Security and Maintenance with Action Center

Enhance your Windows 7 security and maintenance using the Windows 7 action center. This free lesson shows you how.

Introduction

Security and maintenance are important with any computer, and Windows 7 has made several improvements that make it easier than ever to keep your computer in good shape.

In this lesson, you will learn how to use the Action Center, User Account Control Settings, and Troubleshooting to keep your computer running as smoothly as possible. You will also learn how to recover your system settings with System Restore to fix more serious issues.

What is the Action Center?

Launch video! Watch the video (3:02).

The Action Center is a centralized place to view security and maintenance messages, and it also makes it easy to find and fix problems with your computer.

Learn more about how to use the Action Center in this video.

To use the Action Center:

If you have any important messages, the flag icon on the taskbar will display a red "X" symbol.

  1. To open the Action Center, click the small flag icon on the taskbar.
  2. Review the messages.
  3. Click Open Action Center to respond to messages.
    Getting to the Action CenterOpen the Action Center

To access the Action Center from the Control Panel:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Go to the Control Panel.
  3. Click Review Your Computer's Status under System and Security.

Fixing problems using the Action Center:

Your messages are displayed in the Action Center pane. Important messages will have a red bar, while less important ones will have a yellow bar. If a security or maintenance issue has a solution, there will be a button on the right side of the message.

Some messages are just notifications and do not indicate a problem with your computer. These messages will not include a solution button, but they may still have important information or instructions.

Changing your User Account Control settings

What is User Account Control?

User Account Control warns you when a program or user is trying to change your computer's settings. It puts a temporary lock on your computer until you confirm that you want to allow the changes. This helps to protect your computer from malicious software. When it was introduced in Windows Vista, many users found that it generated too many disruptive pop-up warnings. Windows 7 now lets the user decide how often they will receive these warnings.

To change your User Account Control settings:

  1. Open the Action Center.
  2. Click Change User Account Control settings.
    Change User Account Control settingsChange User Account Control Settings
  3. Use the slider to choose the level of protection you want from User Account Control. It is recommended that you use one of the top two settings. The other two should only be used in special circumstances. It may be best to choose the highest setting. If you end up getting too many pop-ups, you can always lower it to the second setting.
    User Account Control sliderAdjust how you receive notification messages

Windows 7 troubleshooting

Not all computer problems will be shown in the Action Center. For example, you may be having trouble with a particular program or device, or with connecting to the Internet. For these types of problems, you will want to view troubleshooting options.

In the Troubleshooting pane, you will see several programs called troubleshooters, which help you identify and fix problems with your software and hardware.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to see information about some useful troubleshooters. Note that your computer may have a slightly different list of troubleshooters.

labeled graphic

Appearance and Personalization

Use these options to troubleshoot issues with the Windows 7 Aero effects.

Windows Online Troubleshooting

Check this box to download the most recent troubleshooters from Microsoft automatically.

System and Security

Use these options to fix problems with the latest Windows Update and to perform maintenance tasks.

Network and Internet

Use these options to address issues related to connectivity and file sharing.

Hardware

Use these options to fix issues related to an external device, like a printer or monitor.

Programs

Click here to troubleshoot issues with applications that were designed for previous versions of Windows.

Recovering your settings with System Restore

What is System Restore?

Programs you install can make changes to your system settings, and occasionally this can cause problems with your computer. System Restore is often the easiest way to fix these problems. System Restore allows you to "rewind" your system settings to an earlier point in time, called a restore point. Keep in mind that this will not erase your recent documents, and it cannot be used to recover lost documents or other files. However, it can uninstall recent programs and drivers.

To run System Restore:

  1. Click Recovery at the bottom of the Action Center.
    Getting to System RestoreOpening System Restore
  2. Click Open System Restore.
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen.
  4. You will be asked to select a restore point. If you've just installed a program that seems to be causing problems, you will probably want to restore your system to the point just before that program was installed.
    Choosing a restore pointChoose a system restore point
  5. Click Next to continue working through the steps. When you are finished, Windows will restore your system to the point you have selected.

Conclusion

Windows 7 desktop

Security and maintenance are ongoing processes, so you should revisit these tools from time to time. Try to deal with Action Center messages as quickly as possible, and even if you don't have any messages you can always explore the troubleshooters if your computer is running slowly or if something isn't right. Spending a little bit of time on security and maintenance can help you get the most out of your computer, and it can even save you time in the long run by helping to prevent serious problems.