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.

  • 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.

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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

  • 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.

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