Surprise! Windows Defender Doesn't Suck in Latest AV Tests

Coming in second-to-last in a roundup of 18 antivirus programs may not sound like much of an accomplishment, but for Microsoft, it’s a big step in the right direction.

AV-Test has released its latest round of antivirus evaluations, and while all the usual suspects earned top marks, the biggest surprise is that Microsoft’s built-in Windows security is quickly becoming a viable option.

AV-Test is a Madgeburg, Germany-based security firm that periodically tests AV software for a variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac OS, Android and Linux. The company’s May/June 2017 results for Windows 10 suggest that four programs out of 18 offer totally perfect protection, while the remaining 16 offer protection that ranges from passable to great.

AV-Test rated every program for Protection, Performance and Usability, with six points possible in each category.

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At the top of the list were Trend Micro Internet Security, Symantec Norton Security, Kaspersky Lab Intrnet Security and Avira Antivirus Pro. Each one of the programs earned a perfect 18. This means that they not only provided near-perfect protection from both known and new malware, but also that they had very little impact on a PC’s overall performance, and presented an efficient, user-friendly interface.

Microsoft’s Protection score was 5.5 out of 6. For a program that was bottom-of-the-barrel just last year — and comes free with Windows — that’s not bad at all.

Microsoft Windows Defender Antivirus and ThreatTrack VIPRE Internet Security Pro fared pretty well, coming in at 15 points apiece. Neither had a perfect score in any category, but it’s worth noting that Microsoft’s Protection score was 5.5. For a program that was bottom-of-the-barrel just last year — and comes free with Windows — that’s not bad at all.

Comodo Internet Security Premium occupied the lowest rung on the May/June 2017 ladder, scoring only 12.5 points. Although Comodo provided almost perfect protection, it proved to be a huge drag on system resources and only moderately intuitive to use.

Despite not earning perfect scores, AhnLab V3 Internet Security, Bitdefender Internet Security, McAfee Internet Security and Microworld eScan Internet Security Suite also earned AV-Test’s coveted “Top Product” recommendations, with scores of 17.5 apiece. Avast Free Antivirus, AVG Internet Security, BullGuard Internet Security, ESET Internet Security, F-Secure Safe, G Data InternetSecurity and K7 Computing TotalSecurity fell somewhere in the middle, with scores between 15.5 and 17.

Another takeaway from AV-Test’s latest results is that any of the 18 programs will do at least an adequate job of protecting you and your computer. AV-Test recommends any program with a score of at least 10 — but products have indeed failed in the past.

Perhaps Windows Defender won’t protect you from every single threat that comes your way — but no single program can do that, regardless of how well it scores on an AV-Test evaluation.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.