Manage Users in XP

Before you start

Objectives: learn to create new users, change passwords and edit other properties for existing users. We will work with local user accounts. For advanced user management go to Local Users and Groups Management.

Prerequisites: before you read about user management, you have to be aware of what a user account actually is.

Key terms: account, user, password, new user, user management, local user


User Accounts Applet

If the computer is a standalone workstation or a member of a workgroup, we can use the User Accounts applet in the Control Panel to easily create user accounts and modify user account properties. To open User Accounts applet go to Start > Control Panel > User Accounts.

User Accounts Applet

Image 167.1 – User Account Applet

The User Accounts applet lists common tasks at the top of the windows, such as Change an account, Create a new account, and Change the way users log on or off. Accounts are listed at the bottom of the applet.

Creating New Account

To create a new user, we have to click on Create a new account, and we need to type a name for the new user account.

Account Name

Image 167.2 – Account Name

On the next window, we will have to choose an account type. We have two options:

  • Computer administrator – with the administrator account we have the ability to make system wide changes, create, change and delete accounts, install programs and access all files.
  • Limited – with the limited account we can only make changes to our own account settings, view files that we have created and files in Shared Documents folder. We will not always be able to install programs.

Account Type

Image 167.3 – Account Type

Anders is a computer administrator, so we will choose that option and click on Create Account. Notice that now we can see Anders Parker’s account in the list of the user accounts.

Anders Parker Account

Image 167.4 – Anders Parker Account

User Management

In User Accounts applet we can perform basic user account administration tasks, such as add or delete users, change passwords and modify account capabilities. To modify properties for specific account, we can select it from list, or we can click on the Change an account option, and then select an account that we want to change. In this case we will change the properties for Kim’s user account.

Kim Verson Account

Image 167.5 – Kim Verson Account

Notice that Kim Verson’s account is configured as Computer administrator, and that it doesn’t have a password. To create a password for this account, click on Create a password.

Password options

Image 167.6 – Password Options

We have to type in a new password, and then type it in again to confirm it. We also have to type in a hint for our password in case we forget it. When we click on Create Password button, Kim Verson will have password protected user account.

We can also change Kim’s account type. We don’t want her to be computer administrator anymore. To do that, let’s click onChange the account type option, select Limited option, and click on Change Account Type button.

Kim Verson Limited

Image 167.7 – Account Type

Guest Account

To enable Guest account, select Change an account option, and pick a Guest account. In this case, Guest account is turned off. There aren’t many configuration settings that we can change for the Guest account. Basically, we can just turn it on or off.

Guest Account

Image 167.8 – Guest Account

Logon and Logoff Options

We can also use User Accounts applet to change the way users log on or off to the computer. Notice that currently we are using the Welcome screen for users to log on to this computer. If we use the Welcome screen for logging on we will see all user names for accounts that are currently active on our computer. This is not as secure as traditional log on, because everyone can see all user accounts that are active on the computer. Because of that, here we can select to use traditional log on method. But, if we do that we will not be able to use Fast User Switching feature anymore.

Logon Options

Image 167.9 – Logon Options

Local Users and Groups Snap-in

For advanced user account management we will use the Local Users and Groups snap-in which is located in Computer Management console. We can find the Computer Management console in Administrative Tools (in Control Panel), or we can right-click on My Computer icon and select Manage option from the pop-up menu. Either way, the following window appears:

Local Users and Groups

Image 167.10 – Local Users and Groups Snap-in

We have to browse to Local Users and Groups. With this tool we can create users and groups, assign group membership and manage user and group properties.

Creating New Account

To create a new user account, click on Users folder, then in Action menu select New User… option. We can also right-click on Users folder, or we can right-click on the right side of the window, where all users are listed, to get the same option.

New User 1

Image 167.11 – New User 1

New User 2

Image 167.12 – New User 2

Now we need to type in the user name. Ally Anderson will use this account, so we will type in aanderson as a user name, and Ally Anderson as her full name. We need to type in Ally’s password too, and then confirm it by entering it again.

New User Menu

Image 167.13 – New User Menu

By default, user would have to change the password at the next logon, and this is the most secure choice. When Ally logs on for the first time she will be forced to change her password to something different. In that way only she will know the password. If we clear the ‘User must change password at the next logon’ checkbox, we can select ‘User cannot change password’ or ‘Password never expires’ option. We would do that in case if we have more users that are using the same user account. Here, we can also disable an account if we want to. We would do that, for example, in a case when a user is not going to use that account right away, or he is not going to use it for a long time. In this case we will select that a user must change password at the next logon, and we’ll click onCreate button to create her account, and click Close to close the New User menu. When we look into the Users folder, we can see the new account for Ally Anderson.

User aanderson

Image 167.14 – User aanderson

User Management

Using the Local Users and Groups snap-in we can easily edit user settings. For instance, if a user forgets his/her password, we can easily set new password for him/her. To do that, we right-click the user account and select Set Password… option.

Set New Password

Image 167.15 – Set New Password

When we select ‘Set Password…’ option we will get a warning that we should use this feature with caution. This is because if a user has, for example, encrypted files, he/she won’t be able to access them any more.

Password Warning

Image 167.16 – Password Warning

If a user know his password, he should log in, then press CTR+ALT+DEL and then click Change Password. In our case we will click on Proceed button for now. We need to type in the new password and then confirm it by typing it again.

Set New Password

Image 167.17 – Set New Password

If we have set up account lockout policy, to three log on attempts for example, then it might happen that the user account is locked out, because the user entered wrong password too many times. To unlock a user account, we need to right-click the user account, select Properties, and clear the ‘Account is locked out’ checkbox. Then, we have to select ‘User must change password at next logon’ option. This will force the user to change his password when he/she logs on again.

We can also easily rename an account. We simply right-click on the account and click Rename. We can also change the full name by clicking on accounts Properties.

If we know that some user won’t log on to the computer for a while, we can disable his account to prevent anyone to log on using that account. To do that we have to right-click a user account, select Properties, select ‘Account is disabled’ option and click on the OK button. You will notice the icon change on the user that we have disabled. When the user returns we simply clear the ‘Account is disabled’ option to re-enable the account.

When we create a new account we should always set a password to protect the account. The password should not be something easy to guess (for example, user name). We should always force the user to change the password at the next logon. We should also disable accounts that won’t be used for a while. If a user leaves and is replaced by someone else with similar access needs, we should rename the existing account (rather then deleting the account and creating a new one).

Remember

For user management in XP we can use User Accounts applet or Local Users and Groups snap-in. The User Accounts applet can be used to change an account, create a new account and change the way users log on or off. For advanced user account management we will use the Local Users and Groups snap-in.

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