Home Antivirus Is Windows Defender Enough? Everything You Need to Know in 2024
Krishi Chowdhary Journalist Author expertise
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“Is Windows Defender enough?” is commonly asked by those concerned about their system’s security. With hackers developing newer ways of getting into Windows, it’s important to have robust security in place to safeguard your data.

In truth, though, Microsoft Defender has some really promising test scores and is good enough for basic protection. However, is it enough considering the sophisticated modus operandi of cyberattacks these days?

Well, that’s where things get interesting. We’ll explore this in our guide and offer some alternative (and affordable) antivirus solutions you can (and should) consider.

So, is Windows Defender Enough in 2024?

Windows’ built-in antivirus, Windows Defender, is good enough if you’re not an avid internet user and want a free antivirus solution to handle your limited needs. It protects devices from viruses, malware, and even ransomware.

In fact, it received excellent scores during the latest AV-TEST report. It boasts a 100% malware detection rate and a perfect score of 6/6 for performance, protection, and usability.

However, the internet landscape has changed drastically and Windows Defender isn’t enough to save you from all possible online threats. It lacks important features like:

  • An adblocker
  • Dark web protection
  • Real-time data breach alerts
  • An advanced VPN

This is why we recommend a reputable third-party antivirus — these not only offer all-around protection but also protect multiple devices simultaneously on one subscription.

Pros

  • Comes free with Windows OS
  • Offers a quick and customized scan
  • Excellent test scores

Cons

  • No phishing protection
  • Only a basic VPN
  • No dark web monitoring

Windows Defender’s Features

Here are some of the key features you get with Microsoft Windows Defender:

Virus and Malware Protection

Windows Defender offers robust virus and malware protection through various scan options such as:

  • Quick Scan—This takes far less time than a full scan.
  • Full Scan—Scans all the files in your system for potential malware.
  • Customized Scan—Lets you scan a particular folder.

Once the scan is done, you’ll see a summary at the end, showing the number of files scanned and threats found. There’s also a ransomware protection feature that protects folders on your system from unauthorized changes.

Firewall and Network Protection

Windows Defender offers a firewall as the first line of defense against internet traffic. You can manage firewall settings on three different types of networks – domain, private, and public.

Out of this, unsecured networks such as public Wi-Fi hotspots need the most security, of course. We were also impressed with the comprehensive settings menu with Windows Defender.

For example, it may so happen that the firewall perceives a legitimate website as a threat. In that case, you can use the ‘allow an app through firewall’ setting to access that website.

The Downsides of Windows Defender

Windows Defender is a good antivirus solution – but it’s not the best. For starters, it doesn’t go beyond basic scanning functions.

For example, if you’re only using Windows Defender and your passwords are leaked in a data breach, you’ll never know about it, as there’s no dark web or data breach monitor.

Similarly, there’s no ad blocker to block malicious pop-ups or active phishing protection that identifies malicious links in emails and SMS messages.

Even worse, you might have to turn Windows Defender off so that apps can work seamlessly on your system. Also, if you think these are just ancillary features, think again.

70% of businesses have located malware ads on their browsers, while 96% of all phishing attacks still take place via email.

The growing threats to your cybersecurity have made it absolutely necessary to get a dedicated third-party antivirus solution that can protect you from all sorts of modern threats.

Features Missing From Windows Defender

As we mentioned earlier, Windows Defender is a pretty basic antivirus solution that lacks many advanced features. Here are some important functions it can’t perform:

Platform Compatibility and SyncingDark Web ProtectionAd BlockerSpyware DetectionAdvanced VPN

One of the biggest issues with Windows Defender is cross-compatibility and syncing. Let’s say you use a Windows laptop and also have an iPhone.

In that case, you’ll have to get a separate antivirus for your iPhone since Windows Defender won’t work on iOS.

However, independent antivirus solutions, like TotalAV, are compatible across platforms and cover more than one device in a single subscription, including Android, iOS, and Mac.

The dark web constitutes only a tiny part of the deep web, which makes up about 99% of the entire web. Still, it’s regarded as the most dangerous place on the internet, and for good reason.

