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- Alex -

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Securing Windows

If you are running Windows on your PC, you need to be concerned about the safety of your computer for several reasons:

  • Bugs - Every software contains bugs - so does Windows. Some bugs might be in parts of the operating system that you never use, others might be in vital parts of the operating system that could crash your machine at any moment. To prevent downtime and/or data loss caused by bugs you need to install service packs, patches and hotfixes to minimize the risk.
  • Intruders - As every day new vulnerabilities are being discovered, Windows is never completely safe from intruders. A large number of computer invasions happen when crackers find a vulnerability in the operating system and exploit it to break into the system and take control. While crackers are always a step ahead of you, you should install any fixes for those vulnerabilities as soon as they are released.
  • Virus Infections - viruses are rampant these days. Currently there are approximately 60,000 known viruses in circulation. Some are harmless, some are annoying, some are malicious and destructive. To prevent your system from being infected you need to have adequate protection in form of capable antivirus software.
  • Violation of your privacy - Marketeers are getting more desperate and sneakier every day, trying to get your personal data and study your habits in order to be able to profit by selling your data and helping advertisers to annoy you more efficiently. While the relatively honest ones usually give you the chance to opt out and say 'no', the scumbags of the advertising industry try to violate your privacy without your knowledge by installing so-called spyware, software to collect data about you and secretly send it home. But you can ensure that no spyware exists on your system by scanning it on a regular basis.

It is your responsibility to keep Windows safe and updated at all times to protect yourself, your privacy, your data, your computer from being compromised one way or another. We'll show you how to take a basic Windows installation and apply a number of security measures to strengthen the defenses of your operating system.

It doesn't matter whether you just clean-installed Windows, got a new PC with Windows preinstalled, or want to improve your current Windows installation. The steps in this article apply to any computer running any version of Windows and can be performed at any time.

Service Packs

Microsoft releases so-called service packs for Windows. These service packs contain hundreds of bug and security fixes and enable you to apply these fixes in one fell swoop. Your first step towards a safer operating system is to visit the Microsoft web site to download the latest service pack for your operating system. Check to see what service pack you have currently installed by going to Start / Settings / Control Panel / System / General:

Tip: If at all possible, download the complete service pack to your system and save it e.g. on a Zip disk or burn it to a CD so you have it handy for future use and don't have to download it again.

Another tip: Instead of running the service pack by simply double-clicking on it in Windows Explorer, run it from the Windows Run dialog so you can add a switch to it. For example, if you saved the service pack named w2ksp2.exe on your hard drive in C:\Install\W2KSP2, install the service pack by clicking Start / Run, typing C:\Install\W2KSP2\w2ksp2.exe -u, and click OK. This switch performs an unattended installation, meaning it does not require you to click anything during the installation or agree to the subsequent reboot. You can walk away for half an hour and return to an updated and rebooted system.

Windows Update

Service packs are available only for certain versions of Windows, not all of them. If no service pack is available for your operating system, you can obtain most updates and patches via the Windows update web site. And even if you already installed the latest service pack for your operating system, you are far from finished. Updates are being released constantly, and the Windows update web site is the place to obtain most updates that were released since the latest service pack.

No matter what version of Windows you have, you can find the Windows update web site at The site will ask your permission to install a small program, identify what version of Windows you're running, and then display a list of all available updates for your system.

Select the updates you wish to install. Remember that some of them are highly recommended and you should install them, others are recommended but not necessary, while others are completely unnecessary. Also be aware that some of the updates can only be installed separately from other components.

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