Security has become a huge issue in today’s society.
Microsoft has done a pretty good job of adding security features to Windows XP,
but this OS can be made even more secure. WinGuard 4.0 can help tighten security on Windows
XP, as well as add layers of protection to older operating systems such as Windows
98 (which is basically wide open) and Windows 2000 Professional.

What’s WinGuard 4.0?

WinGuard 4.0 is a free piece of software produced by WGSoft. It protects your programs,
files, folders, and even Web pages. It also allows you to simply encrypt and
password-protect your personal files as well as block software installations
and Internet access.

You can obtain the product directly from the WinGuard Web page. WinGuard
works with Windows XP/2000/Me/9.x and comes in two versions: Basic and Premium.
The Basic version is free and gives you the ability to:

  • Lock up
    to 25 common applications.
  • Use a
    password timer to set how long users have to enter the password to access
    a locked application.
  • Hide
    access to the WinGuard configuration tool.
  • Lock
    Windows features such as The Desktop and My Computer.
  • Lock files
    and folders.

The Premium version includes all of those features as well
as preconfigured locking for a total of 50 applications; the ability to create locks
for your own applications; and the ability to prevent users from installing
software on their workstations. Pricing information for the Premium version is
available at WGSoft’s Online

For the purposes of this article, we’ll just look at the
Basic version. The file, wgpro.exe, is only 1.56 MB, so it will download pretty
quickly. After you download the file, run it. WinGuard installs just like
any other Windows-based software you’ve ever used. Just follow the on-screen
wizard and you’re done.

Using WinGuard Pro

To start WinGuard, click Start | Programs | WinGuard Pro 4.0
| Setup Tool. You’ll then see the Key icon appear on your taskbar, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

WinGuard runs from your taskbar.

To configure WinGuard, right-click the Key icon and select
Setup. You’ll then see the screen shown in Figure

Figure B

You customize WinGuard’s features here.

By clicking the links in the Control Panel blocks, you can
customize how WinGuard secures your system. For example, let’s say that you
want to password-protect access to Windows Media Player. Click the Program
Protection link in Control Panel, select Windows Media Player, and click Apply.

When users try to access the protected file, a pop-up similar
to the one in Figure C will appear
by the taskbar. The user can access the program by clicking the pop-up and supplying
the proper password. The pop-up will disappear in the amount of time you specify
in the Password Timer box in the Settings area in Control Panel. You can also change
the default passwords in Control Panel.

Figure C

Users can’t access programs without the proper password.