In the aftermath of a malware attack, the Windows Defender Security settings page may show the message Some settings are managed by your organization or This setting is managed by your administrator. The real-time protection and cloud-based protection options may remain disabled or grayed out.
Here is how the Windows Defender Settings page might look like. The controls for real-time protection, cloud-based protection, and Automatic sample submission options may be disabled and locked down or grayed out.
If you’ve installed a 3rd party anti-virus, Windows Defender gets disabled automatically. It’s normal. In that case, you’ll see the message “You’re using other antivirus providers.” instead.
This post tells you how to activate Windows Defender real-time protection and other settings by removing the entire Windows Defender registry-based policies previously added by malware, a 3rd party tweaker, or a privacy protection tool.
Third-party privacy protection tools
If you had used (or using) anti-spy tools such as O&O ShutUp10, make sure you reset all “Windows Defender and Microsoft SpyNet” settings in O&O ShutUp10. Here is how it should look after resetting them.
Malware can add registry entries that disable the real-time monitoring capabilities of Windows Defender, and also hide certain parts of the Windows Defender user interface from users.
First, make sure you eliminate malware with help from an expert or friend — given the complexity of the malware infestation, professional help may be suggested. You may also try Windows Defender Offline. in addition.
The malware removal procedure is complex and is beyond the scope of this article. After eradicating the malware, remove the registry-based policy settings added by malware.
Remove Windows Defender Policies using the Registry Editor
Automate the following registry modifications using defender-policies-remove.reg (zipped). Unzip and run the enclosed REG file.
After running it, you may want to open the Registry Editor to ensure the “Windows Defender” Policies key doesn’t exist. Once done, restart Windows for the changes to take effect.
- Start the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and go to the following branch:
- Export the branch to a .reg file.
- Right-click “Windows Defender” and choose Delete.
- Similarly, backup the following branch to a .reg file:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Advanced Threat Protection
- Delete the “Windows Advanced Threat Protection” key
- Exit the Registry Editor.
- Restart Windows.
Note that this completely clears the policy settings for Windows Defender. By default, in a clean installation of Windows, no policies are set.
After removing all the policies, you may want to enable PUA or adware protection in Windows Defender. If you had already enabled the setting before, you’d need to redo the procedure now.
Virus and Threat Protection missing?
The Virus & threat protection section in the Windows Security user interface lets you configure every aspect of the Microsoft Defender Antivirus — such as real-time protection, tamper protection, ransomware protection, Controlled folder access, and other important settings. Malware and viruses may add registry entries that hide the Virus & threat protection section from the user interface.
If the Virus & threat protection section is missing in the Defender user interface, it may be caused by the
Enable the headless UI mode group policy setting or its corresponding registry value
UILockdown. Or it can be due to another registry-based policy — value named
The following are the registry values that hide the Virus & threat protection category in the Windows Defender Security user interface.
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\UX Configuration] Value: UILockdown [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\Policy Manager] Value: AllowUserUIAccess
Clearing the above policy values especially should reinstate the Virus & threat protection option back.
Remove Windows Defender Policies using Group Policy Editor
If you’re using Windows 10 Professional or higher editions, the relevant Windows Defender Group Policies are available in the following branch of the Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc)
Computer Configuration → Administrative Templates → Windows Components → Microsoft Defender Antivirus
Note that in earlier versions of Windows 10, the policy settings would be located under “Windows Defender” instead of “Microsoft Defender Antivirus”.
There are at least 107 policy settings in Windows 10 v2004, with the items in every sub-branch put together.
Running the Resultant Set of Policy utility (Rsop.msc) or
gpresult /h <path>\gpreport.html command shows you which policies are currently enabled.
You need to make sure they’re set to “Not configured.”
Microsoft Defender Antivirus
Allow antimalware service to startup with normal priority Turn off Windows Defender Configure local administrator merge behavior for lists Turn off routine remediation Define addresses to bypass proxy server Define proxy auto-config (.pac) for connecting to the network Define proxy server for connecting to the network Randomize scheduled task times Configure detection for potentially unwanted applications Allow antimalware service to remain running always
Also, check the following sub-branches in the above location, and set each policy setting to “Not configured.”
