Home > Windows > Setting Up Vista for the Family Setting Up Vista for the Family Submitted by mikemuch 2007-08-08 Windows 50 Comments Got a computer that’s shared by the whole family? Or a computer in an office that has to support more than one user? Vista has a much stronger user accounts feature than XP. Here’s how to set up Windows Vista so that everybody’s happy. About The Author Eugenia Loli Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker. Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 50 Comments 2007-08-08 10:51 pm Almafeta That’d never have worked in my family. My little brother used to reinstall XP (formatting the hard drive in the process) rather than be a non-administrator… 2007-08-08 11:08 pm rx182 Hmm. Windows XP user accounts always worked fine for me. I create limited accounts for other people like my gf to make sure they can’t screw up the computers I set up. It’s really easy to do. You just create them a limited account and give them permissions on some directories if it’s really needed (like for software that store their settings in their own directory). It’s trivial and it works. No virus, no spyware, no adware, etc. Oh, and no need to reinstall Windows once in a while if they do things you told them to avoid 😉 “It just works” 2007-08-08 11:45 pm butters In most parts of the developed world, the family computer is going the way of the family telephone. That is, the way of the dodo bird. Just 10 years ago, a basic PC would run $2000 easy, Internet access was slow and limited, and home networking wasn’t widespread. Today, a family can afford four computers for the same price, and they’re a lot more central to our daily lives. Simply put, the easiest way to make everybody happy is to give the gift of a personal computer. With one memory upgrade along the way, today’s PCs can be expected to last at least 4-5 years for all but the most intensive applications. By that time, the family computer might actually reincarnate in the form of a home terminal server, complete with NAS and DVR capabilities. In this setup, system images can either be private or shared according to the family’s particular needs. 2007-08-09 4:41 am jayson.knight “Today, a family can afford four computers for the same price, and they’re a lot more central to our daily lives.” Fantastic, then I’d have 4 machines to administer, plus 4x as many moving parts that could fail, plus 4x the number of licenses to buy for all the software they need. Virtualization is a better option, but still doesn’t eliminate the need for more software licenses. Given that most families only need a machine for web surfing/email, one could suffice, or 2 at the most. Anything beyond that is just asking for trouble from the ‘average’ family. 2007-08-09 9:55 am WereCatf Wouldn’t work in my family, but then again, maybe we’re not “average”? It’s just that my brother plays games a lot and does a lot of IM’ing so he sits in front of the computer of the day. No one else would get the chance to use it. My sister, well, she doesn’t play games but she too is IM’ing all the day. And then my mom..well, she does nothing else than take care of her bank account, but she doesn’t want to be disturbed while at it. So, she too has a PC of her own. 2007-08-09 12:18 pm butters I’d have 4 machines to administer Administering four machines vs. administering four people contending for one machine. What a dilemma. It must take a system administrator to think that administering a computer is harder than administering a family. 4x as many moving parts that could fail In which case three computers would still be operational. Don’t you hate single points of failure? 4x the number of licenses to buy Paying four times for the same software doesn’t sit well with me either, so I don’t buy software licenses. It’s a lifestyle thing, like choosing home cooking over eating out. Cheaper, healthier, and tastier. Brings the family together. It still takes a village no matter how much the technology changes. We might as well pitch in rather than piss our money away on processed foods and proprietary software. It’s not healthy. We shouldn’t be living this way. Edited 2007-08-09 12:34 2007-08-10 9:48 am gustl Which tasks do you and your family have to fulfill which would need software you can’t get for free (legally). I am doing everything home-multimedia except video editing, and I have only free of charge software running. In detail I do: – office (including a diplomal theses, e-mail, …) – image manipulating (including panorama generation) – music editing (cutting, cross-fading,…) – music score setting – watching DVDs and TV – web browsing 2007-08-09 9:50 am Havin_it Realistically mate, it’s a very small percentage of families that have that kind of cash to chuck around on computers, even in our beloved First World countries. Even one PC comes pretty far down the bill after food, clothing and education expenses. 