In a reverse course – what a shocker! – Microsoft has said it won’t turn Windows Defender on if it detects you’re using anti-virus or anti-spyware software. Microsoft has come under attack lately for finally admitting what every PC user has known for years – Windows, no matter the version, is vulnerable to virus, spyware and malware attacks, unlike any other OS.

What does this mean for Windows users? Let’s look at the issue of why Microsoft wants you to protect yourself instead of letting them do it for you.

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Microsoft Won’t Protect Your PC

Holly Stewart, Senior Program Manager for Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center, allegedly misspoke weeks ago when she said that Microsoft would force users to utilize Windows Defender if Windows detected there was an anti-virus software in use. Whether or not this is true, we don’t know, but what we do know is that Microsoft will still turn on Windows Defender if it detects you have no protection whatsoever on your computer.

If third-party anti-virus or anti-spyware is detected, Windows Defender will remain turned off. However, if you uninstall the programs or deactivate them, Windows Defender will automatically be turned on by Windows until you install or activate the software again. This allows for some level of protection on your unprotected PC. While Windows Defender has mixed reviews from Windows users, it’s better than nothing in Microsoft’s eyes which is why they’ve added this feature.

How Does Microsoft Protect You?

Microsoft is relying on two new background technologies: Smart Screen and App Rep. These technologies tell Windows whether or not a program, file or app could potentially be malware. It cross-checks the data with its database, similar to how other anti-virus programs work and then report back to users. In the event that Microsoft detects an issue, it blocks access on your behalf to an app, program or file; you can then choose whether you ignore the advice or move forward.

Microsoft’s push towards third-party anti-virus and anti-spyware programs is in consideration of those still using Windows XP and Windows Vista, which still account for the majority of PC infection statistics. By encouraging these users to move to Windows 8.1, Microsoft believes it may help eliminate some of the virus and spyware problems plaguing its OS line. Since Windows XP support ends in April 2014, it’s a solid strategy to push consumers towards a more reliable and secure OS in Windows 8.1.

How Does Microsoft Encourage You to Protect Yourself

Microsoft is encouraging Windows users, regardless of version, to use third party anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Anything from free products to paid ones can get the job done. There are many free alternatives out there that work well for any Windows PC and that can offer real-time protection, bootable scans and even other built-in features that can make all the difference when fighting threats online.

However, you should also examine your browsing habits to determine if you’re at a high-risk of infection. If you’re finding a lot of viruses or malware on your PC, you must be doing something online that puts your PC at risk. By identifying these problems, you can actually cut down on the risk of Windows infection and keep your computer running smoothly. Along with anti-virus and anti-spyware scans, you can ensure your Windows machine is clean and working the way it’s intended.


It’s a step forward that Microsoft has finally admitted that viruses, spyware, malware and more are a true problem for the Windows platform – not just Windows XP. However, how many users will still ignore Microsoft’s suggestion and not utilize an anti-virus or anti-spyware program? Or simply change their online browsing habits and what websites they go to on a daily basis?

The average consumer needs a free anti-virus program at the very least to work with Microsoft’s security supplements for basic protection. Combined with watching where you surf and what you do online, this can stop a lot of problems with viruses, malware and more from the start.

What do you use on your Windows machine to protect it from viruses, spyware, and malware? Or are your browsing habits good enough to keep you safe? Let us know your preferred programs in the comments!