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\Client Interface
Display additional text to clients when they need to perform an action Suppress all notifications Suppresses reboot notifications Enable headless UI mode
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\Exclusions
Turn off Auto Exclusions Extension Exclusions Path Exclusions Process Exclusions
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\MAPS
Configure the 'Block at First Sight' feature Join Microsoft MAPS Configure local setting override for reporting to Microsoft MAPS Send file samples when further analysis is required
Microsoft Defender Exploit Guard\Attack Surface Reduction
Exclude files and paths from Attack Surface Reduction Rules Configure Attack Surface Reduction rules
Microsoft Defender Exploit Guard\Controlled Folder Access
Configure allowed applications Configure Controlled folder access Configure protected folders
Microsoft Defender Exploit Guard\Network Protection
Prevent users and apps from accessing dangerous websites
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\MpEngine
Enable file hash computation feature Configure extended cloud check Select cloud protection level
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\Network Inspection System
Turn on definition retirement Specify additional definition sets for network traffic inspection Turn on protocol recognition
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\Quarantine
Configure local setting override for the removal of items from Quarantine folder Configure removal of items from Quarantine folder
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\Real-time Protection
Turn off real-time protection Turn on behavior monitoring Scan all downloaded files and attachments Monitor file and program activity on your computer Turn on raw volume write notifications Turn on process scanning whenever real-time protection is enabled Define the maximum size of downloaded files and attachments to be scanned Configure local setting override for turn on behavior monitoring Configure local setting override for scanning all downloaded files and attachments Configure local setting override for monitoring file and program activity on your computer Configure local setting override to turn on real-time protection Configure local setting override for monitoring for incoming and outgoing file activity Configure monitoring for incoming and outgoing file and program activity
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\Remediation
Configure local setting override for the time of day to run a scheduled full scan to complete remediation Specify the day of the week to run a scheduled full scan to complete remediation Specify the time of day to run a scheduled full scan to complete remediation
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\Reporting
Configure time out for detections requiring additional action Configure time out for detections in critically failed state Configure Watson events Configure time out for detections in non-critical failed state Configure time out for detections in recently remediated state Configure Windows software trace preprocessor components Configure WPP tracing level
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\Scan
Check for the latest virus and spyware security intellgence before running a scheduled scan Allow users to pause scan Specify the maximum depth to scan archive files Specify the maximum size of archive files to be scanned Specify the maximum percentage of CPU utilization during a scan Scan archive files Turn on catch-up full scan Turn on catch-up quick scan Turn on e-mail scanning Turn on heuristics Scan packed executables Scan removable drives Turn on reparse point scanning Create a system restore point Run full scan on mapped network drives Scan network files Configure local setting override for maximum percentage of CPU utilization Configure local setting override for the scan type to use for a scheduled scan Configure local setting override for schedule scan day Configure local setting override for scheduled quick scan time Configure local setting override for scheduled scan time Configure low CPU priority for scheduled scans Define the number of days after which a catch-up scan is forced Turn on removal of items from scan history folder Specify the interval to run quick scans per day Start the scheduled scan only when computer is on but not in use Specify the scan type to use for a scheduled scan Specify the day of the week to run a scheduled scan Specify the time for a daily quick scan Specify the time of day to run a scheduled scan
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\Security Intelligence Updates
Define the number of days before spyware security intelligence are considered out of date Define the number of days before virus security intelligence are considered out of date Define file shares for downloading security intelligence updates Turn on scan after security intelligence update Allow security intelligence updates when running on battery power Initiate security intelligence update on startup Define the order of sources for downloading security intelligence updates Allow security intelligence updates from Microsoft Update Allow real-time security intelligence updates based on reports to Microsoft MAPS Specify the day of the week to check for security intelligence updates Specify the time to check for security intelligence updates Define security intelligence location for VDI clients Allow notifications to disable security intelligence based reports to Microsoft MAPS Define the number of days after which a catch-up security intelligence update is required Specify the interval to check for security intelligence updates Check for the latest virus and spyware security intelligence on startup
Microsoft Defender Antivirus\Threats
Specify threats upon which default action should not be taken when detected Specify threat alert levels at which default action should not be taken when detected
If some of them already read as “Not configured”, set it to “Enable, click Apply and set it back to “Not configured.” This is to clear the registry values successfully.
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