Best Free Antivirus: Windows Defender vs. Avast

Best free antivirus head to head

Windows 8 ships with a new version of Windows Defender that’s supposed to offer the same level of protection as Microsoft Security Essentials. Along with other security upgrades, we’re left wondering if there’s any reason to saddle up with a third-party antivirus program. To find out, we compared Windows Defender with Avast, which as we discovered in last month’s antivirus roundup is a formidable ally to have by your side as you romp around the web.


Round 1: Interface

There’s a lot going on in Avast, so much, in fact, that you might not even notice that it doesn’t scan for potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) by default, a setting we recommend enabling as an added ounce of protection (which, as you know, is worth a pound of cure). To get the most out of Avast, there’s an initial time investment required to poke around all the settings and tweak everything just the way you want it. In stark contrast to Avast, Windows Defender takes a minimalist approach with an interface that’s extremely straightforward and dead simple to navigate. There are just four headings to browse—Home, Update, History, and Settings—none of which tries to upsell you on security; Avast does. In this instance, simplicity gets the nod, and so does Windows Defender.

Winner: Windows Defender

Windows Defender doesn’t integrate scheduled scanning into its UI. For that, you need to invoke the Windows Task Scheduler.


Round 2: Features

Whereas Windows Defender is super simple to navigate, it comes at the expense of an expansive feature-set. There’s very little in the way of fine-grain control, limiting most of what you can do to including/excluding certain file types and locations, and whether or not you want to scan removable drives. You can’t even schedule a scan, at least not through the traditional UI. To do that, you need to open up the Windows Task Scheduler and configure it through there. That’s lame. Avast, on the other hand, offers a much bigger toolbox. The “AutoSandbox” feature alone, which automatically isolates suspicious programs from the OS, wins this category for Avast. There’s also a remote assistance feature for troubleshooting family and friends who are running Avast, plus browser plugins, and more.

Winner: Avast

Avast is chock-full of settings and provides excellent real-time protection, no matter where the threats come from.

Avast is chock-full of settings and provides excellent real-time protection, no matter where the threats come from.


Round 3:  Scan Speed

Windows Defender uses the same pokey scan engine as Microsoft Security Essentials, and since there’s no easy way to schedule scans, it’s even more problematic. Running a full system scan with 30GB of data on a solid-state drive took 20 minutes with Windows Defender, and subsequent scans took just as long. That’s an indication that Windows Defender doesn’t skip over files that haven’t changed since the last time they were processed. Avast clocked five minutes and nine seconds to scan the same data, and though it also didn’t get any quicker during subsequent scans, it’s still significantly faster than Windows Defender. Plus, you can easily schedule scans in Avast to run during times when you’re not sitting at your PC, such as after-work hours (assuming you leave your PC on 24/7).

Winner: Avast


Round 4: Performance Impact

Good news for both programs. If you’re rocking a solid-state drive with Windows 8 on a relatively modern machine, you’re unlikely to notice a performance impact with either Windows Defender or Avast installed. We slapped a 120GB Kingston SSDNow V300 drive onto an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with an Intel Core i7-930 processor, 4GB of DDR3/1333 RAM, and a Radeon HD 5850 graphics card. Boot times were virtually unaffected, with Avast introducing a startup penalty of just a few seconds. On the flip side, we recorded 4,035 in PCMark 7 with Avast installed versus 4,011 with Windows Defender. If this were a presidential race, it’d be too close to call. Subjectively, surfing the web and opening up programs felt equally snappy regardless of which AV program was running.

Winner: Tie


Round 5: Protection

Windows Defender needed to pull out a win in this round to keep the race interesting, but it doesn’t have the legs to compete with Avast. Using our own collection of malware, Avast detected twice as many dirty files as Windows Defender, though that might have to do with the way each program counts individual files within an infected archive. In both cases, Malwarebytes detected infections that both Windows Defender and Avast missed. However, Avast is better at detecting zero-day threats and adds a second layer of protection through its automatic sandbox mode, which Windows Defender lacks. Finally, we’re a little wary given that Microsoft’s antimalware engine is having trouble passing certification with AV-Test (, a well-known independent testing laboratory. All things considered, this crucial round goes to Avast.

Winner: Avast

And the Winner Is…

Avast wins this bout by taking three of the five categories and tying in another, though it’s not quite as lopsided as it appears. Windows Defender, while not as fully featured as Avast, is capable of blocking common threats, and it doesn’t put a drain on system resources. Avast’s army of defenses is just bigger and better trained to spot danger from more places, like IM clients. It also has a bigger arsenal of weapons.

