Security Center in Windows Vista

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Security Center
The Security Center application was introduced in Windows XP Pro SP2, as a way of displaying a high-level overview of the system's security status in one screen window. After the install, Vista's first start highlights the Security Center summary screen. Administrators are asked to confirm and set configuration options.

The Security Center applet under the Control Panel (see Figure 1) allows a user to view or configure the following features:

  • Windows Firewall

  • Automatic Updates

  • Antivirus Program(s)

  • Windows Defender

  • Internet Explorer Security Options

  • User Access Control Status

  • Quick Link to Microsoft Security Web Site

Image from book
Figure 1: Windows Security Center allows a user to view or configure security features.

The Security Center gives a quick status update by displaying red (some-thing wrong, expired, or disabled), yellow (caution), or green (okay) status lights for each security category (see Figure 1). Third party software can customize the Security Center console. For example, in Figure 1, Trend Micro's PC-cillin antivirus program has modified the normal Windows Defender category to "Spyware and other malware protection" to reflect PC-cillin's installation and concurrent protection.

When enabled, Security Center monitors Windows current protection status and usually warns when security is being disabled or lessened by displaying balloon status messages. Unfortunately, monitoring seems to be hit or miss. Disabling the Windows Firewall almost always causes a warning message to be displayed, whereas disabling the Windows Defender never resulted in a warning message.


The normal Security Center window is disabled when a computer is joined to a domain. The replacement Security Center applet does not display Antivirus or UAC status, and does not display the normal red, yellow, green quick status lights. The default Security Center window can be re-activated using Group Policy or Local Computer Policy by enabling Computer Configuration\ Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Security Center\Turn on Security Center (Domain PCs only).

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