How to Put Windows Defender to Work Fighting Spyware - dummies

How to Put Windows Defender to Work Fighting Spyware

By Dan Gookin

If your PC is rapidly slowing down, moving so slow that you have to wait for minutes to see what you have typed on the screen, you may have spyware on your computer. One of the best ways to fight spyware is to use the Windows Defender program.

To quickly locate Windows Defender, type Windows Defender into the search text box at the bottom of the Start menu. You should see the Windows Defender icon appear in the search results. If it’s not there, download the program from the Microsoft website. It is free as long as you are running Windows.

Windows Defender not only scans your system for spyware but can also help you remove stubborn piggyback programs. Start Windows Defender by choosing the Windows Defender item from the Start button menu’s All Programs menu.

You see the Windows Defender main screen.


Hopefully, the screen you see says that your computer is running normally. If not, you can choose from several options to remedy the situation:

Always Allow: As long as you recognize and allow the program, Windows Defender remembers the software and flags it as okay. You’re no longer warned. The program name then appears in the Allowed Items list.

Ignore: Windows Defender allows the program to run or be installed on your computer. But the next time the program runs, you see the same warning again.

Quarantine: The item is placed into a special area on disk; it’s not running and not in risk of harming your computer. The software remains in quarantine until you unquarantine the program or delete it.

Remove: Windows Defender obliterates the program.

Choose your option, and Windows Defender deals with the program appropriately.

Windows Defender may also pop up a warning while you’re using the Internet in what’s called real-time protection. The Windows Defender Warning dialog box alerts you to the presence of known spyware. There are several alert levels for the programs that are found:

Not Yet Classified: The program is most likely okay. Many programs are unknown to the various spyware databases and therefore are “not yet classified.” If you recognize the program, let it be. If you don’t recognize the program, didn’t mean to install it or don’t know where it came from, remove it.

Low: The program is probably not evil. If the program was installed without your knowledge, remove it anyway. Otherwise, check the publisher or source.

Medium: A medium-level program may compromise your PC’s security or collect sensitive data. Review the details and decide whether to remove it, especially when you don’t recognize the publisher.

High: Remove the software.

Severe: Definitely remove the software.

  • You can remove a program from the Allowed Items list if you discover later that it is indeed spyware. To do so, choose Tools and then choose Allowed Items from the Tools and Settings window.

  • Review items held in quarantine by choosing Tools from the Windows Defender window and then clicking the Quarantined Items link. You can then select an item and click the Remove or Restore buttons to deal with it.

  • You can perform a quick scan at any time by clicking the Scan button. To perform a more rigorous scan, click the arrow next to the Scan button. From the menu, choose the Full Scan option. It goes into far more detail, but it also takes longer to complete. Use it only when you suspect spyware is on your PC.