Unbeknownst to many users, Windows 10 comes preinstalled with Microsoft’s very own anti-malware software. Known as Windows Defender, it’s an effective cybersecurity tool for protecting against malware infections. Windows Defender works like other common types of anti-malware software by scanning your computer’s files for malware. If it discovers malware, it will either delete or quarantine the malware. So, how do you use Windows Defender exactly?

Enable Windows Defender

You’ll need to turn on Windows Defender before you can use it. While it’s automatically enabled in Windows 10 by default, some users unknowingly deactivate it. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check your computer’s settings to ensure Microsoft’s proprietary anti-malware software is activated.

From the “Start” menu, type “group policy” and choose “Edit group policy” from the results. Next, click “Computer Configuration,” followed by “Administrative Templates,” “Windows Components” and then “Windows Defender Antivirus.” At the bottom of the list, click “Turn on Windows Windows Defender Antivirus.” You can then click “Apply” and “OK” to complete the setup.

Configure for Real-Time and Cloud-Delivered Protection

For the highest level of protection against malware, you should configure Windows Defender for real-time and cloud-delivered protection. Real-time protection means Windows Defender will constantly scan your computer for malware. Cloud-delivered protection, on the other means, means Windows Defender will leverage a cloud-based database to detect new and emerging forms of malware that would otherwise go unnoticed.

To configure Windows Defender for real-time and cloud-delivered protection, search for “Windows Security” in the search bar and open the software. Next, select “Virus & thread protection.” You can then click “Manage settings” to toggle on “Real-time protection” and “Cloud-delivered protection.”

How to Perform a Manual Scan Using Windows Defender

Even if use real-time and cloud-delivered protection, you may want to perform a manual scan using Windows Defender. Fortunately, Microsoft’s anti-malware scan supports manual scans.

You can perform a manual scan by right-clicking a drive, folder or file on your computer and selecting “Scan with Microsoft Windows Defender.” Depending on the size, it may take anywhere from a few seconds to over an hour. The larger the drive, folder or file, the longer it will take to scan. Regardless, Windows Defender will reveal whether it contains malware.

Update Threat Definitions

Don’t forget to update the threat definitions of Windows Defender. New forms of malware are created daily. As a result, you need to update the software’s threat definitions to protect your computer from infections.

After pulling up Windows Defender, go to “Virus & threat protection.” Under the “updates” section, click the option labeled “Check for updates.” If there’s an update available, you should download it.

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