How to use Smart App Control in the Windows 11 2022 Update (version 22H2)

How to use Smart App Control in the Windows 11 2022 Update (version 22H2)

Windows 11 recently received its first major update, formally called the Windows 11 2022 Update, though you may also know it as version 22H2. This is a big update with a lot of new features, and among them is the new Smart App Control, a security feature designed to prevent unsafe apps from running. Smart App Control works in the background, but there are a few things you need to know if you want to use it.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about Smart App Control in the Windows 11 2022 Update and how to use it. Let’s get right into it.

What is Smart App Control (SAC)?

Smart App Control is a new security feature in Windows 11 version 22H2, or the 2022 Update. Essentially, it prevents unsafe apps from running on your PC, avoiding potential damage and data loss.

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What makes it “smart” is that this feature isn’t just judging your apps based on one or two signals to determine whether it’s safe or not. Microsoft says Smart App Control uses 43 trillion signals, gathered daily, to determine whether apps can be trusted to run on your PC.  It uses artificial intelligence to generate a continuously updated model that determines whether an app is safe, and it will block unknown apps that are often associated with malware.

The technology that powers SAC is the same as what you would find on Windows Defender Application Control, which is a security system for businesses. But with this implementation, most of the work is automated, so you don’t have to think about what apps to allow to not. If you’re in an enterprise environment, you can still use Windows Defender Application Control with Microsoft Intune to tweak more specific settings.

This feature also knows whether it can come in and help by blocking apps, or if your usage involves a lot of unknown and experimental apps, it can get out of the way. When you first start using your PC, SAC runs in evaluation mode, and during this time, it will look at the apps you use to determine if you need the feature to be enabled, or if using it will block many of the apps you use daily. If it determines you don’t need it, Smart App Control will be turned off, but if it can help without getting in the way too often, it will be turned on.

How to enable or disable Smart App Control

The tricky thing about Smart App Control is that you won’t be able to turn it on if you upgrade to the Windows 11 2022 Update normally. The way it works is that it needs to be enabled from the moment you install Windows, or you simply can’t use it. As such, if you want to use SAC, you either need to perform a clean install of the Windows 11 2022 Update or reset your PC after installing the update. Alternatively, if you buy a new PC that already has the Windows 11 2022 Update installed from the factory, it will also have the feature enabled by default.

Regardless of the method you choose, Smart App Control will initially be enabled in evaluation mode to determine whether it can help you without getting in the way. Ideally, you’ll probably want to let it decide for itself whether it should be turned on or off. But if you want to do it yourself, you can do the following:

  • Open the Start menu and start typing Smart App Control. It should be the first search result, so you can just press Enter, but if not, choose Smart App Control from the list of search results.
    Windows search results showing Smart App Control as the top result

    • Alternatively, go to the Start menu, then go to All apps and scroll down and open Windows Security. Here, click App & browser control on the side menu. Note: Smart App Control won’t be visible here if you don’t have a new installation of Windows 11 version 22H2.
      Screenshot of the App & browser control section of the Windows Security app, showing Smart App Control at the top of the page
  • This will open the Windows Security app, where you can choose to turn Smart App Control on or off. NoteOnce you turn it off, you can’t turn it back on without resetting your PC. If you turn it on, you can turn it off at any time.
    Screenshot of the Smart App Control page in Windows Security. By default, Smart App Control starts in evaluation mode, but there are options to turn it off or on.
  • Accept the prompt that shows up, and the state of SAC will be saved as whatever you chose. Again, if you turn it off, you can’t switch back on or use evaluation mode without resetting your PC.

That’s all there is to it. Since Smart App Control works mostly in the background, all you can really do is enable or disable it. Once it’s on, you’ll only notice it if it blocks an app you try to run, and that shouldn’t happen very often. If it does, you might need to turn it off so it doesn’t prevent you from getting work done.

If you’re interested in security, you might want to check out the other new security features in the Windows 11 2022 Update. There have been a few big changes to help you keep your PC safe, including additional driver protections and more.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Editor at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.

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