Basic Windows XP Home Edition Security

This tip probably applies to the Media Center and Tablet PC editions of Windows XP as well. Windows XP Professional allows for setting of administrator passwords from within the running operating system, and if you’re running Pro I’m sure you know how to do this anyway.

I’ve come to look at computer security as a fine balance between how hard you’re willing to work to keep people out and how hard those people are willing to work to break in. Chances are that a personal laptop running Windows XP Home won’t be too much of a target, although the possibility exists. Security can, of course, be taken to extremes in any direction. I’m just going to talk about one of the simplest things you can do to begin to secure your XP Home system.

It’s always a good idea to password protect your user account no matter which operating system you happen to be running. This can be accessed from the Control Panel under the User Accounts icon. In XP Home, however, there is a hidden Administrator account which only appears in Safe Mode. This means that you can only set the password for this account in safe mode. Most XP Home users run with administrative privileges, but there is an admin account. If somebody steals your laptop or breaks into your system, they don’t need your password. All they have to do is boot your computer up into Safe Mode and access through the admin account.

Here is how to set the password for the Admin account.

Boot up your system. After the BIOS screen (bootup screen) passes, press F8. You’ll be taken to a text menu. Select "Safe Mode". You don’t need to select "Safe Mode with networking", and you especially don’t want "Safe Mode with command prompt".

Once your system starts up in Safe Mode, select Start->Control Panel. Then click the "User Accounts". Select the Administrator Account and select the menu item for change or create password. (I don’t have an XP Home Safe Mode right in front of me, so I’m not sure of the exact wording but you’ll see it). After you’ve created a password, you may also want to enable the Guest account.  This way if somebody wants to use your system but you don’t want them to have access to your files and settings, they can use the guest account to access the internet or do some basic tasks.

This is not comprehensive, but it is one of the most elementary steps you can take to secure a Windows XP computer.

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