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Should You Temporarily Turn Off Your Antivirus Software? How to Disable it Safely

You rely on antivirus software to protect your computer and devices every day from viruses, malware and other cyber threats. But what if you need to briefly turn off your antivirus for a specific task? Is that safe? This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about temporarily disabling your antivirus software.

What is Antivirus Software Exactly?

Antivirus software is a program designed to detect and prevent malicious threats like viruses, trojans, spyware, ransomware, phishing scams and other malware from infecting your computer, phone, tablet or other devices.

It uses signature-based scanning to screen files and applications, looking for patterns that match known threats in its database. Antivirus also utilizes heuristics, analyzing behavior of programs to identify anything suspicious. Some even use machine learning and artificial intelligence to predict emerging zero-day threats.

Leading antivirus software providers include McAfee, Norton, Avast, AVG, Bitdefender and Kaspersky among others. Many provide paid suites with advanced features, though free antivirus options are also available.

Just How Bad are Malware Threats Today?

Cyber threats are growing rapidly worldwide, with a new malware sample discovered every 0.2 seconds according to AV-Test Institute.

  • Over 940 million malware programs were released in 2021, up 22% from 2020.
  • Ransomware attacks increased 105% globally in 2021.
  • Phishing scams doubled in quantity between 2020 and 2021.
  • Estimated worldwide damages from malware could reach $10.5 trillion by 2025.

Antivirus software serves as an essential shield against this massive influx of cyberattacks.

Key Benefits Your Antivirus Provides

Having an active antivirus program running provides significant protection by:

  • Stopping viruses – Proactively blocks viruses from running or spreading on your device
  • Preventing malware infections – Stops spyware, trojans, worms and other malware from being installed
  • Thwarting ransomware – Detects and contains ransomware before it can encrypt your files
  • Blocking malicious links – Identifies and prevents access to phishing sites designed to steal data
  • Detecting hacking attempts – Flags intrusion efforts and unauthorized changes to your system files or settings
  • Securing passwords – Locks down passwords in a digital vault to prevent access by malware
  • Protecting personal data – Puts up a firewall to keep hackers from stealing sensitive documents and info

Research shows antivirus solutions catch an average of 98% of malware threats with low false positives. But no antivirus can catch 100% of threats, which is why safe browsing and installing software only from trusted sources remains essential.

Why Would You Need to Disable Your Antivirus?

Given how vital ongoing antivirus protection is, why would you ever need to turn it off? There are some rare instances where temporarily disabling your antivirus software may be required:

  • Installing New Apps – Antivirus may block downloads of certain programs, showing false positives. Turning it off just during installation allows software to fully load.
  • Troubleshooting System Issues – If having device problems, disabling antivirus helps identify if it could be the cause.
  • Freeing Up Computer Resources – Constant active scanning can tax RAM and CPU usage. Temporarily turning antivirus off frees up system resources which may improve performance.
  • Using Advanced Tools – Some system recovery or diagnostic tools are blocked by real-time antivirus scanning, requiring it to be disabled.
  • Privacy Concerns – Though beneficial for security, antivirus has full access to view files, data and activity on a device. Disabling briefly prevents this access.

These are some of the main valid reasons you may need to turn off antivirus protections temporarily.

How Risky is Browsing Without Active Antivirus?

Running without antivirus protection leaves you significantly more vulnerable to threats. Cisco research found:

  • Unguarded systems are 3x more likely to be infected with malware than systems running antivirus.
  • Networks without antivirus see 5x more malware than those with antivirus protections.

With over 300,000 new malware specimens appearing each day, the risks of disabling your antivirus for extended periods are extremely high.

