Decision on Microsoft Firewall and other Windows hardening advice

Windows hardening expert Jonathan Hassell looks at how to disable Microsoft Firewall, set permissions for shared Excel files and how to avoid re-installing Windows XP when moving to a new hard disk.

Windows hardening expert Jonathan Hassell offers his opinions on the issues that matter to you. In this collection of recent "ask the expert" questions, you can find out how to disable Microsoft Firewall, set permissions for shared Excel files and how to avoid re-installing Windows XP when moving to a new hard disk.

Read more expert advice on hardening Windows, or even pose your own question.


Disabling Microsoft Firewall

Could you give me a step-by-step tutorial on how to uninstall the Microsoft Firewall? What are the risks of uninstalling the MS Firewall and installing a 3rd party one?

You can't uninstall any Microsoft Firewall solution as they're built into the respective products: the Internet Connection Firewall for Windows XP Service Pack 1 and the Windows Firewall for XP SP 2. To disable the Windows Firewall, go to Control Panel, Security Center, and then disable the firewall under the appropriate section. If you are still running Service Pack 1, and you have any sort of choice in the matter, install Service Pack 2 immediately.

There are no real risks in using a third-party firewall, although I must question why you'd want to do that. The third-party firewalls have more features, sure, but the Windows Firewall in XP SP 2 does a fantastic job at its core mission and is really all you need if you have an anti-virus program, another firewall on your router or other edge protection, and so on.


Setting permissions for a shared Excel file

What are the steps to set permissions for a shared Excel file. Others can access the shared file but cannot save changes. They receive the error "read only file". What does this mean?

If you have a workgroup (read: non-domain) environment, then make sure your share has write access enabled. If you have a domain, be sure that the individual accounts or the group account of the users trying to save changes to the file have write access to the account.


Can I avoid re-installing Windows XP?

I'm trying to copy my old hard disk on a new disk. On the old disk I have installed Win XP, so I would like to copy the disk and use the new disk without re-installing Win XP. But when I use the new disk, Win XP starts and, before the login presentation, the system stops and I have to reboot the computer.

It sounds like one of two things is happening:

  • You've changed more about the hardware than just the new disk.
  • You didn't copy Windows properly to the new disk.

My suggestion is to take the old disk and run the Files & Settings Transfer Wizard (available off the Start Menu). You can copy files and personalised settings to a network drive, a thumb drive, another hard disk, or anything else. Then, on the new disk, reinstall a clean copy of Windows XP and then relaunch the wizard on the new installation. It will then fetch a copy of your files and settings, apply them to your new copy of XP, and you should be good to go.

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