How to Use Windows Security on Windows 11 for Maximum Protection
Windows 11 comes with a built-in security suite. However, you’ll want to use Windows Security on Windows 11 for Optimal Protection.
Windows Security is your built-in security suite for Windows 11—a solution that renders third-party antivirus software almost obsolete.
If you’re a responsible PC user, you probably don’t need a third-party solution like McAfee. There’s no reason to pay for a utility suite when you have one built-in for free.
This is only true, however, if you’re using Windows Security properly. Here’s how to use Windows Security on Windows 11 for maximum protection.
Check for New Windows Updates
First, we’ll start with making sure you have the latest Windows Updates on your PC. So, in addition to getting security and bug fixes, updating Windows will give you the latest virus definitions.
To manually update Windows 11:
- Open Start and click the Settings
- When Settings opens, click on Windows Update at the bottom of the list on the lower left.
- Click the Check for updates button and download anything new that comes in. Note that some updates require a restart, but virus definitions usually don’t. You can manually restart right away or set Active Hours to restart when you’re not using the computer.
Perform Virus Scans Regularly
While Windows Security protects your system in real-time, it’s essential to run a scan periodically. Windows should do this automatically, but there’s no harm in running a detailed scan yourself—just to be sure.
To run a virus scan with Windows Security, use the following steps:
- Open the Start menu and type windows security—choose the top result.
- When the Security at a glance screen comes up, click the Virus & threat protection option.
- Now, click the Quick Scan button to check folders where threats are typically found.
- For more scanning options, click the Scan options link under the Quick scan button.
- From here, you can select other types of virus scans.
Choosing a Windows Security Virus Scan Level
Once you click scan options in Windows Security, you can choose between three different types of severity levels. These determine how long the scan will take and how deep the scan will be.
- Full scan: Checks all files and folders, and apps on your drive.
- Custom scan: Allows you to choose which folders and files you want to scan specifically for viruses.
- Microsoft Defender Antivirus (offline scan): runs a boot-level scan for the most stubborn malware. It restarts your device and uses the most recent virus definitions that scan during boot up.
While a scan (other than an offline scan) is running, it’ll show you progress. You’ll get a No current threats message if the scan doesn’t find anything. However, if the scan does find malware, you can choose to quarantine the file, delete it, or allow it to stay in place.
Configuring Windows Security Settings
Another thing you want to manage is your Windows Security settings. This has an impact on how Windows Security runs on your PC in the background.
To configure Windows Security:
- Using the Start menu, search for windows security and open it.
- In Windows Security, click Virus & threat protection.
- Under the Virus & threat protection settings section, press Manage settings.
- Make sure that Real-time protection, Cloud-delivered protection, Automatic sample submission, and Tamper protection are enabled.
- Another vital piece of the protection puzzle is Controlled folder access. Click the Manage Controlled folder access link under the Controlled folder access section.
- The Controlled Folder Access feature provides ransomware protection. The feature was introduced with Windows 10 several years ago and brought along with Windows 11. If an unauthorized app attempts to make a change to a protected folder, it is backlisted, and Windows will send you a notification about the action.
How to Exclude Certain Files from Windows Security Scans
If you have several suitable files and folders, a virus scan can take a while to complete. You can customize a Windows Security virus scan to allow you to exclude certain files or folders.
To do this:
- Open the Windows Security app via the Start menu.
- In Virus & threat protection, select the Manage settings option under the Virus & threat protection settings section.
- Scroll down to the Exclusions section and click the Add or remove exclusions link.
- Click the Add an exclusion button and choose the items you want to exclude from scans.
When in doubt, don’t exclude the file—let Windows Security check the file to ensure your PC remains free from malware.
How to Use Account Protection in Windows Security
In addition to virus detection, Windows Security provides options to notify you when security issues arise with your account. Then you can take appropriate actions to enhance your account protection.
To use Windows Security account protection:
- Open the Windows Security app and select the Account protection option on the left.
- From this section, you can enable Windows Hello secure sign-in features, Facial Recognition and Fingerprint (if you have it), and the Dynamic Lock feature. In this section, you can also change and review account settings.
How to Use Firewall and Network Protection in Windows 11
One of the more critical security aspects of Windows 11 is the built-in firewall. You can manage firewall and network protection by doing the following:
- From the Start menu, search for Windows Security and open the app.
- From there, click the Firewall & network protection option from the list on the right.
- For best protection, ensure that Domain network Firewall is on.
- You should also enable the private network firewall and public network firewall settings.
- Note that you can also access other firewall settings, such as the network and Internet troubleshooter and the tool to allow an app through the firewall. Click those options to use them.
Generally, you want to keep the firewall settings on your PC enabled. However, admins and power users may need to disable the firewall to allow a known connection or app through or to allow for additional troubleshooting.
Configure Online and App Security Settings
While you’re online, it’s crucial to enable online security, which Windows Security provides.
To manage online and app security settings on Windows 11:
- Open the Windows Security app on Windows 11 via the Start menu.
- Select App & browser control from the menu on the left.
- The primary setting here is Reputation-based protection. It allows you to control the Defender SmartScreen, protecting your PC against malicious apps, files, websites, and downloads. Click the Reputation-based protection settings link under the Reputation-based protection section.
- Scroll down on the right side of the Windows Security app and turn on Phishing Protection.
- Scroll down further and enable the Potentially unwanted app blocking and SmartScreen for Microsoft Store app settings.
How to Manage Windows 11 Device Security Options
In addition to software protection, you can review your Device Security settings in the Windows Security app.
To check on your device’s hardware security, do the following:
- Open the Windows Security app via Start.
- Select Device security from the menu on the left.
- From this section, you can check Core isolation, virtualization-based security that protects core parts.
- You can also use this menu to check your processor for Trusted Platform Management (TPM) functionality, which is required for Windows 11.
- You can also check Secure Boot, which prevents malware from loading when you boot your PC.
- Finally, manage Data encryption to encrypt your drive to prevent unauthorized access to your drive while offline.
How to Check Device Performance & Health
You can check your device’s performance and health in Windows Security.
To do this:
- Open the Windows Security app and click on the Device performance & health tab on the left.
- This section will show you a health report which includes Windows Time service, Storage capacity, Battery life, and apps and software.
- The green checkmarks will display next to each item if you have no issues. If something is wrong, you’ll see a yellow or red icon next to it. In that case, you’ll need to start troubleshooting.
Managing Your PC Security on Windows 11
Using the Windows Security app in Windows 11 will help keep your PC safe. It has a lot more features than you may not be aware of. Making sure that Windows Security’s features and settings are active and enabled will provide optimal protection from a wide variety of threats.
While it offers excellent protection against malware, you can still turn off Windows Security if you need to (although we wouldn’t recommend it). Perhaps you’re trying to get a known safe file through or the firewall may be blocking a connection you need.
Of course, there are other features for security on Windows 11, including the Credential Manager for your important passwords. You can even find your saved Wi-Fi passwords on Windows 11.