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Free antivirus test: Windows Defender

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Before, it was called Microsoft Security Essentials but this was before. Today, it is called Windows Defender. This is Microsoft’s security solution integrated directly into Windows 10. Often underestimated, we wanted to test it to see on Microsoft’s homemade antivirus is worth it. A few years ago, we tested Microsoft Security Essentials and the results were disappointing. Will this test allow us to discover a quality free antivirus with Windows Defender? This is what we will see in the next few lines.

Installing Windows Defender

As we said in the introduction, Windows Defender is integrated with Windows 10. If you do not have any other antivirus software installed on your computer, it is your computer that protects you and you can check it with its icon in the notification area.

Windows Defender has its own space in Windows 10 but it is not necessarily easy to find. To find your menu, you have to go to the start menu, then to “settings” and finally to “update and security”. In this window, in the left menu, there is a tab called “Windows Security”. Finally, on this page, click on “Open Windows Defender Security Center” and go to the antivirus control panel.

Windows Defender

Alternatively, to go faster, it is also possible to search the start menu by typing “security center” or right-click on the antivirus icon and click on “display security dashboard”.

Windows Defender interface

The Windows Defender interface moves away from the traditional antivirus to look like a real security center. Here, we have no color explosions, the antivirus is sober like the other menus of the Windows 10 settings.

Windows Defender

The various tools are accessible via the main page but also via the shortcuts in the left menu. With green buttons, it is very easy to see if Windows Defender detects problems on your computer.

At the bottom left, the “settings” button allows you to manage all the notifications that can be displayed by Windows Defender.

Windows Defender

Windows Defender features

At the time of Microsoft Security Essentials, Microsoft only offered antivirus software. With Windows Defender, the user benefits from a product that is complete enough for something free. So we find an antivirus with real-time protection, a OneDrive account protection module, a firewall, a network protection, an application control tool and even a parental control. In other words, for a free product, Windows Defender is rather rich in features. Now, we have to see what the software has in mind.

Windows Defender Performance

If Windows Defender looks interesting on paper, it is now necessary to check if it is effective. As always, we have prepared a well provided malware file to observe the reaction of the antivirus. And Windows Defender was not long in coming. Within seconds, a first window indicating an infection appeared in the lower right corner, proof that the antivirus was on the lookout.

We then launched a contextual analysis on the infected file, which was very successful. Windows Defender has started to list all detected threats. Some were immediately placed in the quarantine zone, but a large part required user validation to permanently eliminate them.

Windows Defender

We did notice some instability in Windows Defender. The antivirus window closed unannounced and menu navigation was slowed down, probably due to the large number of viruses and malware to be processed.

The threat neutralization phase was quite long but effective: Windows Defender deleted one by one all the detected threats as well as those that were present in the quarantine zone. For security reasons, we have relaunched a complete new analysis to check that there were no malware slags left. The few remains were then removed immediately.

Windows Defender

In the antivirus options, we found that ransomware protection was not enabled by default, which we immediately fixed. This protection allows you to tell Windows Defender which folders you have important documents to protect from ransomware. Several folders are already specified by default (documents, images, videos, desktop…) but it is very simple to add others if necessary.

Windows Defender

The “account protection” tab provides tools to protect user information. If you have a Microsoft account, it is in your best interest to connect it to benefit from a perfect integration with Windows 10.

The Windows Defender firewall seemed efficient and simple to us. By default, the latter will notify you as soon as an unusual connection is detected. If you wish to authorize one, a dedicated button is available. By default, a public firewall is enabled, very convenient when connecting to an unprotected Wi-Fi network.

The “Application and Browser Control” tab contains options to improve user security: for example SmartScreen, the famous dark veil that identifies the editor of an application to ensure your protection. SmartScreen is also available for Microsoft Edge to protect you against malicious sites. We were able to successfully verify its effectiveness by trying to go to questionable sites. However, it is a pity that the tool does not work with other browsers, which forces the user to go through Edge.

Windows Defender

We will quickly move on to the “device performance and integrity” tab, which mainly allows us to know if the system detects problems concerning the integrity of the device in order to focus on parental control. This page displays some information about the program’s capabilities and links directly to a web page to manage the rest of the settings. And here, you must have a Microsoft account to continue.

Windows Defender contrôle parental

After logging in (or creating an account), you have access to a control panel with a tile on the right called “family”. It is the latter that allows you to set up the accounts of family members and in particular that of children. It is necessary to create an account for them with an email address or an associated phone number. The operation can quickly be long since it is necessary, each time, to connect to the child’s account to validate the parent’s changes.

Windows Defender contrôle parental

After the account creation phase, the parent can finally manage what the child can and cannot do. It is possible to select certain actions that will require validation by the parent (download an application from the Microsoft Store for example), restrict access to certain content, block certain applications or sites… etc. It is also possible to define a time of use of the computer or to give it some pocket money to spend on the Microsoft store. Finally, parental control is quite complete and effective. Nevertheless, we found that the account configuration phase should be made easier.

Conclusion

Windows Defender is a convincing and rather complete free antivirus on paper. It must be said that it has privileged access to Windows 10 options and integrates perfectly into the system. The interface of the service is very sober, maybe even too much: some additional icons would have been welcome. In terms of performance, the antivirus is well done: the threats submitted have been eliminated although Windows Defender took its time and asked to restart several times. Nothing to report on the firewall side which is very easy to use but also very complete. Parental control is a good surprise for a free product. On the other hand, who better than Windows Defender to offer such a feature that is so well integrated into the system? Perhaps we can blame it for its many configuration steps that could discourage some users. Also, the use of a Microsoft account is more than recommended to take advantage of all the features of the product. In any case, if you don’t want to install additional antivirus software, you can rely on Windows Defender to ensure your security.

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