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Author Topic: How to share a Windows 10 PC  (Read 15 times)
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« on: January 11, 2021, 01:03:39 PM »

Need to share a Windows 10 PC among employees or temporary workers at the office, or with family members at home? No problem ó here's how to do it.

In some offices, computers are shared between two or more employees or temporary workers. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Windows 10 has great tools for allowing multiple people to share a single PC without letting them read, edit, or delete each otherís files and folders; use or delete each otherís applications; or make system-wide customizations.

These tools can also be a big help for people who work from home and need to share their PC with a family member some of the time. They allow you to set up and log in with different user profiles so each user has access to only their own files and folders, apps, and preferences. In this piece, Iíll show you what to do.

Setting up accounts for sharing a Windows 10 PC
Windows 10 makes it easy for multiple people to share the same PC. To do it, you create separate accounts for each person who will use the computer. Each person gets their own storage, applications, desktops, settings, and so on.

One person, the PCís administrator, sets up and manages all the accounts, including a variety of system settings that only the administrator can access. The administrator account is established when Windows is first installed or used on the machine. (You can also upgrade other user accounts to administrator status, as Iíll cover later in the story.)

If youíre an administrator, setting up a user account is easy. First youíll need the email address of the person for whom you want to set up an account. Ideally, this should be the sign-in information for their Microsoft account (such as an or address or a corporate email address at an organization that uses Outlook) so theyíll be able to use all of their existing Windows settings, get access to their OneDrive storage, and download and install apps from the Microsoft Store. Anybody can sign up for a Microsoft account for free.

For now, weíll assume that the person you want to add has a Microsoft account. Later on, Iíll show you how to set up an account if they donít have one and donít want to register for one, but note that you canít set up restrictions for family members unless they sign in with a Microsoft account. Accounts for children can only use an or domain.

To add a user, click the Start button, select Settings, and then choose Accounts. On the Accounts screen, choose Family & other users from the menu on the left. To set up an account for a co-worker, go to the ďOther usersĒ section and click Add someone else to this PC. To set up accounts for family members that let you set age limits, game and app restrictions, etc., instead, choose Add a family member under the ďYour familyĒ section.

After you create an account for someone else, the name appears on the Accounts page. (Click any image in this story to enlarge it.)
On the screen that appears, enter the email address of the person for whom you want to create a user account, click OK, and then Finish. The userís name now appears on the ďFamily & other usersĒ accounts page.

It also appears when you click the icon representing the current user of the PC, midway down on the left side of the Start menu when you click the Start button.

When an account name is clicked in the Start menu, it will show all of the accounts on the machine.

If youíre the owner of the new account, there are two ways to start using it. You can click the icon representing the account of the current user of the PC, midway down on the left side of the Start menu. That displays all the accounts on the PC. Click your account name and log into your account with your Microsoft account password. Or you can restart the PC: The Windows login screen will now have two accounts on it ó yours and the administrators. You can click your account name and log in with your Microsoft account password.

The account will have its own separate OneDrive storage. Each userís local files and folders wonít be accessible to the other. You will see the Windows apps youíve installed, but not anyone elseís, and vice versa. Given that itís a Microsoft account, files and settings will sync with all other devices connected to your account.

Creating a new user account without using a Microsoft account

Creating a shared PC if the other person doesnít have or want a Microsoft account takes a little bit more work.

To do it, go to Settings > Accounts > Family & other users > Add someone else to this PC. (This is the same selection youíll make if youíre adding a family member without a Microsoft account, but remember that you wonít be able to use parental controls.)

On the screen that appears, click I donít have this personís sign-in information. Then at the bottom of the next screen, click Add a user without a Microsoft account.

You can add a user who doesnít have a Microsoft account as a local account.

Now you can add a user name and a password. The personís account name will now show up the same way as if you had created one using a Microsoft account.

When you create an account for someone in this way, itís called a local account. Unlike a Microsoft account, it wonít sync settings between devices, and it doesnít give access to OneDrive. In addition, when someone has a local account, they wonít be able to download or install any apps from the Microsoft Store. They wonít be able to install desktop applications on their own, either ó when they try to install them, theyíre prompted for the password of the administratorís account. So an administrator will have to be nearby to type in the password in order for them to install desktop applications.

