May 29, 2015

Create scheduled tasks to protect your Windows 8 computer from viruses using Windows Defender

For the last few years I have been a big proponent of Microsoft Security Essentials for use as an antivirus solution for Windows. To me, it is the best virus protection I have ever used. As some of you know you can't install Microsoft Security Essentials on Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 because the built in Windows Defender uses the exact same engine.

From their page:

Windows Defender for Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows 8.1, and Windows RT 8.1 provides built-in protection against malware. You can't use Microsoft Security Essentials with Windows 8.1, but you don't need to—Windows Defender is already included and ready to go. But if you’re looking to protect a PC with an older version of Windows, you can use Microsoft Security Essentials to help guard against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. It provides free* real-time protection for your home or small business PCs.

Note: Windows Defender is also available in earlier versions of Windows. However, in earlier versions Windows Defender only provides protection against spyware. In Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, Windows Defender provides full malware protection for your PC. Malware consists of viruses, spyware, and other potentially unwanted software.

Here's a screen shot of Windows Defender in Windows 8.1:

Looks familiar right? The only thing it is missing that Microsoft Security Essentials has is option within Windows Defender to do scheduled updates and scheduled scans. That's because Microsoft in their infinite wisdom wants that done through task scheduler for some reason.

Scheduled Tasks will automatically be created for you under Task Scheduler Library > Microsoft > Windows > Windows Defender once you manually conduct your first update and scan in Windows Defender. They will not however have a scheduled time associated with them. Therefore you need to go into each of the four tasks available and configure what times you want them to run. The available tasks are:
  • Windows Defender Cache Maintenance
  • Windows Defender Cleanup
  • Windows Defender Scheduled Scan
  • Windows Defender Verification
One thing to note is that there is no scheduled update for Windows Defender in that task list. That's because Microsoft wants you to get your updates from Microsoft Update, however if you want real virus protection you need this updated at least daily. To have Windows Defender update daily do the following:
  • Create a new scheduled task called Daily Update and set it to start a program. 
  • In the Program/Script box enter: "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Defender\MpCmdRun.exe"
  • In the Add arguments box enter:  -SignatureUpdate -MMPC
  • Make sure the task is configured to be run by "System"
Obviously you will want the above task scheduled to run daily. Another task you might want to schedule is a monthly full system scan. The scheduled scan that is built in is really only a quick scan. You might want to schedule the built in scan to run on a daily or weekly basis. A full system scan will take a long time and use up a lot of resources which is why you might want to limit that for once a month.

To schedule a full system scan do the following:
  • Create a new scheduled task called Full Scan and set it to start a program. 
  • In the Program/Script box enter: "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Defender\MpCmdRun.exe"
  • In the Add arguments box enter:  Scan -ScheduleJob -ScanType 2
  • Make sure the task is configured to be run by "System"
If you have never created a scheduled task before I found a pretty good tutorial here.

That's it, once you have this setup and configured you probably don't need any other antivirus program on your computer slowing you down. Besides the scheduled tasks above, Windows Defender does offer on-access real time protection from viruses and malware.

Are you using Windows Defender in Windows 8.1? Why or why not? If not, what are you using for virus protection? Let us know in the comments!

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