Windows 8 should launch a screen showing critical information about your computer security, including network firewall status, Windows Update, virus protection, spyware and unwanted software protection, Internet security settings, User Account Control, Windows SmartScreen and Network Access Protection.
While most of these features have also been available in previous Windows versions, let’s focus on only two different tools: Windows SmartScreen and the new Windows Defender.
Windows SmartScreen is a tool specifically developed by Microsoft to protect your computer from running unrecognized apps and files downloaded from the Internet. This means that whenever you wish to launch a downloaded file, the SmartScreen shows up and prompts you to give your approval and continue the loading process.
Only minimum user knowledge is required to successfully configure this option, but it’s worth mentioning that by default, the app is set to request administrator approval before running an unrecognized app from the Internet.
You can however switch to get a warning before running an unrecognized app without a request for administrator approval or to completely turn of the feature.
While this is indeed a great feature, you should keep in mind that some info is sent to Microsoft about the files and the apps you run on this PC. The information is then used by the Redmond-based company to improve the SmartScreen feature and help protect the other Windows 8 computers out there.
The new Windows Defender is much more than the anti-spyware solution we used to know. It’s more like a full-featured security product capable of protecting your computer from many more types of threats.
Basically, the new Windows Defender is a rebranded Microsoft Security Essentials, so the built-in app has turned into an antivirus product that also comprises anti-spyware protection. It’s packed with features designed to protect your files from malicious attempts, so it also detects viruses and other types of malware.
The interface is also new and the app comes with many more configuration options which, for the average Joe, might be a bit confusing. It’s not however rocket science to set up the app, but the standard settings should get the job done in any circumstances.
Windows Defender is installed by default on all Windows 8 computers and, once the OS is activated, it receives definition updates just like any other antivirus product on the market. It runs in the background and detects a malicious file as soon as it lands on your computer, but you can also initiate a scan all by yourself.
The very interesting fact is that Windows Defender is automatically disabled once you install a third-party security app on your Windows 8 machine. Still, it’s very important to note that Windows Defender cannot be removed from your computer, so as soon as you remove the third-party security app you previously installed, Microsoft’s tool comes back in action.
Microsoft states that "Windows Defender cannot be removed, so the only thing computer manufacturers can do is to disable the software in order to deploy another security product."