Windows Defender vs Avast | All You Need to Know in 2018
Windows Defender or Avast? Read this ultimate guide to find out how Windows Defender and Avast stack up against each other in terms of features, protection, system performance, user interface, and more.
Note: Since Windows Defender doesn’t offer a paid upgrade, I will limit the scope of this guide to only the free versions. However, you’ll get an overview of what you’ll get in Avast’s “Pro” and “Internet Security” suites.
In today’s world, you need to pay extra attention to the software you run on your computer, the websites you visit, and the stuff you purchase online. With so many malicious files out there (and the number keeps on increasing with every passing year), it has become imperative that you use an antivirus software – at least a free solution.
Once malware-infected files sneak into your computer, they can do a lot of horrible things, such as stealing your passwords/sensitive data, deleting your personal files, causing your computer to malfunction.
Fortunately, there’re so many free and paid antivirus software out there that you can use to keep your computer safe and secure.
Both antivirus solutions will be judged on four categories: features, protection, system impact, user interface, and cost.
If you’re in a rush and only want to see the conclusion of this comprehensive Windows Defender vs Avast comparison, see this infographic:
Windows Defender vs Avast: Which Offers More Features?
While it is true that Windows Defender Antivirus (formerly called Windows Defender is not the most feature-rich computer security solution you’ll ever come across, it does have all the essential features an antivirus product is supposed to provide.
Built into Windows 8/8.1/10 and available in Windows Vista/7 as Microsoft Security Essentials, Windows Defender lets you run different types of scans: quick scan, full scan, custom scan (for checking specific files and folders), and offline scan — a deep malware scan that runs before the Windows can fully load up.
Other handy features that Windows Defender Antivirus offer includes a firewall (prevents hackers and malicious files from gaining access to your computer) and a “Fresh Start” feature, which lets you cleanly reinstall the latest version of Windows while keeping most of the settings and personal files intact.
It also offers a SmartScreen utility which blocks potentially dangerous websites and unsafe downloads and also checks for unrecognized apps on the web. But the downside of this feature is that it only works with Microsoft Edge browser. It also checks for web content used by Windows Store apps.
Windows Defender also has built-in parental control features which enable you to control the websites your children can visit, set good screen time habits, and limit their access to only the apps suitable to their age group. Again, these features only work with Microsoft Edge browser.
On the other hand, Avast Free Antivirus packs a complete set of features and also offers several extra utility tools in its free antivirus software that other antivirus companies include in their premium plans, making it one of most sought-after security solutions in the market.
Avast will allow you to run these scans: full scan, quick scan, file or folder specific scan, and boot-time scan (scan for malware before the Windows loads up).
It also includes a Wi-Fi Inspector to help you find vulnerable networks and settings in your home network, a VPN to safeguard your online privacy (available for a free 30-day trial only), and a “Silent Mode” feature for an interruption-free experience. It also offers real-time email client protection.
With Avast, you can store unlimited passwords in your browser via extension, create a rescue disk to crush hard-to-remove malware, and find out which of your other software are out-of-date.
Avast’s offers two browser extensions: Avast Online Security and Avast SafePrice. The former plugin warns you if the site you’re visiting is unsafe and blocks those known to be involved in phishing practices, while the latter compares prices of products from around the web to help you find the best deal.
So, it can be safely said that Avast’s free product offers more features and extra utility tools than Microsoft’s security solution.
Now, let’s talk about what you’ll get in the premium plans.
Windows Defender doesn’t offer any premium solution.
With Avast Pro Antivirus 2018, you get everything in the free plan plus Sandbox technology, which enables you to test and play with potentially dangerous files in a virtual environment, Real Site for an extra layer of protection against fake websites, and premium in-product support. Avast Internet Security Suite 2018 adds an advanced firewall and ransomware protection.
Windows Defender vs Avast: Which Provides Better Protection?
It is an essential job of a modern antivirus product to provide superior protection against all the sorts of known/unknown malware threats.
Both Windows Defender and Avast use signature-matching detection to compare a suspected file against a huge database of known malware threats as well as heuristic monitoring (which monitors behavior and other attributes of files) detect previously unseen malware.
To find out which product offers better protection, I’ll look at how both software performed in the most recent tests conducted by AV-Test and AV-Comparatives — two well-known and trusted independent security institutes.
According to AV-Test’s most recent tests, which were conducted on Windows 10 platform, Windows Defender protected against 100% of the zero-day (unseen) malware when tested against 202 samples in September last year, but its effectiveness dropped to 96.3% in the next month.When tested against 9,797 samples of widespread and prevalent malware, Windows Defender detected 99.5% of it in September and 99.9% in the following month
It received 5/6 rating in the “protection” category from the security experts at AV-Test.
Avast, on the other hand, came up with perfect results; it detected 100% of the zero-day and widespread malware in both months – earning an excellent 6/6 star rating from the security experts.
In similar tests conducted on Windows 7 platform in July and August 2017, both software were tested against 198 zero-day and 10,973 widespread malware samples.
