In the field of antivirus, there has always been the dichotomy between free and paid solutions. With Defender (now Windows Security), Microsoft has changed the game and the free, integrated alternative rivals paid deals.
You no longer have to pay for antivirus software. Microsoft’s free Windows Defender service, built into Windows 10, now protects as well as paid antivirus/antimalware solutions that some may have subscribed to for several years. There are two reasons why PC users agreed to pay for antivirus software: first, good free alternatives were rare; second, the protection offered by Windows was more than minimal, leaving the field open to publishers like Norton, Kaspersky and other vendors. In fact, the malware protection capabilities offered by Windows were so poor that test organizations like AV-comparatives.org and AV-test.org used Defender as the basis for the worst results in their antivirus product evaluations. For example, when AV-test.org tested the ability of 23 antivirus vendors to block samples of real malware on Windows 8.1 in December 2013, Defender came last.
But that time is over. Since then, Microsoft has taken the security of the terminals to the heart. In 2019, Windows Defender Antivirus (now known as Windows Security including a firewall and other tools), integrated directly and for free to Windows 10, often surpasses paid services. Even if there are still imperfections. For example, the generation of “false positives,” when the solution confuses legitimate applications with malware, can be high. Another test also showed that integrated service had a greater impact on the performance of low-end PCs. It is therefore up to each user to decide whether these disadvantages are bearable or whether they prefer to pay more than 60 euros/year for a more efficient and efficient antivirus. Our PC World colleagues regularly test antivirus applications and some features may justify choosing a paid solution. But, at what level does Windows Defender now stand in relation to these paid solutions and to what extent can it become its main antivirus?
Two AV-comparative and AV-test testing laboratories rank Defender almost at the top of their antivirus products. It is important to note that these tests take a very long time to complete. Even sites like AV-comparatives rely on automated testing to browse the web in search of malicious sites and URLs to replicate the situations that any user may face on a daily basis. In the AV-comparatives test, the Windows Defender solution was one of four solutions, out of a total of sixteen, that managed to block all malware and prevent them from taking control of its test systems. On the other hand, PCs protected by the solutions of major specialized publishers such as McAfee and Symantec ended up being compromised by malware. It should be noted that these and the protection mechanisms are constantly evolving. To give an idea of the “average” level of protection over time, AV-comparative tests were conducted from February to May 2019.
Well-accepted third-party anti-malware options
Considered an integrated security tool, Defender’s openness to other security solutions has long been decried. However, it allows you to install an additional layer of protection against malware. Due to potential conflicts, the simultaneous execution of two antivirus programs has always been discouraged. However, Windows 10 accepts the antimalware program of its choice and lets Defender periodically check threats. (Go to Settings – Update and Security – Windows Security, then click Virus and Threat Protection. Scroll down to Windows Defender Antivirus options and check that periodic scan is enabled.)
There’s no shortage of free antivirus options, from AVG to Avast to Avira and many more. The free option of BitDefender Internet Security is very effective and very discreet to the point that you quickly forget it, a really important point for an antivirus program. According to AV-test and AV-comparatives, BitDefender is also one of the best products in its class, although this ranking applies in both cases to paid versions. According to our colleagues at PCWorld, there is no difference between the paid version and the free version in terms of anti-malware protection. Again, they believe that, for everyday use, Windows Defender is enough to protect against malware, especially since it also allows to duplicate this ability by letting a second antivirus run on the machine.