Windows 10 is engineered with security as a top priority. As part of that, Windows Defender Security Center puts you in control of the most secure version of Windows ever, including built-in protections against virus and malware threats. It lets you manage and customize your security protections, and checks your device’s health and recommends actions to improve device health and security. While it’s always working in the background for you, it’s a good idea to periodically visit Windows Defender Security Center to view reports and customize it to meet your needs. 

Let’s look at some of the settings in Windows Defender Security Center and see what they mean. Find it in Settings, in Update & Security, on the Windows Security tab – click Open Windows Defender Security Center. Or, in the search box on the taskbar, type “Defender”, and in the list of results, select Windows Defender Security Center.

Windows Defender Security Center

Virus & Threat Protection

Windows Defender Security Center includes Windows Defender Antivirus, which provides built-in antivirus protection for Windows 10. From the Windows Defender Security Center Home screen, select Virus & threat protection to quickly see your threat history – meaning, results of the most recent antivirus scan of your computer – as well as settings and needed updates. If you use an antivirus solution other than Windows Defender Antivirus, information from that software would appear here instead. 

By default, Windows Defender Antivirus is already set to perform automatic scans on your computer to check for infections. However, you can do a scan anytime – for example, if your computer has started to behave strangely, or you've received suspicious email messages. Start a scan immediately by clicking Scan Now.

Screenshot of Virus & threat protection settings

After you select Scan now, Windows Defender Antivirus begins performing a quick scan of your system to check for common signs or characteristics of malware and remove any recent threats it finds. If you feel your system might still be infected after the quick scan, or you just want a more thorough or advanced scan, select Run a new advanced scan

Screenshot of Threat history & scan settings

Under “Run a new advanced scan”, you can choose to run a Full scan, Custom scan or Windows Defender Offline scan. Although these different options take a lot longer to perform, they are more thorough and can sometimes find malware that would not normally be found with a quick scan.

Advanced scans settings

A Full Scan goes beyond the common malware hiding spots to scan your entire system. Custom Scan allows you to select specific files or folders to scan. A Windows Defender Offline Scan scans for infections without connection to the internet.

Account protection

Account protection has made it easier for you to protect your identity when using Windows! Here you manage the sign in to your Microsoft account, for further security. This includes setting up tools for stronger security, such as Windows Hello Face, Fingerprint, or PIN. (Don’t have a free Microsoft account? Sign up for one.)

Dynamic Lock is a connection you can set between your Windows 10 PC and your phone, so that your PC locks if your phone is out of Bluetooth range. That keeps your PC safe from snooping eyes if you (and your phone) are away from it.

Screenshot of Account protection settings

Firewall & network protection

Windows 10 also comes with Windows Defender Firewall, which helps protect your device from potential problems that may enter through any networks it connects to. Windows Defender Firewall protects your device, and information in it, against security threats that may come from the network you’re using.

There are different options and levels you can set on this screen, depending on whether you’re connected to a Public network (such as at a library, hotel or coffee shop), a Private network (such as at home) or a Domain network (a business network). You normally wouldn’t need to change these settings at all, unless you have a laptop that frequently connects to different networks.

Screenshot of Firewall and network protection settings

Check out a video about Windows firewall.

App & browser control

It can be hard to tell when something we want to download, such as an app, a file or video, might be hazardous. Luckily, SmartScreen is on guard for you! Windows Defender SmartScreen protects your device from malicious files or apps, malware-distributing sites, and phishing attempts. If Windows detects a download as unwanted or potentially dangerous, you receive an alert to make sure you want to download it. Additionally, if you visit a potentially malicious site, SmartScreen for Edge will warn you before proceeding. There are three different settings you can set for SmartScreen: Block, Warn, or Off

Screenshot of App and browser control

By setting SmartScreen to Block, your device is prevented from downloading or running any unrecognized application or file. 

The Warn setting alerts you that something may be potentially dangerous, but still allows you to continue at your own risk. 

Setting SmartScreen to Off disables SmartScreen entirely and allows all apps or files to be downloaded. This is highly discouraged, as it leaves your system open to malicious files or applications.

Watch this video to learn more about SmartScreen.

Device security

Windows Defender Security Center also provides deeper, sophisticated protection for your device against malicious software. Under Device security are options to set and manage some of these technical processes:

  • Core isolation protects certain processes by isolating them from your operating system and device.
  • Security processor provides additional data encryption for your device.
  • Secure boot prevents a dangerous malware type called a rootkit from loading when you start your device.

Unless you know what each of these processes do (more information about them here), and what happens if any settings are changed, we recommend you either leave the settings at their defaults, or get support help when changing them.

Device security details

Learn more about Device security tab from Windows engineers.

Device performance & health

Device performance & health shows you recent scans, assesses your device health and generates reports and recommendations in these areas: Storage capacity, Device drivers, Battery life, and Apps and software. Any issues found are flagged with recommendations. All green check marks mean your device is working fine. Yellow means there is a safety recommendation, and red means something requires immediate attention. Click the category with a yellow or red alert to see what you should do.

Screenshot of Device performance and health details

Windows Security team shows how to use Device performance & health.

Family options

Family options is a great way to protect your kids and other family members when they use their computers. You can set controls on their web browsing, screen time, and what applications they use. Family Options can be enabled for children or family members who already have a Microsoft Account. If they do not have one already, sign up for a free Microsoft account.

Screenshot of Family options settings

Family options includes a number of controls, such as screen time monitoring and content restrictions, that parents can make on the Family Options online dashboard - select View family settings. For details on these options, see the article Keep your family safe online with Microsoft Family Safety.

You’re in control of your security

Overall, Windows Defender Security Center is your one-stop-shop for everything security within Windows! You can manage your antivirus, family options, and other security settings all within one application. I encourage you to discover and explore the Windows Defender Security Center application to keep you and your family safe!