Harden Windows security and increase protection from malware on PCs

Tweak Windows 10 settings to make sure your PC is protected

Many people use third party security software to protect their PCs, but these days Windows Defender is pretty good and might be all your need. Increase malware protection with these tweaks.

How to increase security on Windows PCs by changing the Windows SmartScreen settings and using Windows Defender

I gave up using security software some time ago and you can read Why I uninstalled security software on my Windows PC. That was almost a year ago and it has been an uneventful year with nothing to report. No malware, no spyware, no ransomware.

Relying on Windows Defender alone isn’t for everyone, but it works for me.

Windows 10 Creator’s Update has an updated version of Windows Defender and some extra features that are designed to protect you from bad applications, malicious websites and downloads, and malware.

Windows Defender Security Centre in Windows 10 Creator's Update

 

Get a Windows health report

Is your Windows PC working properly with no problems? It might seem to be OK on the surface, but problems could be building up. Best get a health report and check everything.

  1. In Windows 10 Creator’s Update, open the Settings app and click Update & security
  2. Select Windows Defender on the left
  3. Click Open Windows Defender Security Centre on the right
  4. Click the Device Performance icon on the left (or click the menu button to open the left panel)
  5. Select Device performance & health

Health Report in Windows 10 Creator's Update

This shows nothing for the first 5 or 10 minutes after you switch on the PC. Don’t worry, it just takes time to check that everything is OK.

It reports on Windows Update, storage, device drivers and battery life and it should show all green ticks.

Run a full scan of the system

There are several different malware scans and a quick scan can be run at any time, but every couple of weeks you should run a thorough deep scan of the disk to make sure there is no malware lurking in places not normally scanned.

  1. Select Virus & threat protection on the left
  2. Click Advanced scan on the right
  3. Select a Full scan

Windows Defender full scan in Windows 10

This can take a long time. The computer can be used at the same time, but it will run more slowly. If there are problems that cannot be fixed, select the third option, Windows Defender Offline scan. It can remove more stubborn and difficult malware.

Increase SmartScreen protection

Windows can check apps, files and websites and either warn you of problems or block various actions to keep you safe.

Select App & browser control on the left and there are three sections.

Check apps and files: The default setting is to warn you when you try to run or open apps and files downloaded from the web that are not recognised as being safe. This does not mean that a file or app is malicious, it is unknown. It may be safe, but there is a small chance it might be malware.

Windows Defender SmartScreen settings

With the Warn setting, you have the option to continue anyway, but if you want increased security, select the Block setting. It is worth doing this with a child’s account or if the computer is used by a novice who doesn’t understand computer security.

SmartScreen for Microsoft Edge: There are malicious websites that have malware, spyware and other undesirable software. There are also hacked websites where the hacker has inserted malware.

Windows Defender SmartScreen settings

Edge browser can warn you if there are known problems with a website or download and this can save your computer from being infected. With the Warn setting, there is an option to continue anyway. It usually isn’t a good idea to ignore warnings, but it is an option. To increase security, set it to Block and then there is no way to proceed, should you be tempted.

SmartScreen for Windows Store Apps: Windows Store Apps are much more tightly controlled than applications downloaded from the web. This makes them much safer to use and you are less likely to encounter a malicious one that contains malware of some form.

Windows Defender SmartScreen settings

However, it is possible that a bad Windows Store App could slip through, so SmartScreen for Windows Store Apps checks the web content apps access and makes sure it is safe. A warning is displayed if it is not.


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