It's too easy to simply assume that your Windows PCs is safe. A computer virus? That's not going to happen to me... until it does. However, Windows 7 has built-in security settings and updates. We look at the five best security features within the OS that help keep the bad guys at bay. For more advice, visit Security Advisor.

Is your Windows 7 PC as secure as it could be?

It's often too easy for you busy laptop warriors to assume your Windows PCs are safe. A computer virus? That's not going to happen to me ... until it does.

So in addition to running a full security software suite, either free and good enough (Avast, Microsoft Security Essentials) or paid and Teflon strong (Symantec Norton, Kaspersky), you should also take advantage of Windows 7's built-in security settings and updates. These five simple security features in Windows 7 help keep the bad guys at bay.

Action Center

Action Center, the home base for your PC's security, lists all information about security settings. The main role of Action Center is to consistently check on security items such as your network firewall and maintenance items including backup and restore, to make sure your machine is healthy. The Action Center in Windows 7 gives you a view of all your PC's security and maintenance features.

Action Center shows up as a little white flag on the right-hand side of the Windows 7 toolbar, or it can be reached by the path Control Panel, System and Security, Action Center.

Inside Action Center, you can make sure your Windows Firewall is on, your antivirus software is up to date and that your PC is set to install updates automatically.

When the status of a monitored security item changes, such as your antivirus becoming out of date, Action Center notifies you with a message in the taskbar. Then when you open Action Center, the status of the item in question changes colour to indicate the severity of the problem, and an action is requested.

Windows Defender

Windows Defender, antispyware software that's included with Windows 7, runs automatically when it is turned on.

Spyware is any unwanted or potentially harmful software that can be installed on your computer without your knowledge any time you connect to the Internet. It can also infect your computer when you install programs using a CD or DVD.

Windows Defender staves off spyware in two ways:

  • Real-time protection. Windows Defender alerts you when spyware attempts to install itself or to run on your computer. It also alerts you when programs attempt to change important Windows settings.
  • Scanning options. You can use Windows Defender to scan for spyware that might be installed on your computer, to schedule scans on a regular basis, and to automatically remove anything that's detected during a scan.

To open Windows Defender, click the Start button located in the far left of the task bar. In the search box, type Defender, and then, in the list of results, click Windows Defender.

NEXT PAGE: User account control

See also: Group test: what's the best security software?

  1. Make sure your PC is as secure a possible
  2. User account control
  3. Windows Firewall