Monitoring Your Computers Security

In Windows 7, security-related options have been gathered in Action Center, an application that replaces Security Center found in Windows XP and Windows Vista. Ordinarily, the only indication of this program's presence is its flag icon in the notification area, which serves as a reminder that Action Center is on the job, monitoring your computer's essential security settings as well as maintenance and troubleshooting tasks . You can open Action Center by clicking its notification area icon (see Figure 15-1) or by clicking the message that emanates from that icon when your computer's security settings need attention. You can also open Action Center from Control Panel.

Figure 15-1 Clicking the notification area icon displays a menu that includes links to directly address current problems, as well as a link to open Action Center itself.

The Security section in Action Center provides at-a-glance information about your security settings . Items that need your attention have a red or yellow bar, as shown in Figure 15-2 . A red bar identifies important items that need immediate attention, such as detection of a virus or spyware, or that no firewall is enabled. A yellow bar denotes informational messages about suboptimal, but less critical, settings or status, such as when Windows Update is not set to automatically download and install critical updates . Next to the bar appear explanatory text and buttons that let you correct the problem (or configure Action Center so that it won't bother you).

Figure 15-2 Action Center collects security, maintenance, and troubleshooting information and settings in a single window.

Figure 15-2 Action Center collects security, maintenance, and troubleshooting information and settings in a single window.

If all is well, the Security category is collapsed and you see nothing in that category when you open Action Center. Click the arrow to expand the category, and you'll see all the security-related items that Action Center monitors, as shown in Figure 15-3.

Action Center is designed to work with third-party firewall, antivirus, and antispyware programs as well as with the programs built in to Windows 7 (Windows Firewall and Windows Defender) and those available separately from Microsoft, such as Microsoft Security Essentials. Systems with more than one program installed in any of these categories include a link to show a list of such programs . For example, Figure 15-3 shows a system on which a preview version of F-Secure Internet Security is installed. The dialog box that appears when you click the link to view installed programs allows you to turn on any installed program that is currently turned off.

Figure 15-3 Security-related items with healthy status are hidden until you expand the category.

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