Windows XP Firewall
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Security of personal workstations
Protect Your PC: Print All Three Steps
Operating System: Windows XP
Last Updated: September 9, 2003
Step 1: Use an Internet Firewall
Before you connect your computer to the Internet, you should install a firewall. This is a piece of software or hardware that helps protect your PC against hackers and many computer viruses and worms. If you have the Microsoft Windows® XP operating system, you can use its built-in Internet Connection Firewall. Using a firewall is the most important first line of defense for computer security. You should also use Windows Update and antivirus software to help protect your PC.
Important Internet Connection Firewall works by blocking certain types of potentially harmful network communication. However, it also blocks some useful network communication tasks (for example, sharing files or printers through a network, transferring files in applications such as instant messaging, or hosting multiplayer games). We highly recommend that you use a firewall because it helps protect your computer today. If you choose to turn on Internet Connection Firewall you can come back later for help with unblocking useful network communication tasks. For more information, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions About Firewalls.
The steps below tell you how to make sure the Windows XP firewall is turned on. If you have a different configuration, a home network, a different version of Windows, or if you encounter problems during the steps, see the Frequently Asked Questions about Firewalls.
To turn on the Internet Connection Firewall
Click Start, and then click Control Panel
Click Network and Internet Connections, and then click Network Connections.
Click Network and Internet Connections
Click Network Connections
Note: If the Network and Internet Connections category is not visible, click Switch to Category View on the upper left of the window.
Switch to Category View
Under the Dial-Up or LAN or High Speed Internet heading, click the icon to select the connection that you want to help protect.
Select a connection
In the task pane on the left, under Network Tasks, click Change settings of this connection. (As a shortcut, you can right-click the connection you want to help protect, and then click Properties.)
Change connection settings
Alternatively, right-click the connection, and click Properties
On the Advanced tab, under Internet Connection Firewall, check the box next to Protect my computer and network by limiting or preventing access to this computer from the Internet.
Check the box to protect your computer and network
After you check the box and close the Properties window, the firewall is turned on. The firewall may interfere with some network operations such as file and print sharing, networking-related programs, or online games. For more information about fixing these issues, see the Frequently Asked Questions page listed below.
If you have more than one computer, want more technical information, or just want to learn more about Internet firewalls, see the Frequently Asked Questions About Firewalls page.
Step 2: Get Computer Updates
The Microsoft Windows® XP operating system includes the Automatic Updates feature, which can automatically download the latest Microsoft security updates while your computer is on and connected to the Internet. (If you are not sure what version of Windows you are using, you can find out by following the instructions for checking your operating system version).
Before you turn on Automatic Updates, it's a good idea to bring your hardware and software up-to-date using Windows Update. Here's how:
To use Automatic Updates to download and install any future critical security updates from Microsoft:
Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
Click Performance and Maintenance.
If the Performance and Maintenance category isn't visible, click Switch to Category View on the upper left of the window.
Click System to open the System Properties dialog box. You'll see a screen like the one below.
On the Automatic Updates tab, check the box next to Keep my computer up to date.
Choose a setting. We strongly recommend choosing Automatically download the updates, and install them on the schedule that I specify.
If you choose the option to automatically download and install updates, select a day and time when your computer will be turned on, so the installation process can be finished.
Note: We recommend a daily update.
Choose Automatically download the updates and install them on a schedule that I specify
If you set up Automatic Updates to notify you, or if your machine was off at the scheduled installation time, you will see a notification balloon like the one below. Click the notification balloon to review and install the updates.
Click the balloon to install new updates
Using Windows Update
Here's how you can bring your computer up to date now. You can also use these instructions to keep up with the latest non-critical updates:
Go to the Windows Update Web site at http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com.
On the Windows Update site, click Scan for Updates. Windows Update will scan your computer and give you a pre-selected list of critical updates, including service packs.
Click Scan for updates
Note: Slower modems may take several hours to download all recommended updates the first time you use Windows Update. Your download times will vary depending on how long it has been since you last updated and your modem speed. To reduce download times, run Windows Update when you will not be using your computer for other Internet-related tasks.
In the Pick updates to install list on the left side of your screen, click Critical Updates and Service Packs. Windows Update will create a list of the updates appropriate for your computer. (Critical updates will be selected for download automatically.)
Click Review and install updates. Select the updates to install, including any service packs and the critical updates pre-selected for you, and then click Install Now. You may need to restart your computer after installing the updates.
Click Review and install updates
Note: Be sure to go back to Windows Update after rebooting to check for any additional updates. You may need to do this several times.
Important note for Microsoft Office users. You should also visit the Office Update site to install the latest security releases.
Step 3: Use Up-to-Date Antivirus Software
Help your computer stay healthy by asking yourself the following questions:
Do you have antivirus software installed on your computer?
Many major computer manufacturers include at least a trial version of a popular antivirus package on new computers.
Click Start, and then click Programs. Look for an item in the list with the word "antivirus" in it, or for McAfee, Norton, or Symantec, which are manufacturers of popular antivirus products.
If you don't have antivirus software installed, check out the following antivirus software companies for special offers on their products:
Computer Associates (12 months free)
If you already have antivirus software installed, but you want to install a new product from a different company, be certain to uninstall your current product before installing the new one. Leaving the previous version installed can cause conflicts on your system.
Is your antivirus software up to date?
Out-of-date antivirus software means ineffective antivirus software. Antivirus software relies on regular updates to help protect against the latest threats. If you aren't subscribing to these updates, your computer may be vulnerable to threats.
Make sure you have activated a subscription for continuous updates of your antivirus software.
Most antivirus software updates itself when you are connected to the Internet. To ensure your software is up to date, open your antivirus program from the Start menu or the taskbar notification area and look for update status. If you still aren't sure if your antivirus software is up to date, contact your antivirus software provider.
Is your antivirus software set up correctly to provide the best protection possible?
The following settings should be turned on by default when you install the software. If you turn them off for any reason, be sure to turn them back on before you connect to the Internet.
"On-access" or "real-time" scanning should be turned on. Most antivirus products include an icon that appears in the notification area at the lower right of your screen to indicate that this setting is enabled.
Antivirus software should perform a scheduled scan of your hard disk.
Antivirus software should be configured to scan e-mail messages.