Windows 7 Firewall

Being the most widely used operating system in the world means that Windows PCs are often subject to hackers and malicious software finding their way into your computer and ruining the user-experience, sometimes making a PC totally unusable.

Windows 7 firewall is Microsoft’s own computer protection software (there are many third-party alternatives) and contains an advanced user-interface that is designed for computer administrators. This can often mean that it is more difficult to use than third-party software which is designed for users, and settings can be more complicated.

What does a firewall do?

You should picture a firewall as being the front door of your PC; when you are logged on to the internet you will have various viruses and hackers trying to find a way into that front door and, like an unwanted house guest, once in, it is hard to get them out. Turning on the firewall is basically like slamming the front door in the face of the hackers and locking it shut.

Firewall controls how applications on your system access the internet and can block both incoming and outgoing traffic. Microsoft has designed Windows 7 firewall to run on the system by default and it requires very little in the way of user input. For the most part you won’t even know that firewall is running, only popping up to specify the location of your internet connection (home, work, public network) and prompting you when a program is acting as a server.

If a program is looking to receive incoming internet connections, firewall will automatically block it from doing so, and will display the program in a small box, asking you whether or not you want to allow it. Obviously, it is dangerous to allow anything that you are unfamiliar with.

The outbound traffic on Firewall requires no user confirmation, although it is possible to control outgoing traffic in the settings.

Controlling firewall

Windows 7 firewall may not be as user-friendly as some third-party software programs, but users are still able to control the settings from the Windows Control Panel.

To access the firewall settings you should take this path: Start > Control Panel > System and Security > Windows Firewall.

Here you will be fine tune the protection for each of your networks – Home, Work, and Public – and carry out other tasks such as turning off firewall and troubleshooting a network.

While it is possible to turn off the firewall, this is something that is not recommended and can put the security of your computer in jeopardy. You should only turn off Windows firewall if you have another firewall program enabled.

Internet Security

Most computer users will have internet security software running on their computer; this software will generally take charge of Windows firewall settings and any adjustments made will need to be made through the third party software.

Computer protection is essential and you should run anti-virus and anti-malware software alongside firewall to fully secure your PC.

Top Windows 7 Gadgets

With Microsoft paving the way for the new Windows 8 operating system, there has been a lack of support for some of the gadgets available in Windows 7. While there used to be a good range of great desktop gadgets for users that were interested in them, the list has diminished somewhat; however, there are still some pretty useful gadgets out there for Windows 7 users to enjoy and make the most of. Let’s take a look at some of the best:

Clipboard Manager

If you have certain text that you tend to type a lot, Clipboard Manager is very useful indeed. This gadget lets you store words and phrases that you use on a regular basis so that you can access and insert them whenever needed – no need to retype. Big words that are notoriously hard to spell such as “psychology” can be saved and used whenever – great for college and university papers.

System Monitor

This is one of the best gadgets on Windows 7 and provides you with key information on what your computer is doing. There is nothing fancy or flash going on with System Monitor, just simple, easy to read information about your system.

Mail Preview

If you have multiple email accounts (as so many of us do), and don’t already use a desktop email client, you are required to go online and check your various inboxes. Mail Preview is a handy gadget that notifies you of new email coming in and lets you set up numerous email accounts. The small gadget has been designed to look like a Windows Phone app, making it compact and very easy to read.

Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector

This is one of the best gadgets available for Windows 7 laptops, providing you with a wealth of info from a small radar in the corner of your screen. The gadget can be expanded to a full-screen size where you can receive in depth information about your Wi-Fi connection.

HTC Home

Android users will be very familiar with the HTC home gadget for Windows 7, as it is much the same as the Android clock and weather app on the home screen of HTC phones. This gadget is a great alternative to the basic clock provided in Windows 7 and provides the time in different clock styles as well as a five day weather summary.

WeatherBug

We are all fond of the weather, and WeatherBug is the perfect gadget for telling us the forecast. This gadget is a commonly used app on the iPhone, and provides you with more information about the weather than you probably ever need to know.

Sticky Notes

Post-it notes are a prominent feature on most office desks and Windows 7 has the perfect virtual companion to the paper on pen Post-it. Sticky Notes lets you write a note on the desktop and place right there on the screen as a reminder.

While there might not be as many gadgets as there once was, those listed above prove that there is still plenty to love about Windows 7.

Windows 8 Release Date

Windows 8 is arguably to biggest technology release of the year and is set to change the way we use our computers forever. The date of its release has been subject to many a rumour, but confirmation has finally arrived: Microsoft Windows 8 will be released on 26 October 2012.

Following a successful Beta launch, the announcement of the release date was revealed by president of Microsoft’s Windows division, Steven Sinofsky at the company’s annual sales meeting. An announcement of an October date had previously been announced by Windows chief marketing officer Tami Reller at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012, Reller also stated that the RTM date would be “early August”.

RTM is industry speak meaning release to manufacturing, which is the date when the finished product gets the go ahead to be pressed on to disk. Windows head man Brandon LeBlanc also stated in an official blog post that the RTM phase is when “we’ll be turning on the commerce platform so that developers can start earning money for their apps,” adding, “Of course, right now with the Windows 8 Release Preview, all apps are still free for people to try.”

The much-anticipated operating system that is designed for use on both tablets and PCs brings us a whole new touch-based interface that can be switched to a more traditional desktop interface as the user requires. The release date of 26 October 2012 applies to all major territories and Windows 8 will be available to consumers in stores, or as a downloadable upgrade.

