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This chapter is from the book

Configuring Windows Vista for Multiple Users

Windows Vista, like Windows XP and Windows 2000 before it, is a multiple-user operating system. That means it was designed to be used by multiple users, via the use of user accounts. You want to create a user account for each person using each computer on your network.

How Vista User Accounts Work

A user account in Windows Vista includes the following settings and information:

  • Username
  • Password
  • Picture
  • Account type

The first three items are self-explanatory. The last relates to the types of user accounts discussed previously in this chapter—Administrator and Standard. You should assign Administrator status only to those users who you trust to install new hardware and software, and change systemwide configuration settings.

Creating a New User Account

To create a new user account in Windows Vista, you must be signed in with an Administrator-level account. You then follow these steps:

  1. Open the Windows Start menu and select Control Panel.
  2. From the Control Panel, select Add or Remove User Accounts (in the User Accounts and Family Safety section).
  3. When the Manage Accounts window appears, as shown in Figure 9.1, click Create a New Account.
    Figure 9.1

    Figure 9.1 The Manage Accounts window—where you manage all your user accounts.

  4. When the Create New Account window appears, as shown in Figure 9.2, enter the username for this account, select an account type (Standard or Administrator), and then click Create Account.
    Figure 9.2

    Figure 9.2 Creating a new user account.

  5. The Manage Accounts window is now displayed again. Select the account you just created.
  6. By default, no password is assigned to the new account. So when the Change an Account window appears, click Create a Password.
  7. When the Create Password window appears, as shown in Figure 9.3, enter a password for this new account and an optional password hint; then click Create Password.
    Figure 9.3

    Figure 9.3 Adding a password to a user account.

That's it. The new user can now log in to this computer with her new user account, as well as further manage this account.

Managing Existing User Accounts

As you probably noticed in the previous section, user accounts are not assigned passwords by default; you have to add the password later, from the Change an Account window, which you access from the Manage Accounts window. As you can see in Figure 9.4, this window is where you and the other users on your system can edit various facets of your user accounts.

Figure 9.4

Figure 9.4 Editing settings for an existing user account in Vista.

What can you change about a user account? If you're an Administrator, you can change the username, password, picture, and account type, as well as set up Parental Controls and completely delete an account. (And you can do this for any account on this computer, not just your own.) If you're a Standard-level user, you can only change these things about your own account: username, password, and picture.

To make these changes, open the Windows Control Panel and under User Accounts and Family Safety select Add or Remove User Accounts. When the Manage Accounts window appears, select the account you want to edit. Then when the Change an Account window appears, select the option you want to change and proceed from there.

Switching Between Users

Windows Vista features Fast User Switching technology, which makes it easy to switch from one user account to another without rebooting your computer. All the open programs, documents, and settings for the first user are automatically stored when you switch to a second user; when you switch back, the first user's programs, documents, and settings reappear just as they were before the switch.

To switch from one user to another, open the Windows Start menu, click the right arrow at the bottom right of the menu next to the lock button, and then select Switch User. When prompted, select the user you want to switch to.

And here's a nice thing about Windows user accounts. Whichever interface, desktop, and file configuration one user makes sticks with that user. When you switch from user A to user B, the Windows desktop and settings change to reflect the user change. User B doesn't have to suffer with user A's crummy desktop background and color choices; the user account contains all the configuration settings for the given user.

In addition, each user account has its own Documents, Pictures, and Music folders. When user A opens his Pictures folder, he sees his own digital photos; when user B switches accounts and opens her Pictures folder, she sees her own photos. Windows is nice that way.

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