Microsoft Defender Review In 2021: Features, Support, & More!

Microsoft Defender (review) doesn’t get a lot of respect for security, but it’s been around for a long time. First released as Windows Defender in 2006, and recently rebranded Microsoft Defender, it has been included in every version of Windows since Vista and is now just one of a group of free built-in security tools.

There is protection against malware on-demand and in real-time, for example. Automatic detection and blocking of known malicious files and URLs. a simple firewall. and some very sophisticated low-level exploit protections that make it much more difficult for malware to attack your system.

Microsoft’s parental controls are also smarter than they usually are, with features including content filtering for Microsoft Edge, the power to regulate the proportion of time your kids can spend on their devices, and therefore the ability to see all your family’s devices from one. place.

However, can you really believe in Microsoft Defender Antivirus alone? Let’s see.

OUR VERDICT


Microsoft Defender lacks features and lacks the coverage of the industry leaders, but it’s simple to use and performs an adequate job of keeping you secure.

Pros & Cons


Pros

  • Free
  • Better detection rates than some commercial antivirus
  • Integrated into Windows so there are no configuration problems
  • It is unlikely to conflict with other applications

Cons

  • Protection is average at best
  • Not very configurable
  • Only Edge and Internet Explorer support URL filtering.
  • Parental controls are for Windows only

Interface


One of the primary advantages of Microsoft Defender Antivirus is that it is pre-installed on Windows, which means there is no need for installation, no trouble, and little to no risk of it clashing with anything else. It just works.

A big advantage of this simplicity is that most users never find out the Defender interface, beyond the occasional alerts. Sensitive default settings protect you out of the box, automatic download-and-run scanning keeps you safe from most threats, and idle and scheduled scans aim to detect everything else.

However, if you want to request a look, type Windows in the search box, choose Windows Security and explore what’s on offer.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

As with many other security applications, most of the panels show your security status, while a sidebar gives you access to various functions: antivirus, account protection (how you log in), firewall, and network protection. , Malicious URL and app blocking, parental controls and more.

This is not always intuitive. While many antivirus apps have their various scan buttons visible on the dash, for example, the Defender ones are hidden at the bottom of the Scan Options panel. Microsoft seems to have designed the Defender interface with the idea that most users probably shouldn’t play around with these things, apparently to keep it at a distance.

Despite these initial annoyances, it doesn’t take long to figure out where everything is, and Microsoft Defender Antivirus isn’t difficult to use after all.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

Antivirus


Microsoft Defender has the full range of scanning options and more: a quick scan, a full system scan, a custom scan to see the files and folders you’d like, even a boot scan that runs before Windows loads. completely, to get rid of the most stubborn threats.

Quick scans took about a moment on our test PC, but we couldn’t get a uniform time for other scans. Defender is more focused on reducing the impact of your system than on increasing scan times. But does this work? It is not clear.

AV-Comparative’s October 2020 benchmark test says no, putting Microsoft Defender in the last overseas spot in a field of 17.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

However, PassMark’s 2020 antivirus performance benchmarks say otherwise, with the Defender ranked fourth best out of 12 for its minimal performance impact.

Meanwhile, AV-Test’s Windows Consumer performance results are somewhere in the middle; Microsoft Defender scores well sometimes, but not always, and it’s not as consistent as many major antivirus applications.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

Protection


Protection is what really matters with any antivirus, and Microsoft Defender’s rating, like almost everything else about the package, is mixed.

AV-Comparatives’ July-October 2020 real-world protection test placed Microsoft at 12th out of 17, as an example, with a protection rating of 99.5%. That’s not great, especially since Panda, F-Secure, and Trend Micro blocked 100% of the threats. Still, Defender did not lag behind Bitdefender (99.6%) and NortonLifeLock (99.5%, but scored higher thanks to the AV-Comparative scoring system) and outperformed ESET (99.3%), Avira (99.3%), and McAfee (98.5%). )

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

AV-Test’s Windows consumer tests found that Microsoft blocked 100% of test threats in four out of six tests over the past year. That is broadly in line with the AV-Comparatives results; better than McAfee (scored 100% in three out of six), almost like Avira (four scores out of 100%), but behind Bitdefender, F-Secure, and Trend Micro (perfect 100% scores in total six tests).

