There was a time when beefing up the security of Windows involved buying a handful of additional applications, but Microsoft now includes these by default.
But while Windows 8 is the most secure version of Windows so far, not all of its security features are easy to discover, so follow our simple guide.
Tip 1: Windows Update
While it’s not technically a ‘hidden’ security feature, Windows Update is by far the most important one since it makes sure all the other security features are kept up to date. Microsoft regularly issues updates to fix security holes in Windows and Internet Explorer, so setting Windows Update to download and install them automatically is the best way to ensure your PC is kept protected.
Search for windows update from the Start screen and select Windows Update Settings from the results. When the Windows Update window opens, select the Choose how updates get installed option and make sure Install updates automatically is selected.
Tip 2: Windows Defender
The Windows Defender anti-malware application was already part of Windows 7, but the version included with Windows 8 is much more capable - Windows 7 users need to download the free Microsoft Security Essentials to get similar features.
Search for Windows Defender at the Start screen, select the application from the results and enable Windows Defender if it’s currently disabled. Click the Settings tab, then select Real-time protection in the left of the window and check that this is option enabled before clicking the Save changes button.
Next, click the Update tab and click the Update button to update Windows Defender’s malware definitions. If this is the first time you’ve used Windows Defender, it’s also worth performing a full system scan by selecting Full from the Scan options list on the Home tab and clicking the Scan now button.
Tip 3: SmartScreen
Windows 8 has a built-in malware filter called SmartScreen that protects your PC from online threats, from spam emails to phishing web sites, and much more besides.
Unlike in previous versions of Windows, this works independently from Internet Explorer and it shouldn’t be disabled - for obvious reasons. SmartScreen will display an unmissable on-screen warning when it detects potentially harmful activity.
Tip 4: Password-protected user accounts
Again, user accounts are hardly a hidden security feature in Windows 8, but since they’re the easiest way to keep your personal information safe on a shared PC, they’re worth setting up. They’re also a requirement for picture passwords and parental controls, which we’ll cover next.
Set up a password-protected user account by searching for accounts from the Start screen and selecting Add, delete, and manage other user accounts from the list of results.
A separate password isn’t required if your Windows 8 user account is connected to an online Microsoft account, but if you’re using a standalone ‘local’ account, click Sign-in options on the left and click Add under the Password section.
Tip 5: Picture passwords
If you don’t want to type in a password every time you use your PC, you can use a picture as a password instead.
On the Sign-in options screen opened in Step 4, click Add under Picture password and choose a picture from your PC to use as a password.
Once a picture has been chosen, you’ll be taken through the process of drawing three different (and memorable) gestures anywhere on it using the touchscreen, mouse or trackpad. You’ll then need to repeat all three gestures to log into your user account, but you can still use your usual password.
Tip 6: Parental controls
Windows 8 has sophisticated parental controls that let you limit what a child can do on a PC - when they can use it, what applications they can use, what web sites they can visit and so on. You can also monitor their usage to see how effective the controls are and update them, if necessary. Setting up parental controls is simple, but involves several steps, so see our complete guide for more information and check out the video above.