Security and Privacy Guide
Windows XP's default settings were configured for ease of use and connectivity, not security, and Service Pack 2 only changes a few of those settings, unfortunately, so even with SP2 installed, Windows XP is still very unsecure and vulnerable to attack. Learn more about Windows XP's dangerous settings.
The default settings in GNU/Linux, Mac OS, FreeBSD and NetBSD aren't sufficiently secure either. To be sufficiently secure, you have several options. skip
I have two options for you, for securing - also called hardening - Windows: one, to make it more secure, and another, to make it sufficiently secure. But first, before editing Windows' registry as instructed in a security guide, a word of warning...
WARNING: Carelessness and honest mistakes in editing the registry can mess up, if not completely disable, your system. So pay attention and back up the registry before editing it, and if your data is on the same partition as Windows (not recommended), back up your data too.
Note: NTBACKUP is not installed by default in Windows XP Home Edition. If you want to continue using Windows XP Home even though it can't be made sufficiently secure (not recommended), install NTBACKUP using the instructions available at Q302894. If you don't have a Windows XP CD-ROM (for OEM systems), get NTBACKUP.MSI or ERUNT (Emergency Recovery Utility NT).
If you wish to keep using Windows, you have two options to harden or secure it:
If you only have a mild case of paranoia (you probably should have more - what I call a healthy paranoia) and just want basic, practical security, you may follow the instructions in one or more of the security guides in option 1. But I strongly encourage you to choose option 2 instead, to preserve your privacy and help secure the Internet.
And if you have a laptop / notebook or handheld, follow one or more of these security guides as well: skip
Windows XP comes with software and services that not only most users don't need and will never use, but unfortunately also pose serious potential threats to your computer's security and your privacy. I strongly recommend removing them from Windows.
XPlite and nLite, configuration utilities, give you the power to remove these threats, and even remove upgrades that go bad. Not only that, but they allow you to repair Windows as well. If a particular software or service gets corrupted, you can completely remove it, and then reinstall it, as uncorrupted as when Windows was first installed.
Plus they greatly reduce both Windows' memory requirements and the space needed for it on your hard drive. And if that's not enough, they also make it run faster.
If you have a healthy paranoia and want your computer to be sufficiently secure, first remove Windows' security threats either after installing Windows with XPlite, or better yet, before installing Windows, with nLite.*
Then reconfigure the default settings of the remaining software and services for security with one of the following security guides. (*nLite allows you to create a Windows installation CD that doesn't include the unwanted programs but does include the service pack and updates.)
Security and Privacy Guide
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