There, we said it: You do not have to pay for antivirus applications anymore. Microsoft’s Windows Defender, a free service that’s built into Windows 10, is currently like the paid antivirus/anti-malware solutions which have been collecting your cash for ages.
Many PC users became accustomed to paying for antivirus software for 2 reasons: Great, free alternatives were rare, and Microsoft offered minimal security via Windows, ceding the group to Norton, Windows’ first anti-malware attempts were so abysmal that testing agencies such as AV-comparatives. Org utilized Defender as the baseline (i.e., crap ) level of functionality. Org analyzed how well 23 antivirus vendors blocked real-world malware samples using Windows 8.1.
Over the intervening years, Microsoft began taking endpoint security seriously. In 2019, Microsoft’s own Windows Defender Antivirus, built into Windows 10 free of charge, frequently outperforms paid services. (Windows now lumps Windows Defender Antivirus under what it requires Windows Security, including Windows Firewall and other programs.) It is not perfect: The incidence of “false positives,” where legitimate programs are mistaken for malware, can be high. One test also noted that it slowed down a low-end PC over others do. You may decide for yourself: Are these”costs” cheaper than paying $60-plus annually?
We review the best antivirus apps, and there are still a few reasons why you would want one, which we will get into later. But first let us look at just how far Windows Defender has come, and how well it may stand on its own as your principal antivirus package.
Why you should use Windows Defender to protect your PC
It is important to remember that anti-malware testing is a time-intensive procedure. Even sites like AV-comparatives use automated tests that crawl the net and seek out malicious websites and URLs, attempting to replicate real-world scenarios that all people would encounter in daily work.
Vendors whose PCs ended up endangered with malware included big names, such as McAfee and Symantec. AV-comparatives conducted its tests from February through May 2019, to demonstrate that the”average” level of security over time.)
To be honest, the AV-comparatives test revealed a couple of flaws with Windows Defender. The evaluations revealed three”user-dependent” test cases, where the Defender did not immediately identify the malware and asked the user for permission to set up the file. That is not perfect –users will probably be inclined to enable the malware onto the computer system. Windows Defender was also remarkably heavy-handed with false positives, blocking an enormous 74 legitimate programs and services. (This is an example where your experience can act as a sounding board. Think back: Has Windows 10’s Windows Defender blocked a program you understood to be valid?)
For its part, AV-test rated Windows Defender as a Top Product in its June 2019 antivirus group evaluation. Defender caught every bit of malware that the agency threw at it, including every”zero-day” sample that replicated real-world testing, with zero false positives. AV-test rated Defender 6 out of 6 for the group evaluation, scores that Defender was at or close for AV-test’s April roundup, the February roundup, and December 2018 and October 2018 tests. too.
It is important to reiterate that Defender scored highly (with a perfect score from the June update) in relation to zero-day attacks. Historically, that has been one of the knocks against Defender: Microsoft could not respond quickly and efficiently enough to fight new, emerging attacks. Defender’s repeated success in third party tests demonstrates that Microsoft has overcome these challenges.
AV-test also rated Defender above the industry average in terms of functionality, like installing programs and copying documents, a substantial improvement over AV-comparatives’ own evaluation from April, where Defender performed poorly in those same comparisons.
The UK’s SELabs is yet a third source of anti-malware testing, and it, too, rated Defender on top of its list of anti-malware solutions. The report (available only through a downloadable PDF) gave Defender a great 100-percent accuracy score. Of the top antivirus testing agencies, Defender scored three from three.
Of course, you should always practice safe Internet practices, such as not clicking on unknown attachments and links, rather than drifting through the dark corners of the net. And remember, Windows Sandbox (added to Windows 10 Pro machines as part of the May 2019 Update) allows you that extra security if you do want to research a risky site or app.