One of the first things you should do after installing Vista is establish a baseline of security for your system. This means making a few configuration changes to make your system more secure. Vista makes this easy to accomplish with the Security Center. The Security Center offers a central location for verifying and configuring essential security options.

The Security Center in Vista lets you view the current security status of your computer and access important security settings. When you first open the Security Center you will immediately notice the four main security essentials: Firewall, Automatic Updating, Malware Protection, and Other Security Settings.

The Firewall component protects your computer from attackers when connected to a network. The Security Center will tell you whether or not the Firewall is enabled and provide you with access to firewall settings. You can quickly access firewall settings by selecting Windows Firewall. The Windows Firewall window will open where you can enable/disable the firewall and create exceptions for programs and services.

Automatic Updates protects your computer by installing security and other updates as they become available. The Security Center will indicate whether or not Automatic Updates settings have been configured on the computer. You can select Windows Update to access the related settings. From here you can manually check for updates and change the settings.

Malware protection includes Windows Defender and anti-virus software. The Security Center will indicate if there is anti-virus software installed on the computer and whether Windows Defender is out of date. You can manually check for new definitions by selecting the Windows Defender link within the Security Center.

Internet Explorer has specific security settings designed to protect your computer. You will notice that these settings are also quickly accessible through the Security Center by selecting the Internet Options link.

Finally, you can change the way that the Security Center alerts you when it detects that your computer may be at risk. It is a good idea to keep the alerts on so you know immediately when your computer may be at risk.