What is the difference between a User and an Administrator Account? When you get your brand new computer, or first install the new Windows operating system, there is just the one user account set up. This is the default administrator account. It allows you to do anything that the computer is capable of, but to run routinely through this account is somewhat dangerous. Instead, individual user accounts should be set up for the family, with more limited settings.
Why would you want to use individual user accounts? The limited user accounts don’t allow the user to do everything that the administrator accounts can do. Specifically, they are designed so that anything that requires administrator level permissions will not be allowed, and this may include software installs and other major system settings changes.
However, a person with an administrator account on the computer is able to enter their username and password when prompted. This gives parents the perfect tool to ensure that their children are not doing things that are unwanted on the computer, because they themselves will have to OK the action.
Perhaps more interestingly, user account control will also block unwanted actions occurring to the computer when you are already logged in as an administrator. This can be overcome by simply entering your password, but it means that malicious software cannot try to install itself without your permission. The level of control can however be lowered so that this is less intrusive, or so that it doesn’t happen at all.
It is important to remember that when you are using individual user accounts for the people who use the computer, they should all be password protected. Otherwise there is nothing to stop everyone from ignoring their own, permissions limited account and simply using the unlimited administrator account instead. This puts the computer at risk once again.
Individual user accounts are created through the control panel, under the ‘User Accounts’ menu. It is also here that the account’s level of permissions are set, and the passwords entered too. It is often a good idea if the main computer administrator holds a copy of all of the passwords to the accounts on the computer just in case it should be necessary to access them. Perhaps more importantly this then means that if your children forget their passwords, you can remind them.
Previous versions of Windows didn’t handle user accounts too well, instead limiting the ‘User’ account so much that there were many necessary things that a person with this type of account couldn’t do. This has now been solved in Windows 7 by allowing certain processes to run as system processes instead of local processes, essentially making even a ‘user account workable, where as it wasn’t before.
The use of individual user accounts not only increases the security of your system by limiting what permissions that your users have, but also allows you to have personalized settings for your children. When they have software that isn’t required by the rest of the family this is especially useful. All round, the benefits of having permission limited, individual user accounts are huge.