Switching between accounts

Once your account has been set up, itís easy to switch from the account currently running on the machine to your own. If someone else is currently using Windows 10 on the machine, and you want to use it, you can click the Start button, click the icon representing the current userís account midway down on the left side of the Start menu, then click the account to which you want to switch and type in the password.

You can, of course, also log in from the lock screen, which displays all of the user accounts on the machine.

One thing to keep in mind when several people use a PC with separate accounts: Even when someone is not using the PC, they still remain signed into the account unless they sign out or the PC is restarted. So several people might be signed into accounts, even though only one person is actively using the PC. (This does not mean that users have any access to the othersí accounts. There can be only one active account at a time; an individual user will still need to re-enter the password to see their account.)

To see which users are currently signed in, click the Start button, then click the icon representing the current userís account midway down on the left side of the Start menu to see all of the machineís accounts. Look underneath each account. The words ďSigned inĒ will appear under the appropriate accounts.

What does it mean that someone is signed into their account, even if theyíre not currently using it? When someone is signed in, Windows 10 saves the state of that personís user account ó which applications the person was running, the files they were working on, and so on. That way, when they switch back to using their account, everything will be in place, and they wonít have to waste time launching apps, opening files, and so on.

This is useful, but it can be problematic as well because it can lead to lost work. When a PC is restarted or shut down, all users on it are automatically logged off. Say someone is logged into their account and hasnít yet saved work ó if the computer is switched to another account, and the person using that second account restarts or shuts down the system, the first person will lose their unsaved work.

The upshot? Itís always a good idea to log out of your account before letting someone else use the same computer. It only takes a moment: Click your account name at the top of the Start menu and then click Sign out.

Managing accounts

If you want to let another user have administrator access, itís simple to do. Select Settings > Accounts > Family & other users, click the account to which you want to give administrator rights, click Change account type, then click Account type. Choose Administrator and click OK. Thatíll do it. You can always change it back to a standard user account later using this same method.

You can change a standard user account to an Administrator account.

Itís also easy to remove accounts ó as long as youíre the administrator. Select Settings > Accounts > Family & other users, click the account you want to remove, and then click Remove. A screen appears warning you that when you delete the account, you also delete all data associated with it, which include files, desktop setup, apps, music, and so on. Also, note that you can only delete an account if the person has signed out of Windows 10.

When you delete an account, you also delete all data associated with it.

Once youíve got it in hand, youíll find that this is a simple and useful way for sharing a Windows 10 PC among multiple people.

Bonus tip: Turn on the hidden Windows 10 administrator account

Iíve got one more tip for you: how to turn on something that is sort of a super-administrator account hidden in Windows 10.

As I explained previously, the account you create when you install Windows is the PCís administrator account ó it gives you control over how Windows 10 works on the PC, what other accounts can be created and so on. But Windows 10 also sets up a hidden administrator account during installation.

This hidden account has one advantage over a normal administrator account ó when you use it, you wonít get any User Account Control (UAC) prompts. That makes it much easier to troubleshoot and customize Windows because you wonít be constantly bothered by those pesky UAC notices.

Some people refer to this hidden administrator account as an elevated account and a normal one as an un-elevated account.

Itís easy to turn on and use the hidden administrator account:

1. Make sure that youíre using your normal Administrator account.

2. Click the Start button, scroll down through your apps, and click Windows System.

3. Right-click Command Prompt from the drop-down menu that appears, then click More and select Run as administrator. The command prompt launches. Look in the promptís title bar ó it will read ďAdministrator: Command Prompt.Ē

4. At the command prompt, type net user administrator /active:yes and press the Enter

That turns on the hidden administrator account. It will appear on the Windows 10 login screen and on the Start menu screen ó just click it to use it as you would any other account.

When you turn on your PCís hidden administrator account, it shows up just like any other account in Windows 10.

If you want to disable the hidden account, follow steps 1 through 3, and at the command prompt, type net user administrator /active:no and press Enter.


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