Ah, User Account Control — arguably the most irritating feature of Windows Vista. Sure you had the option to turn it off somewhere deep in the control panel, but then you had a balloon demanding your attention in the bottom corner of the screen telling you to ‘Check your security settings’. When Vista was in development, Microsoft made a point about security, but the answer wasn’t exactly great. So what’s changed in Windows 7?
For starters, UAC is still here, but it’s more subtle than it was in Vista, as you have the option to choose between 4 levels of notification: Always notify when programs install software, make changes to your computer or if you change Windows settings (Vista…); the default option which is the same as the top level apart from not notifying you when you change Windows settings; the third level, which is the same as the default settings, except it doesn’t dim the screen when UAC appears and the fourth level, which doesn’t notify you at all. Unlike in Vista, there aren’t any annoying balloons demanding your attention on the quick launch bar when you turn UAC off either.
To be honest, I still don’t see the point of UAC. Quite frankly, the average computer user doesn’t know what UAC is all about, they just click ‘Yes’ because they want to install the program they’ve selected. They don’t know and most probably don’t care whether or not what they’re using could be dangerous to their PC. If Microsoft really wants to improve security in Windows, they need to implement something that’s all automatic and done as a background process, because the average user doesn’t want security alerts popping up on their desktop, they just want to access the internet or an application…
The other security precaution in Windows is of course Windows Firewall. I never really notice the firewall in Windows; I just tend to presume it’s doing its job unless there’s an error somewhere down the line. The only annoyance I’ve had with the Firewall in Windows comes when it doesn’t allow me to transfer files over my network because it doesn’t blocks the incoming or outgoing connection. Notice I’m using past tense, as so far it hasn’t been a problem in Windows 7.
Introduced with 7 is a new network feature called ‘HomeGroup’ which allows you to create a home network which other users on the same network can connect to, enabling you to share files and printers with each other. As the Homegroup wizard sets up the network, there are no issues with firewall, and the Homegroup is password protected (you can choose the password at the end of the wizard) to prevent unauthorised access from other computers in the network.
In conclusion, I still don’t think that security in Windows 7 is perfect, and I don’t believe that Microsoft will get it right any time soon. User Account Control is less annoying than it was in Vista, but it’s still pointless in my opinion. The firewall does a good job of keeping out unwanted bad guys from accessing your PC and I’ve found I come across less firewall-related issues when setting up and using a home network to transfer files and share printers.