Defender – the Anti-Virus for Windows

 

DefenderCU

Windows Defender Security Center in Windows 10 Creators Update

 

A lot of times friends and families ask me what Anti-Virus (AV) I use? Using AV depends again on people to people and their preferences and how they use their computers.

For years, I have personally preferred and used Microsoft’s homebrew AV, the Windows Defender. Windows Defender is well known for its light-weight client side application, it gives very little burden to memory unlike most other Anti-virus softwares who are known for memory hogging.

Microsoft ventured into AV back in Windows XP days. It was released as a free download to the OS, called the Antispyware. It did very little job back then, to only monitor spyware threats. Overtime, it became a full featured AV and got a new name, Microsoft Security Essentials.

Microsoft Security Essentials or MSE catered for various threat types including viruses, spyware, rootkits and Trojan horses. Until Windows 8 and later, it was available for Windows Vista and 7. But before Microsoft made MSE freely available, it had released a paid product prior to MSE and Antispyware, it was called Windows Live OneCare.

In May 2006, Windows Live OneCare debuted to public, which Microsoft bought over a company called GeCAD software in 2003.

 

Windows-Live-OneCare_4

Image source: Sofipedia

 

Windows Live OneCare was heavily focused on three aspects. Anti-Virus, Personal Firewall and Backup utilities. It was a very good take on core protection for a home user. However within just 3 years it was replaced by Microsoft Security Essentials and stripped out Backup and firewall built into the product and instead relied on the superior Windows Firewall which bundled with Windows Vista and later OSes.

I’ve been using Microsoft Security Essentials and now, Windows Defender since XP days. I’ve personally enjoyed using this product ever since with zero attacks, and literally, zero attacks.

There are 3 important points for me:

  1. Light-weight – As noted above, MSE was and Windows Defender (WD) now is a very light weight software which is very friendly with your computers resources. Its got very small footprint on the storage, and chews up very little memory even on Real-Time mode. There is a spike however only when the scan is triggered.
  2. Out of way – This is very important to me. I’ve used previously Norton Antivirus, McAfee and even AVG over a long period of time. They are good products on their own rights and does the job really well. My issue with them have been that first they were bad at memory management, which they have significantly improved overtime. Second issue was they always made their presence felt. Every once in a while they would pop up alerting you for various things. At times warnings for out of date definition files, or the product is about to expire, or upgrade to a better edition. Granted, warnings like out of date definitions are important but it was too much to handle. The beauty with Windows Defender is you almost forget its existence. It is always there, running in the background doing its job silently without ever troubling you. Just like the other products mentioned above, this too auto updates definitions files but it does it in a way that you never get to know. It is most of the times just updated. Since it is free and the only edition, there is no renewal or upgrade promo pop ups ever. For me this is important.
  3. Baked into the OS – This may not be a key point to some, but it is vital to know Windows Defender is baked deep into Windows 8 and Windows 10 operating system. It disables itself when a 3rd party AV is installed like a good boy, heck they don’t want another lawsuit. Windows Defender not only does scanning of viruses but it is also seamlessly integrated to Internet Explorer and Edge browsers for web activity or files downloads. Most of these features are also available on 3rd party AV, but they don’t come free.

My theory is this. Most AV vendors a lot with their products which is really good, undoubtedly. They do the usual virus scanning, protect you from the web, real-time scan mode, alert on malicious files, in and outbound firewall and some also provide cloud backup option of important files. All these options are fantastic and if bundled all in one, it is a great package. But a great package with a price.

So how do I cope up with all features mentioned above since Windows Defender does not provide everything in one package? The answer lies right in the latest OS you use. If you are running Windows 7 or God forbid Vista or XP. Then you are little out of luck here, there are work around for those OSes too. My focus is Windows 10.

Windows 10 is a very secure OS, there is no two ways about it.

I’ll highlight only a few of many killer security features of Windows 10:

  1. Secure boot – Upon booting (or your computer starting up) Windows only allows signed or trusted executables to run. Any unknown/untrusted program that maybe installed as a virus will not run at the booting process. This helps ensures your OS will boot up to desktop. In olden days, specially XP and prior, if a virus would load at boot times, then your OS would either crash or go into infinite restart loop.
  2. SmartScreen and Edge Browser – SmartScreen technology is a real-time phishing and malware protection. It is designed to protect against social engineering threats and as well as drive by downloads.
  3. Windows Firewall – Backed into Windows since XP Service Pack 2, this guard has incrementally improved and is a strong firewall in Windows 10. In a nutshell, Firewalls protect your computer from all incoming and outgoing connections. Any untrusted outbound connection it tries to make with your PC, it will be stopped by Windows Firewall.
  4. Others include such as Device and Credential Guard.

All four points above and more security features bundle it with Windows Defender and now you have a full featured/complete security solution. Throw in OneDrive and you got file level backup protection that was once offered by Windows Live OneCare or currently offered by Nortons and others.

I personally recommend to my family and friends stay up to date with latest Windows operating system, with latest security updates via Windows Update and built in Windows Defender is all you need for a day to day usage of your computers.

However do note, paid Anti-Virus products, Bit-Defender, Norton, Kaspersky and couple of others have been in the industry for really long and are experts in this domain. They do bring in their expertise in their products and a lot of under the hood features which are really important to certain segment of market/users.

Windows Defender with Windows 10 is a good, friendly, free basic protection to your computer. It is what I use literally for many years and never faced with a virus or malware. The last time I paid for any Anti-Virus product must be more than 10 years ago. Anti-Virus is a product I never think about anymore since Windows Vista and later. Microsoft Security Essential and Windows Defender has served me well over these years. I do however once in a while use 3rd party/online malware scans such as ESET just to make sure everything is smooth.

That’s all for now folks. Leave comments below to let me know what you think about this article.

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