The SmartScreen filter built into Windows automatically scans applications, files, downloads, and websites, blocking known-dangerous content and warning you before you run unknown applications. You can disable it, if you like.

We recommend you leave SmartScreen enabled. It provides an additional layer of security that helps protect your PC, whether you’re using antivirus or not. Even if SmartScreen automatically blocks an unknown application you know is safe, you can click through the warning to run the application anyway.

Windows 10

RELATED: How the SmartScreen Filter Works in Windows 8 and 10

Starting with Windows 10’s Creators Update, SmartScreen settings are now located in the Windows Defender Security Center interface. Launch the “Windows Defender Security Center” shortcut in your Start menu to open it.

Click the “App & browser control” icon in Windows Defender’s sidebar to find these settings.

There are three different Windows SmartScreen filters, and you can configure separate options for each. Select “Block” block unrecognized applications, “Warn” to view a warning you can click through, or “Off” to disable Windows SmartScreen entirely. Even if you have “Warn” enabled, SmartScreen will always block known-dangerous content—it’ll just warn you before running unrecognized applications. However, if you disable SmartScreen entirely, SmartScreen won’t be able to block known-dangerous files.

The “Check apps and files” option controls the operating system’s SmartScreen filter, which protects you no matter where you download files from. When you try to open a downloaded application or file in File Explorer or another application, Windows will check that application or file and block it or display a warning if it’s unrecognized.

RELATED: Is Microsoft Edge Really Safer than Chrome or Firefox?

The “SmartScreen for Microsoft Edge” option controls the SmartScreen filter build into the Microsoft Edge browser. It blocks malicious websites and downloads, but only in Microsoft Edge.

The “SmartScreen for Windows Store apps” filter is used when apps you download from the Windows Store access web content. It warns you before those apps load dangerous content.

Windows 8

On Windows 8, you’ll find this option in the Control Panel. Navigate to Control Panel > System and Security > Action Center.

Expand the “Security” section, locate Windows SmartScreen in the list, and click “Change settings” under it.

You can then choose what Windows does with unrecognized programs. You can have Windows require administrator approval before running an unknown program, warn you without requiring administrator approval, or select “Don’t do anything” to turn off Windows SmartScreen.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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