Avast once again showed its dominance; its detection rates were 99.9% and 100% in both months for both types of malware samples, securing a perfect 6/6 star rating from the security professionals.
Windows Defender received 5/6 star rating courtesy their 99.0% and 97.0% detection rates against zero-day malware in July and August respectively and also blocked 99.8% of widespread malware in both months.
Austrian lab AV-Comparatives is another trusted security institute that publishes reports on various aspects of antivirus solutions.
In their malware protection test, which was held in September 2017, they tested the antivirus software’s ability to protect the system against malware (before, during, or after execution), Avast received an excellent “ADVANCED +” award with 99.99% protection rate and only returned 9 false positives (i.e. misidentifying harmless file as malware).
Windows Defender received the “TESTED” award, which was the lowest status. Its protection rate was 98.84% and returned 6 false positives.
In AV-Comparatives’ real-world protection test, which aims to gauge the protection level of antivirus products against real-world conditions, Avast once again earned a perfect “ADVANCED +” status, while Microsoft’s product only managed “ADVANCED” award.
So, it’s clear that Avast’s solution provides a lot better overall protection than Windows Defender Antivirus. Also, it’s worth mentioning that only Avast provides protection against less risky items, such as adware, Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs).
Windows Defender vs Avast: Which Puts Less Impact On System?
It is the part of antivirus software’s job to provide real-time protection and to do that, they continuously run in the background just like any other application, consuming some percentage of system resources all the time.
It is imperative that antivirus software not only provide an excellent level of protection but also doesn’t consume too much of system resources.
Again, I’ll look at AV-Test and AV-Comparatives’ reports to see which software has less impact on system performance.
In AV-Test’s “performance test,” they look at how different antivirus products slowed down the system on while performing typical tasks, such as launching popular websites, downloading and installing widely-used applications, and copying of files.
Here’s how Windows Defender Antivirus performed in tests conducted in September and October 2017. (The results are expressed in terms of percentage slowdown on a standard and high-end PCs.)
And here’re the results of the same tests when done with Avast installed.
Both software received 5/6 star rating in “protection” category from AV-Test’s experts.
Note that these tests were conducted on Windows 10 platform in Sep-Oct 2017.
Similar tests were conducted on Windows 7 platform in July and August 2017. Avast received 5/6 star in those tests while Windows Defender only managed 4.5/5 stars. (See this and this if interested in detailed reports.)
AV-Comparatives’ performance test, which took place in September last year, examined the impact of different antivirus products on system performance by carrying out typical tasks, such as copying files, archiving/archiving, installing/uninstalling applications, downloading files, and browsing websites.
Avast earned “ADVANCED +” award from AV-Comparatives with an impact score of 8.9, while Microsoft’s security suite was awarded “STANDARD” rating because of its higher impact score of 30.4.
In short, it is evident that Avast puts less impact on system performance than Windows Defender, but you can rest assured that neither of them will cause significantly slowdown your computer.
Windows Defender vs Avast: Which Offers Better User Interface?
Everybody prefers using a software that provides a clean user interface and easy-to-use navigation.
Windows Defender’s interface used to be slightly in the past but that’s no longer case after the recent update, which not only modernized the interface but also turned it into a fully-fledged security center from where you access all the security features and settings.
The home window, apart from showing protection status and last health scan date, provides a way access different modules.
The green check mark represents that everything is fine while the red one indicates a problem.
At the bottom left, there’s a button which takes you to the settings page. Windows Defender’s interface is also resizable, which is a bonus.
Avast’s interface is elegant too, but it may seem a little more complicated and overwhelming to use when you compare it with Microsoft’s security center. There’s a vertical menu on the left that has four tabs: status, privacy, protection, and performance. Each tab contains submenu items (features) associated with it.
The red color signals a problem while the green indicates that everything is okay. You can access settings page via a button located at the bottom-left corner.
It must be mentioned that Avast’s freeware shows unobtrusive ads and also contain premium features that are not included in the free version.
So, it’s evident that Windows Defender not only provides a minimalistic user interface but also doesn’t show ads to get you to upgrade.
Windows Defender vs Avast: Which Will Cost You More?
Avast and Windows Defender both offer a freeware that you can use forever. (Defender’s comes built-in with Windows operating system.)
Avast Pro Antivirus costs $50/year for a single device and $85/year for up to five devices. Avast Internet Security subscription will you cost you $60/year for one device and $180/year for up to five devices
Windows Defender, on the other hand, doesn’t offer paid upgrades like Avast so there can be no comparison drawn in this category.
Avast Free Antivirus might be the best fit for you if you want great protection coupled with light system impact. It also packs several utility tools that come in handy. But you should consider upgrading to “pro” or “internet security” plans to enjoy advanced features and be secure at all times.
Windows Defender, though showed significant improvements, still lags behind other free antivirus solutions in terms of features, protection and system impact.
If you think I’ve stated something wrong or missed something in this Windows Defender vs Avast guide, feel free to let me know in the comments.
Also, as you can guess, it took me a while to write this comprehensive guide to help you become aware of the pros and cons of both software. You can return the favor by mentioning is on your website and/or sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you like 🙂
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