Windows Defender is working properly.

Once Windows Defender is activated, you can immediately run a system scan by clicking 'Scan Now.'

However, it's recommended that users first download the latest Windows Defender protection tools by clicking the 'Update' tab. (Source:

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