Windows 8 Anti-virus: is It Necessary?

Windows 8 is coming soon and one question on every cautious user’s mind is whether or not an anti-virus program is required. I personally haven’t been a huge fan of third-party anti-virus programs since Microsoft created Microsoft Security Essentials. Everything from viruses to spyware is pretty much covered, and in the end the thing that counts the most is user behavior.

But for many users, the questions remains. Do you need an anti-virus with either Windows 8 or Windows 8 RT (the version of Windows 8 made for ARM devices)?

Let’s break these two different versions of Windows 8 down for a more comprehensive answer.

Windows 8

Windows 8 combines the legacy Windows experience with some elements of the new modern UI. The code base is very similar to that of Windows 7, and with applications made for previous versions of Windows also running on Windows 8, there’s no question that some of the malicious code can still run quite natively.

Unless you plan on having all of your software install direct from the Windows App Store, you run the same risks of infection as you do with Windows 7. Add to that potential weaknesses in the operating system brought on by the infant new UI and application engine, and you have plenty of reasons to keep anti-virus software running.

Here’s the cool part: Windows 8 comes with Microsoft Security Essentials (a very capable anti-virus program of its own right) pre-installed. Should there be no third-party anti-virus program running, MSE takes over protecting the OS from malicious software. This makes it a great safety net for the average user, but still just a safety net.

Windows 8 RT

Windows 8 RT shares a lot in common with the primary Windows 8 build, though it is quite a bit more locked down. As long as the user sticks to installing apps from the Windows App Store, there should be little to nothing to worry about as far as malicious software is concerned.

My primary concern would be with the browser and any exploits that might be found within. Good habits for email are also still recommended, and we have no idea as of yet what crafty ways digital evil doers will come up with to get through the Windows armor.

I’d classify Windows 8 RT’s security along the same lines of a mobile OS. As it runs on tablets, it sort of is. Despite being locked down to the point where very little gets through, there are still cases where both Android and iOS have had security issues. Be mindful of this in Windows RT, and you should be just fine.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Please leave a comment below and let us know how you feel about Windows 8 security, and whether or not you would recommend going with an anti-virus program other than Microsoft Security Essentials.

Image: Microsoft

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • Bharat Kumar Gupta

    well as long as there is malwarebytes + Security essential nothing to worry about.

  • Curtis Coburn

    MSE has never failed me. I love that it is free, and very reliable. I don’t like downloading too much from the web. I know you run at a higher risk downloading from website, rather than putting in a CD, with software that you buy. I’m excited that Microsoft will have an App store where you can buy software/apps directly the store. Everything on the windows apps store is safe. I think Windows 8, will be safer than windows 7.

  • Michael Stokes

    Unless you’re heavily downloading files/torrents and you’re constantly going to sites that you shouldn’t, MSE should be plenty sufficient. I’ve been using for around a year and a half after switching from AVG Free, and MSE has been perfect for me; It has a simple UI, good detection rates, it’s free and it’s created by Microsoft for Windows so it integrates seamlessly. If and when I upgrade to Windows 8, I doubt I’ll have need for a 3rd party Anti-Virus.

  • Ahit

    Well it really depends on your net surfing and computer usage behavior. Unless you use your computer just to read emails and listen to songs and see your holiday photo collection, Microsoft Security Essential wont do any good. I have came across many virus infections (as I was once a tech support by profession) which are not easily removed by MSE, while free version of popular premium antivirus could remove it easily. Although its not expected that all antivirus will remove each and every viruses. But if a trail product (of one company)works better than a full version antivirus(as MSE is not trial) I will personally prefer and suggest to use a different antivirus than MSE if you are a heavy user.

  • CyberFanatic

    Hope not. Windows 8 should be bulletproof if it wants to make a profit. I think there are more people unhappy with Windows 8 then there are with happiness. All because of what. A simple start menu button. Come on Microsoft you still have time all it’s going to take is one button to make sure Windows 8 is hot seller.

