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Microsoft Removes Option to Disable Windows Defender Antivirus

Question asked by kingfish on Aug 24, 2020
Latest reply on Aug 24, 2020 by pokester

Those of us who’ve been using Windows for long enough will remember a time when Microsoft’s operating system didn’t have its own antivirus tools. Adding them was controversial at the time, but Microsoft said it was a necessary evolution to protect users. Over time, Windows Defender has become more capable and more deeply integrated with the system. 

In the latest Windows 10 builds, Microsoft has taken things to their logical conclusion by removing the option to disable Defender entirely. Microsoft regularly takes flak for removing customization options in Windows, but this change actually makes some sense. 

In Windows 10, there was never an “easy” way to disable Defender. Those who really wanted to shut off the Windows antivirus could do so by digging around in the registry to modify the “DisableAntiSpyware” key. As Microsoft points out, it put this key in Windows so system builders and IT professionals could turn off Defender in order to deploy a different AV program by itself. Naturally, some personal users turned to this feature to turn off Microsoft’s AV program. 

According to Microsoft, it removed the registry key because it’s no longer needed for its intended purpose. Windows 10 can now detect when there’s another antivirus program running and disables itself. So, this essentially prevents you from running Windows without an AV solution. You’ll just have to hope that Defender turns itself off correctly to avoid the stability issues that can come from running two security suites. 

You can at least see Microsoft’s point — there’s very little reason to have an option in Windows to disable anti-malware features. After all, the internet is a dangerous place with nothing between you and the myriad nasties. At the same time, this wasn’t exactly an easily discovered toggle. It was a registry key, and most people who edit their Windows registry do so because they have a reason. Even then there’s an option to temporarily turn off Defender, which is tucked away in the “Virus & protection settings.” That should take care of most use cases, leaving very few people who want to run a PC with no AV software. That is, undoubtedly, a vanishingly small group. 

There will certainly be people angry about this change, but there are plenty of other things going on with Windows to be more upset about. For example, you can’t uninstall the new Edge, the control panel is going away, and almost every new update seems to break something else. Hey, at least you’ll have antivirus. 

Microsoft Removes Option to Disable Windows Defender Antivirus - ExtremeTech 

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