2007-08-08 11:00 pm Ventajou That article focuses on a single computer. I have had several computers running XP at home for a couple of years now with no virus, spyware or messed up system. Everyone has a regular domain user account and I have an old system running as domain controller. Then for the filtering, a recent hard drive crash gave me the chance to switch from IPcop to Clarkconnect community which seems to be doing very well. A post on their forum explains how to hack a few files in order to have different filtering rules according to the user. It’s involving but in the end you don’t have to clean the spyware on everyone’s computer once a week. 2007-08-08 11:06 pm poundsmack ” Here’s how to set up Windows Vista so that everybody’s happy.” get a mac 2007-08-08 11:08 pm sappyvcv Translation: Wah, I’m a bitter mac fanboy that has nothing but negative comments to contribute. 2007-08-09 1:36 am poundsmack actualy if you have ever seen ay of my posts prior to this one they are usualyrather insitefull. this, on the other hand, was an opportunity that i was not going ot let pass. besides if i hadn’t done it some linux user would have 2007-08-09 4:14 am raver31 Damn, he beat me to it. I was just about to mention that all families should dump all their aquired Windows knowledge, all their personal settings and most of their software, just to run Linux. Linux is a multi-user system done right, however, it is not for every family. If the Griswalds want to use Vista, then so be it. 2007-08-09 11:00 am Joe User Man, get a life…We don’t care about Linux, it’s a thread about Vista. When there are discussions about Linux, we don’t ask you to use Windows instead because it is more secure. Good luck with “Linux”. 2007-08-09 3:51 pm MollyC ” was just about to mention that all families should dump all their aquired Windows knowledge, all their personal settings and most of their software, just to run Linux. “ Why is it that every single Windows thread has to have Mac and/or Linux advocates invading it saying “Dump Windows and switch to Linux/Mac?” It’s nearly never the case that a Mac or Linux thread has Windows fanboys invading it saying to dump Mac or Linux. This is a Windows thread. Save your Linux advocacy for an appropriate thread. Edited 2007-08-09 15:53 2007-08-09 4:27 pm Patten Linux and Mac advocates are always pleading for people to dump windows because we know there is a better alternative to windows. I am sure we come across as annoying as Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, or Baptist, but we see and feel the pain that windows users go through and have found a cure for all that pain: Linux for those of us to poor to own a Mac, and Mac for the people with money. Windows users never post on Mac or Linux forums because most windows users are to tech stupid to figure out how to post or don’t even know of a Linux or Mac forums. Also the windows users that are tech-smart know that Mac and Linux users are lost causes. 2007-08-09 5:44 pm Flatline “Windows users never post on Mac or Linux forums because most windows users are to tech stupid to figure out how to post or don’t even know of a Linux or Mac forums. Also the windows users that are tech-smart know that Mac and Linux users are lost causes.” Great…that will change a lot of people’s minds. Insulting someone is not exactly the most effective way of changing their views, and frankly, it makes the rest of us who use *nix/mac look bad. Oh, and by the way, some of the most brilliant tech people I have ever worked with are Windows users; not fanboys, but users. 2007-08-09 6:00 pm netpython some of the most brilliant tech people I have ever worked with are Windows users; not fanboys, but users. And i thought google uses linux:-) 2007-08-09 5:32 pm Mellin i’ve seen windows users troll mac threads and linux threads 2007-08-09 7:31 pm raver31 It’s nearly never the case that a Mac or Linux thread has Windows fanboys invading it saying to dump Mac or Linux. Well…… YOU are always there ! But besides, my post was sarcasm, clearly it went straight over your head. 2007-08-11 4:03 am MollyC Well…… YOU are always there ! I never advocated dumping any OS for another. And I normally stay out of Linux threads. But besides, my post was sarcasm, clearly it went straight over your head. oops, my bad. There’s so much idiocy written on the web that it’s easy to mistake sarcasm for a true believer’s idiocy. :p (Many a slashdotter would write what you did with the literal intent of the words. ) Edited 2007-08-11 04:06 2007-08-09 2:36 am flanque Except when it doesn’t run some “must have” Windows app. Fanboi.. 2007-08-08 11:13 pm Hands I was disappointed to note that the author set his own account as “Administrator.” For someone who took the time to write an entire article about the proper use of user account features, I would expect him to “take advantage” of the UAC to do administrative work or at least use a standard user account for the majority of computer use. I know that it is possible to run Windows, Linux, or other operating systems with root access without getting a hosed system, but I had higher expectations due to the subject of the article. 