How to Temporarily Disable Your Antivirus Program

If you do need to turn off antivirus, the process will vary slightly depending on the specific software. But here are the general steps to follow:

On Windows:

  1. Locate the antivirus icon in the system tray on the bottom right of your screen.

  2. Right click the antivirus icon and look for an option like “Disable Antivirus” or “Turn Off Protection”.

  3. A confirmation prompt will appear. Click Yes or OK to disable your antivirus software.

  4. Your antivirus is now temporarily disabled. Remember to re-enable it immediately when you are finished!

Here are more detailed steps for major antivirus programs on Windows:

Windows Defender

  1. Open Windows Security Center
  2. Click on Virus & Threat Protection
  3. Select “Manage Settings”
  4. Toggle "Real-time Protection" to the Off position


  1. Right click the McAfee system tray icon
  2. Select “Change Settings” from the menu
  3. Choose “Real-time Scanning”
  4. Click on the “Turn Off” button


  1. Right click the Norton system tray icon
  2. Choose “Disable Auto-Protect” from the menu
  3. Pick the disable time duration from the drop-down menu
  4. Click OK to confirm


  1. Right click the Avast system tray icon
  2. Hover over “Avast Shields Control”
  3. Pick the amount of time to disable protection
  4. Click “OK” to confirm

On Mac:

  1. Use Spotlight Search to find your antivirus app
  2. Open your antivirus software
  3. Look for a “Disable” or “Turn Off” button
  4. Confirm disabling when prompted

On Android:

  1. Open your Settings app
  2. Tap into Apps or Application Manager
  3. Select your antivirus app
  4. Choose the “Force Stop” option

On iPhone and iPad:

  1. Find and open your antivirus app
  2. Go to its menu and tap on “Disable” or “Turn Off”
  3. Confirm you wish to disable the antivirus when prompted

How Long Can Antivirus Be Disabled Safely?

Antivirus software should only be disabled temporarily when required by a specific task. As soon as you are finished, it‘s crucial to re-enable your antivirus protection immediately.

Leaving your computer or device without active antivirus for prolonged periods is extremely risky. A good rule of thumb is to only have antivirus disabled for the minimum time absolutely needed, and no longer than a few hours.

Antivirus Disable FAQs

Is completely uninstalling antivirus better than just disabling it?

No, fully removing antivirus leaves your computer completely unprotected until another solution is installed. Quickly disabling and re-enabling is safer than uninstalling if you just need protection off briefly.

Will turning off antivirus impact its future performance?

No, reputable antivirus software will not be negatively impacted by temporarily disabling it. Simply turning protection off does not affect its performance once re-enabled.

What‘s the best free antivirus software?

Top free options include Avast Free Antivirus, AVG AntiVirus Free and Bitdefender Antivirus Free which offer solid protection. Paid software like Norton 360 provides more robust security capabilities however.

Should I schedule scans with antivirus disabled?

Scheduling a manual full virus scan when antivirus is disabled can let the scan finish faster. But re-enable protection immediately after the scheduled scan completes.

Weighing Risks and Benefits of Disabling Antivirus

Disabling your antivirus protection temporarily can allow you to complete a specific task that requires antivirus to be turned off. But this carries substantial risks of infection. To keep your computer secure, before disabling antivirus, weigh the benefits against potential dangers:


  • Lets you install blocked programs
  • Identifies if antivirus is causing system issues
  • Frees computer resources temporarily
  • Allows use of tools blocked by antivirus


  • Leaves you exposed to viruses, malware and ransomware
  • Opens you up to harmful hacking attempts
  • Puts your sensitive data in jeopardy
  • Greatly raises chances of a dangerous infection

If you do disable antivirus, exercise extreme caution. Have it turned off only when absolutely necessary and for the shortest time possible.

The Bottom Line

Antivirus software provides constant monitoring that keeps your devices safe from rapidly growing cyber threats worldwide. Disabling antivirus opens you up to much higher risk of infection. If you ever do need to temporarily turn off your antivirus program, use extreme care:

  • Only disable when essential for a specific task
  • Never keep antivirus disabled long-term
  • Re-enable protection immediately when finished
  • Use additional safeguards like a firewall while it‘s disabled

Following these best practices allows you to safely turn off your antivirus software when needed – and ensure your computer, phone and other devices remain malware-free.


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.