The Days of Paying for Anti-Virus Are Over

Learn how Windows Defender can protect your computer for free.

Uninstalling your antivirus program was once viewed as a reckless and stupid move, especially if you had chosen to rely solely on Windows’ built-in security. To save a little money, you would risk having your PC infected with malware and having your data stolen every time you go online.

Thankfully, those times are behind us, and if you disable your antivirus today, a different program that offers equivalent and frequently better protection against the most recent threats will take its place. We’re referring to Microsoft Defender Antivirus, the significantly upgraded security feature that comes pre-installed on Windows 10 and 11 and does a great job of identifying, preventing, and removing malware.

Here, we discuss why you can no longer pay for antivirus software and instead use Defender to safeguard your computer free of charge. Additionally, we look at why you might still prefer to pay for security by contrasting Defender with the most recent security suites to see what additional advantages they offer (along with any flaws they suffer from). Kaspersky has been left out, though. After our owners, Future PLC, cut off contact with Russian businesses in response to the invasion of Ukraine, we stopped covering it. We’ll also show you how to adjust Defender’s settings to maximize your level of security.

Antivirus has always cost me money. Why stop now?

You could save a lot of money by not doing it, unless you really want to. Installing antivirus software, preferably a paid suite from a reputable cybersecurity brand, used to be a prerequisite for setting up a new PC. Instead of worrying about installing and paying for third-party security software, Windows 10 and 11 are equipped with Windows Security built in, which automatically defends your computer against malware and other threats.

But doesn’t Microsoft security software have a bad reputation?

Undoubtedly, it used to be, but not any longer. In contrast to Windows XP’s firewall, which only blocked outgoing traffic, the original Windows Defender (originally known as Microsoft AntiSpyware when it launched in 2005) did little more than scan your computer for spyware, necessitating the use of a separate antivirus program. As a result, malware on your computer was able to connect to the internet. Microsoft Security Essentials, the program that replaced Windows Defender, was more effective and provided real-time security threat protection, but it consistently performed poorly in antivirus lab tests, losing to competing free tools from Avast and AVG. Microsoft acknowledged that in order to be completely protected from the “bad guys” users of Windows should install antivirus software in addition to the “basic” MSE program in 2013. But with the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft finally perfected its security software by introducing the potent and trustworthy Windows Defender Security Centre (later renamed Windows Security) and a new anti-malware tool called Windows Defender, later renamed Microsoft Defender Antivirus.

What changes has Microsoft made to Defender?

Microsoft Defender is deeply integrated with Windows by Microsoft, allowing it to quickly detect and block attempts to change program settings and the registry, as well as install updates as soon as they become available to defend you from the most recent threats. The tool quietly scans new files and installers for any suspicious content while simultaneously searching for malware and quarantining any it discovers. Most importantly, Microsoft has enhanced Defender’s ability to detect malware by using online protection to keep it up-to-date with the most recent virus definitions (the lines of code that quickly identify particular threats) as they appear. Thanks to this information, Defender will be able to protect you from zero-day threats by blocking potentially harmful files before they reach your system. Early iterations of Microsoft Security Essentials, on the other hand, required you to manually check for and install definitions, putting your PC at risk. As we detail in our group test on the following pages, Defender provides equivalent-and in some cases superior-protection to many competing paid-for tools, thanks to improved analysis, detection, and instant blocking of suspicious files.

Why should I stop using the free antivirus software I already have?

The fact that Defender seamlessly integrates with Windows means your computer won’t slow down, which gives it an advantage over free antivirus programs from Avast, AVG, and Avira. Even when actively looking for malware, it uses much less CPU, memory, and power than third-party security tools, leaving a very small “footprint.” Another advantage is that Windows Security and Microsoft Defender Antivirus are both free. As a result, you won’t encounter any nags to upgrade to a more expensive version or discover that some useful security features are disabled unless you do.

Can I use another antivirus program together with Defender?

Defender will be turned off automatically when you install a third-party antivirus program so that their respective functions don’t conflict and slow down your computer. Windows Security will update its settings to reflect that you’ve changed the program that manages your firewall and malware defense to another one. Having two antivirus programs installed won’t make your PC any more secure because the best antivirus software now blocks most threats.

If you want a second opinion that your system is secure, you can still use Defender to run scans. On the ‘Virus & threat protection’ screen, choose ‘Microsoft Defender Antivirus options’ and turn on ‘Periodic scanning’. For example, the free version of Malwarebytes (, for example, can be used in conjunction with Windows Security as long as it doesn’t compete with Defender for real-time protection. If this doesn’t happen, one tool might quarantine threats that the other later finds but is unable to eliminate, causing it to issue perplexing warnings.

You no longer need to pay for and install a third-party antivirus program because Microsoft Defender now offers top-tier malware protection and runs automatically as part of Windows. Although some of these apply protection only to Microsoft’s own tools, it offers some useful additional features through the Windows Security suite.

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