How to turn on Windows Defender in Windows 8.1

Windows 8 and 8.1 are more secure than their predecessors because of Secure Boot in UEFI and also because of a revamped version of Windows Defender.

Windows Defender first joined the fight against malware in Windows Vista.  It was basic tool that shipped with Windows to combat spyware.  Defender accomplished this feat by monitoring common files and folders that were infamous for being besieged by malware.

In Windows 8 and  Windows 8.1, Microsoft augmented Defender with antivirus signatures.  Now, Defender offers protection against not only spyware but also rootkits, viruses and Trojans.

But is the protection sufficient?  In other words, how well does Windows Defender actually defend PCs against the machinations of the bad guys?

People often wonder if Windows Defender is as good as some of the bigger names such as AVG and avast.  My answer invariable remains the same: Defender simply isn’t as robust as the big boys.  Although Microsoft has made great strides toward improving security in Windows 8, Defender still isn’t an enterprise grade virus solution that obviates the need for more focused alternatives.

AV-test is a Germany based, independent, security institute that comprises 30 it security experts.  In January and February of this year, it subjected Windows Defender to rigorous tests and serious scrutiny:

The testers had three objectives in mind:

  • How well does Defender protect PCs against malware?
  • What is the impact on computer performance?
  • How easy is the software to use?

Defender came out with a sparkling high usability score; however, the more important protection score was an abysmal 2 out of 6.   This is exacerbated by the fact that in 2009, Windows Defender actually had a certification from AV-test; however, in 2012 it lost the AV-test badge because it continued to yield unacceptable scores in protection and virus repair.  Moreover, compared to the AV industry, Defender is well below the average; therefore, I don’t recommend using Defender as a serious antivirus solution.  AVG and avast are both free and offer superior AV protection.

That being said, this doesn’t mean we should absolutely banish Defender into oblivion.  After all, it does offer some antivirus protection – I just don’t recommend it as a permanent solution.

In summary, my advice is to view Windows Defender as a stepping stone toward a more secure AV solution.  It’s just a temporary fix to protect from basic threats until you install something like AVG and avast.  When you decide to install a better AV suite it should automatically disable Windows Defender for you.

Now that you know what you’re getting into here’s how to enable or disable Windows Defender:

Enabling and Disabling Windows Defender

To toggle Windows Defender on and off press Windows Key + q from the Desktop or head over to the Start Screen and start typing Windows Defender.

Windows 8.1 searching for Windows Defender

Defender will quickly pop into the search results.

Give it a click and the Defender application will steal the stage.

If Defender is disabled you’ll immediately know because of the frightening blood red color theme that decorates the main window.

Turn on Protection in Windows Defender

Click the obnoxiously big Turn on button to activate Defender.

When everything turns green, you’re protected.

Windows Defender is On

You can run a full scan by clicking Scan now in the right pane.  If you want to disable Windows Defender, head over to the Settings tab and uncheck Turn on real-time protection (recommended).

Turn real-time protection off in Windows defender

Have you had any problems with Windows Defender?   Do you think it’s a good AV solution?  Let me know in the comments.

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  • Alan Quimby

    this app has been turned off and is not monitoring your computer. Does not offer me a choice to turn it on. Help appreciated.

    • Denise Bailey

      Hi Alan. My names Denise and I was wondering if you ever were able to solve the windows defenders issue? McAfee came installed when I o my PC-TAB, but I refuse to pay for something the computer has with my Microsoft windows package. I have tried everything, and even uninstalled McAfee, but still cannot access Windows Defenders to turn it on…can
      you give me any advise, a number to call, or a way to get it working?

    • Denise Bailey

      Hello again Alan. I got it! I first found the McAfee package in my apps and uninstalled it, not the apps that have many McAfee applications -because then I was unsure just what I was uninstalling; I then went to the start tiles and deleted or uninstalled that McAfee tile. Then I went to Dell support tile and WALLA, there the option to turn on Windows Defender was there and so I did. Hope this helps….

  • Alfonso Fernandez Martinez

    you should be can activate this program on windows defender configuration , real time protection , activate o start , if doenst possible , cmd administratos , write ” sfc /scannow ” and restart when finished

  • Aliza

    This doesn’t work for me at all its just says that windows defender is turned off

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  • ghazan

    this app is turned off and is not monitoring. what should i do to activate it

    • Mr. Smith

      when another AVP is loaded on your system (McAfee/AVG/Norton) the Windows Defender is turned off by default. To fix, access the control panel/uninstall programs and remove the AVP program that was installed. Once removed, your system should ask you to restart your computer so do that. Once the system comes back up the Windows Defender will automatically be turned on. Then you can access that APP and make whatever tweaks to fit your needs.

      • Denise Bailey

        Hello Mr. Smith. I wanted to say to you that I appreciate your post, however, most people that are asking for simple advice would like (or need) simple answers, not a lot of technical jargon. Its confusing enough as it is, but thank you I did finally find what I needed but only after a lot of time experimenting on my own as your thoughts were not helpful, but frustrated me even more. Thanks

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  • Ashton Russell

    how can I turn windows defender back on its totally disabled help please

  • Jim Harmon

    windows defender is turned off & I want it on

    • http://www.fixedbyvonnie.com/ Vonnie Hudson

      JimAshtonGhazanAliza, you can enable Windows Defender in Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 by hitting the Start Button, typing “defender”, expanding the Security section in the right pane and clicking “Turn on now” under Virus Protection

      • Denise Bailey

        Hi Vonnie, your response to this question of how to turn on Defenders was helpful as it got me thinking outside the box. Apparently when you have a pre-installed security app already installed on a new computer , its goal is to make you pay! I refused to do this as Microsoft has an app that goes with the package. Therefore these ay security programs make it difficult, if not impossible to get them off and the computer will not run two security apps at a time. I got it though, as I am tenacious and don’t like it when somebody tries to force me to do something…ha-ha

  • Jim Harmon

    this app has been turned off and is not monitoring your computer. Does not offer me a choice to turn it on. Help appreciated.

    • Denise Bailey

      Uninstall the compacted outside security app example, McAfee or Norton, etc. Get rid of the tile too, left click it and uninstall it. Then go to the support location of what ever computer your using, i. e. Dell, HP, etc. and the option to turn Defenders on is there. This is how it was for me, hope this helps

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  • WILLIAM MORABE

    THANK YOU VONNIE FOR HELPING ME TURN ON MY WINDOWS DEFENDER WHICH WAS TROUBLING ME

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