Secret feature

How to protect your files against ransomware on Windows 10

Windows Defender Antivirus has a feature called Controlled folder access to protect your device and data against ransomware — Here's how to enable and configure the feature.

Controlled folder access on Windows Defender Antivirus

Windows Defender Antivirus is your default security software on Windows 10 to protect your system against viruses, spyware, rootkits, and other types of malware out-of-the-box, including ransomware. While the antivirus already does a fine work keeping you safe online, starting with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Windows Defender Antivirus introduces “Controlled folder access” to make it easier to protect your data from malicious programs and threats like ransomware.

Controlled folder access is a new feature that monitors the changes that apps make to your files. If an app tries to modify the files inside a protected folder, and the app is blacklisted, you’ll get notified about the suspicious activity.

In this guide, you’ll learn the steps to enable and configure Controlled folder access using Windows Defender Antivirus to protect your Windows 10 device and data against ransomware.

How to enable ransomware protection on Windows 10

In order to enable Controlled folder access use the following steps:

  1. Open Windows Defender Security Center.

  2. Click on Virus & threat protection.

  3. Click the Ransomware protection link.

    Windows Defender Antivirus settings
    Windows Defender Antivirus settings
  4. Turn on the Controlled folder access toggle switch.

    Ransomware protection settings
    Ransomware protection settings

Once you completed the steps, Windows Defender Antivirus will monitor your protected folders as applications try to modify your files. If a suspicious activity occurs, you’ll get a notification about the threat.

How to allow apps ransomware protection on Windows 10

This new security feature has a basic understanding of which apps are allowed to make changes to your files, but sometimes an app that you trust may get blocked by the Controlled folder access feature. If this is the case, you may need to manually allow a particular app using these steps.

  1. Open Windows Defender Security Center.

  2. Click on Virus & threat protection.

  3. Click the Ransomware protection link.

    Windows Defender Antivirus settings
    Windows Defender Antivirus settings
  4. Click the Allow an app through Controlled folder access link.

  5. Click the Add an allowed app button to locate and whitelist the app you want.

    Allow app via Controlled folder access
    Allow app via Controlled folder access

How to protect other folders against ransomware on Windows 10

By default, Controlled folder access protects the Documents, Pictures, Movies, and Desktop folders. While you can’t remove these folders from the list, it’s possible to include additional locations to the list to protect your data from ransomware and other malware.

  1. Open Windows Defender Security Center.

  2. Click on Virus & threat protection.

  3. Click the Ransomware protection link.

    Ransomware protection settings
    Ransomware protection settings
  4. Click the Protected folders link.

  5. Click the Add a protected folder button to locate and include the folder locations you want to protect.

    Protected folders settings
    Protected folders settings

If you can’t find the new malware protection feature on Windows Defender Security Center, it’s probably because you’re not running the Windows 10 April 2018 Update or Fall Creators Update. 

This guide has been updated to reflect the new location to find the settings in the April 2018 Update. If you’re running the Fall Creators Update, the path to find the setting is Windows Defender Security CenterVirus & threat protectionVirus & threat protection settings.

Originally published on June 2017, updated on May 2018.