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Setting Up Windows Vista and XP Networks for Multiple Users

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Michael Miller explains why individual users need separate user accounts, provides a primer on Windows User Accounts, and finally shows how to set up both Windows Vista and XP for multiple users.
This chapter is from the book

In this chapter

  • Why You Need to Set Up Separate User Accounts
  • Understanding Windows User Accounts
  • Configuring Windows Vista for Multiple Users
  • Configuring Windows XP for Multiple Users
  • Where User Data Is Stored

It's possible for a small home network to exist with just a single user. For example, I have four computers in my house and one user (me); it's still beneficial for me to network all my computers together to share files and such.

It's more likely, however, that you have multiple users on your network. On a home network, that might be you, your spouse, and your kids. On a small office network, each worker in the office becomes a distinct user of the network.

For these different users to get full benefit of all network features, you need to set up each user with his or her own user account. A user account consists of a username and (most often) a password that identify a particular user. The operating system and all networked computers recognize the username, and then allow or deny access to network functions accordingly.

Why You Need to Set Up Separate User Accounts

User accounts are necessary if you want to establish a secure network—or even a secure computer, if it's used by more than one person. When user accounts are activated on a computer or network, only those users with a recognized user account can use the computer or network. Anyone without a user account is locked out.

In addition, file sharing can be made more secure when users are assigned user accounts. Yes, files and folders can be configured to be shared with anyone on the network, but you can better secure your data by enabling password protected file access. With password protection enabled, only those users who have a user account can access shared files; users are asked for their usernames and passwords before they are granted access.

Public file and folder sharing can also be by invitation—and those invitations can only be granted to people with established user accounts. When you choose to share a folder or file, you enter the name of the user with whom you want to share; Windows then sends that user an email with a link to the shared content and enables access for that user. Other users—including those without user accounts—are locked out.

In other words, establishing a separate user account for each user on your network is smart—and safe—computing.

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