How to Enable or Disable Windows Security in Windows 11

disable windows defender - featured

Windows Security is Windows 11’s protection against viruses and malware. If you need to enable or disable it, here’s how.

Windows Security (formerly Windows Defender and other names) in Windows 11 is Microsoft’s built-in virus and malware protection suite. Windows Security’s real-time antivirus is enabled by default, and we recommend keeping it that way. There may come a time when you need to disable Windows Security, however.

Perhaps you want to turn it off due to personal preferences. You might need to access a known safe file, but it’s flagged as a threat. You might be using a third-party security suite, or you may have a kiosk that’s not connected to a network.

Whatever the reason, here’s how you can enable or disable Windows Security in Windows 11.

Enable or Disable Windows Security in Windows 11

  1. First, open Windows Security by right-clicking the Start button and select Settings. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Windows key + I to open the Settings menu directly.
    Open Settings
  2. When the Settings window opens, click Privacy & Security > Windows Security.
    Privacy and Security windows 11
  3. Next, click the Open Windows Security button.
    Open Windows Security
  4. That opens the Windows Security app. You’ll see the various protections that the suite provides and the status.
    Security at a glance
  5. To turn off Virus and Threat Protection (your built-in Antivirus protection), click on it on the left. Under the“Virus & Threat Protection Settings section, click on the Manage Settings link.
    virus and threat protection settings
  6. Go through and toggle the protections you want on or off next. Real-time Protection is a big part of Windows Security—when you turn it off, you’ll get notifications to turn it back on.

If you turn off Windows Defender, it’ll be off for a limited time, but it will turn back on automatically. That’s good if the antivirus is blocking access to a file you know is safe.

Disable Real-Time Protection

You can also enable or disable other parts of the suite, like Cloud-delivered protections, Automatic sample submission, Controlled folder access, and more.

Warning messages Windows Security

Disable Microsoft Antivirus via Group Policy

If you’re running Windows 11 Pro, you can use Group Policy to disable the antivirus permanently. There is a bit of a caveat to this, however. Before beginning, you need to turn off Tamper Protection in the Windows Security app.

Tamper Protection guards against unauthorized system changes. If you have Tamper Protection enabled and make any Group Policy changes, Windows Security will restore the changes the next time your PC reboots.

How to Disable Tamper Protection in Windows

  1. To disable tamper protection, press Start (or hit the Windows key) and type windows security—select the Best match option at the top.
  2. Next, press Virus & Threat Protection > Manage Settings. Scroll down and switch the Tamper Protection setting to Off.
    Tamper Protection Off

That’s it. You can continue with making modifications to Group Policy and permanently disable Windows Security antivirus.

Permanently Disable Windows Defender Antivirus with Group Policy Editor

  1. To disable Windows Security antivirus using the Group Policy Editor, press Start or hit the Windows key. Next, type, gpedit.msc and select the Best match result.
  2. gpeditWhen Local Group Policy Editor opens, navigate to the following path:
    Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Microsoft Defender Antivirus
  3. Next, double click on the Turn off Microsoft Defender Antivirus policy listed on the right.
    turn off windows defender gpedit
  4. Set the Enabled option to disable the antivirus, then click Apply and OK.
    turn off microsoft defender antivirus

You’ll need to restart Windows 11 for the change to take effect. If you open Windows Security, you’ll see that Virus & Threat Protection is off.

If you want to re-enable it, you don’t have to go back into Group Policy. Instead, you can click the Turn On button from the Windows Security app.

virus and threat protection disabled

When you get back from the restart, note that the Antivirus part of Windows Security will be disabled. However, you’ll still see a “Shield” icon on the taskbar. That’s because the icon is part of the overall Windows Security app, not just the antivirus program.

While the real-time antivirus is disabled, other parts of the security suite will still work. For example, you can open Windows Security and turn other protections on or off, like the Defender Firewall.

defender firewall

Note that you’ll need to be running Windows 11 Pro to use Group Policy. The Home version doesn’t include it. Of course, you can always upgrade Windows 11 Home to Pro.



  1. Aderial

    March 17, 2022 at 9:59 am

    what do you do if after the update that it can’t find windows security? It’s not available in the store, and i can’t find any information anywhere on how to find or fix it.

    • Ben Stockton

      April 25, 2022 at 3:00 am

      Hey Aderial. Thanks for the comment!

      Windows Security is integrated into Windows, so you shouldn’t need to install it (and you won’t find it in the store). If you open up the Start menu and type Windows Security, you should see it appear in the list.

  2. Rubirosa

    December 20, 2022 at 12:02 am

    what to do if after clicking the “0pen Windows Security” button doesn’t redirect to the Window Security app?

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