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Post: How to manually update Microsoft Defender



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Microsoft Defender is the built-in anti-malware package that’s included with modern Windows operating systems. It’s alternatively known as Windows Security (it shows up under Settings > Privacy & security as Windows Security) or Windows Defender (sometimes with Antivirus at the end of the name, as in this Microsoft Learn page). But whatever you want to call it, for many Windows users, this tool is the go-to default for handling security on their PCs.

As with Windows Update in general, sometimes Microsoft Defender updates may not work. Normally, Defender updates are handled as part of routine Windows update behavior, run on a daily basis as a scheduled task. But sometimes, Windows Update itself runs into problems and doesn’t do much (or anything).

Should this happen, there are numerous other ways to keep Defender updated, sidestepping any issues strictly related to Windows Update itself. (See the note at end of story for more advice on this topic.)

1. Use Microsoft Defender’s update facility

Within the Settings app, you can access a Windows Security facility with this selection sequence: Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security in Windows 10 or Start > Settings > Privacy & Security > Windows Security in Windows 11. There you’ll find a button labeled Open Windows Security, as shown in Figure 1. Alternatively, you can open the app directly by typing windows security into the Start menu.

update windows defender fig01 windows securityIDG

Figure 1: Within Settings, the Open Windows Security button takes you to Defender’s controls.

The Windows Security app includes numerous entries, including the “Virus & threat protection” item that also appears in Figure 1. Clicking this produces an app pane like the one shown in Figure 2. Note the entry under “Virus & threat protection updates” near the bottom. In Windows 11, you can click the Protection updates link shown at the bottom of the image to instruct Defender to check for updates. (The Check for updates link in Windows 10 does the same thing.) If any updates are available, it will download and install them.

update windows defender fig02 virus and threat protectionIDG

Figure 2: Click Protection updates (Windows 11) or Check for updates (Windows 10) to do just that.

Note: this download process goes through Windows Update in the background. I have seen it work sometimes when WU is stuck on some specific update. At other times, it, too, fails to download updates when WU is completely stuck and won’t download anything. In such circumstances, there’s yet another way to forcibly update Microsoft Defender, covered in the section that follows.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Lora Helmin

Lora Helmin

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