HomeMicrosoftWindows Defender antivirus: Change these 5 options first

Windows Defender antivirus: Change these 5 options first

Windows Defender antivirus 1

Windows Defender is a robust antivirus solution that is incorporated into Windows. Unless you’ve installed a different antivirus program, your Windows 11 or Windows 10 PC is now utilizing it. The good news is that Microsoft’s Defender antivirus is intended to “just work” without much adjusting and has appropriate settings. However, there are some settings in your computer’s built-in antivirus program that you may want to adjust.

Here is one setting that no longer needs to be changed: Windows Defender now automatically detects and disables “potentially unwanted apps” (PUAs). Spyware, adware, and other garbage that you probably don’t want to be installed are automatically banned; you don’t have to flick a button to enable that extra protection.

Protect your files with controlled folder access

Windows Defender antivirus settings

Windows Defender antivirus features an exceptionally important option called “controlled folder access,” which is disabled by default. It offers further security against ransomware and other malicious software by blocking harmful malware from accessing files in sensitive directories, such as your Documents folder.

You can enable controlled folder access to provide further safety for your information; nevertheless, you should still keep backups of your crucial files. Back-ups are always necessary.

Be advised that if you enable controlled folder access, it may prevent trusted applications from accessing your data. You’ll next need to open the Windows Security pane and add those applications to the allowed-app list.

That’s why it’s disabled by default; you’ll probably have to fiddle with it. It could be especially troublesome for gamers, as PC games frequently require access to your Documents folder to save game files. However, if you want more security for your files, it may be worth it.

To enable controlled folder access, launch the “Windows Security” software from the Start menu, then click “Virus & Threat Protection,” and finally “Manage Ransomware Protection.” You may then enable “Controlled folder access” from here. The links here will allow you to view a list of prohibited applications, select which folders are secured, and regulate which apps are allowed via controlled folder access protection.

Turn off unnecessary notifications

Windows Defender antivirus settings

While Microsoft Defender usually stays out of your way and does its work silently, there is one unneeded item that annoys you. Defender attempts to do a thorough system scan in the background once every day when you are not using your computer. After a successful scan, you will receive a notification saying, “No new threats were found.”

Microsoft clearly wants you to know that Defender is doing something. But do you really need to be distracted by a pop-up that says everything is fine? I do not think so.

To turn off these unwanted notifications, launch the “Windows Security” app from your Start menu and select the gear-shaped “Settings” option in the bottom-left corner of the window.

To access notification settings, click the “Manage Notifications” link here. Uncheck only “Recent activity and scan results.” If you leave the other settings enabled, Windows will notify you when it detects a threat—but not if it scans and finds none.

You can also disable other types of Defender notifications here, however the latter are more beneficial.

Ditch the system tray icon — especially the second one

Windows Defender antivirus settings 3

The Windows Defender antivirus has a blue, shield-shaped system tray icon that indicates it is running. That is OK, but it is unnecessary clutter if you don’t want it.

Worse, if you use Microsoft 365, you may end up with two blue shield-shaped icons in the system tray. You’ll receive one for Windows Security, which is built into Windows, and one for Microsoft Defender, which is included in Microsoft 365.

Technically speaking, Microsoft Defender is a little different and includes certain additional capabilities such as identity theft monitoring as part of your subscription. Only Microsoft can explain why they have nearly identical names and icons.

Anyway, Microsoft doesn’t provide an apparent option to disable these icons. However, you can disable starting programs.

You can accomplish this directly from the Task Manager. First, launch the Task Manager by right-clicking an empty space on your taskbar and selecting “Task Manager”—or by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Then, choose “Startup apps” (Windows 11) or the “Startup” tab (Windows 10).

To turn off the Windows Security system tray icon, right-click the “SecurityHealthSystray.exe” application and select “Disable.” To disable the Microsoft Defender icon that comes with Microsoft 365, right-click the “Microsoft Defender” application and choose “Disable.”

(Alternatively, go to Settings > Apps > Startup to access the Settings app’s Startup app management option. You can use whichever tool you prefer: the one in the Settings app or the one in the Task Manager.

When you sign out and back into your computer, or restart it, the shield-shaped Defender icons will disappear from your system tray.

Even after you do this, Windows Defender remains active in the background. It will detect and stop malware, sending notifications when it does. You may access its functionality through the Windows Defender app – simply start “Windows Defender” from the Start menu. It simply will not appear on your PC’s system tray.

Set up exclusions to speed things up

Windows Defender antivirus settings 4

Most PC users will not need to create exclusions in Windows Defender or any other antivirus tool. However, if your workload requires exclusions, this is the most crucial parameter to adjust on this list.

Defender and other antimalware software scan your PC’s files in real-time. This is usually very quick, and modern antivirus software doesn’t slow things down much on a modern PC with an average workload. PCWorld always runs its benchmarks when Windows Defender is activated. After all, that is the default.

However, for some workloads, employing exclusions has a huge benefit. If you frequently create or deal with a large number of little files you trust—or some extremely large ones you trust—real-time scanning can degrade system performance.

This is especially handy when using virtual machines or compiling software, for example. By removing the folders containing the files you’re working on from real-time scanning, you can boost performance.

However, be cautious because you are exposing a weakness in your defenses. You should only do this with folders that you fully trust. Excluding game directories is not a good idea; after all, we live in a world where malware is spread via Steam game updates.

Consider whether core isolation is right for your PC

Windows Defender antivirus settings 5

If Exclusions are appropriate for your workload, you should configure them in Windows Defender. To do so, open “Windows Security” from the Start menu, select “Virus & threat protection,” and then “Manage settings” under Virus & threat protection settings. Scroll down to the Exclusions section, then select “Add or remove exclusions.” Then, add folders you want to exclude from scanning – but make sure you’re very certain about whatever you’re omitting.

You can play with a variety of additional intriguing security options in the Windows Security program. I recommend starting the “Windows Security” software from your Start menu and exploring it a little.

Core isolation is a contentious setting that Microsoft provides in the Windows Security interface — it isn’t a Windows Defender function, but it is something the Windows Security software will pester you to enable on your PC. Core isolation isolates system processes from the rest of your PC by leveraging your CPU’s hardware virtualization capabilities. Its memory integrity function helps to safeguard system processes from malware during a PC assault.

This is not an antivirus function, but rather a security feature for the Windows operating system as a whole. It can provide additional protection, but it may slow down PC performance, making it unsuitable for PC gamers.

If you upgraded to Windows 11 or set up your computer before the end of 2022, core isolation is deactivated by default. If you’ve built a new PC since the major update at the end of 2022, core isolation is enabled by default.

Prefer another antivirus? You don’t need to turn off Defender

While this setting improves security, it also reduces speed slightly, especially in games and on older PCs. I urge that you read up on core isolation before using it. Alternatively, if you have a contemporary gaming PC, you might want to consider turning it off for some additional FPS.

Windows Defender is a strong antivirus solution that requires minimal settings. That is one of the best aspects of it.

Even if you prefer another antivirus product, you do not need to disable Microsoft Defender antivirus. When you install another antivirus product, Defender will detect it and disable real-time scanning. If you uninstall the other antivirus product, Defender will reactivate.

Microsoft’s Defender antivirus ensures that Windows computers always have a basic degree of antivirus protection. Antivirus is unnecessary on a modern Windows 11 or Windows 10 PC; it is a security fallacy.

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