You can find the Windows XP Security Center in an obscure corner of the Windows infrastructure: Choose Start→All Programs→Accessories→System Tools→Security Center. The Windows Security Center, shown here, is made of firewalls, automatic updates, and virus protection — settings focused on preventing the bad guys from invading your computer.

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  1. Windows Firewall is responsible for more weird Windows XP behavior than all other festering problems combined. If you can’t connect into or out of your computer, disable the firewall momentarily. Your system will be vulnerable for a few minutes — but you may save yourself hours (or days!) of headaches from trying to run down the problem.

  2. Microsoft really wants you to download and install Windows patches automatically. Given its track record, do you trust the company? Get all the facts — not just the Party Line.

  3. The Windows Security Center is notorious for not recognizing perfectly legitimate antivirus programs. If Windows doesn’t identify your AV program, don’t fret. Turn the red light off — and remember that Microsoft is working on its own antivirus products to peddle.

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