Computer and user accounts
April 28, 2012 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Getting new PC with Win7 for whole family use. How to set up so kids' games and crap doesn't affect me and my wife's work and crap. Partitioning? Different user accounts? Something else? (I'm pretty illiterate on how to do any of that.)

If you suggest partitioning, I have no clue how to do it. (teach me or send me a link). Would I have to install Microsoft Office (and other programs we need to share) to each partition?

If you suggest Separate User Accounts at the operator level, I have no idea how to do that (teach me or send me link please?). Will this method work so that their downloads (and viruses? ha ha) won't affect my account?

Is there another way to keep everything separate between kids and parents so one's mistakes or memory hog program doesn't effect the entire computer? (If so, tell me how to do it or send a link to a "how to" please).
posted by luvmywife to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
User accounts, not partitioning, are the way to do it. Very simple in Win7.

Click Start button then Control Panel then User Accounts and Family Safety.

Set up accounts for you and your wife with passwords. I'd suggest making your accounts "Standard User" ones, but you will need one Administrator account (with a password), which you will use when installing software etc. You do not have to be logged on to the Admin account, just need to remember the Admin username and password.

Set up your kids' account (or one each) - I'd skip putting passwords on those.

That's it. You each have your own private user space, and cannot easily access anyone else's. Very easy. The Start button's Shut down link has an option to switch user, so you don't have to log off for someone else to use their account.

Some program installers ask whether they are just for you or for everyone. Most all programs you install will be available to everyone and do not need a separate install for each use (I can't think of any which are not like this.)
posted by anadem at 7:59 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yep, separate accounts. That's what we did with our family computer.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:15 AM on April 28, 2012

What the others said.

Also, Windows has a "parental controls" feature which will allow you to restrict when the kids accounts can log on and what programs they can run.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:31 AM on April 28, 2012

Things will break with so many users (especially if your kids' accounts have Admin privileges) so make sure you have automated your backup.

I use the rock solid Cobian Backup (free) that automates everything from scheduling (one a week is enough) and selecting which files to backup to creating the final ZIP file, which I save on a memory stick and USB drive. Here's a YouTube tutorial on using Cobian.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:44 AM on April 28, 2012

The most reliable way to do this is to upgrade to Win 7 Professional, and install XP Mode.

XP Mode runs a virtual PC that boots up Win XP. It runs in its own simulated disk, and nothing that happens in XP Mode can affect the underlying Win 7 installation.

XP Mode is free and can be downloaded directly from Microsoft. Installation is very easy. I use it to run questionable software (e.g. weird copy protection) which I don't want to risk on my main installation.

Most games and programs will run on XP, so you don't lose anything that way.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:06 PM on April 28, 2012

Partitioning is a good idea as well, having a C drive with Windows, a D drive for everything else and perhaps another drive for data (I got most of mine on external hard disks).

That way, if something fscks up your windows partition, your data and other stuff is still safe.

Apart from that, one master admin account with password, normal passworded accounts for the adults and open, kiddie accounts for the children is the way to go.

Finally, if you want a virtual pc like Chocolate Pickle suggests, download Oracle VM VirtualBox, which is fairly easy to install, you don't need Win 7 Pro for and which you can use to install any OS on a virtual pc, not just XP. Very handy both for running old, glitchy software or for giving the kids a pc they can ruin to their heart's content with no danger for the real one...
posted by MartinWisse at 4:39 PM on April 28, 2012

Might help if somebody actually answered this:

If you suggest partitioning, I have no clue how to do it. (teach me or send me a link). Would I have to install Microsoft Office (and other programs we need to share) to each partition?

If you're getting a new pc anyway, just get whoever you're getting it from to do it for you, or you can do it when you're installing Windows, which should ask you to set up partitions. Once set up partitions behave just as hard disks and you don't need to worry about having to install Office to each disk.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:43 PM on April 28, 2012

On that, before I went 100% linux I used Norton's Partition Magic (or the like) without any issues, and I was really scared. As I recall it was free software.

The ideal state to do that in with with a new build. It seems to be, if you don't feel confident, ask the people who are supplying the new machine, or ask around work.

It's pretty simple to do in theory (I have never used Win7 so I have no idea, but you may need multiple licences).

I will second MartinWisse's advice that you partition the C: for Windows only, and give it a decent whack of space. That was the best thing I ever did with XP, until it went from 500MB to 2GB due to bloat.
posted by Mezentian at 1:14 AM on April 29, 2012

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