10. About Sharing a Windows XP Computer
When you install Windows XP on a computer (or start a new computer for the first time, with Windows XP pre-installed), you are walked through the process of creating a user account. This first user account is the Computer Administrator account for the computer. The initial account has administrative abilities such as the ability to create new users (or delete users) and maintain the Windows operating system, including making changes to the system settings and adding and removing software and hardware.
Because the subject of this book is creating a home wireless network, the steps and figures shown have been created for users of Windows XP Home edition. In almost all cases, however, the material is also appropriate for Windows XP Professional edition users.
When only one account exists on a Windows XP computer (the initial account created immediately after the installation of the Windows operating system), you are taken directly to the Windows desktop after the boot process. This behavior is also attributed to the fact that the initial account is created without a password. So, your system isn't really secure because it boots automatically to your one and only user account, which happens to have administrative capabilities. You specify the name for the account the first time you use Windows and walk through the process of adding at least one user account and activating Windows over the Internet. This means that the administrative account (the one you named) isn't protected by a password. It makes sense to create a password for your administrative user account to provide some basic security for the computer in terms of who can log on to your system. If other users need access, you should create user accounts for them.
If you go to the trouble of creating a password for your computer's administrator account, don't give your password to other users of the computer. Create an account for each user (which I suggest should be a limited account, which "limits" the user in terms of installing software and changing settings for other users). Each user can then decide if she wants to password protect her own account. Even limited accounts can create and change their own passwords.
Because the initial user account on the Windows system is created with administrative abilities, it falls to this user (you) to create any additional user accounts. If more than one person is using a computer, it makes sense for each user to have his own account. There are benefits to each user having his own account, without even factoring in security. For example, each user can personalize the Windows desktop including fonts, desktop background, and desktop icons.
A Guest account is also created when you install Windows XP on your computer. The Guest account is turned off by default. It is designed to give a user temporary access to a computer as a "guest" user. The Guest account can be turned on and off by a user who has a Computer Administrator user account. When the Guest account is turned on, the Guest icon appears on the Windows Welcome screen, and a guest can log on to the system without a password.
There are two types of user accounts you can create. You can create user accounts that are designated computer administrator (as your initial account is) or you can create accounts that are limited. Limited user accounts cannot add, delete, or edit user accounts. A limited user also cannot change systemwide settings or install software and hardware. You determine the type of user account when you create the account, and you do have the ability to change an existing account from computer administrator to limited if required.
Computer administrator A Windows user account that can change system settings, add and remove software and hardware, and create and edit other user accounts.
Limited user A user account without administrative abilities. This user can change desktop settings and change her password and user account picture.
Hopefully, you can see where I am going with this discussion. I suggest that you have only one account on the system with administrative abilities. Additional user accounts can be limited accounts. This arrangement provides the greatest amount of control over the system and also protects the Windows operating system from a user inadvertently changing a system setting or deleting a user account or important software. I'm certainly not advocating that you be a computer control freak, but having one user in "charge" of the system will cut down on potential problems related to user error.
User accounts can be designated as computer administrators or as limited.
If you are using the administrative account and create new user accounts, you must supply the name for those accounts (see Create a User Account).