Is Microsoft's Defender Antivirus free anymore?

Since Microsoft Anti-Virus for MS-DOS was released in 1993, its operating systems have included antivirus protection. When it launched as Microsoft AntiSpyware in 2005, Microsoft Defender Antivirus was called Microsoft AntiSpyware.

With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft Defender Antivirus became a respectable (if not glorious) malware-fighting tool after going through various names and sometimes receiving below-zero scores in third-party tests. Microsoft's protection has always been free through all these changes.

Has that changed? Several readers were alarmed when Microsoft announced Defender for Individuals, which, as Microsoft's description page makes clear, is only offered as part of a paid subscription to its cloud-based office services. Where is the free version now?

Defender of Last Resort

When every PC on the internet is protected by antivirus software, malware writers have a harder time making their living. When most potential victims have antivirus software, viruses are harder to spread and Trojans are less lucrative to plant. When everyone is protected, even ransomware mills cannot force victims to pay as much as they would otherwise.

Due to this, Microsoft designed Defender to run on any PC that does not have a third-party antivirus program. An almost universal antivirus provides a sort of collective immunity.

Is it effective? According to Microsoft, it is. Malicious Software Removal Tool is more than just upgrading Windows Defender, according to representatives. Microsoft receives detailed (but not personally identifiable) information about you, such as the operating system you're running, malware detections, and any third-party antivirus you may have installed. Based on this information, studies have shown that even unprotected PCs benefit from having an antivirus on most of their connections.

With Defender, you can maintain herd immunity without interfering with third-party antivirus. Defender suspends its operations when Bitdefender, Norton, McAfee, or any other recognized solution is installed. Defender automatically kicks in again if you remove protection or (more likely) let it lapse. You need to keep your system protected in some way or another.

Confusing Announcement

'Microsoft Defender' is the first line in the Microsoft Defender for Individuals announcement(Opens in a new window). Secure web browsing is simplified. Microsoft Defender is a free, easy-to-use online security app for you, your family, and your devices. Download it today with your Microsoft 365 subscription.' It caused readers to contact me in panic. The defender has always been their go-to antivirus product (despite my pleas to use something better). Should they switch?

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