How to Use the Action Center in Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 uses the Action Center to keep you informed of security and maintenance issues that may need attention, such as antivirus protection. The Action Center divides issues into Security and Maintenance sections. The Reliability Monitor can help you pinpoint problems with hardware and software.

  1. In the System window, select Action Center in the lower-left corner. The Action Center window appears.

    Another way to open the Action Center is to search on the Start screen for Action Center, and then select Action Center in the search results.

  2. Note any message displayed under Review Recent Messages and Resolve Problems.

    Ideally, you see No issues have been detected by Action Center. If you see a message concerning a specific problem, select that message for more information.

  3. Select the Security heading in the Action Center.

    That section expands to detail security functions. Every option but one should display On or OK. The exception is Network Access Protection, a function normally found in corporate environments. Here's a brief description of each item under Security:

    • Network Firewall: The firewall scans Internet traffic and blocks activity from programs that don’t have explicit permission to use Internet access. When you install a program that uses the Internet, you may be asked to approve the connection the first time. The safest practice is to reject online connections that you don’t initiate or recognize.

    • Windows Update

    • Virus Protection: Having virus protection for your computer is essential. Windows Defender provides antivirus protection, although you can install some other antivirus program.

    • Spyware and Unwanted Software Protection: If this service is on, you have basic protection from malicious software provided by Windows Defender.

    • Internet Security Settings: These settings pertain to your browser. The default settings may be adequate.

    • User Account Control (UAC): This function notifies you of programs that try to make changes to your system and requires that you confirm any such changes. In particular, UAC lets you know when a program tries to run or install software that may be malicious. When in doubt, say No or Cancel to UAC messages.

    • Windows SmartScreen: This function blocks you from downloading programs, except through the Microsoft Store, as well as files capable of changing your system maliciously.

    • Network Access Protection (NAP): If this service is off, that isn’t a problem, unless the computer connects to a business network. NAP protects a business network from machines that aren’t updated and secure.

    • Microsoft Account: This one tells you whether your Microsoft account is set up properly.

  4. Select the Maintenance heading to see what that section includes. Functions under Maintenance consist of the following:

    • Check for solutions to problem reports: This setting is on, allowing Windows 8.1 to regularly check for solutions to problems it uncovers.

    • Automatic Maintenance: Your computer automatically performs critical updates, security scans, and diagnostics each day.

    If your computer is in a guest room or bedroom, you may want to change the Automatic Maintenance setting to run maintenance tasks at some time other than the default 3:00 a.m. Your computer may actually wake up at that hour for maintenance, unless you use a power strip to turn off the computer after shutting down. If the computer can’t run maintenance at the appointed hour, it will do so at the next opportunity.

    • HomeGroup: A homegroup is a network that allows you to share files and printers between two or more computers.

    • File History: The File History option is off by default.

    • Drive status: Drives refers to hard disks inside or attached to your computer. Your documents, photos, and Windows 8.1 itself are stored on one or more drives. Ideally, the drive status is All drives are working properly.

    Action Center is a troubleshooting tool, so you should check it if you have problems running Windows 8.1.

  5. Under Check for Solutions to Problem Reports, select View Reliability History.

    The Reliability Monitor screen graphs your computer’s stability and indicates hardware and software problems, including those you may not be aware of. On this screen, red circles indicate critical events such as computer crashes; blue circles are information about software installation and updates; and yellow triangles indicate warnings about noncritical events (something that didn’t crash the computer). Select a day in the graph to display details in the lower portion of the screen.

    Reviewing the Reliability Monitor screen will help you distinguish between a one-time glitch and a recurring or worsening problem.

    You can open the Reliability Monitor screen from the Start screen. Type review reliability history and then select View Reliability History in the search results.

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