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How Do I Disable Antivirus Software?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Most antivirus programs can be disabled by opening up the application’s root file on your desktop, though the specific procedure varies depending on the kind of software in use and the operating system that you are running. Some computers automatically detect antivirus computer protection programs and allow users to enable or disable antivirus software from a centralized security window or taskbar. On other systems, you will have to locate the program’s main folders on your hard drive, open the program, and disable it from within.

Computer manufacturers recommend virus protection for nearly every computer owner. These programs rarely come standard — computer users must purchase them separately — but most newer computers are designed to recognize antivirus programs after they have been installed. If this is the case with your computer, you might have a special security or virus protection section in your control panel or system preferences pane. Opening this section usually will provide instructions on how to disable any installed programs, including antivirus software.

With more complex protections or older computers, you might need to access the program if you want to disable antivirus software. You can do this in several ways, but the easiest way usually is to find the program files in either the proper folder on your hard drive, such as the “Applications” or “System Files” folder. Launch the program from its root file, then change its internal settings to “disabled.” The instruction manual that you received with your program should be able to provide more specific guidance. Many virus protection companies publish user's manuals online, as well.

There is an important difference between disabling antivirus software and uninstalling it. Disabling is temporary and can usually be undone a quickly as it was done. Uninstalling a program means that you are completely removing it from your system. Getting the program back in this case usually requires a completely new installation or download. If you are hoping to turn off your computer’s antivirus scanning for only a brief period of time, do not tell the program to uninstall itself.

Depending on your network settings, you might not be able to disable antivirus software, even if you are able to locate it on your computer. Most of the time, only computer owners or network administrators have the power to alter a computer’s contents. In workplace settings, particularly, employees might not have permission to disable antivirus software. Contacting a technology specialist or a member of your company’s information technology (IT) department usually is the only way forward in this scenario.

There are only a handful of times when it is appropriate to disable antivirus software. Some downloads and new software applications will prompt you to disable virus scanning programs to ensure a proper installation, but these applications should be viewed with some degree of skepticism. Your antivirus program is what keeps your hard drive safe from malware, malicious downloads and computer viruses, among other ills. Disabling your protection, particularly when downloading programs from the Internet, is rarely a good idea.

If you do choose to temporarily disable antivirus software, it is important to re-enable it as soon as possible. The more you are online without protection, the more vulnerable you are to Internet security risks. Most of the time, the re-enabling process is the exact opposite of that used for disabling it.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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