Microsoft Windows Defender offers respectable cloud-based malware detection that is entirely free. Still, you should think about these three factors before choosing to maintain it or purchase a third-party antivirus:
- Can Windows Defender defeat advanced malware like ransomware and spyware?
- Does it remove threats quickly enough not to slow down your computer?
- Do you recommend it as a stand-alone anti-virus solution, or do you know of anything better?
I tested Microsoft Defender and every other top antivirus application for many weeks, rating each based on its ability to identify malware, system speed, scan efficiency, overall internet security protection, and level of customer service.
Microsoft Defender needs to catch up. Several antivirus applications are much superior. For instance, companies like Norton provide malware scanners, Windows applications, and cybersecurity solutions that are more sophisticated and effective.
How Effective Is Microsoft Defender Antivirus?
There are several benefits to using Windows Defender, particularly given how hard Microsoft has worked to enhance it over the last few years. It presently provides:
- Danger detection in real-time.
- Firewall and network security.
- Prevention of phishing websites.
- Reports on system performance.
- Hardware protection.
- Parental restrictions.
Microsoft’s Defender does a decent job of identifying malware files, stopping network-based assaults and vulnerabilities, and alerting fraudulent websites. Even essential PC health and performance statistics are included, in addition to parental controls with use restrictions, content filtering, and location monitoring. Users are questioning whether they can depend on Windows Defender alone to secure their PCs or still need to use a third-party antivirus since Defender now has all these helpful capabilities.
I ran extensive tests (the same tests I do on all third-party antivirus software) to see whether Microsoft Defender is effective enough to keep you secure. I intentionally infected my system with over a thousand malicious files—including viruses, trojans, ransomware, adware, cryptojackers, keyloggers, and rootkits—to evaluate the disk scanning and real-time security functions.
To evaluate Defender’s anti-phishing capabilities, I used several browsers to visit various phishing websites. Additionally, I tested Microsoft’s built-in firewall and network security by simulating exploit and network-based assaults.
In addition to this testing, I evaluated each feature’s usability by measuring CPU performance under different conditions, such as while running powerful apps during disk scans.
In the end, I discovered several problems with Microsoft’s Defender; here are my primary gripes:
- Several third-party competitors have higher malware detection rates.
- Only Microsoft’s Edge browser has a built-in content filter.
- The standard PC checkup does not involve cleaning and optimizing the system’s performance.
It doesn’t include any extras paid anti-virus software offers, including a virtual private network, a password manager, dark web monitoring, or protection against identity theft.
Microsoft Defender has been improved to compete with competing antivirus software, although it still lags behind the competition. In addition, it’s far from the caliber of dedicated antivirus software like Norton or Bitdefender. These utilities protect against viruses, stop modern online dangers, and speed up your computer.
What Features Does Windows Defender Lack?
Although the most recent version of Windows Defender has numerous security capabilities, it does not include some of the ones seen in other antivirus programs. Here is a summary of the primary qualifications that Windows Defender lacks:
- a VPN, or a virtual private network.
- Prevention of identity theft.
- Dark web surveillance.
- Anti-theft defense.
- Protection for microphones and webcams.
- Tools for system optimization.
- Manager of passwords.
The absence of a VPN from Defender is a significant letdown. With a VPN, you may safely access public networks and keep your internet activity private from prying eyes. Norton, Bitdefender, and the other companies on my list offer a VPN. I especially enjoy Norton’s VPN since it protects your data with 256-bit AES encryption and provides various features, including unlimited bandwidth and a kill switch (which cuts off your internet if the VPN connection stops).
A few tools for system optimization would also be friendly to include in Windows Defender. Defender provides a straightforward PC health report but cannot increase PC performance. Competitors Bitdefender, Norton, and TotalAV all provide capabilities like garbage, transient, and duplicate file cleanup that help your computer function more quickly.
Finally, I’d want to see anti-theft protection with the launch of Defender on Android and iOS. A stolen laptop or mobile device cannot be tracked or locked using Windows Defender. Once again, some rivals already have anti-theft monitoring features. For instance, Bitdefender allows consumers to lock, delete, and sound an alert on a misplaced device.