The SE-Labs Report on Home Anti-Malware Protection for July-September 2020 tells an identical story, with Microsoft Defender in 8th place out of 14 for its overall accuracy rating.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

Our own tests showed capable file detection, but little in terms of behavioral tracking.

For example, one group of tests involves using trusted Windows applications to download malicious files, a standard programming trick. Bitdefender and Kaspersky realized there was a purely behavioral carryover and removed the method before it could download the file. Microsoft Defender accepted the behavior, allowed the download, and only raised the alarm when it realized that the file was malicious. He was still protecting us, this time, but maybe he wouldn’t have if the threat was recent.

More

We pitted Microsoft Defender against our custom ransomware, but it also bypassed it, allowing it to encrypt thousands of test files.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

Fortunately, Defender has a second layer of protection in its Controlled Folders feature (Security Center> Threat and Virus Protection> Manage Ransomware Protection). Activate this option and it will automatically block unauthorized applications from accessing key document folders (Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music). , more) and will add more easily.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

We turned on Controlled Folders, added our test folder to the list, and ran the ransomware simulator again. This time, Defender showed an alert when our ransomware tried to access the folder and was not ready to encrypt any documents.

This is not exactly fancy. Controlled Folders just blocks everything it doesn’t recognize, and we found that some legitimate programs refused to run until we manually added them to an exception list.

Avast’s Ransomware Shield is smarter, more of a firewall of sorts; when it detects unauthorized access to a folder, it alerts you but also asks if the method is legitimate. Please confirm, Ransomware Shield adds the application to its Exceptions list and there is nothing else to try.

Controlled folders might be better then, but it did its main job, keeping us safe from a threat that the antivirus engine missed.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

We’re not going to discuss it in depth here, but Windows OneDrive integration helps, too. The quality of 5GB of free space online to store isn’t much, but it’s free, it’s quite a lot of 5GB that you’ll get with most security apps, and it could help you protect several of your most vital data from attacks.

More features


Antivirus isn’t the only thing to look into when it comes to Windows security; there are numerous more.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

The first on the list is perhaps the firewall. This does a good job of protecting you from incoming network attacks, but is less curious about controlling outgoing access; If an application is able to run as administrator, you are ready to customize the firewall by adding your own rules. Any firewall system has to do this, but it allows many applications to disappear when they add rules and then “forget” to get rid of them when they are uninstalled.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

(To see this in action, go to Windows Security> Firewall and Network Protection> Advanced Settings, then choose Inbound Rules or Outbound Rules and see the rules left behind by apps you uninstalled a long time ago. Don’t start removing anything unless you are. However, make sure what you’re doing and have a backup available – it’s easy to throw an error).

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

The reputation-based defense of the Defender You may use SmartScreen security to prevent dangerous websites, files, and apps. In our tests, its URL filtering is routinely less accurate than the competition, and it’s only compatible with Microsoft Edge. SmartScreen’s file and download checks, on the other hand, are system-wide and provide an additional layer of security.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

More

Windows features a bunch of extremely low-level device security measures and exploits, primarily focused on how the operating system handles memory. They are important, but best left alone, even by expert users: messing with CFG, DEP, ASLR, and memory integrity settings can, in some situations, cause your PC to crash and not even startup.

Article: Microsoft Defender Review In 2021

Lastly, there’s the Family Options page, a set of parental control features.

The good: You have very few options, including the power to filter websites for content, control when your kids can use their devices and which apps they’ll buy, and then get regular activity reports on what they’ve been up to.

The Bad: These are mostly very basic and therefore the browser options are Edge-only, limiting the control you’ll have if your kids use platforms other than Windows.

Final verdict


Microsoft Defender isn’t as accurate as of the main antivirus competition, but it still outperforms some big-name commercial products and is much less likely to cause issues alongside your other applications. If you value simplicity over state-of-the-art detection rates, this is an inexpensive option.


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