Windows Defender vs Antivirus software: free protection falls short

Windows Defender vs Antivirus software: free protection falls short

Where Windows Defender stops, others do better to protect you

by Irene Park

Recently we received similar questions from our viewers:

“Just read your best reviewed antivirus programs and I wonder how you would rate the Windows Defender that comes with Windows 10?” – Tim

“I have been told that with Windows Defender, we don’t need any other program.  …What’s your advice?” – Anita

It’s hard not to feel like your bases are covered with a name like Windows Defender, but is it good enough to keep you and your devices safe from hackers?

While some users were surprised to see that with the frequency of real-time scans that the viruses still managed to infiltrate their systems, others were even more shocked to find once they do find the viruses, there’s nothing Windows Defender could do about it.

Many users are now wondering if it is a good enough standalone option to protect their computer.

It is most definitely essential to have some antivirus security protection especially if you’re running Windows.  Because Windows Defender automatically comes installed on Windows 10 and 11, it’s really easy to simply turn it on and use it.

However, while it may be easy to just ‘click and go’, it is important to know if it is strong enough to be your primary antivirus software or see if stronger antivirus protection is better for you.


What is Windows Defender?

Windows Defender

Before we even get to the nitty-gritty of whether or not Windows Defender is even comparable to one of the third-party antivirus software programs we recommend in Best Antivirus Protection, it’s important to understand what it actually does.

Found under Windows 10 or later security settings, Windows Defender does help identify various security threats and protect certain aspects of its user’s experience.

It comes pre-installed with Windows 10 & 11, which means you need to do nothing else to use it. If no other antivirus software is detected or disabled, Windows Defender automatically turns on.

Windows Defender


  • Free
  • Already integrated into your Windows Operating System
  • Will scan offline for vulnerabilities and will reboot to eliminate persistent malware
  • Comes with a firewall and ‘Find My Device’ feature, which helps to locate, lock and if necessary, erase your computer (Windows 10/11)
  • Protects most Microsoft products on the computer it is running on
  • Protects against real-time threats, which means its focal aim is to stop viruses, spyware, worms ransomware, or malware from being installed on your device in the first place


  • Doesn’t protect against phishing or spam, where a lot of viruses and malicious threats get introduced to your device
  • Only works on the singular Windows 10/11 computer it is installed on so if you’re a multiple-device household, you might be left vulnerable
  • Some users complain that it is not updated fast enough with current threats allowing many to sneak into your PC
  • Only works across other Microsoft products, which means if you use alternate browsers such as Firefox or Chrome, the benefits of Windows Defender will not work
  • Additionally, that means the parental controls that are part of Windows Defender only work with Edge, the Microsoft browser
  • Though you can put Microsoft Family Safety apps on iOS and Android devices, it requires a paid subscription to Microsoft Office 365
  • Only protects Microsoft products on your computer so any third-party apps or programs are still vulnerable to security and privacy breaches


Will AntiVirus security software offer better protection?

Is Windows Defender secure Enough

The short answer is yes.  The explanation shares an understanding of what most third-party antivirus software programs provide when Windows Defender falls short.

Strong Antivirus security software


  • Most have packages that give you the option to protect single or multiple computers as well as other devices, such as your phone or tablet
  • Unlike Windows Defender which focuses just on real-time threats, most other antivirus programs also can scan archives files and non-Microsoft-based programs
  • More rigorous at detecting, blocking, isolating, and helping you eliminate viruses, malware, and other threats on your computer
  • Most also have broader features such as dark web monitoring, anti-phishing, anti-spam guards, VPN,  or password managers


  • Costs additional money and many require renewal fees if it is a subscription program
  • Requires installation on whatever devices you want to be protected on
  • Can be confusing and overwhelming to sort through various features and price points for different subscription programs. (Get clarity and recommendations by referring to the article Best AntiVirus Protection. )
  • Requires a bit more attention than a more passive program like Windows Defender because some antivirus software programs allow you to review threats quarantined before deletion or other actions

It’s definitely better to run Windows Defender rather than nothing.  It’s not a true replacement for good antivirus security protection.  Windows Defender fails at detecting many threats.  And worse, it doesn’t help you once trouble gets through to your PC.


How do I turn Windows Defender off?

If you do want to protect yourself further with third-party antivirus software like our top pick, TotalAV, it would be best to uninstall Windows Defender altogether.

This way there aren’t any conflicting actions or duplicate efforts both of which can eat up space and performance speed.

Step-by-step guidelines to turn off Windows Defender

1) Open the Start menu

2) Search for Windows Security and open.

3) Click Virus & Threat Protection

4) Click on Manage settings

5) Turn off Real-time protection by switching toggle to “off”


Overall, Windows Defender is an improved feature that provides some basic benefits to those without third-party antivirus software.

If you’re serious about the safety and security of all your devices – and you should be – then a third-party antivirus software such as TotalAV will protect you better.

Have you used Windows Defender? Or do you feel safer using another third-party antivirus solution? Let us know in the comments below what’s worked best for you.



Copyright 2024  All rights reserved. articles and content may contain affiliate links that earn a commission when purchases are made.



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