One of the most welcome changes in the past few iteration of Windows has been the Windows Defender application. However, it can feel like a bit of a hard-to-fix nuisance when the MsMpEng.exe Antimalware Service Executable starts gobbling up your limited CPU resources when you don’t want it to. Below, we’re going to show you how to work around this rare occurrence and keep it from crippling your PC’s performance when you need to use those resources for actual productivity tasks.
We’re all kinds of thankful that Microsoft’s Windows Defender application has become an actual asset, rather than something needing to be replaced. However, it still isn’t without these minor nuisances that can occasionally crop up and prove obstacles to the rest of your computing experience. We’ve fixed the issue, but more than that, we want to explain why it happens in the first place. And beyond that, we’d like to provide you with some free alternatives to Windows Defender, if it just proves to not be your cup of tea.
When it was first introduced, Windows Defender was nothing to write home about. It wasn’t always up to the security standards offered by many free competitors — most of which had actually been around for a little while longer. Many users simply replaced it as soon as it started showing up on their computers, and several years ago, we wouldn’t have blamed them.
However, Windows Defender has grown up quite a bit in the subsequent years. It’s now a perfectly viable security solution for your PC, and though there might be third-party solutions that are marginally better, nobody will fault you for relying on Windows Defender, now. It’s proprietary, too, which means it’s perfectly integrated with the Windows operating system and tends not to interfere with other operating system functions.
Most of the time. That brings us right to the problem, doesn’t it? When it does interfere, it’s incredibly visible. Your computer slows down, applications open at a snail’s pace, and your productivity inches down to the point that it barely feels like it’s moving. And the culprit seems to be that MsMpEng.exe application, according to your Task Manager’s readings.
Antimalware Service Executable
Here’s something you might have noticed, when you first boot your computer, or when you wake it up from sleep mode — everything seems a little bit sluggish, and when you check the Task Manager to see what the problem is, you’re met with a single executable application that’s eating up all of your resources.
It’s called MsMpEng.exe, and it has somehow maxed out your CPU and disk usage and seems to take a good long while before throttling down again. So what gives?
This is part of the Windows Defender suite, which is baked into the Windows operating system and acts as the baseline program responsible for keeping your computer safe. If you’ve installed third-party antimalware and antivirus solutions, Windows Defender responsibly turns itself off (most of the time) but if you are still relying on Windows standards, Defender is where you’re at.
Source of the Problem
Because the tasks being performed by Windows Defender aren’t the most transparent, this can understandably be quite frustrating. However, we can break it down pretty simply for you.
When you wake your computer up from sleep or boot it up fresh, Windows Defender is set to perform a default scan of relevant disk drives and files on your machine. This is to ensure that no malware or other malicious code is affecting the computer’s operating system on boot, which is actually of critical importance. However, it can sometimes be extremely taxing for computers that don’t have a lot of spare resources to take care of such tasks.
Even though this is a fairly important role for Windows Defender, that doesn’t mean that it has to be carried out this way on your computer. Like most security software, these types of processes are entirely customizable. You can change the settings in Defender to perform scans when you want them to happen, rather than when your computer is in the process of trying to boot up several applications and services at once.
To resolve this, we’re going to have to delve into Windows Defender, but don’t worry — it’s easier than it sounds. Newer versions of Windows have taken great steps to make these particular functions easy to manage and change, in contrast to how difficult they were before.
To preface these instructions, we should warn you that the alternative settings you’re going to deploy will depend on consistency. Windows Defender scans your computer on boot and waking from sleep because these are dependable windows during which it can make sure your system is secure. If you disable these particular scanning windows, you’re going to have to make sure that your computer is awake and available for scanning during your custom settings.
In essence, it’s going to be up to you to take responsibility for your computer’s security, when not depending on Windows Defender’s automatic settings.
- First, use your Windows search bar to locate the Administrative Tools menu. Once you have, find the listing for Task Scheduler and double-click it.
- The Task Scheduler window manages all of the automated tasks that programs are performing on your computer. All of them, including Windows Defender.
- On the left, click on Task Scheduler Library, followed by Microsoft. Next, click the Windows folder, and then scroll down to select Windows Defender.
- In the middle panel, find the listing for Windows Defender Scheduled Scan. Select it, and then on the right, click on Properties.
- Click on the Conditions tab. Here, you’ll be able to manage all of the timed events for the application, including the scans that are bogging down your CPU and memory.
- Uncheck the Idle, Power, and Network boxes, for now. Don’t worry — we’ll be reactivating them at custom times, later.
- Still within the Properties menu, click on the Triggers tab. This is going to allow you to set custom scanning times, based on your own triggers.
- Choose Daily, Weekly, or Monthly on the left. This will determine how often Windows Defender scans your computer. We recommend daily scans, but the choice is yours.
- Next, choose the day, hours, and recurrence with which you want Windows Defender activity to take places.
- Caution: Once again, we highly recommend that you schedule these scans during times that you’re certain your computer will be active. If Windows Defender isn’t regularly scanning your system, you’re going to be left unsecured.
- Click OK on each of the settings changes, to ensure that they’re saved.
It’s also important to know that your computer will still encounter areas of high CPU and memory usage while Windows Defender is scanning. It simply won’t take place during the default times selected by the application. Instead, it will occur during the times you’ve selected, by following the above instructions.
Windows Defender Alternatives
Some solutions might recommend turning off Windows Defender altogether, but we find this to be a horribly risky choice. Without necessary protections against malware and viruses, your computer will be open to irreparable harm. Thus, you’ll always want to have some form of active, real-time protection active on your machine.
Because not everyone is a fan of Windows Defender — because of the above reasons, or others — we will happily recommend alternative security applications that you can use, instead. Many of them have basic features that you can use for free, which will work just as well as Defender. Paid subscriptions can get you advanced protection settings, as well as access for some applications across an entire host of devices — smartphones, computers, tablets, and more.
Avast Antivirus has been a great choice for virus protection on computers for years. It’s a service that was receiving rave reviews far before Windows Defender stepped up its game, so if you’re not pleased with the Windows proprietary solution, give Avast a try. And if you’re in need of software that can defend your computer against malware, Malwarebytes has been a free option for quite a long while, too. I use both on all three of the computers that I regularly use for work and play, and thousands of other users can happily testify to these applications’ effectiveness.
Other well-regarded options are AVG Antivirus and Panda Antivirus. There are more beyond that if you only do a little bit of searching, but if suffices to say that Windows Defender has become nearly as effective — and customizable — as much of its competition.
We hope that this article has helped you to resolve your Windows Defender woes. In spite of it being an incredibly useful — and now, competent — part of the Windows operating system, the scheduling of its scans and tasks can still prove a nuisance for some users. The Antimalware Service Executable (MsMpEng.exe) is still a crucial part of the applications functioning, but using the instructions above, you can customize it to only occupy your computer’s resources when you want it to, rather than on every boot and wake. Fixed and clear to run, right?
Any remaining questions? Let us know, in the comments below!