2007-08-08 11:37 pm Janus Even though his account has administrative privileges, the programs he run using it doesn’t. The user has to authorize an elevation of the privileges of the individual program for it to gain “root access” to the system. Until then, as far as the program is concerned, it’s running on a limited account. 2007-08-09 3:08 am google_ninja Vista works a little different with that then the UNIX way. With MAC based security, there is no superuser, there are only users with various priviledges. Running as administrator in Vista will still give you UAC prompts, the only difference is you just click the authorize button instead of selecting an admin account and entering the password. 2007-08-09 6:12 am Soulbender I was disappointed to note that the author set his own account as “Administrator. You are thinking of how it worked in XP. There it would have been a stuid thing to do but Vista’s UAC works differently (or so i’ve been told). 2007-08-09 6:57 am Googol I am quite sure it does, although I can’t be bothered to look too much into it. For example, you cannot play certain games other than with Admin-rights using Punkbuster. Even so running them in an Admin account with admin rights, you have to authorise the launching of the games every time. 2007-08-09 1:29 pm FreakyT I was disappointed to note that the author set his own account as “Administrator. In Vista, an “Administrator” account is basically akin to an account that can use sudo in Linux. Programs are run as regular users, and only gain administrator access if it is explicitly granted. 2007-08-09 1:34 pm netpython Then what is the difference between home premium and ultimate? home premium: admin dropping privileges when issuing commands ? ultimate: user suing to root? 2007-08-09 3:02 pm FreakyT Then what is the difference between home premium and ultimate? home premium: admin dropping privileges when issuing commands ? ultimate: user suing to root? What? Both Home Premium and Ultimate (and all the other editions, except that useless “Starter” one) have the same UAC, and all are closest to a user suing to root when clicking “Allow.” 2007-08-09 3:33 pm netpython My bad i remembered the difference between XP home and pro. 2007-08-08 11:18 pm sonic2000gr Without discussing Parental controls (I have never used this stuff, don’t know much about it), how is the information in this article any different from XP? What is so different in Vista plain user accounts, other than they are discussed a lot because of the UAC and the “administrator who is not really an administrator” thing? The ability to create standard user accounts was already there in XP and no (home) user probably used it. Why? 1. Ignorance (the user is never prompted during setup to create a standard account for everyday use, and neither is reminded afterwards. It seems XP shows a lot of annoying “balloons” but never the right ones) 2. Most programs will not work without administrative rights. Why? Microsoft tolerated this behaviour from third party developers. This was exaggerated by the fact previous 9x version had no concept of user accounts with different rights. Developers just continued on this ‘default’ model.Users quickly found out they would be in trouble by standard user accounts. So how is this different in Vista? Unless the policy is changed at the developer level, we will not see much improvement. Sure, Office works, Explorer works and a few other programs work. But a FEW. IMHO the UAC thing is Microsoft’s way of signaling the industry there is a change coming in the user management and the default model of user accounts. UAC itself is ugly and pretty much useless after a while (everybody simply clicks) but it is a sign for the things to come. Vista is an in between version, guess Microsoft will have it right by the next version. The *NIX crowd got this right from the beginning. Microsoft is plagued by initial bad design and the ugly backwards compatibility… 2007-08-08 11:42 pm JonathanBThompson Indeed, options on accounts have always existed, with fine-grain details, on all Win32 systems that were derived from the NT codebase, which includes NT 3.1-4.0, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 2003 Server and Vista. It’s correct that Microsoft didn’t enforce that developers take care of using security-aware installations and regular modes of running, and that’s true as well for software that never ran on the Win9x codebase (Windows 95-ME) I suspect largely because Win9x was the majority of buyers of Win32, where most applications that might not run in a work environment that needs to be controlled were run. If you developed for something NT-based, and then wanted to use that for 9x, where the NT-based stuff had proper security modes setup, it simply wouldn’t work as-is on 9x, and thus, in a lot of cases, the lowest functional common denominator (9x, which ignores all API things that use security keys) ruled. Thus, we have the mess we have today: a pattern where most users and software pointedly ignore the existence of XP-provided security, because people previously also used their software on 9x-based systems, or still are, and that base of 9x-based machines still represents a fairly large userbase that’s in use. I know my oldest brother is still sufficiently happy using Windows 98 on his system, and since his needs haven’t changed, neither has his OS. In that respect, Apple had a big help with the major transition from OS 9 to OS X, because there simply wasn’t that much backwards compatibility, and simultaneous compatibility for software to aim for, where people expected things to be notably different, and so did developers. 