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Safety tips for using Windows gadgets

Safety tips for using Windows gadgets

Gadgets are mini programs that provide information at a glance and offer simple desktop access to tools you use most often.

For example, you can use gadgets to display weather information, news updates, or traffic maps.

Gadgets are included in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. You can also download gadgets from Microsoft and on the Internet from other software providers.

Don't know what operating system you're running?

If your start button looks like this, you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7,

Start button in Windows Vista and Windows 7

If your start button looks like this, you are running Windows XP

Start button in Windows XP

To determine whether you are running Windows 7 or Windows Vista, click the start button Start button in Windows XP. In the search box type: winver and then press Enter. A dialog box displays the version of Windows 7 or Windows Vista that you are running.

Interested in a newer version of Windows? Learn more about Windows 7.

In Windows 7 you can move and resize gadgets all over your desktop. In Windows Vista, gadgets are lined up on the right side of your desktop.

A malicious gadget, like any malicious software, can be programmed to access your computer's files, collect your personal information, or show you unwanted content.

To download and use gadgets safely, take the same safety precautions that you take with any other program or file you download from the web:

Know and trust the source of the gadget

You can download gadgets for Windows from a variety of websites, such as Windows Personalization Gallery and Windows Live Gallery.

Remember that many websites, including Windows Live Gallery, host community-generated content, which is content that anyone can make available to others.

Do not download or run gadgets from an Administrator-level user account

When you surf the web, it's a good idea to use a limited user account, which is the default standard user configuration in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. When most programs attempt to perform a potentially dangerous operation that requires administrator privileges, Windows 7 and Windows Vista ask you for your consent before allowing that program to run. For more information, see Windows 7 Features: User Account Control or Windows Vista: What is User Account Control?

Use parental controls to keep children from downloading and installing gadgets

Windows 7 and Windows Vista include a powerful set of parental control features to help you monitor, manage, and administer your children's computer use.

You can use parental controls to block your children from downloading any file, including gadgets and other programs. For more information, see Windows 7: Parental Controls or Windows Vista: Set up Parental Controls.

Install up-to-date antivirus and antispyware software

Gadgets can contain malicious or unwanted software that tracks your activities or simply slows your computer. To help prevent downloading viruses, spyware, or other potentially unwanted software, use Microsoft Security Essentials, a no-cost download for Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

For more information, see the Microsoft Security Essentials website.

Keep Windows up-to-date

The easiest way to update your computer is to turn on automatic updating and use the recommended setting, which downloads recommended updates and installs them on a schedule you set. This is the best way to ensure you have the latest version of the gadgets that come with Windows 7 and Windows Vista, and that potentially vulnerable gadgets are disabled.

Uninstall Windows gadgets if you don't want to use them

You can also choose to discontinue the use of gadgets. Right-click the gadget, and then click Close Gadget.

In Windows Vista, gadgets run in Windows Sidebar. If you don't want to use it or see it, turn off Windows Sidebar entirely.

  • To turn off Windows Sidebar, right-click the Sidebar icon on the Windows Vista task bar Sidebar icon , and then click Exit.

  • To keep Windows Sidebar from automatically starting when Windows starts, right-click the sidebar, and then click Properties. Clear the Start Sidebar when Windows starts checkbox as shown, and then click OK.

    Windows Sidebar Properties screenshot