Configure scheduled quick or full Microsoft Defender Antivirus scans

Applies to:

Platforms

  • Windows

You can set up regular, scheduled antivirus scans on devices. These scheduled scans are in addition to always-on, real-time protection and on-demand antivirus scans. When you schedule a scan, you can specify the type of scan, when the scan should occur, and if the scan should occur after a protection update or when a device isn't being used. You can also set up special scans to complete remediation actions if needed.

Comparing the quick scan, full scan, and custom scan

The following table describes the different types of scans you can configure.

Scan type Description
Quick scan
(recommended)
A quick scan looks at all the locations where there could be malware registered to start with the system, such as registry keys and known Windows startup folders.

A quick scan helps provide strong protection against malware that starts with the system and kernel-level malware, together with always-on real-time protection, which reviews files when they're opened and closed, and whenever a user navigates to a folder.

In most cases, a quick scan is sufficient and is the recommended option for scheduled scans. Starting with the December 2023 (4.18.2311.x.x) release of Platform Update, you have the option to scan all files and directories that are excluded from real-time protection using contextual exclusions are scanned during a quick scan.
Full scan A full scan starts by running a quick scan and then continues with a sequential file scan of all mounted fixed disks and removable/network drives (if the full scan is configured to do so).

A full scan can take a few hours or days to complete, depending on the amount and type of data that needs to be scanned.

When a full scan begins, it uses the security intelligence definitions installed at the time the scan starts. If new security intelligence updates are made available during the full scan, another full scan is required in order to scan for new threat detections contained in the latest update.

Because of the time and resources involved in a full scan, in general, we don't recommend scheduling full scans.
Custom scan A custom scan runs on files and folders that you specify. For example, you can choose to scan a USB drive or a specific folder on your device's local drive.

Note

By default, quick scans run on mounted removable devices, such as USB drives.

How to choose a scan type

Use the following table to choose a scan type.

Scenario Recommended scan type
You want to set up regular, scheduled scans Quick scan

A quick scan checks the processes, memory, profiles, and certain locations on the device. Together with always-on real-time protection, a quick scan helps provide strong coverage both for malware that starts with the system and kernel-level malware. Real-time protection reviews files when they're opened and closed, and whenever a user navigates to a folder.
Threats, such as malware, are detected on an individual device Quick scan

In most cases, a quick scan will catch and clean up detected malware.
You want to run an on-demand scan Quick scan
You want to make sure a portable device, such as a USB drive, doesn't contain malware Custom scan

A custom scan enables you to select specific locations, folders, or files, and runs a quick scan.
You have installed or re-enabled Microsoft Defender Antivirus Quick scan or full scan

A quick scan checks the processes, memory, profiles, and certain locations on the device. If you prefer, you can choose to run a full scan after you have enabled or installed Microsoft Defender Antivirus. Just keep in mind it can take a while to run a full scan.

Important points to keep in mind

  • By default, Microsoft Defender Antivirus checks for an update 15 minutes before the time of any scheduled scans. You can manage the schedule for when protection updates should be downloaded and applied to override this default.

  • If a device is unplugged and running on battery during a scheduled full scan, the scheduled scan stops with event 1002, which states that the scan stopped before completion. Microsoft Defender Antivirus runs a full scan at the next scheduled time.

  • Scheduled scans run according to the local time zone of the device.

  • Malicious files can be stored in locations that aren't included in a quick scan. However, always-on, real-time protection reviews all files that are opened & closed, and any files that are in folders that are accessed by a user. The combination of real-time protection and a quick scan helps provide strong protection against malware.

  • On-access protection with cloud-delivered protection helps ensure that all the files accessed on the system are being scanned with the latest security intelligence and cloud machine learning models.

  • When real-time protection detects malware and the extent of the affected files isn't determined initially, Microsoft Defender Antivirus initiates a full scan as part of the remediation process.

  • If a device is offline for an extended period of time, a full scan can take longer to complete.

  • You can configure quick scans to scan real-time protection exclusions by using PowerShell, Intune, or Group Policy.

Scheduled quick scan performance optimization

As a performance optimization, Microsoft Defender Antivirus skips running scheduled quick scans in some situations. This optimization only applies to a quick scan when initiated by a schedule – it doesn't affect a quick scan initiated by an on-demand antivirus scan. This optimization reduces performance degradation by avoiding running a quick scan when it isn't necessary and won't affect protection.

By default, if a qualified quick scan ran within the last seven days, a new quick scan won't be initiated. A quick scan is considered to be qualified if:

This optimization doesn't apply to the following conditions:

This optimization applies to machines running Windows 10 Anniversary Update (version 1607) and all subsequent Windows releases, as well as Windows Server 2016 (version 1607) and subsequent Windows Server releases, but doesn't apply to Core Server installations.

See also

Tip

Do you want to learn more? Engage with the Microsoft Security community in our Tech Community: Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Tech Community.