Using Software Explorer in Windows Defender

Use Software Explorer in Windows Defender to view detailed information about software that is currently running on your computer that can affect your privacy or the security of your computer. You can see, for example, which programs run automatically when you start Windows and information about how these programs interact with important Windows programs and services.

Software Explorer helps you monitor the following items:

  • Startup programs, which are programs that run automatically with or without your knowledge when you start Windows.

  • Currently running programs, which are programs that are currently running on the screen or in the background.

  • Network-connected programs, which are programs or processes that can connect to the Internet or to your home or office network.

  • Winsock service providers, which are programs that perform low-level networking and communication services for Windows and programs that run on Windows. These programs often have access to important areas of the operating system.

To use Software Explorer to view software running on your computer

You can use Software Explorer to view and manage programs that you use. To view and manage programs and other software for all users on the computer, however, you need to provide an administrator password or permission.

  1. Open Windows Defender by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking All Programs, and then clicking Windows Defender.

  2. Click Tools, and then click Software Explorer.

  3. In the Category list, select the type of software that you want to monitor. To monitor software that is used by all users on the computer, click Show for all users. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Understanding Software Explorer details

Software Explorer displays basic information about programs, such as the program name, publisher, and version. Depending on the category you choose, you might also see these important types of information.


Auto Start

Indicates if the program is registered to start automatically when Windows starts.

Startup Type

The location where the program is registered to start automatically when Windows starts; for example, in the registry or the All Users Startup folder.

Ships with Operating System

Indicates if the program was installed as part of Windows.


Identifies if the program has been analyzed for risks to your privacy and the security of the computer.

Digitally Signed By

Indicates if the software has been signed and, if so, if the publisher listed has signed it. If not, we recommend that you do not trust the publisher information provided with the software, and that you review more details before choosing if you trust the software itself.