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Securing Windows XP

Article ID: 000012
Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (9 votes)
Views: 8604

Securing Windows XP
Dec 01 2006

There isn't anything such as completely secure operating system. If you want real security; disconnect your network card and turn off/unplug your computer. Even then someone can steal your hard disk and copy all the data. Today, security has become a very important point of concern to every computer user. No one wants their data to be hacked or viruses/worms messing up the computer delaying the work by quite a few hours. But, the person to be blamed for such a disaster is the user itself. Just like people secure their homes with multiple locks, watchman, barrier fences, etc; the same thing applies to a computer as well. One needs to be very cautious about their data and setup various programs to make sure that at least one will be 99% safe.

Today, we take a look at securing Windows XP as much as possible. Windows XP is a highly used OS, and if one is still using an older version of Windows such as 98/ME, he/she should immediately upgrade to Windows XP. Even then the standard configuration isn't very much secure. A plain default installation of Windows XP is also highly venerable, especially internet threats. But few steps mentioned below can help you make your system as strong as Fort Knox.

The first thing one should do after installing Windows XP is install Service Pack 2. The newer version of Windows XP comes with SP2 integrated by default. If not, one can download it

After installing SP2, one can either download the remaining updates through Windows Update feature or the other way which is my personal favorite; download Auto-Patcher for Windows XP. Auto-Patcher is an unofficial utility to install all the updates, which were released after Service Pack 2. Microsoft releases at least 15-20 patches every month and Service Pack 2 was released almost two years ago. So, one can imagine the number of patches which need to be installed. Also, Auto-Patcher can be used to deploy over a large number of PC on a network, as all the softwares contain all the updates and one doesn't need to re-download the updates. Auto-Patcher gets updated once a month containing all the patches released within a period of month prior to it. One can download Auto-Patcher over

Now, that Auto-Patcher is downloaded and installed, we can configure some settings in Windows XP to make it more secure. First step is to activate Security Center, which is usually activated by default. If not, go to control panel and double click on Security Center Icon.

Security Center takes care of three things that is reminding user of installing a Firewall, an Anti-Virus, and keeping Automatic Updates On. By default, Windows XP SP2 has a built-in fire-wall, which can be activated by taking following steps.

Go to Start -> Control Panel -> Network Connections -> and click on network connection. Click on properties, and then select the 'Advanced' tab. Over there you will see the description of Windows Firewall. Click on settings and then finally select 'On (recommended)' option. Now your PC is more secure than before, but still not in 'Almost Secure' status.

If you are not comfortable using the 'Windows Firewall', then one can use one's own Firewall software or take our recommendation of using a freeware Firewall 'Zone-Alarm'. This Firewall is rated among the best and the good part is that it is free for home use. A much more advanced version is also available called 'Zone-Alarm Pro.'

Now, that the Firewall is installed, the next thing we have to look forward to is an Anti-Virus software. Our personal favorite is NOD32, but unfortunately it is not free. If you can afford, go for it by all means; it is one of the best Anti-Virus we have used as it is very system resource friendly and has a very good virus detection rate. On the free side, we have the AVG Anti-Virus v7.5, which is almost as good as NOD32. But, since it's free, one can download it and start zapping the viruses on their PC right away. Other good option besides AVG is Avast! Anti-Virus. Also, configure your email client to use Anti-Virus software to check your incoming mails. Many of the times, viruses/Trojans are downloaded through email from unknown source.

Now, with Automatic Update ON, and Firewall/Anti-Virus installed, the security Centre should be showing a green sign, which is an indication that your PC is more secure than before. But that is still not enough. We still have the deadly Spyware/Adware softwares, which are as buggy as viruses sometime.

Spywares/Adwares have become a security threat as no one can tell what they are quietly installing in the background. Some of the Spyware have been reported to be installing remotely controlled Trojans. Such Trojans can be used by hackers to gain complete control over PC. Hence, we need to take care of such things also. For this problem, we have two free solutions. One is by Microsoft themselves, which is called Microsoft Defender. I found the Microsoft Defender to be pretty good and having really fast scan times.

Those, who don't rely much on Microsoft software, can use Ad-Aware Personal Edition, which is also free. This software has been around even before Microsoft Defender and is still preferred by many. It has a deep scanning mode, which can really dig out the extremely hidden spyware.

Following these steps can make your PC as secure as possible. But, taking two more steps can make it almost fool-proof. First one is to put passwords on Windows Login Account and Administrator. The most common mistake people make, that they ignore putting a password on Administrator Account. One can put password on their account, by going to Start -> Control Panel -> User Accounts.

It is recommended to put passwords not related to personal life such as parent's name or birth date. Today hackers use psychological methods to break in. So, make sure it's a password which is not too common and has a combination of alphabets and numbers. If you missed to put a password into Administrator's account during installation, one can still access it by going to Start -> Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management. In the 'Computer Management' window, click on 'Local Users and Group' and select the sub folder 'Users'. One can select and right click on 'Administrator' and select 'Set Password'. Well, there you go. Now even your PC is even more secure. When leaving your PC for a short while, make sure you log off or fast switch, so that one cannot steal or see your confidential data. A shortcut key to lock windows is "Windows + L".

Another step one can take is to disable "Remote Access". Most of the time, a user won't be using this feature. Go to Start -> My Computer, right click and select properties. Now, select the remote tab and uncheck both the options. This will make sure that even if a person gets to know your username and password, he can't access it remotely.

Following these steps can help one make one's PC almost secure. Another step which needs to be taken at the time of installing windows is formatting your root directory in NTFS format, which allows for group policies. This way, even if there is single computer, multi-user setup, other users can't get access to your data.

Another step one can take is to either use Firefox 2.0 or Internet Explorer 7.0. Both of them have anti-phishing features built-in and help the user to stay away from malicious websites. Hope, all of you get a secure desktop and keep visiting for more guides.

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