Windows Vista’s most prominent – and most hated and misunderstood – feature was most likely User Account Control, designed specifically to not only make the system more secure, but also to annoy users and developers, forcing them into making applications that do not require administrator privileges. In Windows 7, Microsoft has done a lot to alleviate the annoyances.
In Windows 7, you can now use a slider widget to set UAC to four different modes. The first mode is the full-blown Vista behaviour; all actions initiated by any user requires you to pass a UAC prompt, including the screen blanking feature. This is the way UAC behaves in Vista SP1, and I’m probably one of the few out there, but it’s the one I prefer. I like to know when something I’m about to do apparently messes around with important stuff.
The second setting is the default in the build handed out at PDC: administrators will not see a UAC prompt with user-initiated actions (elevations happens automatically), such as messing in the Control Panel. Programs initiated by the admin user still require a UAC prompt, but there’s no screen blanking. Non-admin users will get UAC prompts for both types of actions, but there’s no screen blanking.
The third setting means no confirmations will ever appear (admin users automatically elevate, even for program-initiated actions). The fourth and final setting disables the automatic elevation feature, so this is essentially Vista behaviour, sans the screen blanking.
I’m personally a proponent of the full-blown Vista SP1 behaviour, because it gives me the insight of what’s going on, and it informs me of the possible consequences my actions could possibly have. However, this is a very personal issue, and I am sure that users will rejoice massively over this easy way of manipulating UAC behaviour in Windows 7.
It’s still a nightmare trying to develop software as a standard user on Vista. I’m constantly dropping stuff into the GAC and messing with IIS settings and so on, but almost everything I do requires me to enter an admin password in their screen-blanking UAC thing.
I can’t (or at least I’m not aware of how to) just set it up like sudo and let it remember me for 20 minutes and do certain commands without having to enter password/credentials whatsoever. In a number of cases, Microsoft tools don’t even work correctly, and the workaround on their KB is to run as an administrator. Even explorer’s elevation seems nightmarishly buggy for me and everyone else at work.
Microsoft: Please do us a favour and fix elevation/UAC so we can run as a restricted user but still elevate easily when we need it. Fair enough our needs are different to those of normal users, but the operating system’s continued usage depends on developers to write software for it, so don’t piss them off.