Source :

How to Disable Windows 8 Defender Before Installing a Different Antivirus Software

Windows 8 comes with an built-in antivirus called the Windows Defender. Windows Defender is nothing but the free antivirus of Microsoft called the Microsoft Security Essentials clubbed with the Defender of Windows 7.
Microsoft claims that Windows defender is sufficient for a home computer where mere basic protection is required, but I personally don’t like it. Though the detection rate of the product is quite good, the removal rate is pathetic (yes, there I said it!). It took the tool precisely 2 mins and 33 seconds to clean an EICAR test virus file and the amount of resources it required to do that was too much.

windows defender

I am in no way encouraging you to stop using Windows Defender. It is totally your call.

Now the thing is that you cannot install two antivirus software on a computer as they never work together (almost all of them conflict with each other) and thus if you are planning to install a 3rd party security solution on your Windows 8 system, you will need to first uninstall/disable the Windows Defender that’s natively present on the OS.
Uninstalling defender is very tough as it’s coded to the core but we can disable it to keep the things rolling.

Disabling Windows 8 Defender Using Services

Disabling the Defender using Windows Services is pretty simple.
Step 1: Launch the Start Menu and search for Services under the Settings tab and click on View local services to launch Windows Services.

local service

Step 2:
Look for the service name Windows Defender Service and stop it by right-clicking it.


Step 3:
Now double-click on the same service to open the Property window and select disable in the Startup Type dropdown list and save the settings.

services disabled

Your Windows 8 defender will now be disabled permanently, and you can go ahead and install a different antivirus now.

disabled defender

Disabling Using Windows Defender

For those of you who love to keep things simple, you can disable Windows Defender from its inbuilt settings.
Step 1: Launch Windows Defender. The best way is to launch Start Menu and search for Defender.

turn off

Step 2:
Navigate to Settings tab in the Defender and click on the Administrator section. Here uncheck the option Turn on Windows Defender and save the settings.

turned off

Your Defender will be disabled instantly. If you want to enable Windows Defender protection in the future you can do that from the Windows Action Center.
If you are looking for an antivirus that will work great on your Windows 8 computer, I have a nice suggestion. Kaspersky, a leading antivirus solution provider, has already launched their consumer preview of Kaspersky Antivirus 2013 compatible with Windows 8. You may install and try it for free.


And now how to shut down Windows Defender or turn it on....

To Turn Off Windows Defender in Windows 8

1. Open the Control Panel (icons view), and click/tap on the Windows Defender icon.

2. In Windows Defender, click/tap on the Settings tab, Administrators in left pane, uncheck the Turn on Windows Defender box, and on Save Changes. (see screenshot below)

Click image for larger version

3. If prompted by UAC, then click/tap on Yes.

4. You will now notice the message from Action Center notification area icon letting you know that Widows Defender has been turned off. (see screenshot below)
NOTE: If you click on this message balloon while open, it will turn on Windows Defender again.

Name:  Windows_Defender_Turn_On-Off-2.jpg
Views: 144637
Size:  23.6 KB

5. Click/tap on Close. (see screenshot below)

Name:  Windows_Defender_Turn_On-Off-3.jpg
Views: 144367
Size:  34.0 KB

To Turn On Windows Defender in Windows 8

NOTE: This is the default setting.

1. Do step 2 or 3 below for what you would like to do.

2. Click/tap on the Action Center icon in the taskbar notification area, click/tap on either one of the Turn on spyware protection or Turn on virus protection links, and go to step 4 below. (see screenshot below)

Name:  Windows_Defender_Turn_On-Off-4.jpg
Views: 144367
Size:  29.6 KB

3. Open the Control Panel (icons view), and click/tap on the Action Center icon.

A) Click tap on the Turn on now buttons for either one of the Virus protection or Spyware and unwanted software protection messages, close Action Center, and go to step 4 below. (see screenshot below)

Click image for larger version

Note   Note
If you do not have the Virus protection or Spyware and unwanted software protection messages in Action Center like above, then:

A) Expand Security, and click/tap on both the Turn on messages about virus protection and Turn on messages about spyware and unwanted software protection links like below to see them.

Click image for larger version

4. Windows Defender will now open with it's security status as green to let you know that both Windows Defender and real-time protection has been turned on. (see screenshot below)

Click image for larger version

That's it,