2007-08-09 10:23 am Havin_it Exactly right. I admin two XP PCs at work and when I took the job on, I went non-admin with them. For most apps this wasn’t a problem, but there were two that gave me massive headaches: 1) Office 97. Okay, this is pretty excusable; Win NT was pretty much only marketed for servers and enterprise workstations (with a hard-workin’ enterprise admin) back when this came out. Until the office decide to invest in a this-century office suite, every time we reinstall these boxes I refer to two pages’ worth of hack notes to get MSO97 working for non-admin users. 2) Norton Internet Security (2006). Most of the app was OK (the massive resource hogging notwithstanding), but LiveUpdate not so. I tried every trick in the book to get it to run as a startup task with Admin privileges, but everything failed. I (or other Admin-level person) wouldn’t be available at the start of every day to login and get updates, so Norton had to go. A good list of other offenders is here: http://www.pluralsight.com/wiki/default.aspx/Keith.HallOfShame Edited 2007-08-09 10:25 2007-08-09 3:15 am google_ninja The sign of things to come was the old NT user accounts you were talking about. UAC is what came, albeit with some clunkyness and rough edges. If you actually read up on it, it is an incredably well designed system. The problem is, as you mentioned, with 1-3 alerts per admin action you want to take, people will simply dismiss it. It will get better as soon as windows developers start using the APIs that have been available since win2k instead of the legacy single user stuff. And I hope and pray MS will work on not getting in your face so much in later versions. Until then, I use TweakUAC(http://www.tweak-uac.com/), which turns off most of the prompts for the admin user, while still having the rest of UAC enabled (the service policies, safe mode for ie7, etc) 2007-08-08 11:35 pm matthekc I could complain about Vista and leave no good remarks but that wouldn’t be fair. The UAC works if the user is literate and security conscious. That being said more setting than on and off would be nice. My friends and family who run vista say it is really stable. Of course you need a gig or more of ram and only can have Vista supported hardware. The parental controls the author speaks of sound really nice and very helpful. Vista costs hundreds of dollars it should come with so many helpful tools. The Drm and other Microsoft actions both windows related and just general business are extremely off putting. The new interface is shiny and can tilt windows. The real question is if the good out weighs the bad and in my opinion it doesn’t. 2007-08-09 12:11 am dtiziani Article called “Setting up OsNews for Thom Erva’s likes” And the first comment would be: “Hey, I’m thom! If I like you, no harm, If I don’t, You’ll mod you -500, ’cause you know, I can’t take criticism and don’t believe in democracy for the users moderating comments for themselves.” And you know what? I would mod up this comment if I could! 2007-08-09 4:18 am Drift3r There was a app called Shared Computer toolkit that MS had which you could freely download and install onto Windows XP Pro computers. It would ( along with a few other tweaks ) pretty much lock down a computer for selected user accounts. You can’t find it anymore because MS took it down from their website. It was supposed to be used for small businesses and schools but worked well in a home environment if you had XP Pro. Edited 2007-08-09 04:21 2007-08-09 7:04 am poundsmack the successor to the shared computer toolkit is “steady state.” I like it but i am more used to the shared computer tool kit. here is more inormation if you would liek ot learn more. http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/sharedaccess/wh… 2007-08-09 5:33 am Darkelve I reckon they might not be ‘happy’ at least until service Pack 1 comes out. There’s too many ‘weird’ things going on with Vista, things that do not work as expected or you just cannot get to work. Then again I don’t remember what XP was like when it first came out. Vista does, IMhO, have some serious ‘ethical’ problems though (DRM, advertising, usage restrictions, draconian EULA as usual). And yes, I do understand my concerns aren’t shared by everyone(most people are oblivious to it or don’t care). Edited 2007-08-09 05:43 2007-08-09 5:57 am Doc Pain Besides any pros or cons of the recommendations the author gave in order to use the MICROS~1 way of home computing properly, the article implies a strange