The internet may well be an invaluable resource of chat, advice, entertainment and badly-framed photographs of people's pets, but it's also a pretty dangerous place. If an unsavoury type can spot a way into your PC via the web, chances are he'll use it. That's why Windows Vista has been built from the ground up to ensure it runs only the software you want it to and to keep a constant eye on exactly what's trying to set up camp on your hard drive.
Not all threats are online, though, which is where the Windows Vista Parental Controls come in. This new feature helps you control and log your kids' computer usage and ensure they're not exposed to stuff that they shouldn't be.
A brand new addition to Windows, User Account Controls keep an eye on what's being accessed, and steps quickly in the way of anything with a question mark over it. It'll then present you with a prompt asking if you're happy to proceed, which involves either just hitting 'Continue' or entering an Administrator password if you've set one.
This applies to everything, from installing drivers for hardware devices, to downloading and running programs from the web, and even accessing certain essential elements of Windows Vista.
Surf better than ever before
The all-new version of Microsoft's venerable web browser, Internet Explorer 7 is the best yet. Its slick new interface integrates seamlessly with the sharp design of Windows Vista, both slimming down to a simpler, more intuitive look and feel, and also bundling in tools to help you browse the web the way you want to.
Also, and more importantly, Internet Explorer 7 is safer than ever, with a team of new software doormen equipped to prevent potential online threats from finding their way on to your computer. If their names aren't on the list, they're not coming in.
Listen to the music
Anyone who's used a PC for a little while quickly accumulates a library of digital music numbering in the thousands. And because to err is human, it's very difficult to keep track of what songs you have on your PC, who sang what, and what on earth that track that used a live swan as a percussion instrument was called.
For its eleventh incarnation, Windows Media Player has undergone a near-total revamp in order to ensure caretaking your ever-growing music collection is a pleasure and not a chore. Among its many improved features are integrated web browsing support to view online music stores and the ability to share your music library across other networks. Your music doesn't have to stay on your PC. If you've got an Xbox 360 on the same network as your PC, it can remotely play back music and photos from your Windows Media Player library.
If your PC has Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate Edition, which include Windows Media Center, the Xbox 360 can even play back your movie collection as well, bringing the media prowess of your PC into the living room. Windows Vista lets you know when it's detected any media playback device on your network, and asks you if you want it to access your music, movie and photo library, should you wish to view a slideshow or watch a film. It's all so easy with Windows Vista.
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