The past decade has seen an unprecedented growth spurt in the number of users online and using the Internet to share, send and receive files.
There’s also the consistently-rising popularity of USB sticks, many so portable and common as to be used as keychains and increasingly boasting storage in the terabytes.
To many, this also paints a vivid picture of opportunities for malware, viruses, and hacking attempts growing in the same ratio.
Microsoft has attempted to combat this with Windows Defender, a built-in security app included in their OS from Windows 7 and up, making sure that even those oblivious to these threats can be protected just as well.
The irony? Windows Defender, with all its real-time security protection, either falls short of most users’ needs or is inefficient and obstructive while being hyper-vigilant.
For this, people look for a way to turn off Windows Defender or, for people who have much better solutions in place, uninstall Windows Defender altogether.
If you’re here, this means you’re already one of us. Let’s get to it.
How to disable Windows Defender
Windows Defender works slightly differently on different versions of Windows.
For users of Windows 7 and 8, Windows Defender must be completely and manually disabled if you’re to use any other anti-virus or firewall.
For Windows 10, the need to turn off Windows Defender in Windows 10 is mostly optional, as it disables real-time protection as soon as another third-party security app is installed.
Step 0: On either version of Windows, you can open Windows Defender from either the Start button or Search Box in the toolbar by searching the keyword “defender”.
(If the option for Settings comes up, head to that directly, otherwise you can find Settings on either the top-right corner or bottom-left in Windows 10 or the Tools setting on the top bar in Windows 7.)
First, we’ll talk about how to turn off Windows Defender in Windows 10.
Once here, what you’re looking for is a toggle switch with text that reads “Real-time protection”, enabling you to turn it off. If you can’t find it straight away, head over to a tab named Virus & threat protection settings; these settings are different in different versions of Windows.
As we’re using a Professional version of Windows 10 for Education, we found the Real-time protection setting in Virus and protection settings.
Switching this to Off allows you to effectively disable Windows Defender.
For Windows 7, the process to do the same is slightly different.
Step 1: Once you’ve come to the Tools and Settings page (as explained above in what we called the zeroth step), look for Options.
Step 2: In the left-hand pane, one of the last options should be Administrator.
Step 3: In the Administration tab, uncheck “Use this program”, and click Save. Windows Defender will confirm that you’ve turned it off.
However, whether it’s Windows 7 or 10, some people face troubles with Windows Defender restarting itself on each system reboot.
The workaround for this is a very simple hack, and you can find it on the same Settings page we already led you to.
(The process from here on out is similar on all versions of Windows if you can get a theoretical grasp on what we’re doing, which is very simple.)
Let’s say your Windows is installed on the C:\ drive, as it often is.
Clicking on Add or remove exclusions, you’ll see something like this:
From Add an exclusion, select Folder, select your C: drive and click OK.
The entire C:\ drive (meaning your entire operating system) is now ‘excluded’ from real-time protection, meaning you can install and uninstall software and apps and keygens and hacks (if you know what you’re doing!) without interruption from Windows Defender.
On different versions of Windows, there might be direct options for Files and folders, file types, and processes. Here, you can select C:\ from Exclude a folder under Files and folders. Of course, you can just add each of all your drives as an exclusion, too.
How to remove Windows Defender
While we recommend keeping Windows Defender installed and enabled if you don’t have another (better and more robust) anti-virus app, Microsoft realizes that people will try nonetheless.
As such, any method to remove Windows Defender is only temporary, and it can come back on the next Windows Update.
However, one method that shows results is to remove Windows Defender through the Windows Registry.
Step 1: Open the Windows Registry Editor through typing ‘regedit’ in the Search box or Run tool.
Step 2: On the left-hand side, under Computer, you should see several keys. Click on HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, then SOFTWARE, then Policies, then Microsoft, and finally Windows Defender.
Step 3: In the empty space on the right, right-click and hover on New, and click on D-WORD (32-bit) value.
Step 4: Right-click the new item and Rename it to DisableAntiSpyware.
Step 5: Double-click the DisableAntiSpyware item and change its Value Data to 1.
Step 6: Restart your computer.
Once done, Windows Defender will stay disabled until the next Windows Update – which you might also be able to disable or uninstall but we’ll leave all that for another article. For now, disabling or removing Windows Defender should do the trick.