Does Windows 10 need an antivirus? The thoughts about this matter are varied. If you’ve been unsure about how to properly protect your system, stay with us.
Windows 10 is the most used desktop operating system globally, followed by Mac OS and Linux. With a significant user base comes a great risk of being a target for a cyber threat.
Consider the situation you are a hacker who creates viruses or malicious software (malware).
You want to create a program that targets the maximum number of people globally, but there’s a problem – with every different kind of device an end-user is using, a different code needs to be written.
You have limited time, and you can only focus on one system. The natural selection would be the one with the most excellent user base, a.k.a. Microsoft Windows 10.
This indeed does sound scary for Windows 10 and Android users. However, you shouldn’t just start running away from your Windows PC and toward Mac OS or Linux.
In several cases (such as for gamers), jumping ships isn’t even an option. Instead, bolstering your protection (in the form of antivirus software) is a far more sensible alternative.
It is important to know that Microsoft has already thought of this. Windows 10 comes pre-packaged with a free antivirus software called Windows Defender.
The Microsoft Defender had humble beginnings where independent labs specializing in antivirus protection testing used to give it abysmal ratings.
However, Microsoft seems adamant about improving its free antivirus offering as the best security for any Windows 10 PC user.
Microsoft Windows Defender has been steadily climbing the ranks to earn its spot among the best free anti virus software.
But before we declare that Microsoft Windows Defender makes any antivirus program redundant, there is much more to consider.
This article will go through the various threats and what Windows Defender Antivirus does (or does not offer).
Does Windows 10 need an antivirus?
Windows cyber threat landscape
The general term you will hear most about a threat is malware (malicious software). This term encapsulates common threats such as viruses, ransomware, trojans, and spyware.
Before you seek protection, you must be thinking about what all of these techy terms mean. We’ve got you covered:
- Virus – Code/program that has a detrimental effect on your computer and can copy itself. The name antivirus springs from it. This term probably began the field of cyber security.
- Ransomware – Software that can swipe a wand and poof! Your data is gone. You can only see it if you pay the author a ransom – hence the name. Ransomware protection is gaining increasing popularity nowadays due to increasing cases of ransomware attacks. You definitely need security against this one.
- Trojan – Malware disguised as a helpful program. Have you ever wondered why the shady free download that lets you do what paid software does isn’t working? Yeah, because it’s probably a trojan, and your computer was infected the moment you executed it. Remember Troy? Better get protection against this one.
- Spyware – Malware that sits in a corner and spies on you. It can be used for commercial espionage and blackmail (in case the spyware gets hold of sensitive data). Most security professionals keep an eye out for these and avoid bloatware because of them.
- Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) – The name says it all. They may not harbor malicious intentions aside from self-promotion. But they do burden your system’s limited resources and bloat it. Hence, we classify them as malware. You will find references to these even in Windows Defender now.
With this ever-evolving malware threat in the world, popular software like Windows 10 and Google Chrome needs updates and protection.
Cyber security has never been more critical than in the modern age. Thanks to rapid advancements in threats, protection needs to advance at a similar rate.
Table of Contents
- Does Windows 10 need an antivirus?
- Wrap up
Do you need antivirus software for Windows 10?
You’ve just only bought the latest laptop machine. It probably came with Windows 11, but the question remains: Do I have to install antivirus software protection? Can I rely upon Defender entirely for my security?
On the other hand, can I do without even the Defender if essential protection is all I seek?
In an ideal world, your operating system should be a one-stop shop, and nothing else should be needed. But unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.
The threat landscape should have given you an idea that the study of and protection against malware is a science of its own.
No wonder antivirus software such as Malwarebytes Premium, McAfee Total Protection, PC Matic, and Bitdefender antivirus have established firm businesses.
The situation, however, is not too bad either. Microsoft hasn’t left the unwary user high and dry. Windows Defender antivirus software protection is baked right into Windows 10 (as was Microsoft Security Essentials before Windows 8).
While that does give Windows Defender an edge over the competition, such as McAfee Antivirus and others, this is not all.
The short and obvious answer to the question is Yes – you need a virus protection/antivirus program for Windows 10.
You’ll even find an Android antivirus app for pretty much every popular Windows antivirus program out there.
So the question is: With Windows Defender baked into Windows 10, is it even worth considering some other form of protection?
If you’re wondering the same, here is what you should consider before putting all your eggs in the Microsoft Defender basket:
Features offered by Microsoft Defender Antivirus
A recent iteration of Microsoft Defender has aimed to rebrand it into a suite called Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center. At its core, it remains malware protection.
The Security Center also allows the management of the Windows firewall and monitoring of common PC Health issues.
In addition, you can also set up a SmartScreen filter, parental control system, and Microsoft’s ransomware protection system called Controlled Folder Access.
To glance at all these, type in “Windows Security“ in the Windows search bar. Then, select the Windows Security center app from the resulting options. Matching options can also be accessed from Control Panel.
Inside the Windows Security app window, you can see tiles for all settings we have mentioned above. This is the central Windows Defender security console.
Here are some of the pitfalls of the Microsoft Defender software – an important security feature is turned off by default.
You can fix this by following this guide (Microsoft support guide on Windows Defender antivirus software).
