Windows 10 Antivirus

In this article, we explain why you need antivirus for Windows 10 to protect yourself from the latest malware, viruses and cyber threats.


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Do I need antivirus for Windows 10? 

According to Statista, Windows is by far the most popular operating system in the world, carrying over 70% of the market share. Additionally, Windows 10 is the most used version of the desktop operating system, with over 80 percent market share as of the end of 2021.

While the popularity of Windows 10 makes it a great choice for computer users interested in a stable and well-supported operating system, compatible with thousands of other products, it also means that it has a big target on its back.

Threat actors target Windows users with viruses, worms, adware, spyware, Trojans, ransomware, bots, and more. So, does Windows 10 need antivirus software to shield users from these complex threats or is its baked-in security tool, Windows 10, enough?

The short answer is that, yes, additional virus protection for Windows 10 is necessary. Read on to learn more.

Does Windows 10 need antivirus? 

Microsoft says there are over 1.4 billion monthly active devices running Windows 10 or Windows 11. That’s a lot of users for threat actors to attack with malware.

Modern cybercriminals are clever and motivated by profit. They rely less on PC viruses. After all, computer viruses don’t do much more than corrupt data. Instead, they use more complex malware in combination with social engineering attacks that can:

  1. Hold your computer for ransom
  2. Steal your confidential information
  3. Spy on you through your camera or microphone
  4. Snoop on your browsing activity
  5. Log your keystrokes
  6. Drain your bank accounts
  7. Secretly use your system to mine cryptocurrency
  8. Hijack your system’s resources for brute force attacks

So, does Windows 10 need antivirus tools? Absolutely. You need antivirus software for Windows 10 that can shield you from all types of malware and attacks, from viruses and ransomware to phishing websites and emails.

Does Windows 10 come with antivirus software built-in? 

To Microsoft’s credit, they’re taking cybersecurity very seriously. In 2021, they came out with a five-year plan, quadrupling cybersecurity investment to $20 billion. And with each iteration of Windows, their antivirus improves, catching more known threats while providing more stability.

The baked-in Windows 10 tool is called Windows Defender. A study by AV-Comparatives shows that Windows 10 is excellent at stopping established threats such as legacy viruses.

So, why does Windows 10 need antivirus downloads when it has Windows Defender?

Is Windows 10 built-in antivirus enough? 

AV-Comparatives study 

 Although Windows 10 is an excellent security tool, it may not offer comprehensive protection. According to an independent test of antivirus software by AV-Comparatives, Windows Defender is below par in the following ways:

  1. It falls behind the industry average in preventing zero-day attacks. So, what is a zero-day attack? It’s a type of attack hackers use to exploit software vulnerabilities. Preventing such an attack requires a proactive antivirus tool that uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to analyze a potential threat’s structure, logic, and data for hostile patterns.
  2. It issues more false positives than its peers. When Windows 10 falsely identifies valid software as malicious, it results in frustration for the end user and software developer.
  3. Windows 10 slows down legitimate software more than other antivirus tools, resulting in frustration for the end user.
  4. As expected from a free antivirus tool, Windows 10 lacks customization features as compared to other cybersecurity apps. The lack of customization gives users less control over their security and privacy settings.

Inadequate browser protection 

It’s essential for antivirus to shield your browser nowadays because of escalating attacks that target browsers with adware, drive-by downloads, cross-site scripting (XSS), malicious plugins, SQL injection, and cryptojacking.

At best, a browser attack will slow down your system and inconvenience you with popups, and at worst, it may steal your sensitive data, such as your credit card information. 

Windows 10 doesn’t protect third-party browsers by default. This is problematic because Microsoft Edge only has over 4% of the global browser market share. Compare this to Google Chrome, which has a market share of over 60%.

Buggy Ransomware Protection 

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts your data and locks your computer to help its authors extort money. Some Windows users don’t realize that ransomware can strike anyone, and not just large organizations. Computers of small businesses and individual users are all vulnerable to different types of ransomware strains. 

