Using Windows Defender on Windows 7

December 13, 2010, By Christian Cawley

Windows 7’s built in security software includes Windows Firewall and Windows Defender. Designed to protect against Spyware and malware, Windows Defender provides real-time protection and can be configured to update automatically. Scans can also be scheduled and various settings and tools can be used to enhance the protection that the utility offers.

Windows Defender comes free with Windows 7, and can be found by going to Start and typing defender in the Search box.

You can get started straight away by hitting the Scan button – once you have done this, have a look at these other options for configuring Windows Defender in Windows 7.

Windows 7 - Windows Defender Spyware scan

Scan Options in Windows Defender

Three scan options are available in Windows Defender:

Quick scan – this will check all of the usual places such as your System32 folder for potential threats

Full scan – your entire hard drive will be checked for Spyware and malware

Custom scan… – you can configure your own scan with this option.

With Custom scan… you are presented with the Scan options screen where you should select Scan selected drives and folders and the Select… button to specify which drives and folders you want to scan.

Windows Defender will display a list of every attached and configured drive, with a + sign to expand the drive out into the folders on that drive and a small check box to select either the entire drive or a specific folder that you might have drilled down to.

Once your selection is made, click OK and Scan now to have Windows Defender check the specified folders for threats.

Windows Defender History and Quarantine

Windows 7’s built in Spyware tool features a History listing that provides an index of all previous Spyware and malware that has been detected and the action that was taken on it.

The History screen will list the Name of the threat, the Alert Level or severity of the threat, the Action Taken, a Date and the object’s current Status. The View button will open a folder location where the items are held, while the Quarantined items link will remove or restore software that was previously prevented from running. Similarly the Allowed items link displays all previously detected items that have been permitted to continue running, and these can be removed from the list to be rescanned.

Windows Defender Tools

It is on the Tools screen that Windows Defender becomes particularly effective, providing links to the Windows Defender Website, Microsoft SpyNet and the Microsoft Malware Protection Centre, a trio of online services that can be used in conjunction with Windows Defender to enhance your protection as well as educate you about risks.

The Options menu meanwhile allows configuration of Windows Defender scanning options, such as setting a schedule for scans to take place on the Automatic Scanning tab and applying actions to detected malware and Spyware in Default actions. Here, severe, high, medium and low alert items can be given instructions such as Remove, Quarantine, Allow or you can leave Windows Defender to make a decision with the Recommended action based on definitions option.

Elsewhere, the Real-time protection set of options also you to have Windows Defender running in the background waiting for threats to launch, and if you choose this option then you should also think about adding anything that you don’t want to be scanned into the Excluded files and folders and Excluded file types configuration.

With the Advanced tab, archive files (such as .ZIP or .CAB), emails and removable drives can all be included in your scans, and you can also have Windows Defender create a Restore Point before applying actions to detected threats.

Finally Administrator options will allow you to enable to disable the software as well as whether to display items for other users of that computer. This might be useful when trying to track down a threat in another user’s profile.

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