Windows Defender does have this incredible feature, it is just behind some added steps.
Microsoft Defender offers periodic scans just like any other antivirus software protection. However, Windows Defender does not provide automatic investigation and counter-action against malware, which makes it far from the best antivirus.
You can use another antivirus software with Defender or turn it off entirely in favor of another antivirus software.
We don’t favor the former, although it might offer better security. The reason is our system’s resources, which are limited and can be hampered by not one but two antivirus software.
Hence, it is crucial to consider an alternative to Windows Defender.
How do other antivirus protection offerings compare?
Before you go and download just any third party antivirus software such as Avira Antivirus Pro, Avast, or Norton Antivirus, there are several factors to consider.
Your first apparent dilemma will be Free vs. Paid antivirus software. Once you are past that, your quest for the best antivirus software will bring you to other factors.
If it sounds too technical, don’t worry – we’re here to guide you.
It is often said that when the product is free, you (the consumer) are the product. It would be safe to assume the same for Free Antivirus software aside from Defender.
Free antivirus software almost universally comes with trade-offs. Common trade-offs include:
- Missing features (no firewall, no coverage for uncommon malware, etc.);
- No/Limited Customer Support;
- Advertisement (third-party ads or the antivirus software itself is an ad for the paid version).
These trade-offs aren’t critical for everyone – it depends on your use case and criticality. Your data would be vital if you were a system administrator at a healthcare company or a government department.
If your PC is only for consuming casual media at home, you probably won’t pay any money to protect it.
Once you are past this decision, you need to consider the following factors before finalizing your choice of antivirus software:
- Ratings/Reviews – As with any other e-commerce decision, checking user or expert ratings should be the first step of any choice. Windows Store is a good starting point.
There are several top/best antivirus software lists on the internet, each using a different grading system. A comparative rating should give you a fair idea of how your choice stands vs. competition.
- Price – Assuming you went with a paid option, do a cost vs. benefit analysis vs. competition. Your choice of antivirus software for malware protection should also fit your budget.
- Reputation – As with any other product, the source of your antivirus software is also essential. Read through the news for past data breaches, violations of trust, or any other fact that casts doubt on the manufacturer.
- Valued-added Features – A good feature set might save you from buying additional software. For example, an integrated Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution for added internet security can save you money.
Here, we will refrain from quoting names of specific antivirus software. The malware and antivirus software landscape is very dynamic, and any recommendations here might not age well over time.
What to do to boost protection if you don’t want antivirus software?
By now, you’ve read through a fair bit of advocacy of the Defender and other antivirus software from us. If that still wasn’t enough to persuade you to opt for antivirus software for malware security, don’t worry.
You can do a lot to enhance your security for malware protection in the absence of third-party antivirus software.
But remember our recommendation – you need antivirus software for adequate protection in today’s world.
Here’s what you can do for added security against malware as well as for privacy in Windows 10:
- Back Up, Back Up, Back Up – You read it right: This should be your priority numbers 1, 2, and 3. Even the most prominent businesses with the best malware protection do it. Get dedicated external storage or buy a cloud subscription. Set a reminder on your phone or use whatever works for you.
- Don’t just click away everywhere – Be wary of phishing. DO NOT click on suspicious ads or email messages. Most innocent users fall victim to phishing (which is why we insist you need antivirus).
Remember, you can’t make any mistake in this area if you are braving it without antivirus for malware protection. For example, we received the below email in our inbox.
Our profile couldn’t be farther from this area than anyone else’s – this is a phishing attempt. Even the best antivirus won’t save you if you don’t follow this simple advice.
- Use Authentic Windows – Only use Windows downloaded from microsoft.com. Using one downloaded from another source can be risky since it might contain modified code (malware).
- Always Keep Windows Updated – As time passes, ethical (and unethical) hackers keep finding security flaws in software.
Windows Update always keeps you abreast with the latest security patches. Keeping your Windows updated and activated will always give you protection from common threats.
- Use Non-Administrator Accounts – Administrator accounts are those which have enough privileges to make advanced changes to your computer. This can be a huge security risk since you can’t always trust yourself to make the right call.
A good solution is to use a standard account. Just create a second account on your Windows and switch it to administrator and your main account to a standard user.
- Use a VPN – If you want added protection & security while browsing the internet, go for a VPN. This will shield you by hiding your internet activity and saving you from common tracking threats.
Hence, we conclude that it is better to rely on antivirus software. Windows Defender provides decent security for Windows 8 and above (also for Windows Server 2016 and above).
This is much better security than we had for older versions such as Windows Vista or Windows XP. However, it is far from the best antivirus out there.
Some of the trade-offs involved in using Windows Defender as your primary security are significant. Beyond Defender, we have refrained from calling a specific solution the best antivirus for protection.
This is because the list of best antivirus software can be very dynamic. We’ve, however, equipped you with the tools needed to determine which one suits your needs for security & protection.
Beyond this, we’ve also shared with you what you can do to bolster Windows Defender security.
Also, we’ve shared some simple yet effective tricks for boosting your security & protection with or without antivirus.
Using this knowledge, you can determine whether or not Windows Defender is your cup of tea. If not, you can choose your own form of protection.
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