Although ransomware is a real menace, Windows Defender’s ransomware protection is not on by default. Why is it deactivated? It could be because Windows 10 antivirus is notorious for throwing up false positives. In 2022, it flagged Google Chrome and Spotify as malware or ransomware. In a case of bad comedy, Windows Defender also falsely identified Microsoft Office updates as ransomware activity.

Whenever Windows 10 antivirus falsely identifies a legitimate program as ransomware, the program can crash, forcing a user to lose their work.

Why do I need antivirus for Windows 10? 

If you’re asking, “Why do I need antivirus for Windows 10 if I already have Windows Defender?” here is a summary of how top third-party cybersecurity software boosts your computer:

  1. Enhanced browser protection, shielding you from malicious websites, infected ads, credit card skimmers, scams, hacks, and phishing attacks.
  2. Cutting-edge ransomware protection, defending your computer, files, photos, and sensitive data from dangerous malware.
  3. Brute force protection, blocking hackers who try to steal your login credentials.
  4. Smaller footprint, resulting in more resources for your computer to run games, movies, music, or productivity software.

How to do virus scan on Windows 10 

Check if Windows Defender is on 

You need cybersecurity software, whether it’s a third-party antivirus or Windows Defender. If you haven’t downloaded antivirus software, please ensure that Windows Defender is active. Follow these steps to check if Windows Defender is on:

  1. Hit the Windows key
  2. Type Windows Security in the search box
  3. Open the Windows Security app
  4. Look for a green tick above Virus & threat protection.

 If Windows 10 antivirus is inactive, click Virus & threat protection to go to settings. Here, move the toggle under Real-time protection to On.

Scan files and folders 

How to quickly scan your files and folders for viruses and other malware with Windows Defender:

  1. Hit the Windows key
  2. Type Windows Security in the search box
  3. Open the Windows Security app
  4. Open Virus & threat protection
  5. Run Quick scan

How to scan a file, folder, or external drive for viruses and other malware with Malwarebytes:

1. Open Malwarebytes on Windows
2. Go to Advanced Scanners in the Scanner section
3. Click on Configure Scan under Custom Scan to customize a scan
4. Select files, folders, or drives to scan
5. Click Scan to begin scanning.

Spot the signs of Windows 10 malware infection

It helps to recognize the signs of a malware infection on Windows 10:

  1. Computer is slowing down or heating up inexplicably
  2. Microphone, camera, or hard drive activate without reason
  3. Strange new applications, shortcuts, or toolbars
  4. Programs crashing
  5. Files and folders are missing or corrupt
  6. A barrage of popups
  7. The dreaded blue screen of death (BSOD) shows up.
  8. Computer isn’t shutting down or restarting easily.
  9. Messages or emails are sent autonomously from your computer.
  10. Deactivated antivirus, firewall and VPN

If the malware infection is severe, you may need to learn how to boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode before starting countermeasures.

How to turn off Windows 10 antivirus 

  1. Hit the Windows key
  2. Type Windows Security in the search box
  3. Open the Windows Security app
  4. Go to Virus & threat protection
  5. Select Manage settings
  6. Switch Real-time protection to Off

Improve your Windows 10 security 

Installing good third-party antivirus software is helpful, but there are more ways to improve your Windows 10 security.

  1. Download the latest Windows security patches automatically
  2. Download the latest patches for your essential software, including your antivirus
  3. Activate your firewall to defend your network
  4. Subscribe to a private VPN to encrypt your data and cover your IP address
  5. Use sophisticated passwords to secure your email and social media accounts
  6. Utilize biometric security tools to secure your Windows account
  7. Avoid opening unsafe emails, links, websites, and downloads
  8. Learn to identify the signs of a phishing attack
  9. Regularly back up essential data to a cloud-based service

The current state of Windows 10 threats 

As our 2020 State of Malware Report notes, malware detections continue to remain alarmingly high. Moreover, threats against Windows users grow increasingly sophisticated as hackers target users with multipronged attacks that leverage social engineering with complex malware. Although Windows Defender is an adequate antivirus tool, users need a more comprehensive cybersecurity system that defends them on multiple fronts.