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Microsoft Defender Offline Scan vs Full Scan

Windows Defender, also known as Microsoft Defender or Windows Security, is the default antivirus on Windows. It not only provides real-time protection but also has several scan types, such as periodic scanning, custom scanning, full scan, quick scan, and offline scan, to scan and protect your computer from viruses, malware, and other threats. While scan types such are periodic or quick scans are easily understandable, it can be confusing to know when you use full scan and offline scan.

While both scans aim to protect your system, they differ in their approach and functionality. In this article, let us see the differences between Microsoft Defender offline scan and Full Scan.

Microsoft Defender Offline Scan vs Full Scan

The major difference between Microsoft Defender offline scan and a full scan is that the offline scan operates outside the Windows environment, enabling it to target and remove stubborn infections, while the full scan is just a regular scan that thoroughly checks your entire system for potential threats. However, a full scan might not be able to detect or remove stubborn or complex malware infections.

Here’s a simple table highlighting the differences between offline scan and full scan in Windows Defender.

Microsoft Defender Offline ScanMicrosoft Defender Full Scan
PurposeTo scan for deeply embedded and persistent malware that hides during normal system operations and cannot be found or removed with normal scans.Scans all files and applications for malware and potential threats.
Operating EnvironmentRuns outside of the Windows environment, making it effective for complex malware removal.Operates within the Windows environment, providing faster routine system checks.
When to useWhen you suspect deeply embedded malware and virus infections or when Full Scan fails to remove certain threats.Regular system maintenance and before installing new software or making significant changes.
System ImpactMay take longer and requires a system restart. You cannot use your computer during the offline scanning process.Faster and less resource-intensive compared to offline scan. You can use your system during the scanning process.

What is Microsoft Defender Offline Scan

The offline scan is designed to find, target, and remove persistent and deeply embedded malware that might be challenging to remove when your system is running normally. As such, the offline scan needs you to restart your computer and runs outside of the Windows environment making it easy to remove any stubborn threats. For instance, if a virus or malware infected a system process, Windows Defender may not be able to remove the threat when Windows is running normally. In that case, you have to use an offline scan.

To put it simply, if you suspect your computer is infected with stubborn and/or undetectable malware or if a full scan fails to remove a threat, you should run Microsoft Defender offline scan.

Microsoft defender offline scan option

What is Windows Defender Full Scan

Windows Defender full scan is just another scan type that scans your computer for viruses, malware, and other infections. However, the difference when compared to quick and custom scans is that it scans your entire system including all the system files, hard drives, and removable drives. Unlike the offline scans, it runs in the Windows environment and doesn’t require a system restart. You can also use your computer while performing a full system scan.

You can run a Windows Defender full scan as part of regular computer maintenance. Keep in mind that a full system scan will consume a lot of system resources so avoid it during heavy system loads like gaming, video editing, etc.

run Windows defender full scan

The Scanning Process: Offline vs. Full

When initiating an offline scan in Windows Defender, your system reboots to a secure environment that is outside the regular Windows environment. This allows the offline mode to detect and remove stubborn malware. As for the full scan, it doesn’t require a restart and runs in the regular Windows environment like any other scan type. This is useful as a regular system maintenance task and to detect potential threats.

That is all. I hope this article helped you differentiate between Microsoft Defender offline scan and full scan.

If you are stuck or need help, send an email, and I will try to help as much as possible.

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