Using Windows Defender
Windows Defender has gotten a big boost in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Now the app, which was formerly an anti-spyware utility designed to protect your computer from spyware and other intrusions, has grown up into a multifaceted protection system that keeps an eye on the health of your computer, scans regularly for viruses and malware, intercepts unrecognized apps, safeguards your system with Windows Firewall, and enables you to set up family security options so you know protection is in place for everyone in your household who uses your computer.
If you're concerned that your computer is infected, you can use Windows Defender to scan your system regularly and remove any suspicious files that have been added to your computer without your knowledge. Windows Defender in Windows 10 also includes a network monitoring feature that helps computers on a network detect and stop malware.
One of the challenges of working with antivirus, spyware, and malware protection programs is that they don't play nicely together. As you can imagine, they are suspicious of everyone; that's their job.
This means that if you have installed another type of antivirus or spyware program, such as Lavasoft's Ad-Aware or Norton 360, Windows Defender might be disabled.
If you'd rather have Windows Defender operating, you might need to uninstall the other antivirus or spyware software before you can activate Windows Defender. This can be a pain, but if you've deliberately paid for and installed a different security suite, chances are it means you trust it to do a more thorough job than Microsoft's solution. And Windows Defender Security-especially in its enhanced form, for Windows 10 Fall Creators Update-is built to work with your operating system, so it is likely to be a solid choice for protection
Checking Out the Windows Defender Security Center
Windows Defender is always working in the background of your Windows 10 computer or device, but you can check the status of the scans, tweak settings, and more by displaying the Windows Defender Security Center.
- Type defender into the Search box in the taskbar. The Search pane appears, showing Windows Defender in the results.
- Click Windows Defender Security Center.
- Notice when the last scan of your system was performed.
- Review the status of the various security tools. Windows 10 lets you know if any action is needed from you at this time.
- Click one of the security categories to see updates related to those areas.
- Click Settings to change the way in which Windows Defender notifies you of issues and updates.
Scanning for Risks with Windows Defender
Windows Defender is designed to scan your system every so often-at increments you choose-but you can also choose to do a scan of your PC whenever you like.
You can launch Windows Defender from the Settings window, or you can launch Defender as an app from the Start menu. Either way, you can have Windows Defender scan your PC to make sure no worrisome files have snuck in under your radar.
- In the Windows Defender Security Center, click Virus & Threat Protection.
- Review the information about the most recent scan.
- To launch a new scan, click the Quick Scan button. Windows Defender immediately begins scanning your computer or device.
- If you want to do an in-depth scan, click Advanced Scan.
- Choose the option you want for the type of scan you want Windows Defender to perform. You can do a Quick scan, a Full scan, or a Custom scan.
- Tap or click the Scan Now button. Windows Defender begins the scanning process.
If you have specific concerns about a security threat, choose a Full scan. It takes longer, but it is more thorough in scanning all your computer's files.
Updating Your Definitions
Windows Defender uses what's known as a definitions file to make sure it's checking for the latest viruses and spyware. Defender automatically updates the file, but you can also have Defender check to see whether any new updates are available. Click the Virus & Threat Protection category and choose Protection Updates. Then tap or click the Check for Updates button to search for updates to the definitions file.
- After the scan completes, Windows Defender updates the scan information in the Virus & Threat Protection category and sends a system notification alerting you that the scan is complete.
Checking Your Windows Firewall
A firewall checks all the information coming to your computer from the Internet or any local network to which you are connected. Firewalls try to ensure that any data received comes from a trusted contact and that the information can be considered safe for your computer. If any suspicious information is found, your Windows Firewall alerts you so that you can allow or block the sender based on whether you think it should be allowed through the firewall. Windows Firewall used to be a standalone tool that functioned in the protection of your system, but in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Windows Firewall has been integrated into Windows Defender Security.
Checking the Firewall
Windows Defender keeps your Firewall on by default. You can, however, check the settings and turn the utility off or on again if necessary.
- In the Windows Defender Security Center, click the Firewall & Network Protection category.
- Review the status of the firewalls used on your system. The green check mark means the firewall is on and functioning properly.
- Click a setting to make changes to it.
You are likely to see three different firewall settings: domain, private, and public When you are working on your home network, you typically are using a private network. When you are using your computer or device in a public place, like a library or coffee shop, the public firewall is used. And if you log in to a workplace network, you might be using the domain firewall. It's important that each of these firewalls be in place so that Windows Defender can keep an eye on the overall protection of your system.
Changing Firewall Settings
When Windows Firewall is active, you are prompted each time a program tries to make changes on your computer that don't appear to come from an authorized source. You can change the settings for Windows Firewall so that you receive different alerts using different criteria if you like.
- In the bottom area of the Firewall & Network Protection window, click Firewall Notification Settings.
- Leave this setting set to On if you want to continue receiving notifications of all Defender activity and scan results.
- Leave this set to On if you want to know when Windows Defender blocks a suspicious app.
- If you want to stop notifications for one of the different network areas (for example, for the domain firewall), click to clear the check mark in the check box.
Public networks are generally more unsecure than private home or office networks. Windows Firewall is more stringent in what it treats as trustworthy over a public network.
Working with Windows SmartScreen
Windows SmartScreen is another Windows 10 utility that used to be a standalone app and is now included as part of Windows Defender Security Center. Windows SmartScreen keeps an eye on your computer or device and alerts you before Windows 10 runs any unrecognized apps or files you've downloaded from the Web.
By default, Windows SmartScreen displays a warning before running an unrecognized app. You can change Windows SmartScreen settings if you want to, either to turn off the feature (not a good idea) or to require that administrator approval be given before an unrecognized app can be run.
- In the Windows Defender Security Center, click App & Browser Control. The window shows a number of settings from Windows SmartScreen designed to help safeguard your computer from unwanted apps. Each of the settings is set to warn you of any suspicious files or apps.
- Choose whether you want to be warned about apps and files, whether you want to block them entirely, or whether you want to turn SmartScreen off (not recommended).
- Choose whether to block or be warned about malicious sites and potentially dangerous downloads while you're using the Edge browser.
- Choose to protect your computer by checking the web content that various Microsoft Store apps might use.
Setting Up Family Options
Now Windows Defender Security Center also includes a category for setting up security and protection for your family members. The settings are tied to the user accounts for your kids, so you can set age-appropriate controls and even set up schedules for web surfing and gameplay.
In the Windows Defender Security Center, click Family Options, and click View Family Settings. This takes you to a site online connected to your Microsoft Account, where you can make choices about reviewing the computer activity of your children, choose whether to block certain types of websites, limit the types of games your kids have access to, and create a schedule that manages the amount of time and the time of day your kids can use the computer.