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How to scan a file or folder with Windows Defender on Windows 10

Windows Defender has always-on protection; every time a new file is downloaded or copied, or saved to your system, Windows Defender will scan it right away. This is why, when you download a file, the anti-virus is able to immediately alert you if it’s malicious and quarantine it right away.

Some users do not like that Windows Defender is always on and tend to disable its Real-Time Protection feature. This isn’t advisable unless you have another antivirus installed on your system. 

Scan a file or folder with Windows Defender

Keeping Windows Defender’s Real-Time protection on or off is up to a user but regardless of the setting, users can scan a  single file or folder, or their entire system whenever they want.

1. Scan select items

To scan a single file or folder, or multiple items, they should all be in the same location. If they aren’t, you will need to scan them individually.

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the file or folder you want to scan with Windows Defender.
  3. Select all items that you want to scan.
  4. Right-click a single, selected item.
  5. Select ‘Scan with Microsoft Defender’ from the context menu.

  1. The items will be scanned.
  2. When the scan is complete, Windows Defender will open and display the scan results.

2. Run custom scan

Another way to scan select files and folders with Windows Defender is to run the scan directly from inside the app.

  1. Open Windows Defender.
  2. Go to Virus & threat protection.
  3. Click Scan options.
  4. Select Custom scan.
  5. Click Scan now.
  6. Select the folder you want to scan (this does not work for individual files).
  7. Allow the scan to complete.

3. Run full system scan

If Windows Defender is enabled on your system, it will run periodic scans on the entire system. These scans normally run when you aren’t using your system. That said, you can run a scan any time you want.

  1. Open Windows Defender.
  2. Go to Virus & threat protection.
  3. Click the ‘Quick Scan’ button if you’d like to run a quick scan.
  4. Click Scan options if you’d like to run a more thorough scan.
  5. Select the type of scan you want to run.
  6. Click Scan.
  7. Allow the scan to finish.


Windows Defender will scan your system at least once a week. The scan will be a full system scan. If you always shut your system down when you aren’t using it though, it’s possible Windows Defender doesn’t get the chance to run its scan. In that case, manually scanning the entire system is a good idea.

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