Securing Your Computers Part I: User Accounts
Every computer has a user database. Whether you are prompted to logon or not, by the time you’ve reached your computer’s desktop, you have identified yourself to the computer as a particular user on that computer. Users are defined in Windows through the Control Panel.
There are three ways that a user can logon to a computer.
- The first is automatically. This may be what you’re used to. Many times, if there is only one user on the computer, you will find yourself automatically at the desktop without having to tell the computer who you are.
- Method 2: Clicking an icon from the welcome screen. If there are multiple users on your computer and the Welcome screen is enabled in Windows, you may see a Welcome screen with your name next to a little icon. Clicking the icon will either send you to your desktop, or prompt you for a password and subsequently log you into your desktop.
- Method 3: Entering your full username and your password in a windows logon prompt. This is the most secure way as it requires you know both the user name and the password.
Every user account on your computer has an associated profile which contains all of the settings for that user. Whether it’s the wallpaper they’ve chosen, or the settings they have stored in Outlook, logging on as a different user than yourself will call up all of that user’s settings. The My Documents folder is also part of a user’s profile. Change users, change My Documents folders. Capiche?
- Most computers that I have come across belong to people who don’t know that you can have more than one user account on a computer. As a result, the entire family uses one account to store their information, which makes it impossible to keep things clean. Imagine the entire family living in one room in the house, sharing one bathroom, one shower, etc. It would be messy. That’s exactly what usually happens.
- Another bad habit that I see is when multiple user accounts are created on a given computer and no passwords are assigned to the accounts. This would be akin to Bobby leaving his door open so Susie can see inside his room. While the kids may want privacy from each other, they certainly don’t have the right to privacy from their parents when it comes to using the family computer.
- This would bring into play the third bad habit. Sometimes each user account is set to be an administrative account, which means the user has full control over what is installed and used on the computer. This right should be reserved for the parents or the designated owner of the computer. Creating limited users is going to help you keep your environment clean.
Fast switching, when used in conjunction with the Welcome screen, allows two, three, four, or even more people who have user accounts to have an open logon session at the same time. This means that you could login to your profile, then switch to another profile temporarily so someone else could retrieve their documents. The downfall to fast switching is that you have to teach everyone not to shut down the computer while someone else’s profile is logged in. Windows will warn you when you attempt to shut down while someone else’s applications are running.
CREATING A USER
In Windows, to create a new user, click the Start button, then Control Panel. Click Switch to Classic View in the upper left-hand corner. Find the Users icon and double click it. You will be able to walk through the basic setup of a user in this section. Once you have done so, you can easily share your computer with multiple people in the house without risking mixing up your settings and documents. You will also be able to password protect your account and their account if you desire, so there is absolutely no risk of your work being disturbed.
This will not protect you against viruses, however. Spyware, Malware, and Viruses infect entire computer systems, not just user profiles. Make sure you have adequate protection for your computer before you consider using it in any way.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.