Difference Between Windows Defender & Windows Security

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.

Bottom Line

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.

9 thoughts on “Difference Between Windows Defender & Windows Security”

  1. Jim, “Music to my ears” is what one of my teachers used to say when the students listened and followed the instructions. Your detailed presentation is not only informative, it is down right simple to understand, Mindblower!

  2. Thanks Jim for the excellent explanation in simple terms which, hopefully is read by those who need to understand the important functions and differences of Windows Defence and Windows Security.
    “Simplicity is an art, it changes complicated, forgettable instructions into memorable information.”
    ‘Anon.’

    Regards,

    Jonno

  3. Thanks for the easy to understand information. I have a question… I’m just using Windows Defender as my antivirus and the Windows firewall. Do I need anything else?

    1. Randy Holdsworth

      I recommend Windows Firewall Control – now owned and distributed by MalwareBytes; used to be paid, presently offered for free by MalwareBytes. Gives you easy control of in and out of Windows firewall.

      1. Randy Holdsworth
        With malware, viruses & ransomware on the rise, a cleanup-only antivirus tool like Malwarebytes Free can’t possibly be your first line of malware defense. You need multiple layers of real-time protection, Windows Defender and Windows Firewall are free for general computer users and why is Firewall Control needed in the first place.

        1. Randal Holdsworth

          Hi. I wasn’t referring to Malwarebytes antimalware software. Some time ago a software developer came up with a nifty app to more easily adjust settings in Windows Firewall. It isn’t an antivirus program, or cleanup after-the-fact antimalware program; it is simply a software to change settings in Windows firewall to act bi-directionally as Windows firewall is primarily block incoming only. His website is still up “www.binisoft.org”. His program was highly praised by the likes of Steve Gibson, well known for his “Shields-Up”, etc. Malwarebytes seemingly saw the value in his software and acquired it. Like Jim Hillier here, I see Windows Defender and Windows firewall as quite adequate to protect my Windows computers. I just happen to see benefit to the added control available with Windows Firewall Control. Used to be $10 from Binisoft; Malwarebytes at present offers it for free. Whether it will continue to be of the same quality and availability remains to be seen.

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