New Versions

Windows 8 will only be made available by Microsoft in three different versions, two for Intel-based PCs and one for ARM-based tablet PCs, such as the new Microsoft Surface models that are also coming to market soon. The two PC versions of the OS will be called Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, while the tablet version is called Windows 8 RT.

The Microsoft Surface is expected to be released soon after Windows 8 has hit the market.

Pricing

So now we know that Windows 8 will be with us before Christmas, and in perfect time for the holiday shopping period, but how much is it going to cost?

Windows 8 upgrades will be offered by Microsoft for $39.99, or about £25. This price is for customers with an existing product and is an introductory offer lasting until 31 January 2013, after which time the price will increase.

If your computer is running Windows 7, XP, or Vista, you will able to bag yourself a download of Windows 8 Pro at the knockdown price, and receive the all new Windows Media Center for free.

Windows 8 is to be made available in 231 different markets across the world and in 109 languages. Microsoft has promised that the upgrade process will be made as easy as possible with both downloaded and physical copies of the OS and an assistant wizard will provide users with a step-by-step guide to installation.

How to Install Windows 7

Installing a new operating system isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but thankfully with Windows 7 Microsoft has made the process a little less stressful. This guide will help you to install Windows 7 on your computer quickly and easily.

Checking system requirements

Before you proceed with any installation it is important to check your system requirements to ensure your computer is able to cope with the extra demands of Windows 7. You may also want to place all of your data (i.e. documents, pictures, much, video, etc.) in a separate partition, or on an external hard-drive, you can do this by using the new feature in Windows 7, Libraries.

64-bit or 32-bit

Once you have chosen your copy of Windows 7 (There is Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate), you will need to select whether to install the 64-bit, or the 32-bit option. The general rule of thumb here is: if you’re your computer has 3GB of RAM or more, you will want to go for the 64-bit option, otherwise stick with the 32-bit. Both discs will be in the box, so it is just a matter of selecting the right one.

Upgrade or Custom

If you are upgrading from a previous version of Windows, you will have the option of upgrading to Windows 7, if your computer does not have Windows, you will simply need to proceed with the install. Selecting the “Custom” option gives you a lot more freedom than “Upgrade” and has features such as letting you format and partition your hard-disk – this is known as a “clean” install.

When using the Custom installation, you should run Windows Easy Transfer; this will copy and restore any of your old files, such as documents, music and pictures, as well as settings. It will not restore any programs.

Stay connected to the internet

Part-way through the installation process, Windows will attempt to retrieve updates from Microsoft servers to allow it do this you will need to ensure your computer is connected to the internet.

Next steps

The DVD will usually boot automatically and display a “Windows is loading files…” message. After this is complete you will able to choose your language, time, currency and keyboard language. Following this, you need to hit the big “Install Now” button. This will take you to a licence agreement which you will need to accept to proceed. Next comes the choice of Upgrade or Custom; both types of installation will take 45-60 minutes, although the Custom option is a little quicker.

Over the course of the 45-60 minutes Windows 7 will carry out the installation; all you can really do here is wait, maybe make yourself a cup of tea or something. Once it has completed this step you will be asked to provide a username of 20 characters or less and a computer name of 15 characters maximum. You will also need to enter the product key, although your free trial means you have 30 days to do so. You will then need to select time-zone and security settings, after this is complete, Windows 7 will display a message: “Windows is preparing your desktop”.

And that’s it – you’re ready to go with Windows 7!

Features of Windows 7

Windows 7 has been one of Microsoft’s most popular operating system releases to date and has received universal praise for the way it has advanced from Windows XP and Vista. If you are still using either of the earlier operating systems, upgrading to Windows 7 is something you should really think about; the following features should explain why.

Speed

Windows XP was a fairly speedy operating system and showed just how good Windows can be when Microsoft gets it right. Sadly, all of that good work was undone by the sluggish nature of Windows Vista, which was not only slow, but unresponsive. Windows 7 brings back, and increases, the speed that was a feature of XP and has a sprightlier feel, putting users in full control of the desktop. Menus and applications are much faster, and boot up time is also much speedier.

Vista garnered a reputation for ensuring even the beefiest hardware looked a bit average. Windows 7, however, will run well on lower end hardware, making the transition from Window XP less painful.

Lower system requirements

Windows Vista made a hash of performing on well, even on the most powerful of computers, once again undoing the good work of XP. Windows 7 has been designed to run smoothly on even lower hardware specs and seems much more like a successor to XP. As long as your computer meets the minimum system requirements of Windows 7, you can expect to have a slick OS that is able to handle multi-tasking with aplomb.

Improved Start menu

The Windows 7 Start menu may look very similar to the one seen on Vista, but on further investigation you can see that it is much more powerful than its predecessor. Items are well grouped together, larger and more clearly visible. Multiple Windows Explorer or Document windows will be displayed in an over-lapping stack which will show thumbnails of each window when the mouse is hovered over the icon. You will also be able to close windows directly from the thumbnail, adding efficiency for the user.

Stacking

Stacking is a great feature which lets you drag a window over to the side of the desktop and it will automatically stick their, filling half of the screen. This makes it really easy to view documents side-by-side.

Aero-shake

Another standout feature in Windows 7 is ‘aero-shake’. If you have numerous windows open at one, but want to focus on one window in particular, aero-shake lets you grab it at the top and shake it with the mouse, minimising all other windows in the process.

Touch capability

If you have a touch-enabled PC, Windows 7 can help you maximise its potential, giving you a whole new way of interacting with your computer. You will be able to use the task bar to open apps, scroll up and down by swiping the screen, and rotate and zoom in on pictures by holding the screen. The novelty of this feature is likely to wear off with most users, but just knowing that you have it is enough.