Fix: Malwarebytes Disables Windows Defender or 3rd Party Anti-Virus

After installing Malwarebytes Premium 14-day trial or licensed product, your anti-virus software (e.g., Windows Defender on Windows 8 or Windows 10) may get disabled automatically. In this scenario, when you attempt to start the Windows Defender Antivirus Service (WinDefend) via the Services console, it shows the following error and the service wouldn’t start.

The Windows Defender Antivirus Service service on Local Computer started and then stopped. Some services stop automatically if they are not in use by other services or programs.

windows defender disabled by malwarebytes premium

The result is exactly the same when you try to start these services:

  • Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection Service
  • Windows Defender Antivirus Network Inspection Service

The Security and Maintenance applet in the classic Control Panel and Windows Defender Security Center will report that Malwarebytes is currently your “anti-virus” program. If Windows detects a third-party anti-virus software, it disables the built-in anti-virus module Windows Defender automatically.

windows defender disabled by malwarebytes premium

windows defender disabled by malwarebytes premium

As you can see above, all of the Virus & threat protection options are missing, as Windows assumes a 3rd party anti-virus solution is installed. In that case, you’re offered to use Limited Periodic Scanning feature. If Windows Defender is not running, none of its features such as “block at first sight” (cloud protection), controlled folder access will work.

Although Malwarebytes company claims “Malwarebytes for Windows makes antivirus obsolete” in their advertisements, many experts don’t agree with that statement.

Quoting David H. Lipman, a Malware Researcher/Analyst.

MBAM is not an anti-virus application and does not replace an an anti-virus application. MBAM is an adjunct, complimentary, anti malware application.

In its role as an adjunct, complimentary, anti-malware application it has limitations in aspects that the anti-virus application performs in its role.

MBAM does not target script files. That means MBAM will not target; JS, JSE, PY, HTML, HTA, VBS, VBE, .CLASS, SWF, SQL, BAT, CMD, PDF, PHP, WSF, etc. It also does not target document files such as; PDF, DOC, DOCx, DOCm, XLS, XLSx, PPT, PPS, ODF, RTF, etc. It also does not target media files; MP3, WMV, JPG, GIF, etc.

So, Malwarebytes is not a replacement for an anti-virus product. That said, you’ll need to enable/run an anti-virus product alongside Malwarebytes anti-malware for better security.

Stop Malwarebytes from Turning Off Windows Defender

If installing Malwarebytes Premium disables Windows Defender or your 3rd party antivirus software, you’ll need to change a setting in Malwarebytes. Follow these steps:

    • Open Malwarebytes, and click Settings.
    • In the Application tab, scroll down to Windows Action Center section.

windows defender disabled by malwarebytes premium

  • There are 3 options you can choose from:
    1. Let Malwarebytes apply the best Windows Action Center settings based on your system (recommended): Configures Malwarebytes to co-exist with current antivirus software. If no antivirus solution is present, Malwarebytes registers with the Action Center. For example, with this setting enabled, Malwarebytes will not register when Microsoft Security Essentials is in use on a Windows 7 or older operating system. It will also not register when Windows Defender is used on a Windows 8, Windows 10 or newer OS.
    2. Never register Malwarebytes in the Windows Action Center: Configures Malwarebytes to always alongside your third-party antivirus every time and not register with Windows Action Center.
    3. Always register Malwarebytes in the Windows Action Center: This setting causes Malwarebytes to register as a security application in Windows Action Center irrespective of the state (and existence) of the antivirus program.

While the default setting works for most users, if you encounter conflicts with Windows Defender or third-party anti-virus, choose Never register Malwarebytes in the Windows Action Center option in Malwarebytes and restart Windows. After restarting Windows, your anti-virus program (e.g., Windows Defender) should start/enable automatically.

windows defender disabled by malwarebytes premium
However, in my case, no restart was required. The changes were instantaneous.

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About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012.

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