How to Access Windows Security Features - dummies

By Dan Gookin

The average time an unprotected Windows computer spends on the Internet before malware controls the entire system is about 16 minutes. Therefore, you must take steps to protect your PC from the Bad Guys.

Windows features a central location for protecting your PC. In Windows 7, it’s the Action Center. Specifically, the top part of the Action Center window deals with security issues on your PC.


To open the Action Center window, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel.

  2. From beneath the System and Security heading, choose the link Review Your Computer’s Status.

    The Action Center window appears, listing any current issues for your PC.

  3. Click the down-pointing arrow button in the Security heading to reveal its contents.

In Windows Vista and Windows XP, the location for protecting your PC is the Windows Security Center. It provides an information summary of your PC’s security state, plus quick access to the vital items you need in order to keep your PC safe.


To open the Windows Security Center window in Windows Vista or Windows XP, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel window.

  2. Open the Security Center window.

    • In Windows Vista, choose the link Check This Computer’s Security Status, found beneath the Security heading.

    • In Windows XP, open the Security Center icon.

    Your options may appear in green, yellow, or red, depending on the settings.

There are several items to check for your PC’s security:

Firewall: The firewall is designed to protect your PC from unwanted network traffic moving both into and from your computer.

Automatic Updating: Keeping your copy of Windows up-to-date ensures that any known threats are being dealt with. Indeed, the most common reason for the PC’s short survival time on the Internet is that many users don’t update their software.

Malware Protection: The general category of malware protection includes services that defend your computer against viruses and spyware.

Other Security Settings: The most generic category in the Windows Security Center covers two topics: Internet security settings and the Windows Vista User Account Control.

  • Windows XP sports a different version of the Security Center that replaces the Malware Protection and Other Security Settings areas with a single area titled Virus Protection.

  • The PC survival time is so short primarily because the computers that are tested are not behind a firewall. The firewall protects you from a great majority of the Internet attacks.

  • The Windows Security Center is available only after you update your copy of Windows XP to the latest release or service package (SP2 or SP3).