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Setting Up User Accounts in Windows 8.1

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This chapter shows how to configure your Windows 8.1 computer for multiple users.
This chapter is from the book

In this chapter you discover how to configure your computer for multiple users.

  • → Understanding User Accounts
  • → Setting Up a New Account on Your PC
  • → Switching Users

Chances are you’re not the only person using your computer; it’s likely that you’ll be sharing your PC with your spouse and maybe even your grandkids. Fortunately, you can configure Windows so that different people using your computer sign on with their own custom settings—and access to their own personal files.

Understanding User Accounts

The best way for multiple people to use a single computer is to assign each person his or her own password-protected user account. For a given person to use the PC and access her own programs and files, she has to sign into the computer with her personal password. If a person doesn’t have an account or the proper password, she can’t use the computer.

Windows 8.1 lets you create two different types of user accounts—online and local. The default is the online account, which comes with some unique benefits.

Microsoft Accounts

An online account is linked to a new or existing Microsoft Account, and lets you synchronize your account settings between multiple computers. That is, you can sign into another Windows 8.1 computer with your Microsoft Account and see the same Start screen, apps, and favorites you have on your home computer.

In addition, when you use a Microsoft Account on your computer, Windows displays information from other Microsoft sites you use. For example, Windows displays the latest weather conditions in the Weather app, the latest news headlines in the News app, and the latest stock quotes in the Stock app—all based on settings you make when you configure your Microsoft Account. Local accounts cannot access this personalized data.

The good news is that you might already have a Microsoft Account. If you use Outlook.com or Hotmail for email, you have a Microsoft Account. If you use the online version of Microsoft Office, or Microsoft’s SkyDrive online storage, you have a Microsoft Account. If you subscribe to the Xbox Live online gaming service (or, more likely, if your grandkids do), you have a Microsoft Account.

If you don’t yet have a Microsoft Account, it’s easy enough to create one while you’re setting up a new user account on your PC. It’s free, and doesn’t take much time.

Local Accounts

The second type of account is a local account exclusive to your current computer. This is the only type of account you could create in older versions of Windows. In Windows 8.1, you can still use local accounts, even though online accounts are more versatile.

The chief advantage of a local account is privacy. With an online account, all your activities are linked to a central account, which Microsoft stores and manages. With a local account, your offline activities are not transmitted back to Microsoft.

Unfortunately, local accounts cannot provide personalized information for many Windows 8.1 apps. If you want to take full advantage of the News, Weather, Sports, and Stock apps, for example, you don’t want to choose the local account option.

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