It’s rife with criminal activity, such as illegal marketplaces and hackers who steal and sell user data for profit. It’s not unlikely that your login details and passwords will end up on the dark web.

What’s worse, Windows Defender won’t be able to protect you in such an event because it doesn’t monitor the dark web for any leaks of your personal data.

However, dedicated antivirus software scans the dark web and notifies you if it finds your login credentials or other personal details.

This gives you enough time to crank up security on your compromised accounts and change your passwords, for example.

Advertising is undoubtedly the digital era’s gold rush. It makes businesses a lot of money—but pop-ups aren’t just annoying; many aren’t legitimate or safe.

Hackers often plant malicious links in these ads, which can install spyware, malware, or viruses onto your system when you click them.

These can then be used by hackers to harvest your data and sell it to third parties or lock you out of your system in a ransomware attack.

An antivirus solution blocks such malicious ads and prevents you from clicking on any of these links, safeguarding your digital privacy and security.

Hackers attempt to extract your personal data by installing spyware on your device. This can be done through malicious links in emails, SMS communications, or even ads and pop-ups.

The installed spyware monitors your online activities and mines personal data, such as credit card information, social security number, email, and phone number.

Modern antivirus solutions come with built-in phishing protection that identifies scam emails and alerts you when suspicious links are found.

Plus, their deep scans are powerful enough to discover any spyware already installed in your system.

Related: 

Sure, Windows Defender offers a VPN to mask IP addresses. However, it’s the most basic VPN you can get. Unlike third-party VPN providers, you can’t just hit the ‘connect’ button to change your IP address, either.

You’ll have to manually enter details like connection name, server address, VPN type, username, and password. Doing so every time you want to switch your server is a bit inconvenient.

There are no server options to choose from, either, and Windows Defenders’ VPN lacks key features you’ll find with the best VPNs and even antivirus and VPN combo solutions. This includes:

  • A Kill Switch — This immediately terminates your internet connection if the VPN accidentally disconnects, protecting your online activities from leaking.
  • Split Tunneling — This lets you choose which apps route through the VPN. For instance, you may want to encrypt your browser’s activity but not your banking apps.
  • Multi-Hop Connection — As the name suggests, this secures your internet session through multiple layers of encryption.

The Best Windows Defender Alternatives

Now that you know you’ll need more than just Windows Defender, here are some of the best antivirus solutions you can go for instead:

Antivirus Best for Test Results Starting Price Free Version Compatibility
TotalAV Real-time threat protection 5.5/6 for performance and protection $29 for the first year Free scan Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Browsers
SurfsharkAV Online identity management 100% with a Protection Score of 4.5/6 $2.19/month – 27 months 7 days for VPN Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Browsers
McAfee Family protection 6/6 for protection, performance, and usability $39.99/year 30 days free trial Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Browsers
CyberGhost VPN with antivirus ❌- No independent tests $2.03 + $1.00/mo – 28 months 24-hour trial Windows
Nord Threat Protection Blocking ads and trackers ❌- No independent tests $3.99/month – 24-month plan 7-day trial on Android Android, iOS, Linux, Windows, macOS, Browsers
Norton 100% virus protection promise 6/6 on protection, 5.5/6 on usability ,5/6 on performance $29.99 for the first year A few free tools Android, iOS, Windows, macOS

1. TotalAV — Best for Real-time Protection

TotalAV is one of the best antivirus solutions available. It provides real-time protection from threats such as ransomware, trojans, viruses, and spyware.

The platform has received excellent test scores (6/6 for usability and 5.5/6 for performance and protection). Plus, it blocks 100% of zero-day malware – as per February AV-Test reports.

One of TotalAV’s key USPs is its WebShield, which works with all popular browsers. It blocks suspicious and untrustworthy sites and intrusive trackers, keeping your online activity safe.

Besides this, there’s also a dedicated dark web scanner. If it detects your data has been leaked, it’ll even tell you the website responsible so that you can take the necessary actions.

You also get Total Adblock, a browser extension that blocks advertising URLs and scripts. This leads to fewer online ads and a smoother overall online experience.

The TotalAV Antivirus Pro plan (base plan) costs $29 for the first year, which equates to just $2.41/month, and it protects 4 devices.

