Belt and suspenders?
The answer to this question used to be a very complex “yes”. It used to be that getting all the protection you need involved running multiple programs. And as you might expect, running multiple programs, if done incorrectly, can result in problems.
Today, things are much simpler.
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More than One Anti-malware Tool
In Windows 10 and Windows 11, the security software included with the operating system is typically all you need. Only if you suspect something’s been missed might it be time to bring in an additional tool.
Windows 10 & 11: you have all you need
If you’re running Windows 10 or Windows 11, you already have everything you need.
- The Windows firewall is enabled by default.
- Windows Security (previously known as Windows Defender) is enabled by default and handles all anti-malware needs.
You’re welcome to install an additional anti-malware tool if you feel the need. If you do, Window Security will turn itself off and stay out of the way, so you’ll still only be running a single anti-malware tool.
Multiple anti-malware tools can cause problems, which is why Defender steps aside. The same is true if you install even more security software. The potential for conflicts between the software increases, which in the worst case can prevent any of them from working properly.
You need only one, and for most people, that one is Windows Defender.
What you used to need
Prior to Windows 10, things were more complicated. In fact, the further back in history you go, the more complicated things got. Once upon a time, you needed three separate types of security tools:
- Anti-virus tools scan for known patterns of data found within previously identified malicious software or watch for those patterns in data being downloaded to your computer.
- Anti-spyware programs monitor for suspicious behaviors or changes on your system associated with software attempting to spy on you.
- Firewalls block access to your computer over your network connection.
It was complex because some tools in one category attempted to cover (or partially cover) one or both of the others — often poorly — and could easily conflict with other security tools installed.
A case for more than one
There is one scenario in which an additional anti-malware tool might be called for.
If for some reason you suspect malware has made it past the anti-malware tool you run normally, you can download and run a different tool from a different vendor and run an additional scan.
If your primary anti-malware tool is Windows Security, remember that it steps aside if another anti-malware tool is installed. That means you’ll either need to switch to the new tool you’ve just downloaded and installed or uninstall it once you’re done, making sure to confirm that Windows Security is enabled once again (just check its settings).
Also note that when installing an additional tool alongside another that doesn’t step aside, it’s important that real-time scanning is enabled in only one of the tools. This specifically is where multiple anti-malware tools most commonly conflict.
The vast majority of Windows users need to do very little. Windows 10 and 11 come with security software installed and enabled by default.
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