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Microsoft Windows Defender Antivirus review: Microsoft's free tool is better than nothing – just

Microsoft Windows Defender Antivirus review
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
0

Windows Defender will slow your system down and falls behind others for protection – not a great freebie

Pros 
Straightforward interface
Cons 
Slow updates
Big impact on system performance
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If you don’t like change, brace yourself. First, Microsoft’s simple, free antivirus tool has officially had its title elongated to include the word “Antivirus”. Second, the familiar Defender interface – which had gone basically unchanged since the launch of Microsoft Security Essentials back in 2009 – is no more. As of the first Windows 10 Creators Update, you interact with Defender Antivirus solely through a couple of Settings pages within the Windows Defender Security Center.

There’s one thing that hasn’t changed, though: Windows Defender Antivirus yet again did worse in our real-world protection tests than almost any other security suite. It didn’t fare quite as badly as McAfee Total Protection, but coming 12th out of 13 suites is nothing to be proud of.

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It’s also concerning to note that, during the testing, Defender Antivirus was tripped up by six false positives. While that’s nowhere near F-Secure’s disastrous score of 38, it’s not great for a program that’s built into Windows. There must be a lot of people out there wondering why their legitimate programs are being blocked.

Still, there’s some good news on that front. What the new Defender Antivirus interface lacks in character, it makes up for in functionality. It’s much easier than before to review items that have been quarantined, and a simple dropdown exposes options to remove or allow individual items.

Microsoft Windows Defender Antivirus review

Aside from poor anti-malware scores, AV-Comparatives’ testing also exposed Defender Antivirus’ impact on system performance. With the software active, file-copy and web-browsing speeds were much slower than with other suites. Overall, Defender Antivirus turned out to slow things down more than any other antivirus program, free or paid-for.

Microsoft Windows Defender Antivirus review: Verdict

Based on more or less every test we’ve seen, third-party security software blocks a higher proportion of online threats. And since Defender Antivirus is the most widely deployed antivirus program in the world, it’s the one that hackers are more likely to focus on circumventing.

There’s also the question of updates: Windows Defender Antivirus gets its definitions via Windows Update, which means that an entire day could pass before a critical update is received. Most commercial security suites can pick up urgent updates in a matter of hours or even minutes.

In all, Windows Defender Antivirus is still better than nothing, but you’ll have a safer, smoother experience if you ditch it and switch to something – anything – else.