Secure PC: Keep Windows 10 Safe From Malware

Posted on January 12, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10, Windows Weekly with 0

Secure PC: Keep Windows 10 Safe From Malware

For many users, protecting Windows against viruses and other malware is a combination of common sense and using the OS’s built-in security tools. But the security-minded can—and arguably should—do a bit more to protect their PCs from viruses and malware.

Note: This article is derived from my new e-book, Windows 10 Field Guide, which is now available for purchase from LeanPub.

Windows 10 doesn’t dramatically improve on the underlying security features that Microsoft has been implementing in Windows for several versions now. But it does of course benefit from these many years of improvements and includes a number of low-level technologies aimed at keeping your PC, your data, and your online persona safe from electronic attacks. Key among these capabilities is Windows Defender.

The question is, however: Should you use it?

Understand Windows Defender

Windows 10 includes a useful tool called Windows Defender that provides anti-virus and anti-malware functionality, and many will find that this is all they need on a day-to-day basis. The best part about Windows Defender is that it’s automatic. That is, you don’t need to do a thing to use it: It’s always-on, is on by default, and works in the background.

That said, you can examine the Windows Defender interface in Settings, Update & Security, Windows Defender.


Warning: I do not recommend disabling any of these options. But if you do install a full-featured third-party security suite, it may disable Windows Defender because it replaces the built-in functionality in Windows with its own tools.

You can also run Windows Defender manually though you won’t normally need to do so.

To run the app, use Start Search, or select the “Open Windows Defender” link on the Windows Defender settings page.


You can also use Windows Defender to spot scan an individual file or folder full of files: Just right-click the item in File Explorer (or on the Desktop) and choose “Scan with Windows Defender.” After a very short time, Defender will appear and provide the results of the scan.


Use third-party anti-malware alongside Windows Defender

Even if you trust Windows Defender, it’s prudent to keep a second anti-malware solution on-hand just in case. As with a doctor’s diagnosis, it’s always nice to have a second opinion, and when it comes to your PC’s security, you can’t be too safe.

While there are dozens of high-quality anti-malware solutions available online, my advice is that those who intend to use Defender for real time protection should augment that with a free product likeMalwarebytes Anti-Malware Free.


Because these free anti-malware tools do provide real-time protection, you should manually scan your PC from time-to-time—perhaps weekly or monthly—to ensure that Defender hasn’t missed anything. If you’re worried that you’ll forget, you can always buy Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium (or similar), which provides automatic scan schedules and real-time protection too.

Replace Windows Defender with a full-featured security suite

If you are worried that Windows Defender isn’t comprehensive enough for some reason, you can replace this tool with a paid security suite. As you might imagine, there are many security suites available for Windows 10. So I recommend turning to the experts at AVTest to find the best product for you.

As of this writing, some of the top anti-virus solutions include Norton Security 2015, Kaspersky Lab Internet Security 2016, Bitdefender Internet Security 2016, and Avira Antivirus Pro 2016. But check back frequently as this list is sure to change over time.

Full-featured PC security suites have pros and cons. They tend to score higher than Window Defender on tests, and often provide protections that go well beyond just anti-virus and anti-malware. But these suites are often very expensive as well—the top-rated tools mentioned above cost roughly $50 per year per PC—and they can bog down your PC’s performance. So this is the trade-off you need to consider.

For the record, I do not pay for a security suite for myself or anyone in my family. Instead, we rely on Windows Defender and I occasionally scan our PCs with a free anti-malware solution like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free.

More soon

Obviously, protecting against viruses and other malware is only part of the Windows 10 security story. I’ll be looking at other ways you can protect your Windows 10 PC soon.



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