Using the Windows 7 Action Center
The Action Center is a brand new feature in Windows 7 that helps to diagnose and treat common problems, find system maintenance information, security information, and more.
If you have ever used the Security Center in Windows Vista, getting used to the Action Center in Window 7 shouldn’t be too hard considering the Action Center is not only replacing, but also upgrading its feature set.
Today, I’ll help you to better understand and use the Windows 7 Action Center to help keep your system running its best.
Much like the Security Center found in Windows Vista, the Action Center offers up hints and tips about your system’s security. The Action Center can automatically detect issues with your Firewall, Anti-Virus, Windows Update settings, Malware Protection, User Account Controls, Spyware Protection, and more.
The difference in Security Settings is that while the Vista Security Center only allows you to see when protection is turned on or off (and to turn them on or off), the Action Center actually allows you to take care of issues with each setting from within the Action Center, rather than having to navigate to different Control Panel applications or security programs in order to fully diagnose and treat the problems.
Troubleshooting in the Windows 7 Action Center is essentially an automated version of the past generations of Windows Help application. Instead of you typing in and trying to find your problem, the Action Center automatically finds it — and instead of telling you what to do to fix the issue, the Action Center performs the action for you.
I can’t recall a time when troubleshooting a Windows Operating System was this easy. While the Action Center can’t fix all problems, it can give you detailed instructions on what steps to take next on most issues.
Some troubleshooting features and options available on the troubleshooting screen are:
- compatibility checks for programs made for older versions of Windows,
- hardware and sound issues including recording and playback,
- device configurations,
- internet and network connectivity,
- appearance and personalization including Windows Aero desktop effects,
- system and security issues such as problems with Windows Update and performance.
Windows 7 Action Center also allows you to perform maintenance on your PC and change settings to keep your PC up and running. These settings include the ability to set up Windows Backups in case your computer malfunctions or data is lost.
You can also look for and check for solutions to simple maintenance problems. Just recently I had an issue where the Windows 7 Aero theme had stopped working, along with all of its great additions like Windows Peek, among other things. Normally I would go into my theme settings, check my services running, etc.
This time, however, I decided to give the Action Center a real life problem and see how it handled the situation. Within seconds the Action Center detected that Windows Aero was not running and let me choose what to do. I just asked it to fix the problem, and before the progress bar had even finished, I was running Windows Aero without any other issues.
This feature is a huge time saver and great for those who may or may not be tech savvy enough to figure out a more detailed solution to a problem. Now you can just let Windows fix itself!
On the same maintenance screen, you can also check to see if Windows Update is requesting any action. This includes new updates to be downloaded, installed, or scheduled. If there are updates available, you can even start the process right from said window.
One of the last major features from within the maintenance window is the recovery option. Remember when I said you could set your Windows Backup settings from within the Action Center? Well this feature allows you to go back and choose a backup by date and time to restore your PC back to how it was during that time.
The great thing about this feature is you can actually see what drivers and programs will be added or removed when restoring. This means if I see that by restoring to last week, I’ll lose a certain program, I can make the proper preparations so I can get the program reinstalled after restoring.
Not only that, but in my experience when completing a restoration from a backup, I did not lose any documents, saved items, or media during restores, only major system changing components and installs were changed.
One of my favorite and most used features of the Windows 7 Action Center is the detailed and interactive reporting. When you run any troubleshooting or maintenance task, you are given a full report as to what the Action Center has found, what it has done to remedy any issues found, and what may need to be done on your part.
This is a very important but sometimes overlooked step. Perhaps the Action Center has found an issue, but needs you to do something to fix it. If you close the reporting window before scanning through it, you may miss this important step and your problem will remain unresolved.
That’s why, it is always important to take a look at what the Action Center has done and recommended for you and your computer system.
Resource and Performance Monitor
While not technically part of the Windows 7 Action Center, this new feature is a great partner program to the Action Center in that it helps you better understand why the Action Center had to take action in the first place.
If you notice that an issue has happened before, using the Resource and Performance Monitor to figure out what items have changed may help you figure out how to prevent the issue from occurring in the future.
Since this is not part of the Action Center, I won’t spend too much time talking about its uses here, but you should expect to see a write-up on this subject in the future.
Get Familiar with Your Windows 7 Action Center
Overall, the Windows 7 Action Center should be your first, and could be your only troubleshooting step needed in order to keep your computer system up to date, safe, secure, and running smoothly.
I recommend checking for possible issues every few weeks or as often as you are able as it usually only take a minute or two and could possibly prevent a future problem from arising.
Good luck, and have fun!