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User Accounts

032 |

Keep Your Start Menu to Yourself.  The items in the Start menu come from two sources: one that is user-specific and one that is shared.  The Windows XP upgrade puts all existing Start menu items into the shared area.  If you delete any items from your account's Start menu, they are deleted from each user's Start menu.

To permit individualized Start menus, you must click on Start, select My Computer, and click the Folders toolbar button.  Next, navigate to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start menu. Right-click on that folder and select Copy.

Now right-click on each user's folder in C:\Documents and Settings and select Paste. You may be asked to confirm replacing items in the Start menu folder; answer Yes to all.  Finally, delete C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start menu.  Now each user has a personal copy of the Start menu and can freely delete unwanted items without affecting others.

Installing programs may add new items to the shared area.  To move these to your personal Start menu, right-drag them to the desktop and choose Move here.  Then right-drag them back to the Start button and again choose Move here.

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Avoid Simple File Sharing.  Windows XP's Simple File Sharing, which is enabled by default, is extremely limited.  For example, you can't configure a folder so that you and only you can access it remotely, or set per-user permissions as in Windows 2000.

To disable Simple File Sharing in Windows XP Professional, launch Windows Explorer, choose Tools | Folder Options, and click on the View tab.  Uncheck the box for Use simple file sharing (Recommended) and click OK.  Now when you right-click on a folder and choose Sharing and Security..., the Sharing tab will provide the detailed control found in Windows 2000.  Note that Windows XP Home users can't escape Simple File Sharing without upgrading to Windows XP Professional.

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Fast User Switching.  Fast User Switching can be a very handy feature. It lets you switch among users without logging off.  To enable it, open the User Accounts applet in the Control Panel, click on Change the way users log on or off, and check the Use Fast User Switching box.

Now when you select Log Off, a Switch User option appears that lets you quickly change to another account without forcing any users to close their programs.  (Holding down the Windows key and typing the letter L is a speedy shortcut to the user list on the Welcome screen.)

Beware of the trade-offs, though.  You should avoid running system-level utilities when another user is logged on, and if you're looking for the best performance, don't let idle accounts in the background tie up system resources.  The feature is best for those times when you simply need to get in and out quickly.  Also note that Fast User Switching does not work if your computer is a member of a network domain.

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Protect Your Password.  Windows XP lets you supply a hint along with your password.  If you forget the password, the Welcome screen offers the hint.  This hint is visible to anyone trying to log on to your system, so if you use a hint, choose one that's meaningful only to you.  Better yet (though only if the computer is not part of a domain), use a password reset disk instead.

To create one, open the User Accounts applet located in the Control Panel, click on your account, click Prevent a forgotten password in the task pane, and follow the prompts.  Now if you enter the wrong password, Windows XP will prompt for the floppy disk.  Just make sure you keep this disk in a safe place.

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Access the Administrator Account.  The Administrator account is not displayed on the Welcome screen.  To access it, press Ctrl-Alt-Del, release just the Del key, and press Del again.  This will display the Windows 2000-style log-on, from which you can now log on as Administrator.

Logged on as Administrator, you can control and demote all accounts (including the main user account).  And in corporate environments, the IT department often uses the Administrator account to log on to and manage employee systems.

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Windows 2000-Style Log-on.  The Windows XP Welcome screen provides any intruder with a list of user accounts, some of which may even offer helpful password hints.  To replace the Welcome screen permanently with the more secure Windows 2000-style log-on box, launch the Control Panel's User Accounts applet, click on Change the way users log on or off, and uncheck Use the Welcome screen.  (This will also disable Fast User Switching.)

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Protect Your Accounts.  For additional security, you can force users to press Ctrl-Alt-Del at log-on (to prevent Trojan horses from taking over your system) and eliminate the automatic display of the last user's name in the log-on box.  Launch Regedit and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System.  Find or create a DWORD value named Don'tDisplayLastUserName and set its data to 1. In the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon key, find or create a DWORD value named DisableCAD and set its data to 0 (zero).  Note that you must be using the Windows 2000-style log-on, as discussed in the previous tip.

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Set Up Ownership on Hard Drives.  If you use NTFS, you can designate who owns a hard drive.  This is useful on systems that have multiple user accounts set up.  You must be in the Administrators group to perform this task.

Click Start, then go to the Control Panel. Double-click Administrative Tools and then Computer Management.  In the console tree, click Disk Management.  Right-click on the drive for which you want to set up ownership, click Properties, then choose the Security tab.  Click Advanced, and then click on the Owner tab. Click on the new owner, then click OK.

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Add a Subfolder in the Start Menu Visible to All Users.  Normally, when you add a submenu to the Start menu, it's limited to your own account; others who log on can't see it.  But there's a simple way to add a Start menu subfolder visible to anyone who logs on.  You must be logged on as an administrator.

Just right-click on the Start button, select Open All Users, and double-click on the folder to which you want to add a subfolder (this will usually be Programs).  Right-click on any empty area within the box and select New, and then choose Folder.  Type the name of the new folder and hit Enter.

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