Windows Defender SmartScreen: How to Deal With ‘Windows Protected Your PC’ Warnings
Windows 10 includes a number of built-in security features that are designed to protect your PC from the dangers of criminal websites and malicious apps. One of these features, called Windows Defender SmartScreen, prevents you from running certain apps that are either known to be malicious (e.g., viruses and malware) or unrecognized by Microsoft’s database of popular Windows software.
Unless you’re a security researcher running tests, everyone should be happy that SmartScreen blocks known malicious apps. It’s the second category of merely unknown apps, however, where SmartScreen can go from helpful to annoying.
For example, if you attempt to run or install an application that Windows doesn’t recognize, you’ll see a window appear like the one below, warning you that “Windows protected your PC” and “prevented an unrecognized app from starting.”
The issue is that there appears to be only one choice when faced with this warning: “Don’t run.” If you’re completely sure that the app you’re trying to launch is safe and was obtained from a trustworthy source, there’s thankfully a quick, albeit non-obvious workaround for this. After all, why shouldn’t you be able to run any application that’s compatible with Windows?
Windows Defender SmartScreen Workaround
When you’re faced with the warning screen above and, again, you’re absolutely sure that the app is safe, you can just find and click on the More info text, highlighted below:
This will reveal some new information and options. First, you’ll see the complete filename of the app or installer that’s trying to run, and beneath it you’ll see the app’s publisher as long as the developer is registered with Microsoft. This gives you one more chance to make sure you’re about to run the app you think it is.
Don’t panic if the publisher field is listed as Unknown. Not every developer or publisher registers with Microsoft and the absence of information in this field doesn’t mean that app is dangerous. However, it should cause you to double check and make sure, once again, that you’re running the right app from the correct source.
If everything looks good, you’ll notice that there’s a new Run anyway button at the bottom of the window. Just click it to finish bypassing Windows Defender SmartScreen. Note, however, that if the app requires admin privileges, you’ll still need to approve it via the familiar User Account Control interface.
Turn Off Windows Defender SmartScreen
The workaround described above is a good compromise between security and the flexibility to run the apps you want. But if you would prefer to not use SmartScreen for your apps at all, you can disable it in the Windows Defender settings. Here’s how.
First, head to the desktop, click on Cortana (or the Windows search icon if Cortana is disabled), and search for Windows Defender Security Center. Launch the result as you see in the screenshot below.
From the Windows Defender Security Center, select the App & browser control section from the sidebar on the left (it’s second from the bottom and looks like an application window with a title bar). Finally, under the Check apps and files section on the right, choose Off.
You’ll need to authenticate with admin privileges to confirm the change, and Windows will warn you that your PC may now be more vulnerable to malicious apps (which is true). If you’re careful, however, and only run apps from known trusted sources, experienced users who wish to leave this feature disabled should be fine. If you’re not comfortable leaving it turned off, you can always turn SmartScreen back on again by repeating the steps above.