concept about how a family is supposed to use such a preconfigured computer. Maybe this is very different in the country the author lives in, but in Germany his solution would fail within the first week after installation. What does a PC using family consist of? First, there’s Dad who bought the PC because his neighbor has one, too. Some guy at work handed a shiny copy of a “Vista” DVD to him. Other guys gave him software with comments as “Hey Joe, I’ve just downloaded this from the Internet. It’s a download manager, you need this!” (a file sharing application with built in trojans). Dad does mail, surfs the Web and clicks on the dancing elephants. Then, there’s Mom. She works in an office, so she wants to have the same pictures at home as she knows them from work. (NB: “Pictures” refers to applications and how they look like – famous terminus technicus here in Germany.) She plays Solitaire all day long. Now for the children. The boy installs everything he finds on the Internet because he’s a hacker – he knows how to use “Word”. Of course, he plays the newest PC games because all his classmates do. So there’s a requirement for hardware updates every 4 – 6 months. Of course he’s clever enough to bypass all administrative locks Dad installed. The girl uses more then 5 instant messengers and some more file sharing applications. She wants to edit her videos and the photos she made. Therefore, she needs “Photoshop” of course, which she got from a friend at school. She’s clever, too. All these people use the same PC, with very different requirements. Setting up user accounts is fine, really, but raising security barriers will confuse and bother users very quickly. And because “this” and “that” does not work, every family member soon has the admin password. You know how the story continues: automated yes, ignore, continue anyway. “Click away the error, it does not matter.” This solution is very famous in Germany where users do not want to read any warning concerning security. They “just want it working”, under any circumstances. This is the way the concept fails. User accounts and administrative rights are more than just wallpapers and system sounds. Because the PC is an “all in one all purposes device”, everybody wants to do everything without needing anyone else. The more restrictive a system is, the more users dislike it. In fact, the author gives some good hints (nothing new, but functional), but users won’t adopt to them. Why have it complicated while running as “Administrator” solves all problems? Maybe users are different in the U.S…. 2007-08-09 7:59 am netpython Vista still has aslr and stack/heap smash protection build in. 2007-08-09 11:46 am Laurence “… All these people use the same PC, with very different requirements. …” [original post trimmed due to size] Indeed – with the cost of computer parts these days – i don’t think theres much reason why the kids can’t each have their own system and the parents share one. User control on a shared desktop is good to a point, but when the average family want their machine for tasks that are poles apart there is little substitute for having their own system to use (and break?) themselves. 2007-08-09 1:13 pm netpython Indeed if they can afford it separate pc’s is healthier for the brain. So is a switched network:-) 2007-08-09 1:24 pm WereCatf Indeed if they can afford it separate pc’s is healthier for the brain Recycled computers don’t cost much Like f.ex. my mom doesn’t need much so she has a P3 800mhz which is more than enough 2007-08-09 1:37 pm netpython Recycled computers don’t cost much Like f.ex. my mom doesn’t need much so she has a P3 800mhz which is more than enough You’re right, example: i gave away a PIII-800 lately to a friend who only needs the box for browsing the web and filling tax forms. 2007-08-09 9:52 am miles Nice to reminds us that there’s still a life for alternative OS like Vista. I had forgotten about this one 2007-08-09 10:33 pm PJBonoVox Wow, you’re a waste of space. 2007-08-09 5:11 pm matthekc I have been a full time Linux user, now I run xp and Linux, and someday I will run just Linux again. As a fan of Linux you have to understand it’s not for everyone maybe someday, but not now. I gave my older sister a 500 mhz with Linux but I wasn’t around to ease her thought the transition so it didn’t work. I happily uninfected someone else’s machine for her day to day use. I tried to get my younger sister to stop pirating image manipulation software and try the gimp for windows she thought it was complicated so I decided to try paint.net… outlook hopeful. The point is you have to give the user what they want to keep them happy. If linux works for people great sometimes it just wasn’t meant to be. 2007-08-10 4:55 am mind!dagger “if the user is literate and security conscious” I’ve found most Windows users are not literate or security minded. I remember a user who tried to install games onto one of my lab computers back in the Win 2000 days. When she couldn’t she tried to crack the network. She only fubbed the HD and I had to rebuild it.