Windows XP User Accounts

This tutorial assumes that you have set the Control panel to Classic View. To see how to do this, click this link (opens in a new window): Set the Control Panel to Classic View

If you have only one computer in the house, but more than one person who uses it, you can set up a separate user account for each person. That way, they can have their own settings, and customisation. For example, they can have their own desktop wallpaper that you won't see when you login to your account. Here's how to set up a new user account.

User Accounts

To get at the settings for the User Accounts, click Start and then Control Panel. From the Control Panel, double click User Accounts. This will bring up the following dialogue box:

The User Accounts Screen

In the image, we have two accounts already set up. We have an account called kc, and one called limited. Each has its own icon. But notice that one account has "administrator" next to it, and the other has "limited account". It's important to know the difference between the two.

Administrator Account or Limited?

An administrator account is one that has full rights over what you can do on the computer. You can install software, make changes to the whole of system, and generally create merry havoc, if you wanted to! A limited account, as its name suggests, limits what you can do to XP's settings. For example, if you're logged in as the administrator, you can change the password for all User Accounts that have been set up. You can even delete accounts, if you want. If you're logged in with a limited account, you can't do any of this. If you access the User Accounts screen on a limited account, you'll see this:

A Limited Account

If you compare the two, you'll notice that there is no option to change an account, or to create a new one.

It's a good idea, if you have children using your computer, to set them up with a limited account. That way, you control what they can and can't do to your PC.

There is another issue, as well. When surfing the internet, if your kids have full admin rights then all kinds of harmful programmes can be run in the background, unbeknown to them. On a limited account, these programmes won't have the rights to install themselves. In fact, some experts advocate that you yourself shouldn't surf the internet on anything but a limited account. If you need to install software, or to make system changes, then you can always switch users to the main Administrator account, and do so when you're offline.

If you have already set up another User Account, then check what rights are given. If they both say Administrator, and one of you is not a responsible adult, then you may want to change the rights that the other has.

Of course, there are plenty of responsible, security-conscious kids about who have parents or guardians who are a danger to the computer (and the rest of us)! If so, you may want to change their rights!

How to set up an XP User Account

To set up a new account, then, you need to be logged in with an Administrator account. Click on "create a new account" to see the following screen:

Type a Name for your new account

Type a name for the account, and click the Next button. You'll then see this:

Pick an Account Type

By default, the Administrator account is chosen. The bulleted lists tells you what you can do with this type of account. Click the Limited option to see the following:

The Limited Account Settings

As you can see, the full rights granted to the Administrator are not available to a limited user.

Whichever account you choose, though, click the Create Account button. You will then be taken back to the main screen. Click the icon for your new account to see the following options:

Options to Change

There are five options, in the image. Click an option to make your changes. Click "Change the picture", for example, the see the following screen:

Select a Picture for the Account

Select a picture from the list, and click Change Picture. Or you can click Browser for more pictures, if you prefer to use one of your own.

Switch Users

Windows XP allows you to switch between users with a click of a couple of buttons. To set this up, go back to your main administrator account page (click the Home button at the top). From the list, select "Change the way users log on or off." You'll see the following:

Fast User Switching

To allow you to switch users, make sure there is a tick in the box "Use Fast User Switching". Then click the Apply Options button.

What this allows you to do is to click the Start button in the bottom left of your screen, and then click "log off":

Log Off

Then click the Switch Users button to get back to the Welcome screen, where you can select a new account to log in to.

Switch Users

Without a tick in the box for Use Fast User Switching, nothing happens when you click the Switch User button above.

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