How to Perform Custom Scans with Windows Defender

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Although not as effective as some dedicated anti-virus programs, Windows Defender does a reasonable job detecting and eliminating PC threats. That assumes, of course, that it’s kept updated. Furthermore, this anti-virus program is integrated into Windows 8 and 8.1 and is enabled on computers that don’t have third-party scanners installed, so it’s certainly the most convenient option around.

That said, Windows Defender lacks a scheduler and instead relies on the considerably less intuitive Windows Task Scheduler, so you might find yourself manually scanning more often than you like. The two preconfigured scan options are “Quick,” which won’t necessarily pick up folders you’re specifically interested in, or “Full,” which could poke along for hours before displaying results. Therefore, if you’re looking for a fast, comprehensive scan of only selected folders, the Custom option should be your go-to option.

Performing a custom scan allows you to specify exactly which folders should be scanned while omitting all others. This greatly speeds up the process when you, for example, only need to scan your download folder for recently acquired files. Now, it’s possible to tweak your registry to scan folders from File Explorer’s context menu, but that option only allows single-parent-folder scanning, whereas a custom scan can include as many folders as you like.

Performing a Custom Scan

1. Type “Defender” in the Windows 8.1 Search screen and select “Windows Defender” from the search results. If you see a notice that Window Defender is currently turned off, click the Action Center icon from the notification area (near the taskbar clock) and select “Turn on Virus Protection (Important)” to open Defender. Then, click “Turn on” in the Windows Defender window if it shows Defender is still turned off.

2. Select the “Update” tab and click “Update” to ensure Windows Defender’s virus definitions are up-to-date. A progress bar appears, so you’ll know when the update is complete.

3. Return to the “Home” tab, select “Custom” and click “Scan Now” to open the folder selection window.

4. Click the “+” next to any folder to expand it and see its subfolders. Check the box next to any folder you want scanned. White, checked boxes indicate all nested folders in the selected entry are currently selected. Gray, checked boxes indicate only some nested folders are selected. Empty check boxes indicate a folder is not selected for the scan. Click “OK” to start the scan.

5. Look at the top of the Home tab to see the scan results.