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User Accounts

You can create new users in a couple of different ways. You can use the Computer Management MMC Console, or you can use the User Accounts applet from the Control Panel. The User Accounts applet found in the Windows Control Panel gives you most of what you need for adding users to a simple system. For a network situation, you should use Administrative Tools that can configure the Active Directory (the identity management database for Windows Servers).

Literally Creating the Accounts

This part is simple. You can open the Control Panel, select the User Accounts and Family Safety option, and then select User Accounts. Or if you are working in Classic mode, you can just go directly to User Accounts from the panel, select Manage Another Account, and then select Create a New Account. You will have to choose a type of account: Standard User or Administrator. Standard User accounts are recommended if you are going to have others using the machine who you do not want to provide permissions to because they might pose a security risk (inexperienced users or children). After the account is created, you can change the password for it, change the picture, and establish Parental Controls (which you learned about in the last chapter).

A more advanced way to create an account is through your Administrative Tools, Computer Management (which opens the Computer Management MMC) console. You can also right-click Computer and select Manage to open this console. Using this method can give you a greater level of control over your accounts in that you can configure Group memberships, password settings, and profile/home directories all from a centralized location.

From here, you can expand Local Users and Groups, right-click the Users folder, and select New User (or select the Users folder and select New User from the Actions pane under More Actions).

Type in a username and full name—the description is optional (see Figure 3.1). Then enter a password and one of the following options to go with the account:

  • User Must Change Logon at Next Logon—The first time the user logs on to the system, she is asked to provide her own personal password, as opposed to the one you've assigned.
  • User Cannot Change Password—Forces the user to use the password you created.
  • Password Never Expires—With this option, the user never has to worry about changing her password.
  • Account Is Disabled—Makes it so that the account is temporarily inaccessible. This is a good option if a user account is going to go unused for an undetermined amount of time but you think the user might be coming back. You can disable her account as a preventative security measure but not delete it until you know the account will never be used again. This frequently comes into play in corporate environments as employees come and go (and frequently come back again).
    Figure 3.1

    Figure 3.1 Creating a new user account through the Computer Management Console.

Using Net User to Create Accounts

When I was in fourth grade, they taught us the programming language BASIC in an after-school program. We used simple command statements like these:

10 Print Hello
20 Goto 10

There's something oddly fun about seeing "Hello" scroll up and down the screen. Some of us just love the command prompt way of doing things. For many Windows gurus, they can just get things done more quickly via a command prompt, but I also have no doubt that for many vets it also goes back to those early days of BASIC and Commodore 64 programming. So, if you want to create a new user in Vista from the command prompt, you can use the net user command.

Start by opening a command prompt in elevated mode, as was discussed in Chapter 1, "General Tips and Tricks of the Masters." Then type net user /? to see your options. The /? tells Vista to list all the options you can associate with the net user command.

To try one example, type the following:

net user tim Ou812! /ADD

This creates a user named Tim with the password of Ou812!. To confirm this, open your User Accounts applet and see that this new account exists.

For more information on how to use the net user command see the Microsoft Knowledge Base article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/251394. And there are other uses for the "net" command, you can find here: http://www.chicagotech.net/netcommand.htm

Modifying Your User Accounts

Without going into a discussion of Active Directory and Vista, you have to know that modifying user accounts in this discussion involves the Vista-only angle. Obviously, Active Directory modification allows for more options, but the focus here is Vista.

From within the User Accounts applet, in addition to changing a user's password or picture, a sidebar is available from which you can choose one of the following:

  • Create a Password Reset Disk—You'll need a floppy drive or a USB drive to start the process. The concept is simple: You are asked for your password and then that is stored on your disk as a .psw file. In the event you forget your password, you can log on with your disk. Keep in mind that anyone can use the disk to log on so this is something you don't want to leave around for others to get a hold of. This password is only for your local system logon. If you log on through a domain controller into an Active Directory domain at work and you forget your password, you will need your network admin to give you a new one.
  • Manage Your Network Passwords—You can store passwords for networks or websites you visit through this option so Windows will log you on automatically when you visit those servers or sites. Just type in the computer name on the network or the URL and then enter your username and password. (Again, this is not for an AD domain, but it can be very helpful if you have a small peer-to-peer network with a member server and so forth.) The Vista Security Team (http://blogs.msdn.com/windowsvistasecurity/) also said:
  • Manage Your File Encryption Certificates—We will discuss encryption in Chapter 5, "Disk Configuration and Volume Tricks," but this option helps you manage smart card certificates or even personally created certificates for encryption. You can back them up in the event the certificate is lost as well.
  • Configure Advanced User Profile Properties—Profiles are basically your likes and dislikes for the system to store and remember when you log on. So when you sit down and log on, you see the mountain background but when another person logs on, he sees something else. If you don't use a network and just work off your own system, you have all your profile information stored on the local system. But if you move around from machine to machine, rather than reconfiguring a local profile on each system, you can configure a roaming profile. This means the profile is stored on an accessible server and when you log on, your settings are brought down to your system from that server. So, you can move around all you want and you still see the mountain background. But, if you log on and the profile you have isn't available (say, the server is down for maintenance), you will still be able to log on with a locally cached profile.
  • Change My Environment Variables—The most technical option of all in User Accounts is this one (shown in Figure 3.2). Environment variables tell your computer where to find certain types of information. You'll notice that there are user variables (for settings specific to users and their profiles) and system variables (which indicate locations of critical system resources). These variables can be edited or added to.
    Figure 3.2

    Figure 3.2 Environment variable changes.

    One reason for doing this can come into play when creating a boot CD (as we discuss in Chapter 8, "System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks"). Boot CD's generally use a variety of command line tools that are not located in the standard set of environment variable folders, so it's beneficial to edit the environment variables for the system so that when you want a tool, you do not need to navigate to the specific folder that holds that tool. You can type it from any folder location and the system knows where to look to find it.

    These options have changed somewhat from the past and so it's good to note the changes listed in Table 3.1, which was posted on Jason Conger's blog at http://blogs.msterminalservices.org/conger/
    . However, as Jason notes on his blog, it's important to bear in mind that these changes can cause problems with login scripts. Particularly scripts that have hard-coded paths.

    Table 3.1.—Changes in Environment Variables from Windows XP to Vista

    Before Vista

    In Vista

    Documents and Settings\
    All Users


    Documents and Settings\
    Application Data


    \Documents and Settings\






    \Documents and Settings\


Additional Options from the Computer Management Console

Although the majority of your settings can be found in the User Accounts applet, you can configure more advanced settings from the Computer Management console (or create your own console by typing mmc from the Search pane and then adding the snap-in Local Users and Groups). You can double-click any user and add the user to different groups or go to the Profile tab. From here, you can configure the following for a user:

  • Profile Path—Your local computer already has a local path for the profile. But if you want the profile to be stored elsewhere on a network drive, for roaming purposes, you can configure the Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path here. (UNC paths take the following form: \\servername\sharename\folder.)
  • Logon Script—Enables you to type the location of the logon script. These scripts can be helpful in performing all sorts of tasks, such as mapping your network drives. You might not be a scripting guru and that's okay—you don't have to be. You can find plenty of configurable free scripts on the Internet. For example, check out Don Jones' site http://www.scriptinganswers.com to learn more about logon scripts and other forms of scripting as well.
  • Home Folder Local Path—Even though users have a Documents folder, you might want to configure the location for another home folder for a user. This can be local or remote.
  • Home Folder Connect—If the home folder is remote, you can configure a drive letter for the connection so the user sees the folder as a personal drive letter in which she can store documents. That folder, if located on a server that is backed up daily, lets your users feel safe about their data.
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