Windows Defender can now be trusted with the security of your PC?


Windows Defender (or Microsoft Security Essentials for those on earlier versions of the OS, in other words pre-Windows 8) is going up in the world, at least according to the latest test results from a well-respected organisation that ranks security software.

There was a time, way back when, that the general consensus was that Microsoft Security Essentials (commonly known as MSE) was a good free (albeit basic) antivirus solution for Windows, but in more recent times, that reputation has fallen into serious disrepute. However, Microsoft is making good progress in turning its security suite around according to the latest results from AV-Test.

AV-Test's latest roundup of the best antivirus products for Windows was carried out in November and December of last year, and incorporated 20 different pieces of software, one of which was Windows Defender.

Under Windows 8/8.1, Defender scored a full 6/6 when it came to usability, and 5/6 for performance, plus it also hit 4.5/6 for its protection rating. That's a total score of 15.5/18 – an impressive mark indeed, although this was the OS in which the software performed the best.

Windows Defender didn't manage to score quite as well under Windows 10, but it wasn't far off with a total of 14/18. Again, it achieved 6/6 for usability, and 4.5/6 when it came to performance, but it slipped a bit more in the protection stakes hitting 3.5/6.

As for Windows 7, of course that has Microsoft Security Essentials as mentioned, and also managed a full 6/6 for usability, with an excellent 5/6 in terms of performance, albeit an average 3/6 for protection (again for a total of 14/18).

False positives

Under Windows 8, Windows Defender detected 99.6% of the malware thrown at it – which is 0.1% below the industry average – but also did very well in terms of false positives (files wrongly identified as malware), only hitting one of these over the two-month test period compared to the industry average of five.

It also produced no false warnings when visiting websites, and this lack of interrupting the user for no reason is why Microsoft's software is now scoring so well for usability.

In total, as Neowin reports, when it comes to the overall score of all three measurements, Microsoft ranked tenth out of 20 software vendors, a solid enough result.

Microsoft noted late last year that it was using machine learning (which is a big thing over at Redmond) along with Azure and the cloud to help reduce false positives for Windows Defender, and it seems this tactic is certainly paying off.

With just a little bit more work on protection, Windows Defender will be a more than viable option, which is good news for less tech-savvy users who might simply stick with the default protection that comes with the OS.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).