If you have to share a computer with other members in your family or other staff at your office, I hope you have learned how to setup separate desktops so that someone else can't mess with your stuff!
If you don't know what I'm talking about and you have to continually battle with other users over a single computer, which means they leave stuff on the desktop or move things around so that you can't find what you need, then listen up, because I have a solution for you.
Microsoft Windows allows you to create separate accounts for each person who uses a computer. This capability not only provides a separate folder for everyone's My Documents, but it keeps each person's settings for Windows under separate profiles. This means that you do not have to use your daughter's shocking pink desktop as your desktop! Everyone can have their own environment in which to work. And more importantly, depending on the settings you apply to each account, you can set up the computer so that the individual users can only access their own documents and not view the documents saved in the My Documents folders being used by other users on the same system.
In this article, I'll show you how to setup individual desktops for each user who shares the same computer. I'll be using a system that is running Windows XP Professional, but the capability to set different user profiles has been around in Windows for a long time. So, if you are running a different version, click Help and read up on how to set passwords and separate logins for each user.
Now in order to setup new accounts on the same system, you will need to have administrative rights on the current system. If you are the default user, you should be the administrator of your system. If you're not, you'll will need to log in as the administrator. Check Help or your user manual for further details.
I am the administrator on my system, so I'll be setting up a new account.
First, here is my own, current desktop. I have it all setup the way I like to use it. If I wanted to allow someone to come over and use my system, I obviously wouldn't want them accessing my files or possibly moving things around on my desktop. So I'll give them their own workspace.
And for those of you who might be curious, in the image below I've pointed out the fact that I have moved my Quick Launch Bar over to the far left side of my screen. This allows me to max it out so I can keep my many, regularly used programs easily at hand. (Thanks to Herb Tyson for showing the value of that move!<wink>)
As you can see when I go into the Windows Explorer, I can click My Documents and it will show all the subfolders under my profile.
To further illustrate this fact, notice that when I move to c:\Documents and Settings, I can see all the user profiles currently on this computer. Granted, at the moment I do have a login for Greg, but since he hasn't needed to login to use my computer to date, he doesn't have his own profile created yet. Once he first uses the login I've provided for him, it will create a Greg folder under this directory.
To create a new user account, I click Start > Control Panel. Within the Control Panel, I locate the icon for User Accounts, as shown below. I click (or double click, depending on your settings...I have changed mine to allow for single click access to icons) on the icon to enter the User Account dialog.
Now in the User Accounts dialog box, which may also look a bit different if you have changed your default view or are using a different version of Windows, I click to Create a new account.
First I need to give the user a name. If this account was for my daughter Stacy, I would name this account Stacy. But since this will just be a general access account for anyone who might come over and ask to use my computer, I'll name this Visitor.
Now I need to choose how much access the user will be allowed. I definitely do not want any visitors to have administrative rights to my computer, because that would allow them to even lock me out of my own computer! So I check Limited. Under the option it explains the capabilities of these rights.
Then I click the Create Account button at the bottom of this screen.
As you can see in the image below, I now have three accounts on this computer. Greg and I are both listed as administrators who have full rights to work on this system. But the Visitor account is currently limited. I do want to add a password, however, just to make sure no one can access anything on the system without at least asking for the password. If you are creating accounts for different users, it's a good idea to give them their own password so other users can't access their information.
However, being the administrator, you will always be able to access and view any documents created under other accounts. So, if you are the parent and you are setting up separate accounts for the kids, not to worry. Even if they change their password, you can still access their folders to view their documents, should there be a reason/need to do so.
You'll notice in the image above, it shows that Greg and Dian's accounts are currently password protected, but the Visitor account does not yet have a password set. So I need to click on Change an account, in this same view.
I will see a list of the accounts and be asked to choose which account I need to modify. I choose the Visitor account. Now I move into the view below where I will enter a password, typed twice to ensure accuracy, and give a hint in case I should forget the password.
You can also choose the type of view that is displayed when users login...how they login. If you've worked in an office with Profiles, you may have used the more business-like format that displays a small box asking you to enter your user name and password. If you uncheck the Welcome Screen option, you will get that type of dialog box entrance. But I like the more friendly and colorful Welcome Screen, so I leave that checked.
Another wonderful feature is the ability to allow someone else to login to their own profile without you having to completely log off. By checking the Fast User Switching option, shown below, you can use this feature.
This is particularly great if you are working on a project and someone runs up asking to use the computer for a few minutes to access their desktop, possibly to retrieve a document. Then they will leave and let you get back to your work. If you log off, you'd need to login again and wait until all your settings return. Plus, when you log off, all your open programs will close. If you're in the middle of work, that can be very inconvenient. So it's much easier to temporarily logout using the Fast User Switching. This suspends your desktop and appears to log you out. But your settings have not entirely closed. The other user cannot access your desktop, but when they are done, you can return to your own desktop much faster because everything will return to where it was when you switched out.
I definitely recommend using this feature, if you are sharing...particularly if you are sharing with kids who always need to run up and grab something just when you're in the middle of your own work!
Okay, so here I am working away and my daughter drops by and asks if she can use my computer to do a little work or burn some CDs. If I'm not busy with my own work, I might just log off completely. But if I'm busy, I'll just use the Switch User button. To access this dialog, you need to click Start > Log Off. Then you'll be given the option of how you want to log off, assuming you provided that option in the main settings shown above.
Note that the shortcut to switch users is Windows + L.
The system suspends my account and switches back to the main Windows Welcome Screen that shows the names of all users who have accounts on this computer. Stacy clicks on the Visitor login and enters the password I give her for that account.
When that account opens, as you can see in the image below, it does not look like my desktop shown at the beginning of this article. She is moving into a new account, so her desktop looks like the original Windows desktop when you first install Windows.
Well, except for one program icon that appears because when I installed that program, I checked to allow All Users to have access to that program. An important point when installing your own software! If you don't want other people who may use the computer to access your software, make sure you check to allow it to be installed only for you. Then it will not show up in the Program Files for other users. However, if you do want everyone to have access, you would check the All Users option. Note that not all software gives you this option...it depends on the license agreement, which you should read!
Now Stacy can go into the computer and do what she needs to do. If she adds any files to the desktop or moves things around, or applies a different format or changes the desktop photo, her changes won't matter to me, because I won't see them when I return to my own desktop.
When she has finished doing what she needed to do, she will log off the system. That will return the system to the Welcome Screen. Now I can click my own account, enter my password and I will not have to wait for my system settings to be reset, because we used Fast Switching, so my desktop will just quickly come back to life.
And now, when I go into Windows Explorer and view the c:\Documents and Settings directory, notice that it now shows that a Visitor folder has been added.
Because I have administrative rights, I can go into her profile and access her document folder to view any documents she may have saved to the computer. Not that I need to...but if I did, I could.
However, notice in the image below, if she attempts to access my folder while she is logged in as Visitor...which does not have administrative rights...she gets a warning letting her know that Access is denied!
That's why if you have accounts on a system, you want to keep all your files under the My Documents folder. If you want to create a new folder, add it under that heading. Then other users cannot access those folders. Iif you created a new folder under c:\, they would not be protected by your profile settings, so anyone on the system could access those files.
If you share a computer, create separate accounts and password them! Then you won't have to worry about the grand kids coming over and messing with your documents or even changing settings. If they delete the printer settings under their own profile, that won't mean you need to do a lot of clean up within your own settings just to get back to work! Plus the kids can have fun designing their own desktop and you won't be subjected to look at it!<wink>