  • Maarten van der Blij

    Well.. I’m not so positive about Microsoft Security Essentials. Test results some again and again that MSE misses a lot of times. If that’s your only line of defense, besides the firewall in your router, you may get a virus on your machine and MSE would even notice. That said, if you only open your e-mail and watch some youtube on the machine, it might suffice.. So, for the audience Win8 tries to target, it might be “good enough”.

  • Jordan Vasquez

    No antivirus isn’t necessary. Common sense is necessary.

    • mike s.

      remember, there are worms on the internet. regardless of what site you visit.

  • jffstrch

    I always fall back on Malware Bytes and CCleaner. Two great programs to keep updated just incase your an avid file downloader.

  • Joe Sakamoto

    I think people should install antivirus programs no matter what OS they are using. As soon as people start using Windows 8, hackers will begin looking for ways to infect Windows 8 and they’ll probably succeed so it’s always good to have a good antivirus program that can help you find trojans and viruses. Antivirus programs aren’t always accurate but they can always help.

    • kaien

      Yeah, rightttt. If you use Linux, Anti-Virus is like the distant cousin you never heard of. Effective security comes from proper structure of the OS. No third party slap on (paid/free) will ever be effective. And I am seeing Windows Vista, 7 and 8 moving closer to that. UAC, sandboxing of Metro App, etc.

      In addition, user own precaution counts, if something feels fishy, it usually is.

    • Michael Hazell

      I run Ubuntu. There is virtually no need for an anti virus on my system. In fact, I don’t have an anti virus on my system. That is just a joy I get to have for running Linux.

  • Beshoy Shafek Malk

    At the end of the day your computer gets a virus anyway andd have to reintsall windows. The best thing to do is if microsoft does like apple nd give you space in the cloud to backup tour device and if anything happends just restore and chose your backup.

    • Michael Hazell

      How about running Linux? That is a much easier thing to do then reinstall Windows.

  • PJ Hanna

    Microsoft Essentials is like buying a car from Jiffy Lube, they are great will oil changes but car sales not so much…….TOO many times have I seen clients is MSE on there machine and it say NO Viruses, but as soon as I install Super Anti Spyware, it finds several…….I don’t recommend MSE! Stay away.

    • Michael Hazell

      I wish Super Anti Spyware would create an easy to use ISO file that I can burn to my USB flash drive. They want you to use a DOS installer. I’m not sure if this will work under WINE, as I run Ubuntu and don’t feel like running XP that much any more.

  • Nathan Nitz

    I see an antitrust lawsuit on the horizon…

    • mike s.

      yup! another GATES scenario.

  • Rick Nelson

    I feel its better safe than sorry in the situation. I have always used a Windows based PC for I can’t afford a Mac but I just don’t trust the stock protection that Windows has. I feel if I am going to be putting my personal information on my personal device I don’t want to worry about the possibility of someone stealing it. I know that nothing is fail proof but the more protection you have the better chance you hackers will move onto an easier target who has less firewalls and protection.

  • Chad

    I don’t run Antivirus on main rig witch runs Arch Linux. I use free antivirus on my windows/Linux laptop but I haven’t downloaded any programs on windows but antivirus and Chrome. Chris is totally right about the software stores they will cut down on the amount of mall ware and are a step in the right direction. Ubuntu has been doing the store thing for years, and it works great.

    • Michael Hazell

      I run Ubuntu and I don’t worry about viruses that much at all. As long as you watch what you install you should be fine.

  • jimmy moore

    If you use RT and as claimed it’s sandboxed and you can only download app from the app store how are you going to get a third party app and what effect will it have on usability of the device. It would appear you’d have to do something really weird to get infected

  • Jonathan

    Microsoft Security Essentials is an excellent “average user” anti-virus program. Unlike some anti-virus software which gives you tons of settings and options, MSE is basic and simple. Install, enables Microsoft firewall, and gives you simple options for scanning your computer. Easy and straight forward. A non “tech savy” person will have no trouble at all using it.

    If you want something that’s free and has more “advanced” options, try Avast.

