If you're a parent, you're probably worried about how your children use the family PC and the internet and believe that a software tool for blocking access is part of the answer to your worries. You'll therefore be pleased with the Parental Controls feature built into Windows Vista Ultimate.

Microsoft has managed to give you exceedingly fine-trained control over all aspects of how the computer is used. This ranges from internet access and games to the exact times and days the computer is being used. And it's all controlled from an easy-to-use interface.

There are four sets of controls. These filter web use, control when a child can use the PC, restrict games based on a rating system, and allow and block specific programs. Each control is simple and intuitive to use. Parents need not worry that they'll need their children to teach them how to use Parental Controls, which would defeat the purpose of such a feature in the first place.

For people who want to keep a virtual eye on their children, activity reports can be automatically generated and viewed. The reports include the top 10 websites visited, the top 10 websites blocked, applications used, games used, when each child logged on to the PC and much more in-depth information.

Windows Vista Parental Controls explained

Vista Ultimate Central to Vista Ultimate's way of helping you protect your kids online is the Parental Controls panel. Part of the User Accounts and Family Safety Control Panel applet, the Parental Controls panel centralises all of the key settings of the Windows Vista Parental Controls.

Browse to the Parental Controls panel and you can configure the parental controls for your computer and applications. You can set appropriate limits on your children's game playing, web browsing and overall computer use.

The Parental Controls panel provides a centralised location where you can turn parental controls on and off; block or allow specific programs, games, and websites; and set controls for every aspect of your child's computer use.

Third-party family safety software and services providers may also choose to have their products and services accessible from the Parental Controls panel in Windows Vista. Parental Controls does not work on domain-joined machines, such as in a business environment, but all of its features are available in Windows Vista Ultimate.

See what they're doing, without them knowing

From the Parental Controls panel, you can review easy-to-read activity reports that show how your children have been using the computer.

Monitoring your children's computer behaviour not only makes it easy for you to keep track of what they are seeing, hearing and doing, but it also enables you to refine and modify parental controls based on actual feedback.

For your children, the Parental Controls icon in the system tray is always visible to let them know that the Parental Controls feature is on. And you're watching!

Time for bed

With Windows Vista, you can decide when your children are allowed, or not allowed, to use the computer. You are presented with an easy-to-use grid showing the days of the week and the hours of the day.

The default setting is to allow your children to use the computer during all hours of the day and night, seven days a week. To restrict their PC use, you simply click the specific times and days that you want to block. As a child nears the end of an approved time period, they receive a 15-minute and a 1-minute notification that their time is about to expire.

If their time ends before they log off the computer, Windows Vista suspends their session and displays the logon screen so another user can use the computer. The child's session stays active in the background, however, so the next time they log on, they can pick up where they left off without losing any of their work. Or their gaming!

Back to PC Advisor's Windows Vista Ultimate site