Windows Defender Antivirus: Controlled Folder Access - gHacks Tech News

Windows Defender Antivirus: Controlled Folder Access

Controlled Folder Access is a new feature of Windows Defender Antivirus that is currently being tested on the most recent Windows 10 Insider Builds.

If things go well, it will be one of the new features of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update upgrade that is out later this year.

The main idea behind Controlled Folder Access is to protect certain folders and the files they contain from unauthorized access. Think of it as a layer of protection against manipulation of files that are stored in protected folders.

Controlled Folder Access

controlled folder access

Controlled Folder Access is not enabled by default. First thing you need to do is enable the feature by flipping its preference to on, and adding at least one folder that you want the feature to protect on the device.

Note: You may get one or multiple UAC prompts during the process. You need to accept those to make the necessary changes to the system.

  1. Use Windows-I to open the Settings application on the Windows 10 device.
  2. Go to Update & Security > Windows Defender.
  3. Activate "Open Windows Defender Security Center".
  4. Select Virus & Threat Protection when the Windows Defender Security Center interface opens.
  5. Locate Controlled Folder Access on the page, and flip it to on.
  6. Select Protected folders afterwards, and add one or multiple folders to the list of folders that you want Windows Defender to protect.

You may add local folders, network shares and mapped drives to the list of protected folders.

So how does this work, and what level of protection can you expect?

protected folders

Microsoft notes that Windows system folders are protected by default, and that you may add other folders to the list of protected folders.

Windows 10 does not prevent most programs or apps from making changes to protected folders or files that are stored in these folders. Microsoft seems to maintain a list of allowed applications that it considers friendly, and there is nothing that users may do about that. Apps on Microsoft's whitelist -- which is not revealed -- will always bypass the protection.

Most of your apps will be allowed by Controlled folder access without adding them here. Apps determined by Microsoft as friendly are always allowed.

allow apps controlled folders

If Windows Defender blocks an application from making changes to a folders or its files, it will display a notification on the screen. You may then add it to the list of allowed applications to avoid that this happens again in the future.

It is unclear how well the protection works. I ran some tests but any software (apps or Win32 programs) I tried on the test machine was allowed to change files in protected folders.


It is too early to tell how much of a benefit Controlled Folder Access is to the security of a Windows 10 device. I'd recommend that you create regular backups of important data regardless of that.

Now You: What's your take on the new security feature?

Windows Defender Antivirus: Controlled Folder Access
Article Name
Windows Defender Antivirus: Controlled Folder Access
Controlled Folder Access is a new feature of Windows Defender Antivirus that is currently being tested on the most recent Windows 10 Insider Builds.
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  1. chesscanoe said on June 29, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    It seems Windows Defender has taken its brakes off and is no longer afraid of offending competitive commercial antivirus and malware products. Already in Windows 10 CU, Defender can optionally scan very early in the boot process, and the direction seems to be that protections already scattered in other Microsoft products are being integrated in Defender in the future. To me this is a good sign Windows security is already better than it used to be, and I hope my guesses about Defender in the Fall CU update will be true.

  2. Mikhoul said on June 30, 2017 at 1:24 am

    Why JeZuss they put devs to do such thing that other do better when they have LOTS OF BUGS waiting to be fixed since many years… They are not even able to release usable version of Win10 forget adding buggy features.

    1. PanamaVet said on October 18, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      Windows 10 run flawlessly for me. You describe a system abused by someone willing to pay a Nigerian to deliver free money.

  3. jupe said on June 30, 2017 at 6:41 am

    “Unauthorized changed by friendly applications”

    That seems like a grammar error in the settings app.

  4. Franck said on October 17, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    Seems very similar to the excellent open source app “Software Policy” :

  5. yoshm said on December 27, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    I’m trying it out. There is a serious UX design flaw. You get a message that appears briefly saying “hey, I stopped program XXX from touching one of your files” (or words to that effect). At this point one of two things happens – it disappears, usually before I can read what XXX is or react. Or I manage to click on it – which also makes it disappear before I can read it fully – and opens up the interface for allowing a program through. Specifically, I’d like to add XXX to the list. But – the message is too hard to read in time and when the other window opens, the information of which program I need to permit (XXX) has been lost!

    Perhaps there is a way to find out what it was. I suppose I can try digging into the Event Viewer, but what do ordinary mortals do?

    1. dont said on March 6, 2018 at 7:39 pm

      I think UI might be deliberately difficult to use to prevent mortals from just clicking Allow everything.

  6. ELBE said on March 11, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    any clue how to remove folders from the list of protected folders? I added some that I want to delete but found no option/setting to do so?

  7. NiggleM said on March 16, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    The Windows Defender protected folders function is an unsufferable nuisance. It blocks everything I do but I am afraid to turn it off. It is an excess of caution when (on my PC, at least) Windows Defender even blocks its own operation. I agree with yoshm (above) that the notification of a blocking action is too brief to be useful. However, even after tracking a notification down, it is a rigmarole hunting down the protected folder to remove it from the list of apps the hypochondriac Windows Defender fusses over.

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