Software

How to take advantage of the new Windows Defender Security Center

The Windows Defender Security Center in the Creators Update offers a new interface, beefs up existing features, and adds an extra twist: Device Performance & Health.

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After all these years, Microsoft has finally released a version of Windows Defender with an updated user interface—and a longer name: Windows Defender Security Center. (If you don't recall the old UI, check out my article Windows Defender: Past, present, and future.) Along with the new user interface, Windows Defender Security Center offers a host of new and improved features.

In this article, I'll show you around the interface, introduce you to the new components, and then delve into the newest component: Device Performance & Health.

The new UI

When you first launch Windows Defender, you'll see that it now looks like it belongs in Windows 10 (Figure A). In other words, it feels like the other Windows 10 native apps.

Figure A

Figure A
Windows Defender now looks like it belongs in Windows 10.

Windows Defender Security Center has a dashboard display that provides easy access its five components: Virus & Threat Protection, Device Performance & Health, Firewall & Network Protection, App & Browser Control, and Family Options. This means you can control all Windows security options from one place. At the top of the window is a quick summary of your virus protection status.

On the left side of the window, you'll see the collapsed navigation pane, which contains icons for each of the five components, plus the Home screen. If you click the hamburger button at the top, the navigation pane expands to show you the full names of each of the components, as shown in Figure B. Of course this seems kind of silly when you are on the Home screen, but it comes handy when you're using one of the components.

Figure B

Figure B
The navigation pane expands to show you the full names of each of the components.

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The components

As I mentioned, Windows Defender Security Center features a dashboard display that allows easy access to its five components. Most of them are new takes on Windows security features you're already familiar with— along with a new one. Let's take a brief look at the four familiar components. Then, in the next section we'll delve into the new addition.

Virus & Threat Protection

In the Virus & Threat Protection component, you'll find everything available in the previous versions of Windows Defender, such as the ability to manually launch quick as well as advanced scans, configure virus protection settings, and check for virus definition updates.

Firewall & Network Protection

In the Firewall & Network Protection component, you can enable and configure the Windows Firewall. While there are some firewall settings in the new UI, several of the options open the old Windows Firewall Control Panel user interface.

App & Browser Control

In the App & Browser Control component, you can adjust Windows Defender SmartScreen settings for apps that access online content, as well as for your browser. The SmartScreen feature helps you to stay safe by warning you of potentially malicious sites, hazardous downloads, and unrecognized apps and files.

Family Options

In the Family Options component, you'll find all the familiar parental controls, such as configuring screen time habits, managing purchasing options, and generating activity reports to track you kids' online activity.

Device Performance & Health

In the Device Performance & Health component, you'll find a detailed health report that the Windows Defender Security Center compiles on a regular basis as it evaluates the status of Windows Update, storage capacity, devices drivers, and on laptops/tablets, battery life. This component also includes a feature called Fresh Start, which essentially allows you to perform a clean install of Windows 10 while leaving your data intact.

As you can see in Figure C, on my example system the Health Report indicates that the last health scan was on 5/9/2017 and that there were no issues with Windows Update, nor any issues with storage capacity. The latter indicator is designed to check that you have enough free space on your hard disk to download and install any Windows updates. However, there were a couple of issues that I needed to investigate.

Figure C

Figure C
Windows Defender Security Center compiles a detailed Health Report on a regular basis.

The Device Driver section is designed to check the drivers on your system to make sure that they are functioning properly and to alert you if there's a problem. When I clicked the Device Driver issue, I could see that one or more of the device drivers on this system may not be working correctly, as shown in Figure D. The recommendation was to run the Hardware And Devices Troubleshooter, which you can do by clicking the Open Troubleshooter button. (Running the troubleshooter found a problem with a VPN driver.)

Figure D

Figure D
The Health Report indicated that there was a problem with a device driver on my laptop.

The Battery Life section checks the impact of the brightness level and sleep settings on battery life and alerts you if finds an issue that's reducing battery life.

When I clicked the Battery Life issue, the report indicated that the Sleep Timeout setting wasn't set properly, as shown in Figure E. The recommendation was to change the setting by clicking the Open Settings button. Doing so opens the Power & Sleep tab where I could choose a Sleep Timeout setting when the laptop is running on battery power.

Figure E

Figure E
The Health Report indicated that the sleep timeout setting was not set properly on my laptop.

As I mentioned, the Fresh Start feature basically allows you to perform a clean install of Windows 10 while leaving your data intact. More specifically, when you choose Fresh Start, it will find and back up all your data, settings, and native apps. It will then install a fresh copy of Windows and restore the data, settings, and apps that were installed with Windows 10. When your PC restarts, just log in with your same username and password and find all your data.

I'll cover the Fresh Start feature in detail in a future article.

More Windows how-to's

What's your take?

What do you think of the new Windows Defender Security Center? Are you likely to take advantage of the features in the Device Performance & Health component? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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