Is Using Windows Defender As Good As Avast or Other Antiviruses

I'm just wondering if Windows Defender will work as well as others will? Because the other ones keep advertising me to upgrade and it gets on my nerves. And was wondering if Windows Defender works as good as the other free antiviruses.

Although there’s never any shortage of endorsements for Microsoft products here in the Microsoft forum, there’s really no simple answer to your question – because many of Defender’s more important real-time protection components are disabled by default, and this makes a direct comparison next to impossible:

Potentially Unwanted Application Protection (PUA Protection) is turned off.

Controlled Folder Access ransomware protection is turned off.

Attack Surface Reduction rules are not applied.

Block at first Sight zero-day threat protection is set to its lowest possible level.

Network Protection is turned off.

And this probably accounts for the fact that Windows Defender has the largest user-dependent protection segment in the AV-Comparatives Real-World Protection Test:

For Windows users who haven’t been following the recent technical evolution of Windows Defender, it might also come as a bit of a surprise (or maybe even a “culture shock”) to see that the principle Windows Defender configuration tool for the Home edition of Windows 10 is now the PowerShell Set-MpPreference cmdlet. These configuration options are absolutely essential for maximizing Defender’s level of protection, as well as for customizing its internal operations to suit your preferences:

Block at First Sight (Seen):

Windows Defender can now immediately block a suspicious or unknown file; upload a sample for analysis; and generate a signature – all within a matter of seconds. And we can use PowerShell to upgrade the default level of protection for this feature. The upgrade settings aren’t documented, but I tricked PowerShell into telling me their named values by specifying a numerical value that I knew was out of range:

To configure a higher level of cloud protection (Cloud Block Level), run one of these commands at the Administrator PowerShell prompt:

Set-MpPreference -CloudBlockLevel High

Set-MpPreference -CloudBlockLevel HighPlus

Set-MpPreference -CloudBlockLevel ZeroTolerance

And you can also increase the allotted file-analysis time by running this command at the Administrator PowerShell prompt:

Set-MpPreference -CloudExtendedTimeout 50

Windows Defender Exploit Guard:

The exploit protection features that were previously provided by EMET are now integrated into Windows 10; and most users shouldn’t need to modify the default settings for these.

Attack Surface Reduction:

We also have the ability to add Attack Surface Reduction rules in Version 1709, but the only practical way to add these rules in Windows 10 Home is with the PowerShell Set-MpPreference cmdlet:

For example, here’s the first rule that I set up by running a command line at the Administrator PowerShell prompt:

Rule: Block JavaScript or VBScript from launching downloaded executable content:

Set-MpPreference -AttackSurfaceReductionRules_Ids D3E037E1-3EB8-44C8-A917-57927947596D -AttackSurfaceReductionRules_Actions Enabled

Then to add additional rules, we use the Add-MpPreference command:

Rule: Block executable content from email client and webmail:

Add-MpPreference -AttackSurfaceReductionRules_Ids BE9BA2D9-53EA-4CDC-84E5-9B1EEEE46550 -AttackSurfaceReductionRules_Actions Enabled

Controlled Folder Access:

Controlled Folder Access is turned off by default; so you’ll need to turn it on in the Windows Defender Security Center app > Virus & threat protection > Virus & threat protection settings. Once Controlled Folder Access is turned on, standard Windows document folders will be protected by default, and you’ll also be able to add ransomware protection for additional folders, as well as whitelist trusted applications in order to allow them access to your protected folders. If you have trouble whitelisting a friendly app, then you can set this feature to run in Audit Mode, where it will identify access events, but won’t block them. Run this command at the Administrator PowerShell prompt to set Audit Mode:

Set-MpPreference -EnableControlledFolderAccess AuditMode

There’s already a lot of confusion about allowing an app through Controlled Folder Access, and some “Windows experts” are responding to this with a just-turn-it-off “solution”. Now I’ll admit that a dialog with “Block” and “Allow” buttons would make this a whole lot friendlier – but if you just jot down the blocked app’s file path that appears in the notification; and then click on the notification, this will bring up the “Allow an app through Controlled folder access” window, where you can quickly add the blocked app to the whitelist:

PUA Protection:

Windows Defender has actually been able to detect and block Potentially Unwanted Applications for some time now, but many people still don’t know that this feature is disabled by default and needs to be enabled by running this command line at the Administrator PowerShell prompt:

Set-MpPreference -PUAProtection 1

Then, optionally, you can confirm that PUA Protection was enabled by returning the current state for PUAProtection:

$Preferences = Get-MpPreference


Network Protection:

This is a less well defined feature that’s also turned off by default. To enable Network Protection; copy, paste, and enter this command at the Administrator Powershell prompt

Set-MpPreference -EnableNetworkProtection Enabled

The AMTSO Feature Settings Check for Desktop Solutions should be able to detect the lack of PUA Protection and Cloud-delivered Protection (which is turned on by default):

And we have a more extensive set of feature checks available at the Windows Defender Antivirus Testground:


I've used Windows Defender since Windows 8 and I'm amazed that:

1. PUA Protection is disabled by default.

2. Cloud Protection is at its lowest level by default.

3. CFA is off by default.

4. That, with the exception of CFA and Exploit Guard, all other features MUST use PowerShell to configure them when other AV software allows configuration through the UI.

PUA Protection, ASR and BaFS I didn't even know existed in Windows Defender until today. I've left Network Protection and ASR for the moment but I have enabled the rest.

Microsoft Xbox One X, Microsoft Surface Pro 4, ASUS fx505dy, Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, Windows 10 Home 64-bit

Discussion Info

Last updated July 1, 2020 Views 2,259 Applies to: