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Home » Best Free Antivirus Software for 2024 » Avast vs Windows Defender

Avast vs Windows Defender

I. Introduction

Effectively protecting devices from digital threats like viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware is critical in today’s continuously evolving threat landscape. Both individual users and organizations rely on antivirus and internet security software to secure systems from cyber attacks.

With more antivirus solutions available than ever, an important decision is whether to go with the built-in Windows offering – Windows Defender – or deploy a dedicated third party suite like Avast. Evaluating the core capabilities, effectiveness, impact and value of Windows Defender versus Avast can determine the better match for your use-case.

II. Windows Defender

Windows Defender is the native anti-malware protection included for free in Windows 8 onwards. What started off as basic system guard software has matured over versions into a fully capable security package under the Defender brand umbrella.


As integral Windows component, Defender key highlights are:

Seamlessly integrated – Already included with Windows, enabling protection is straightforward without installation complexities. Defender also interoperates tightly with Windows components for deeper threat insights.

Light-weight performance – By designing Defender software specifically for Windows builds, resource optimization is very efficient without typical antivirus slow downs.

Highly approachable – The Defender interface sports simplified security management, notifications, scan triggers and threat remediations for novice users.

Always up-to-date – Defender virus definitions and security patches update automatically through Windows Update for continuous protection.

Economical – Included gratis with Windows – i.e zero additional cost for access across Windows devices from XP onwards.


  • Mediocre malware protection: Though vastly improved recently, Defender still trails independent testing protection ratings behind third party suites.
  • Limited additional features: Focus is strongly on core antivirus essentials rather than value-add tools or utilities beyond firewall/parental configurations.

Third Party Antivirus Comparisons

While independent efficacy tests praise Defender’s progression, third party software still consistently out-rates Defender mainly on:

  1. Broader malware detection – especially for zero days and targeted attacks.
  2. Lower false positive rates for wrongly flagged benign files.
  3. More precise behavior monitoring capabilities for suspicious process activity traces.
  4. Additional utilities like hardened web browsing, cam protection, data encryption etc.

So while greatly enhancing baseline Windows security, Defender alone may not suffice for advanced threats without augmenting with specialty antivirus suite capabilities.


Is Windows Defender good enough? For most users, Defender along with smart browsing practices should now provide sufficient security for avoiding mainstream threats. But high-risk user segments like corporations and sensitive IP handlers may require an extra layer of customizable third party protection against sophisticated attacks.

Does Windows Defender slow computer? Marginally yes for intensive tasks like gaming or video editing. But the well optimized resource consumption has minimal impact for common workloads relative to third party solutions.

Can Windows Defender remove malware? Efficacy for malware removal lags slightly behind top antiviruses but still thoroughly inspects/quarantines suspect executable payloads with unknown origins based on code traits.

III. Avast Antivirus

Founded in 1988 as ALWIL Software, Avast is now globally the most widely used antivirus software with over 400 million devices secured. Let’s analyze the software capabilities and reasons for widespread Avast deployment.


  1. Comprehensive malware blocking and removal – Both signatures/heuristics scanning along with behavior shielding enable maximum threat coverage – certified by top independent efficacy ratings.
  2. Minimal performance interference – Well engineered resource consumption and throttling avoids latency impact on workflow – validated through benchmark testing metrics.
  3. Feature rich security suite – Extensive tools beyond core antivirus provide full spectrum device protection – hardened browser, WiFi inspector, remote access shield etc. Also services like privacy cleaner and software updater.
  4. Multiplatform support – Consistent protection across Windows, Mac, Android, iOS through unified security dashboard accessible via browsers or mobile app.
  5. Cost effective subscriptions – Plans starting from as low as $50 per year for comprehensive endpoint and network coverage on unlimited devices.


  • Boot time slightly lengthened launching multiple protection services on startup. But minimized latency after stable initialization.
  • Overwhelming suite scope without guided configuration for settings optimally tuned to user priorities and risk levels.

Comparisons With Windows Defender

While Defender is serviceable for guarding against commonplace malware strains, Avast expands protection across vectors like network, web, email leveraging threat intelligence from immense global sensor grid tracking over 400 million endpoints.

Core advantages Avast has over Windows Defender are:

  1. Significantly higher malware, phishing and network attack detection rates.
  2. Lower false positives for accurate risk identification.
  3. Curated security packages with value add-ons tuned for gaming, small office etc beyond antivirus utilities.
  4. More configurable rules and policies for customizing security experiences.

So Avast provides a substantial uplift whether judged on efficacy ratings or feature set scope over the baseline Defender capabilities.

IV. Comparison of Windows Defender and Avast

Below we analyze Defender vs Avast across various parameters users evaluate while selecting antivirus solution:

Malware Protection

  • Windows Defender has high threat remediation capabilities for known strains but limited heuristics captures of novel attacks. Third party efficacy tests confirm 5-15% lower protection range than top suites.
  • Avast combines both signatures, heuristics, behavior analysis with machine learning algorithms trained on immense global sensor network data covering 400M+ endpoints to maximize threat detection/coverage rates up to 99%.

Impact on Performance

  • As native Windows component, Defender optimization for low resource usage is respectable at 2-5% benchmark metric degradation.
  • Comparatively through clean coded optimizing compilers, Avast has non-noticeable to minor 1-3% system slowness only for intensive gaming/video applications. General workflows unaffected.

Cost and Licensing

  • Defender pricing is unbeatable as it’s freely bundled into Windows versions upward of 8.
  • Avast offers rates starting from $50 per year for individuals on 5 devices upto $90 for all features family pack including network security tools. Very affordable relatively considering scope.

Simplicity of Use

  • Defender prioritizes ease through streamlined security status reports and intuitive prompts for remediation actions requiring low technical skill.
  • Avast is feature packed to fault – advanced capabilities can overwhelm novices. But also offers lighter install options with essentials only to improve approachability.

Customization Options

  • Defender policies broadly cover virus handling, excluded files/locations scope reduction and network protection basics. Lacks finer controls for rules/settings granularity.
  • Avast opens up extensive preferences covering security levels, scheduled scans, malware actions, network firewall/traffic shaping, application behavior authority levels etc that can finely tune to specific operating contexts.

Which is Better For Whom

  • Defender well secures mainstream Windows users without additive expenditures given adequate effectiveness for common threats. Just be vigilant against higher profile attacks it may miss.
  • Avast offers an enhanced layer of customizable security for broader range of devices. Appeal maximized for technically oriented users like gamers, network admins who can best leverage extensive capabilities.

V. Conclusion

Both Windows Defender and Avast offer compelling integrated endpoint protection options native to Windows environment.

Defender as free built-in component now offers largely sufficient coverage that didn’t exist in previous iterations. It focuses on approachable security for mass market Windows users rather than maximizing detection rates.

Avast provides a value-packed paid upgrade addressing limitations of depending solely on Defender. Beyond covering more threat surfaces, highlights are efficacy uplift against sophisticated attacks, granular customizability and negligible performance interference. For advanced home users and most businesses, Avast capabilities justify its affordable subscription expense.

Evaluating specific use cases around malware risk levels, need for configurable policies vs intuitive controls etc can determine the right solution between Defender and Avast. But Avast leads in overall technical capabilities while maintaining tremendous value.