How to Force Windows Defender to Exclude Files or Folders in Scans

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When Windows Defender detects a threat on your computer, you have an opportunity to review the alleged virus before taking action. This review protects files against false positives that incorrectly flag legitimate files as infected. This can happen when a program or associated files are designed to modify other programs, override privacy settings, allow remote access or track usage. Depending on the action you choose, these false positives could be repeated during the next scan, so it’s better to eliminate that possibility altogether by adding files to the exclusion list.

Likewise, if you have a trusted file you suspect would be flagged, you can configure Windows Defender to skip it even before a scan begins. As an example, if you modified your Hosts file to block certain websites, Defender might incorrectly detect your changes as the result of malware. It would then automatically restore the original Hosts file, which would also unblock the sites. However, if you add the file to your exclusion list, Defender ignores it, so it remains as you intended.

Excluding Files and Folders

1. Type “defender” in the Windows 8 search screen and select “Windows Defender” from the search results.

2. Select the “Settings” tab, choose “Excluded Files and Locations” and click “Browse” to begin selecting files or folders.

3. Click the “+” sign next to any folder to expand it, select the file or folder you want to exclude and click “OK.” If you select a folder, any files or subfolders contained in the selected folder are also excluded. Repeat as needed to add more files or folders. You can also manually type file and folder paths in the File Locations field, just make sure you separate entries with a semicolon so Defender knows to treat them separately.

4. Click “Add” to add the selected files or folders to the lower exclusion list, which displays one entry per line.

5. Click any entry in the exclusion list and click “Remove” to eliminate it from the list. Doing so includes the file or folder in future scans.

6. Click “Save Changes” to keep your newly created exclusion list or select “Cancel” to abandon your changes. If you later decide to remove files or folders from the list, simply return to the Excluded Files and Locations tab and remove the entry.