If you want the VPN and Total Password for all-around security, you’ll want to upgrade to a higher-end plan. Unsure? There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee. Alternatively, you can read our full TotalAV review before deciding.

2. SurfsharkAV – Best VPN and Antivirus Combo

If you’re looking for something more than just an antivirus, Surfshark is perfect. In addition to 24/7 antivirus protection, you get several advanced features to amp up your security.

For instance, you can generate a new online name, home address, and date of birth — a whole new online identity — for websites you don’t trust.

You can also generate various masked emails (i.e., email aliases) to avoid marketing subscriptions and spam in your actual email inbox.

Surfshark dashboard

Furthermore, Surfshark sends you real-time alerts if it finds your credit card or personal identity details in a known data breach.

However, its highly secure and fast Surfshark VPN is easily its core USP. You can choose from 3,200+ servers across 100+ countries and spoof your location.

This ensures your privacy online and lets you access geo-blocked content on streaming sites—something you don’t get with Windows Defender.

Surfshark’s dynamic multi-hop connection will boost your security by routing your traffic through two VPN servers instead of one, too, making it difficult to trace your online activities back to you.

The best part is that you can get Surfshark for as low as $2.19/month for a total of 27 months or $2.79/month for 15 months. Surfshark is, quite simply, one of the best cheap VPNs.

3. McAfee – Best for Family Protection

McAfee offers some really useful tools to improve your online and offline protection. We liked its Protection Score feature, for example, which rates your online protection from 1 to 1,000.

If the score is low, McAfee will show you the issues and help you fix them to improve safety. Another McAfee feature that caught our attention is the Social Privacy Manager.

McAfee Antivirus Dashboard

Almost everyone today has accounts on numerous social media accounts, and managing the privacy settings on all of them is a hassle.

By installing the McAfee browser extension and linking all your socials with it, McAfee will automatically scan over 100 privacy settings and make suggestions for improvement.

Apart from this, the platform offers robust identity theft tools to keep your credentials safe. And if you’re a victim of identity theft, McAfee offers $2 million in cyber insurance to cover your losses.

McAfee offers varying plans. The basic Individual plan costs just $39.99/year and protects up to five devices, while the starter Family plan costs $69.99/year and covers unlimited devices.

The family plans also include parental control options, which allow you to limit content, manage screen time, and receive location alerts.

Final Thoughts

Microsoft Defender is Windows’ proprietary built-in antivirus. It offers decent protection against malware, boasts good independent testing scores, and has a 100% malware detection rate.

However, Windows Defender is just too basic for the modern cybersecurity landscape. It lacks essential features such as data breach alerts, dark web monitoring, and phishing protection.

This is why we recommend getting a dedicated antivirus such as TotalAV. With it, you can protect 4 devices, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.

Plus, you get excellent real-time protection from malware, trojan, virus, and ransomware. There’s also a dark web scanner. The best part? It costs just $29 for the first year.

Unsure? You’ll have a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee to fall back on if you find it’s not for you.

FAQs

What is Windows Defender?

Is Windows Defender good enough on its own?

Can Windows Defender remove trojans?

Should I turn off Windows Defender if I have an antivirus?

Reference

The Tech Report - Editorial ProcessOur Editorial Process

The Tech Report editorial policy is centered on providing helpful, accurate content that offers real value to our readers. We only work with experienced writers who have specific knowledge in the topics they cover, including latest developments in technology, online privacy, cryptocurrencies, software, and more. Our editorial policy ensures that each topic is researched and curated by our in-house editors. We maintain rigorous journalistic standards, and every article is 100% written by real authors.

Krishi Chowdhary Journalist

Krishi Chowdhary Journalist

Krishi is an eager Tech Journalist and content writer for both B2B and B2C, with a focus on making the process of purchasing software easier for businesses and enhancing their online presence and SEO.

Krishi has a special skill set in writing about technology news, creating educational content on customer relationship management (CRM) software, and recommending project management tools that can help small businesses increase their revenue.

Alongside his writing and blogging work, Krishi's other hobbies include studying the financial markets and cricket.

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