A number of reader comments in response to a recent article brought to my attention that some users might be a tad confused about the function of Windows Security as opposed to Windows Defender. I hope what follows will help clarify.
Windows Defender vs Windows Security
Windows Defender is an active antivirus program that includes real-time protection. Windows Security is a completely separate app that does not include any sort of protection and merely presents an overview of the system’s security status with access to various settings and information. When you click on Windows Security’s icon in the notification area of the taskbar an overview of the status of your system’s protection will be presented in a graphical interface:
- Virus & threat protection – Provides information and access to antivirus protection settings
- Account protection – Provides options for users to help protect their identity when signing in to Windows. Will also notify Dynamic lock users if Dynamic lock has stopped working because their phone or Bluetooth device is off
- Firewall & network protection – Provides information and access to firewall settings, including Windows Firewall
- App & browser control – Windows Defender SmartScreen settings and Exploit protection mitigations
- Device security – Provides access to built-in device security settings
- Device performance & health – Provides information about drivers, storage space, and general Windows Update issues
- Family options – Provides access to parental controls to help keep kids safe online
When a third-party antivirus product is installed, Windows Defender, including all its protection, is automatically disabled. However, Windows Security will still continue presenting you with a security overview. One of Windows Security’s primary functions is to keep an eye on your antivirus product for you to make sure it is active and up-to-date and it will immediately notify you if there is a problem.
Personally, while not providing any direct protection, I think Windows Security is a terrific concept. I’ve lost count of how many clients over the years have failed to renew or re-register their antivirus thereby leaving their system either partially or completely unprotected for a substantial period of time. This is just the sort of scenario where Windows Security comes to the fore.
The reason Windows Defender is automatically disabled whenever a third-party antivirus is installed is to avoid the inevitable conflicts. However, because Windows Security does not include any sort of real-time protection it is perfectly safe running alongside any installed third-party antivirus.
If you are running Windows Defender, clicking on ”Virus & threat protection” in Windows Security will take you to a Windows Defender overview where you can manually perform a scan and manage settings:
If you are running a third-party antivirus, clicking on ”Virus & threat protection” will take you to an overview of your antivirus’s status:
From here, you can also set Windows Defender to scan periodically to make sure your main antivirus has not missed anything. Click ”Windows Defender Antivirus options” and toggle on Periodic scanning. This will not create any conflicts as there is no real-time protection involved and Windows Defender is only acting as a second opinion scanner.
Just to iterate: Windows Defender is an active antivirus with real-time protection whereas Windows Security does not include any real-time protection and is merely keeping an eye on your antivirus for you to make sure it is up-to-date and fully operational as well as providing access to and information about Windows 10’s security settings.