Program Access When Adding a New User

July 13, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Posted in Computers, Software | Leave a comment

Recently, a friend wanted to increase her computer security so added a new non-Admin user in Vista but couldn’t figure out how to get access to some programs. My response…

This issue doesn’t show up in Help stuff as it’s considered basic understanding. But it’s easily missed if you’ve been using one-user systems.

When you install software on a multi-user computer, it will usually ask you if you want to install it for all users or just this user. If you only had one user, you may not have seen this. But when you add a new user, it will then be missing the shortcuts to the programs.

It’s worthwhile knowing that the Start Menu is just a bunch of shortcuts or aliases to the software. The programs are all typically installed in Programs. (Program Files in XP) Same for everyone. Making the other programs visible for other users can be as simple as copying the start folder from one profile to another in the Users tree. (In XP, Docs and Settings)

You have to do this from the Admin account so you have access – the non-Admin account won’t be able to see the Admin’s users files nor access some of the folder locations. You can simply Change Users to jump back and forth.

You won’t find everything in the Start menu in one users profile as some are in All Users. You can move them from there to a users profile if you don’t want all users to easily access some programs.

Programs will also sometimes create a folder structure in Users for user specific files, like a browsers history and favorites. Decent programs will create this when you first launch them in a new profile. They may even ask if you want to copy another profile. But if not, it’s again just a matter of browsing the folders and copying them over from one to the other. It’s not always apparent where in the folder structure a specific program will stash it’s files. Under the User, it could be in App Data, Maker, Program, for example. Sometimes you have to look on their web site.

A few programs don’t work doing this. Thunderbird, for example, stores email in one place but the accounts in another. Other email programs are similar. This allows data shares with customized user profiles. You’ll have to explore a specific programs.

Explorer

If you don’t know how to access this stuff, it’s worth getting to know Windows Explorer. (No, not Internet Explorer) Windows Explorer has been increasingly hidden by Microsoft but is the the default file manager for Windows. If you want to learn how to do your own filing, it’s worth getting to know. Then you don’t need top keep everything on your desktop and you can tidy sometimes. XP moved Explorer into Accessories and in Vista it defaults to showing you just your Docs folders. But the other drives are there to browse.

To get the traditional view of folders in Explorer:
1) Click Start, Programs, Accessories
2) Right click on Windows Explorer and select Properties
3) Click the Shortcut tab.
4) In the Target box, add
/n, /e, C:\ (exactly like this)
after the end of explorer.exe
5) In the Start In box type C:\
6) Click OK.

Thus Explorer will open displaying the contents of the C drive by default, like older versions of Windows. If you keep all your data on D, replace the 2 “C”s with “D”s.

I also copy the shortcut to the desktop or the top of the Start menu as I have it open all the time. (I also customize it with tabbed views and on the desktop, drag custom toolbars to the sides)

It’s also worth going into the View, Tools menu and browse settings. Vista has a habit of forgetting it’s folder views though.

Security

The point of shifting to a non-Admin account for most computing is so that if a virus or similar is loaded or opened, it does not have Admin access and can’t install and serve some things. If you are running an Admin account, stuff can happen much more easily. (Control Panel, Users to check) Thus, it’s more important to use a non-Admin account for Internet programs than in using locally running programs like tax software. Very unlikely a tax program would download a virus-infected file, whereas ads served on a random web site could.

One of the reasons people don’t use non-Admin accounts more often is that some programs expect to be functioning in an Admin account so create a very large number of permission requests or simply don’t work properly in non-Admin accounts. Sometimes people will create a customized user account with a mid-range of permissions, like a “power user” but this is hidden from the front end of Vista. (The Windows 2000 style back end is there behind the front end of Vista, just as Unix is in behind the Mac front end)

If you do decide to use a non-Admin account, be sure to add it rather than change the one Admin account. There is a hidden Admin account but this is created during Windows install and many don’t know it’s password. You’ll still need Admin to change stuff.

This will have no impact on how seriously you take uninvited emails. It still requires a person to think and not open attachments from strangers or click on things that are unfamiliar. Non-Microsoft mail programs will show you the link you are about to click so you can much more easily tell if it’s an embedded link (The real link is inside the apparent link – phishing) or what the real email address is behind a name.

A secure email protocol is in development but has not been standardized yet. That should make a big difference in spam.

For security for Windows, here’s an article that’s updated periodically based on the latest testing:
http://windowssecrets.com/reviews/security-baseline/
(you can browse the side links for more specific recommendations)

Essentially – a hardware firewall to hide your system, a security suite, regular system updates, and a more secure browser than IE.

It should be noted that the Norton recommendation was widely disputed by many readers. Norton has become known as bloated and problem inducing. Many tech’s have had a lot of problems with suites as they can be so controlling and invasive, often causing conflicts. Many prefer targeted programs that are best of breed. This tends to use less system resources and yet be more effective.

For example, I use ESET NOD32 antivirus and the free Comodo firewall. Cheaper & a lighter load. Yet, I would not recommend ESET’s firewall nor Comodo’s AV. The same problem is true of most suites. Some good, some lame. It can also be noted that what was once recommended no longer is. Zonealarm Free was once highly recommended, now it’s hobbled and considered poor.

http://www.matousec.com/projects/proactive-security-challenge/results.php

Firefox is improved by use of free Add-ons like NoScript and Stop Autoplay. (not to mention great tools for downloading videos, feeds, backing up your profile, etc.)

I also recommend the feature rich LinkExtend or the simpler WOT browser add-on to warn you off of sites that are trouble (spam, viruses, etc.)
David

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