How to protect your PC from ransomware using Windows’ built-in protection

Ransomware — malware that prevents you from accessing your files unless you pay the hacker that infected your computer — has been an issue plaguing computer users and businesses for years. Given its prevalence and the fact that a ransomware infection can lead to the loss of valuable files like documents or family pictures, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re protected. Starting with Windows 10, Microsoft has added features to its built-in Windows Security software that can help keep your computer safe from ransomware.

As far as ransomware is concerned, there are two levels to Windows Security. The first consists of malware scans, which are on by default, and which you can learn more about here. While this will work to keep ransomware from being installed on your computer, if a piece of malware does manage to slip by, the scans won’t be able to protect your files.

The second level is Windows’ ransomware protection, which you have to turn on manually. However, before you do, it is worth noting that this feature is not on by default for a reason. It works by only letting approved apps make changes to your files — which, in theory, prevents ransomware from encrypting them and locking them away. This, however, can cause some problems with apps that aren’t expecting it, so you may have to do some occasional trouble-shooting if you’ve got ransomware protection turned on.

As a result, as we go over how to enable ransomware protection, it’s worth keeping in mind that there will probably be some tinkering involved with this process.

How to turn on ransomware protection

Windows’ built-in ransomware protection is included in its security app. To get to it, either search “Windows Security” from the start menu or go to “Settings”> “Privacy & Security”> “Windows Security.”

Once you’re in Windows Security, go to “Virus & threat protection,” either by clicking the tile or the button in the sidebar on the left.

To turn on ransomware protection, go to “Virus and threat protection” and click “Manage ransomware protection.”