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Explore the Action Center

Go to the Control Panel in Windows 7 to check the system security status and you won't find the Security Center that you have become familiar with in XP and Vista. It has been removed, although Windows Defender and Windows Firewall still remain as separate Control Panel items. Instead of Security Center in Windows 7 you have something new called the Action Center.

Windows Vista was irritating because it moved and renamed some items that we had become familiar with in XP and Action Center is really just a new version of Security Center. Microsoft moved it and renamed it. Grrr! It hasn't just been renamed though and it has some new and exciting features that make it much more useful and functional than the old Security Center in Vista. So in some ways it is familiar, but it is also better than before.

Windows 7 Action CenterThere are two components to Action Center and there is a small notification item at the right-hand side of the taskbar. When something in the Action Center requires your attention you will see a flag icon and a red circle with a white cross in it. If you click it a message box pops up and it displays the total number of messages and the number of important messages awaiting your attention. Items that require your attention are listed and there is a link to open the Action Center to save you having to open the Control Panel and hunt for the icon to start it.

The new Action Center contains some items that are similar to the old Security Center, but there is more information, more functions and more features.

The contents of the Action Center window will vary depending on what needs your attention, but it could contain information about virus and spyware protection, whether you need to make a backup, whether the system needs to be scanned for malware, and so on. Very important tasks are highlighted in red and less important ones are amber.

Initially a simple view with all the details hidden from sight is displayed, but you can expand the Security and Maintenance sections to see more information and to access additional options. For example, expand Security and you will see the status of the firewall, Windows Update, virus protection, spyware protection, internet security settings, User Account Control settings, Network Access Protection and Windows Defender.

(Network Access Protection is something that companies with networked PCs will be interested in. It runs as a service and when the PC connects to a network that uses NAP it is checked to make sure that the settings are correct and that software and settings are up to date. Problems can be fixed automatically. It's not something home users need to be concerned with.)

Expand the Maintenance section of the Action Center and you can see whether Backup has been set up and your files are being backed up, whether Windows Update requires your attention, and there are links to change troubleshooting settings and check for settings.

So Action Center sort of combines Vista's Security Center, Problem Reports and Solutions, and Backup and Restore Center. Backup and Restore is still a separate item, but you can set it up and receive notifications about it within Action Center. Vista's Problem Reports and Solutions has gone, but you can check for solutions to problems in the Windows 7 Action Center. You can also set the options for automatically checking for solutions to problems and view reliability history from Action Center too. It can be used to change User Account Control settings, view performance information and archived messages, and access Windows Program Compatibility Troubleshooter.

The old Security Center was rarely used, but Action Center does so much you will probably find that you access a lot. It packs a lot of features and it's a bit of a Swiss Army Knife bag of tools.

Windows 7 Action Center