Best Microsoft Windows Defender Antivirus Alternative in 2023
In every way, Norton 360 outperforms Windows Defender, outperforming it in terms of malware detection rates, internet security defenses, add-on capabilities, and platform support.
Norton 360 contains:
- Improved anti-phishing defense.
- More parental controls.
- A VPN and password manager are optional features.
One of the most excellent anti-phishing defenses available is provided by Norton. In my testing, they detected many more dubious websites than Defender, including harmful links in emails and SMS messages. Microsoft recently included third-party browsers like Chrome and Firefox to Defender’s online safeguards, but they still need Norton’s.
Additionally, Norton 360 offers a wide variety of services that Windows Defender does not, such as an outstanding VPN that offers encrypted access to servers in more than 30 locations and sophisticated dark web surveillance. The Norton password manager is also excellent and has all the necessary features, including auto-saving, auto-filling, and biometric login.
Microsoft Defender can’t compare to Bitdefender’s superior cloud-based scanning engine, which is quick and light. During a comprehensive system scan, its malware scanner detected every piece of test malware I had, and it scarcely slowed down the operation of my machine. My machine slowed down while being scanned by McAfee and other well-known security programs.
A superior internet security package to Windows Defender, McAfee Total Protection offers considerably greater network and online security. Its online defense was excellent to Microsoft Edge’s built-in browser security, blocking 100% of the confirmed phishing sites I attempted to visit. One of the most significant malware scanners available, it outperforms Windows’ antivirus software and detects every one of the 1,000 malware files on my computer.
The malware scanner and web safeguards provided by Kaspersky are excellent and more sophisticated than those offered by Defender. Kaspersky is one of the best antivirus programs available today for malware detection, outperforming several rivals, including Microsoft’s Windows Defender.
The defender’s parental controls are less than Kaspersky’s. One of the best antivirus programs with parental controls competes with Norton and Bitdefender. The parental controls provide geo-fencing restrictions to keep your children in a safe area, online content filters, the device uses limitations for Android users (the feature didn’t function in my testing on iOS), and search monitoring filters for YouTube.
Is Windows Defender sufficient to maintain protection?
The concept of “enough” is subjective. While Windows Defender does a decent job of keeping your computer safe online, it still needs to meet the standards set by industry-leading security suites.
Windows Defender is fine if you’re only searching for fundamental cybersecurity protection. No, it’s not “enough” if your device has much private information that may attract hackers, such as banking information or login credentials. Windows’ antivirus program has significant issues with malware protection, multi-device protection, internet security, and poor-quality updates. More details regarding my examination of Defender’s security options can be found here.
Windows Defender SmartScreen: What is it? Should I turn it off?
The defender’s real-time and phishing defense is Windows Defender SmartScreen. Windows Defender SmartScreen will halt any attempted downloads of malicious files or prevent you from accessing potentially harmful websites. It is necessary security, but if you have Norton 360 or any reputable alternative antivirus installed that offers greater real-time and phishing protection, it will be turned off immediately.
Does Windows Defender eliminate viruses?
Yes. Windows Defender will clean your machine of any virus it finds. Since Microsoft seldom refreshes Defender’s virus definitions, it won’t be able to detect the newest threats. Your computer is in danger of infection if Windows Defender is your only antivirus program.
Even if superior free antivirus programs are available, they can only provide the level of assured malware protection that the top anti-malware programs do. A paid antivirus like Norton is far more effective if you seek the most significant malware protection and internet security solutions.
Should I switch from Windows Defender to a different antivirus program?
It’s getting closer and closer to being on par with commercial internet security suites, but there are still some ways to go; Microsoft’s Windows Defender must be better. It often performs worse than leading antivirus rivals’ detection rates for malware. According to performance metrics, Defender’s scans take longer and slow down the system more than other third-party antivirus programs. Finally, Defender needs to improve crucial security capabilities.