Windows Defender first appeared as an anti-virus utility for Windows XP. Since Vista it was built into all Microsoft OS as a protection against viruses, worms, trojans and other type of malicious software. In Windows 8 it was merged with another antivirus product—Microsoft Security Essentials, and now it is a full-featured antivirus software. Windows Defender is productive enough and has low system requirements. It can be updated from online Microsoft website or from an internal WSUS server. That allows you to use it not only on home computers, but also in SMB and enterprise corporate networks. In this article we will take a closer look on how to manage different settings and enable/disable Windows Defender using PowerShell.
Manage and Enable/Disable Windows Defender Using PowerShell
The main advantage of Defender is that it is easy to use, it’s already pre-installed in Windows 10 and 8.1, enabled by default and practically doesn’t need manual configuration.
Tip. At the moment, Windows Defender is a part of the only client side OS and not available in the current versions of Windows Server. Although, in a recent preview versions of Windows Server 2016, Windows Defender can be installed as a server feature (Install-WindowsFeature-Name Windows-Server-Antimalware).
In most cases, Windows Defender works well with the default settings, but sometimes user needs to change its behavior. A large number of settings available from the PowerShell console, through a special module Defender. It appeared first time in PowerShell 4.0 and designed specifically for Windows Defender management. This module contains 11 cmdlets, which we are reviewing today.
Windows Defender list of PowerShell cmdlets
To display a list of cmdlets contained in the module, run following command:
Get-Command -Module Defender
- Add-MpPreference—used to change Windows Defender settings;
- Get-MpComputerStatus—allows you to get the status of anti-virus software on your computer;
- Get-MpPreference—used to get Windows Defender scan and update options for;
- Get-MpThreat—view the history of detected threats on your computer;
- Get-MpThreatCatalog—allows you to get known threats from the definitions directory;
- Get-MpThreatDetection—displays a list of active and recent threats detected on the computer;
- Remove-MpPreference—allows you to remove Windows Defender settings or exceptions;
- Remove-MpThreat—allows you to remove active threats from your computer;
- Set-MpPreference—used to change scan and update options;
- Start-MpScan—run a computer scan;
- Update-MpSignature—anti-virus definition database update;
- Start-MpWDOScan—launch Windows Defender offline scan;
To get full help on a specific cmdlet of the Defender module, use the command:
Get-Help cmdlet name –Full
If you need only examples of PowerShell commands, run:
Get-Help cmdlet name -Examples
Before using PowerShell cmdlets to control Windows Defender, it is advisable to check that the service is running. Run the command:
sc query Windefend
Get-MpComputerStatus allows you to display current status of Windows Defender: enabled options, virus definition date and version, last scan time and other.
To display current Windows Defender settings you can use cmdlet Get-MpPreference, to change settings use – Set-MpPreference.
In the Windows Defender settings the IPS, removable disk check, email and some others checks are disabled by default. For example, you need to enable scanning of removable drives. Let’s get the current settings using command:
Get-MpPreference | fl disable*
As you can see, scan removable drives is disabled (DisableRemovableDriveScanning = True). Turn it on using following command:
Set-MpPreference -DisableRemovableDriveScanning $false
By default, Windows Defender doesn’t check the archive files (RAR, ZIP, CAB), which can potentially contain malicious files. You can enable the checking of archive files by running:
Set-MpPreference -DisableArchiveScanning 0
After that, Windows Defender will start scanning all opened archive files in real time, as well as when scanning a disk.
Also, to change or remove the antivirus settings, you can use Add-MpPreference and Remove-MpPreference cmdlets. For example, let’s add some folders to the antivirus exclusion path:
Add-MpPreference -ExclusionPath C:\Video, C:\install
Display a list of path exceptions for Windows Defender:
Get-MpPreference | fl excl*
To exclude anti-virus scanning of certain processes, run the following command:
Set-MpPreference -ExclusionProcess "word.exe", "vmwp.exe"
To remove an exception for a particular directory:
Remove-MpPreference -ExclusionPath C:\install
Windows Defender has a hidden function to protect unwanted programs (Potentially Unwanted Program—PUP, Potentially Unwanted Application—PUA). By default, it is accessible only in Windows 10 Enterprise edition, but with the help of the following command you can enable PUP/PUA protection in any Windows 10 edition:
Set-MpPreference -PUAProtection 1
After you turn on protection, when you try to launch or install potentially unwanted programs on your computer, you will receive the following notification from Defender in Windows 10.
Windows Defender took action
Your settings caused Windows Defender Antivirus to block an app that may potentially perform unwanted actions on your device.
Using UpdateSource Argument
To start the antivirus signature update, you can use command Update-MpSignature. By default, Windows Defender updates with standard computer settings, but using UpdateSource argument let you to specify where exactly you want to take the virus definition updates.
The following sources are available:
- MMPC Microsoft Malware Protection Center;
- InternalDefinitionUpdateServer — internal WSUS server
To update antivirus from file share, at first you need to download necessary definition update files from https://www.microsoft.com/security/portal/definitions/adl.aspx and place them into shared network folder on a file server in your network. Then you have to specify that Windows Defender should be updated from a network shared folder (use UNC path):
Set-MpPreference -SignatureDefinitionUpdateFileSharesSources \\DESKTOP-V20E3PO\Updates
To run virus update and malware definitions manually:
Update-MpSignature -UpdateSource FileShares
In some cases, after receiving an incorrect update, Windows Defender may not work correctly. In this case, it is recommended to reset the current thread definition databases and reload them from source:
"%PROGRAMFILES%\Windows Defender\MPCMDRUN.exe" -RemoveDefinitions -All "%PROGRAMFILES%\Windows Defender\MPCMDRUN.exe" –SignatureUpdate
To perform antivirus scanning of your computer use the Start-MpScan cmdlet. With ScanType argument, you can choose one of three scan modes:
- FullScan — scan is performed for all files on your computer, as well as the system registry and and currently running apps;
- QuickScan — analysis of only those areas that are most likely may be infected by malware (registry,active RAM, system folders);
- CustomScan — user selects the folders and drives to be scanned.
For example, run a custom scan for check system folder “C:\Program Files”:
Start-MpScan -ScanType CustomScan -ScanPath ”C:\Program Files”
All Defender module cmdlets can be performed both for the local and remote computers. To connect to remote computer you need to use CimSession option. For example, to get the date of the last scan from the remote computer with hostname lnd_wks21 run the following commands (WimRM must be enabled):
$session = NewCimSession -ComputerName lnd_wks21 Get-MpComputerStatus -CimSession $session | fl fullscan*
Disable Windows Defender using PowerShell
If you want to disable Defender real-time protection:
Set-MpPreference -DisableRealtimeMonitoring $true
To completely disable Windows Defender on a computer use the command:
New-ItemProperty -Path “HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender” -Name DisableAntiSpyware -Value 1 -PropertyType DWORD -Force