Action Center

When Microsoft shipped Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) in the wake of its 2003 security-code review, one of the major and obvious new features it added to the operating system was the Security Center, a dashboard or front end of sorts to many of the system's security features. In Windows XP SP2, the Security Center was designed to track the system's firewall, virus protection, and Automatic Updates features to ensure that each was enabled and as current as possible. If any of these features were disabled or out-of-date, the Security Center would warn the user via a shield icon in the notification area near the system clock, or via pop-up warning balloons.

Security Center continued in Windows Vista and picked up even more security monitoring duties. But in Windows 7, the Security Center has been rebranded and dramatically updated to support new security features, house common tasks, and provide notifications in a less intrusive way. Shown in Figure 7-1, Windows 7's Action Center is barely recognizable as the successor to the XP and Vista Security Center. There's actually a lot more going on there once you begin examining its new functionality.

The core behavior of this tool hasn't changed in Action Center. The Action Center still tracks certain security features and ensures that they're enabled and up-to-date. If they're not, the Action Center subtly notifies you by changing its notification area flag icon (using a small red "x" icon overlay), instead of irritating you with a pop-up balloon as before.

As noted previously, Action Center now tracks far more items. Here's the list:

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