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Windows 7: The Complete Guide - Security & Privacy

Updated on June 16, 2009

I'm actually surprised as to how credit cards still exist. So many hundreds of millions of credit card numbers have been compromised by online hackers and other evil doers that I don't know how the entire system hasn't collapsed yet. Online Security & Privacy are extremely important factors to consider and fortunately Windows 7 has increased the security of Vista while doing away with a lot of its ancestor's intrusive and bothersome nag boxes.

First of all, you need an antivirus program. Of all the third party software you will install on your new Windows 7 OS, this is by far the most important. Microsoft seems to have learned from its disastrous foray into antiviral utilities when it killed its laughable Windows OneCare. However, it might just have the elusive antiviral killer app on its hands when it premieres its new utility currently codenamed Morro later this year. This software is cloud based (it is based on Microsoft's servers, not your PC) and will scan everything that goes into your PC instantaneously and zap the nasties. It promises to be absolutely astounding and better yet, it is going to be free.

Until then, you can be silly and go spend a whack of money on McAfee or Symantec et al., or just do what I've done for years: Just go to AVG Free and download what is arguably the best antiviral utility available right now for absolutely no money. It's not a weird demo, time limited whatever, or ad riddled whatchamacallit. It's great software that does its job quietly, in the background, and while using a mere fraction of the computer resources that its pay to play competitors suck up.

Once you have your AVG happily and freely installed on your Windows 7 system, you will find that the default settings are just fine for everyday computer work and online cruising. Leave them alone and you should be just fine.

What you do have to do is to tweak the Windows Media Player settings, however. The Media Player is a renowned vector for viruses and other nasties to chew up your PC, so it is well worth taking a few extra precautions here.

When you're setting up Windows Media Player for the very first time, just click on the Windows Media Player icon on the bottom bar.

Now you can choose Custom Settings and click on Next.

I habitually set all the privacy options to maximum so my Select Privacy Options window looks like this... yes, I didn't check anything... on purpose. If you have any questions, you can certainly click on More information about these privacy options for details. But remember: you can't ever be too safe on the internet!

At this point you get to choose whether you want to make Windows Media Player the default player on your system. By all means do so. I have tried every media player in the known universe and found that they all don't add up to a big hill of beans. Windows Media Player does absolutely everything that anyone ever needs to do. If you are one of those habitual illegal video downloaders (which I most certainly do not endorse or even tolerate) then you might find that VLC Player is going to be your video player of choice as it sure beats searching all around the internet for the right codec to stick down Windows Media Player's throat. But if you, like me, are a legal eagle, Windows Media Player 11 rules.

However, you're not done yet. Launch Windows Media Player and go to Tools > Options.

Select the Privacy Tab as this is quite critical. In order to have the safest possible settings, my Privacy Tab window looks like this, and I suggest you follow suit.

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