How to Schedule Automatic Spyware Scans in Windows Defender - dummies

How to Schedule Automatic Spyware Scans in Windows Defender

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.


To schedule when and how Windows Defender runs, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Tools link at the top of the Windows Defender window.

    The Tools and Settings part of the Windows Defender window appears. It lists many powerful utilities for helping pluck nasty software from your PC.

  2. Choose the Options link.

    The Options page appears.

  3. Ensure that there’s a check mark by the item Automatically Scan My Computer.

    When this option is unchecked, Windows Defender is turned off and you don’t want Windows Defender turned off.

  4. Choose a frequency, either daily or a specific day of the week.

    Daily is best.

  5. Pick a time.

    Specify a time when the computer will be on (either running or in Sleep mode). Windows Defender doesn’t awaken the computer from hibernation.

  6. Choose the type of scan, either Quick or Full.

  7. Review other settings in the window.

    There are too many to list here, and none is incorrectly set by default.

  8. Click the Save button.

    In Windows Vista, you will need to type the administrator’s password or click the Continue button.

A key to the success of running any malware utility is to keep it updated. Windows Defender is no exception. Updates for Windows Defender are automatically installed on your computer — if you have Automatic Updates configured that way. If you don’t, you might want to reconsider your automatic update strategy.