    If you want to pay for anti-virus, highly recommend Kapersky

  • UncleDoug

    Microsoft Essentials has provided protections that has been in the top tier. But of all the anti malware products NONE is 100% perfect. Multiple layers is better yet still not perfect, as malware auuthors are always trying to find ways around protection.

    Even if everything is downloaded from the Windows one day a piece of malware will show up that know one thought of before, but the author..

    My problem with this, is software that is exclusive to individual companies. For maximum security if all software needs to go through Microsoft certification can Microsoft guarantee that all priority software remains exclusive to each business ?

    Protection is slowly changing, currently there are still security companies that promote the number of detections first. Many are realizing that protection comes first with prevention, keeping malware off (as many unknown malware as possible), then detection and removal.

    Two years from now we will see protection that is just being researched now and malware authors will be looking for the key to bypass it and get on your computer regardless of Operating System.

  • Lee Naramore

    If it comes from Microsoft I recommend a good antivirus and Anti Malware also.

  • Lee Naramore

    If it comes from Microsoft I recommend a good antivirus and Anti Malware also.

  • Kyle Christopher Slingo

    I don’t use any antivirus on my machines. Why? Because they are old and only have 512 my of ram and antivirus slows it down to a crawl.

  • Florea Calin

    i dont think antivirus is necesarry for win 7, i dont think windows 8 needs it, if you can help yourself not to enter crappy sites, and install crappy software. Security essentials is enough

  • mike s.

    don’t be a fool. i will not trust any mal-ware prog the microsoft offers. by trusting them and letting them think they are the defacto prog is ludicrous!

  • rcardona


    I had been a windows user since the day I started using a computer and was turned onto apple’s os over the last 2 years simply because of the risks associated with doing internet marketing research for clients. If you have ever done this kind of work you know the potential of coming across many different types of sites some that may be malicious Its scary out there and i am very happy to say that Microsoft’s movement into this type of protection will certainly have me looking at their products again. We need to give Microsoft credit they have finally gotten a wake up call and responded. I love windows 8 and its got a lot of potential.

    Rick Cardona – President
    Identity Solutions – Web Development Company in PA

  • the windows tester

    Microsoft Essentials is not all you guys thinks it is. i was a fan and recommended it on may laptops that passed my way. until one day my machine decided it has a virus. only bad thing was Microsoft Essentials went about killing it by stripping all the exe files out of my PC so in the end i was left with a piece of junk that needed to be reformatted. it also sniffed out the unzipped versions of software backup and removed SOME DLL AND EXE files from them. In the end the virus was actually on the router, and a firmware reset of the router cured it. i have used avg but it doesn’t always catch everything and the latest versions intrude too much. In the end i have gone bad to my old tried and trusted method of muliple disc..file sync..NO ANTI VIRUS..and just keep an eye on number of services running and with win8 there is a internet meter so i can see the traffic out . 2 years and nothing…and my vista machine is 5 years and nothing..i think the antivirus software programs must give out some signature that just invites virus and Trojans to attack.

  • Jonny M

    I definitely agree. Windows defender (a.k.a. Microsoft security essentials) on windows 8 is more than enough. As long as your cautious about what you are doing it should work great. I’ve worked for geek squad and staples easy tech and I’ve seen machines get infected no matter what antivirus they had. Norton, Kaspersky, Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast, Mcafee, Avg, Bit Defender. You name it, I’ve probably seen it. Windows 8 (to me) seems like Microsoft’s test dummy to see how users are liking the unix based systems which are more “locked down” so to speak. Windows pc’s are targeted most because of the large user base. Most virus makers are more interested in some sort of monetary gain. And let’s face it, the windows registry is the number 1 thing that gets attacked when infected, normally infected from an outdated pc/flash player/java plugin. The reason Microsoft didn’t fully use a unix system is backwards compatibility. Can you imagine getting rid of the registry all together? No one and I mean NO program would run. This to me was Microsoft’s first step in creating a truly unix build. Kind of shot themselves in the foot when they created windowsNT (first build with the registry) but at least Microsoft is aware of the virus problem and seem to be taking things in the right direction.