Protect your online ID Restricted access

Which? Archive

This article, Protect your online ID, was last updated on 23 July 2008 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Technology articles.

By setting up separate accounts for individual users, you can reduce the risk of accidentally damaging your computer and better protect it from hackers.

Minimising the risks

Microsoft Windows lets you set up separate user accounts to reduce the risk.

When you first set up your computer, Windows creates the Administrator account. This is an access-all-areas pass to your computer.

Someone logged in as Administrator can install programs and make advanced changes, so avoid using this setting as it leaves you more open to security breaches.

Restricted user accounts

Known as 'Limited accounts' in Windows XP and 'Standard accounts' in Windows Vista, these account settings grant access to the computer but with limits.

When you log into your user account, Windows knows which folders or files you may open, how you like your screen to look – which screen saver to use, and what changes you're permitted to make to the computer.

If you try to make a change you're not permitted to make, you'll be asked for the Administrator password.

So, if everyone in your household logs in with a limited user account, the risk to your PC is minimised.

Follow the below steps to create separate user accounts on your PC.

Instructions for Windows XP

1Create a new user account

Create a new user account

Click Start > Settings > Control Panel > User Accounts > Create a new account

You’ll be asked to give the account a name. Type one in and click Next. You’ll be given the option of selecting an account type.

The two account types available are Computer Administrator and Limited. 

Click in the circle beside Limited > Create Account

Your new user account has now been created. You can create more accounts by simply repeating this process.

2Create a password

create a password

Now your account is set up, there are several ways you can amend it. 

Make it more secure by password protecting it, for example. 

From the 'User Accounts' screen, click on the account you want to add a password to and then click on Create a password

Follow the instructions to set up your password. 

Add a password hint in case you forget it.

3Change the picture icon

change the picture icon

Every user account in Microsoft Windows XP is allocated a picture icon to make it easy to identify on the login screen. 

If you don't like the icon that has been allocated to your new account, you can choose a different picture. 

From the 'User Accounts' screen, click on the account you want to change then on Change the picture

Click on a new picture from the selection onscreen. Click Change Picture.

Instructions for Windows Vista

4Create a new user account

Create new user account

Click the Windows icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen and then Control Panel > User Accounts and family safety > Add or remove user accounts. Click on Create a new account

You’ll be asked to name the account and choose an account type. 

Type in a name for your account and select Standard user > Create Account

Your new account has now been created.

5Change your password

Change your password

Make your account more secure with a password. 

From the ‘Choose the account you would like to change’ screen, click on your new account and then Create a password

Type your password in the ‘New password’ box and again in the ‘Confirm new password’ box. 

Next, add a password hint to serve as a reminder should you forget your password.

6Change the picture

Change the picture

Windows Vista allocates a picture icon to each user account. 

You can change this if you like. From the ‘Choose the account you would like to change’ screen, click on your new account. 

From the list select Change the picture

Click on the picture that you want to appear next to your account name and then Change Picture.

7Set up parental controls

Set up parental control

Vista’s Parental Controls let you more strictly limit how someone uses your computer. 

Select the new account from the ‘Choose thee document you would like to change’ screen. 

Click Set up Parental Controls and select the account you want to restrict. 

Under 'Windows Settings', select the things you’d like to control. 

When you’ve made your choices click the circle beside 'On' to enforce current settings. Click OK.