Securing Windows XP

Even though Windows XP is considered an old Windows operating system, a lot of people are still using it.  If you are still using Windows XP,  here are a few security measures that I would recommend  to make your computer more secure.

Seven Steps to Securing Windows XP

  1. Enable Automatic Updates – Keeping Windows XP updated with the latest patches is important in protecting your desktop and the information on it. Yes, some updates have had bugs and caused issues with Windows when first released and additional updates had to be sent out later to correct the problem.  If you worry about this issue, I would recommend setting the Automatic Update feature in Windows XP to “Notify me, but don’t automatically download and install.”  This way, you can make sure there are no issues with the update before installing it on your computer.
  2. Use NTFS on XP  –  Windows XP hard drives can be formatted using FAT, FAT-32 or NTFS file systems.  Only NTFS supports file-level security in which you can assign security settings to individual folders, etc.  You can check what file system you are using by double-clicking on the “My Computer” icon located on the desktop.  This opens a window that shows your hard drive.  Right click on the hard drive icon and go to “Properties.”  The drive properties will then tell what file system is being used on the hard drive.
  3. Install Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, and Ad-Ware Software – There are a number of free and paid versions of this type of software to choose from.  Make sure you have some form of protection on your computer and that you keep it up to date.
  4. Use the Windows Firewall – Although you can always choose a different firewall, your computer should have, at the very least, the firewall that is on Windows.  Windows XP computers should have the Windows firewall or another software-based firewall enabled on the computer.
  5. Lock your Screen Saver – You can password protect your screen saver by going to the Control panel – “Display Properties.”   Under the screen saver tab, check the box marked “On Resume, Display Welcome Screen.”  This will require you to re-type your password in after the screen saver has come on.  There are ways to beat this, but it does add some additional protection to your computer.
  6. Set Up the Login to Require “Press Ctrl+Alt+Del” – This key combination helps improve your computer security because it prevents most automated software from trying to log in or hack your account.  Human interaction is required to get to the log-in screen.  Again, nothing is fool-proof, but it does provide another layer of security.  You can configure this by going to the Control Panel – User Accounts.  On the advanced tab, check the box “Require users to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete.”
  7. Shut Down Unused Services – Running unnecessary services just leaves another opening for an attacker to break in.  Determine what services you need and turn off all others. To disable services, go to the Control Panel – Administrative Tools – Services, then right click on “Any Service” and go to the properties of that service.  From the properties screen, you can configure the service such as disabling it at start-up, etc.

Following these steps will greatly improve the security of any computer that is running Windows XP.  In the long run, it may save you the headache of a costly repair bill.

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