Windows Management and Maintenance : The Windows 7 Control Panel (part 3) - Action Center

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3. Action Center

Action Center provides one-stop access to information and alerts for system security and maintenance features in Windows 7. Action Center (see Figure 2) displays two major sections: Security and Maintenance. A red bar next to either section indicates issues you need to deal with, and a solution button you can click to solve the problem.

Figure 2. Action Center reports that this system needs antivirus software.

To get more information about other settings, click the down arrow next to each section. Figure 3 shows the settings in the Security section, and Figure 4 shows the settings in the Maintenance section.

Figure 3. Security settings monitored by Action Center.

Figure 4. Maintenance settings monitored by Action Center.

Security features monitored by Action Center include: the firewall (Windows Firewall or a compatible third-party firewall), Windows Update, virus protection, spyware protection, Internet security, UAC, and network access protection. As with earlier Windows versions, antivirus software is not included. Network Access Protection (NAP) is provided by some corporate networks to automatically update clients before they connect to the network.

The Maintenance section provides access to Reliability Monitor and monitors backup, Windows Update, and system maintenance features.

You can also launch troubleshooters and System Restore from Action Center. Click the Change Action Center link in the task pane to disable warnings for selected settings if desired (for example, if you are already getting security messages from a system suite).

It’s important to realize that Action Center provides access to features it monitors only if the feature is disabled or missing (as with the missing antivirus program message shown in Figure 2). If you need to make changes to the components that Action Center monitors, go to the appropriate part of the Control Panel to make those changes.

Reliability Monitor

Reliability Monitor, which was introduced in Windows Vista as part of the Performance and Reliability Monitor applet, is now launched by clicking View Reliability History from the Action Center’s Maintenance section. (You have to expand the Maintenance section in order to see View Reliability History, under Check for Solutions to Problem Reports.) Figure 5 displays a typical Reliability Monitor report. To see the details of a problem report, click a column in the graph, then click View Technical Details in the list in the bottom part of the window

Figure 5. The details of a busy day as recorded by Reliability Monitor.


Use Reliability Monitor to look for patterns indicating problems with your system. For example, a pattern of frequent display driver crashes suggests you should change display driver versions.

In addition to tracking failures in four areas (applications, hardware, Windows, and miscellaneous), Reliability Monitor also tracks software installs and uninstalls (including both drivers and applications) and captures version information for drivers and applications. It also calculates a reliability index. A yellow triangle with a ! symbol indicates a failed application or driver install, whereas a red circle with an X symbol indicates other types of failures.

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