Windows Defender, formerly known as Microsoft AntiSpyware, is a software product from Microsoft to prevent, remove and quarantine spyware in Microsoft Windows. It is included and enabled by default in Windows Vista and Windows 7, and is available as a free download for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.
Windows has included antivirus protection for ages, but recently Microsoft has upped its security game. Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center protects against Trojans, viruses, ransomware, and other types of malware, but it also manages your security overall. It’s always active on systems that have no other antivirus installed. If you install a third-party security solution, Windows Defender’s antivirus component goes dormant, to avoid any conflict. We salute Microsoft for ensuring that all users have at least some degree of antivirus protection. Our latest evaluation suggests that Defender does a pretty good job.
Windows Defender differs from other free antivirus tools in that there’s no installation required; it’s already present. When you click the Defender icon in the notification area, it opens the full Windows Defender Security Center. The main window’s home screen reports security status, and offers five additional feature pages, accessed by clicking large icons across the bottom or small icons in the left rail menu. I’ll go into detail about these pages below.
Windows Defender features system scan capabilities similar to other free products on the market, and includes a number of real-time security agents that monitor several common areas of Windows for changes which may be caused by spyware. It also includes the ability to easily remove ActiveX applications that are installed. Also integrated is support for Microsoft’s SpyNet network that allows users to report to Microsoft what they consider to be spyware, and what applications and device drivers they allow to be installed on their system.