Antivirus Protection for Microsoft Surface:
Since the release of Windows 8, the need for antivirus and antimalware protection has been a much debated topic. As you may know, Windows 8.x includes Windows Defender, which is Microsoft’s built-in antivirus/antimalware software. It replaced Microsoft Security Essentials in Windows 8 and now comes preinstalled with the operating system.
Since all Surface tablets come with Windows 8.x, you may be wondering if you need antivirus protection for your Microsoft Surface at all. It is, in fact, a very good question.
And the answer is: “it depends” – don’t you hate that?
It depends on which Surface tablet you own because Surface 2/RT runs a different version of Windows than Surface Pro/Pro 2/Pro 3.
So, let’s consider these one at a time:
Antivirus Protection for Surface 2/RT:
This is the smaller, lighter, more tablet-like device. Surface 2/RT runs the RT version of the Windows 8.x operating system. This simply means that you can only install software from the Windows Store. You cannot install programs from the internet or install other (outside) software or drivers on the device.
Given the above, you can probably see that this affords you a great deal of protection because all applications that appear in Windows Store are pre-approved by Microsoft. So, the built-in Windows Defender should be plenty good to protect your Surface 2/RT. And besides, since you can’t install outside software, you don’t really have an option to install something else.
So, do you need antivirus protection for your Microsoft Surface 2/RT? – NO
Antivirus Protection for Surface Pro/Pro 2/Pro 3:
Now this is a totally different story. Because the Surface Pro line is essentially designed to be a 2-in-1 device (laptop and tablet), it comes with Windows 8.x Pro. This means that you can download and install any software you like, just as if you were using a laptop. You still have the built-in Windows Defender protection but in my opinion, it provides “minimal” protection and you could benefit from something better.
Check out this great comparison from ZDNet of various antivirus protection software: Antivirus on Windows 8 Compared.
As you can see, Windows Defender isn’t exactly a star on this list. And the days of “oh, I don’t visit any suspect sites” are over. Just look at the stats as reported by Google: It’s clear that today, we need as much antivirus/antimalware protection as we can possibly get.
So, I recommend that you install one of the other antivirus titles on the ZDNet’s list. I personally like TrendMicro but that may be because I have experience with it. But I’m sure any of the software tested would be good and it certainly looks like they are better than Windows Defender.
NOTE: when you install virus protection on your Surface Pro/Pro 2/Pro 3, be sure to disable the Windows Defender, because multiple virus applications on one device usually do not play nice together.
So, do you need antivirus protection for your Surface Pro/Pro 2/Pro 3? – YES
Many antivirus scanners offer free versions of their software, some of them even work online with only a plug-in to your browser. Although these are usually not quite as good at detecting problems as the for-pay versions, they are certainly helpful. Again, they only work for the Surface Pro/Pro 2/Pro 3 because they require something to be installed (which you can’t do on Windows RT).
Here are a few examples of free antivirus software:
In case you’re interested, Microsoft says that at minimum you should to take these precautions to protect against viruses:
- Use Parental Controls, see my post Parental Control on Your Surface.
- Update automatically
- Make sure you use Antivirus protection (they say Windows Defender, I say try something even better but it’s up to you)
- Avoid phishing scams by using SmartScreen phishing filter
- Lock up your data and your tablet by using encryption (only available on Surface Pro/2)
In addition, here are a few general tips for keeping your computer safe, also as recommended by Microsoft:
- Don’t open email messages from unfamiliar senders, especially ones with attachments
- Use a pop-up blocker with your internet browser (most modern browsers include this feature by default)
- Pay attention to notifications, don’t just click OK.
- Make sure that UAC (User Access Control) is turned on.
- Clear your Internet cache, see post Clear Browser History on Your Surface and video on How to Delete Internet Explorer Cache on Exit.
I hope this helps answer the question on whether you need antivirus protection on your Microsoft Surface. We will have more posts on this topic soon, including reviews of some of the software and information on how to encrypt your data files.
You may also like our post on Microsoft Surface Security.
Joanna is a former IT Director for a major public university, who gave up a high paying career to blog full time. She is proud to be a professional geek. Joanna loves all things technology and Surface tablets are her passion. She and Tim created LoveMySurface.net to help others be more productive using these awesome tablets.