Mac Accounts Basics
August 27, 2006 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm a newly-Switched Mac user with a few questions about setting up different...uh, users? Accounts? Profiles? (I'm not sure what they're really called; I think this might be part of my problem)

Okay, I know how to set up a new account using System Preferences, but I just have a few extraordinarily dense questions about how each user's changes affect everyone else.

Everyone using these accounts will be trustworthy adults, so assume that all users have unrestricted access. Also: 10.3

1. Can different users change their desktop background and not affect the other users?

2. How about items on the desktop?

3. On the dock?

4. Various minor settings, such as dock magnification, Expose preferences, etc?

5. Preferences inside of programs?

6. What about folders in the left hand pane of the Finder window? I don't know how else to describe it, sorry...I'm talking about the part of the Finder where you can drag folders that you use a lot for easy access. That is, if one of the users puts “My Stuff” in the finder pane, will it show up for everyone else?

7. Maybe it would just be easier if I just asked what certain things users shouldn't do?

8. Can someone dig up a tutorial or guide for working with whatever these things are called, so I won't have to keep bothering you every time I have a question?

Finally, since I'm guessing this question will be answered before I can even refresh my window, if anyone wants to piggyback on this question, feel free.
posted by Ian A.T. to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This tutorial seems to answer most of your questions.
posted by pessoa at 12:31 PM on August 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

They're called user accounts and the rules for them are somewhat different than they are in the PC world. You can experiment with this by doing two things

1. going into system preferences/accounts and setting up a guest non-administrator account
2. clicking on "login options" underneath the lists of accounts and enabling fast user switching. This will let you click on the little head in the upper right hand corner of the mac's screen and login as guest while you are still logged in as you. Then you can see what you can mess with. Then you can go back.

1-6. yes
7. this is in the help files for the Mac under "administrator accounts"
When you set up Mac OS X, you create a user account that is also an administrator account. A person with an administrator account can create other user accounts, install software in the Applications and Library folders, and change computer settings.

When you create new user accounts, you specify whether the user is an administrator or regular user. If you don't want the user to be able to change preferences or install software on the computer, don't give the user administrator access.
posted by jessamyn at 12:33 PM on August 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Users and accounts are the same thing. I don't think the word "profile" is used anywhere.

7. Change system settings (requires admin password). Save things outside of their user (Home) folder.
posted by cillit bang at 12:34 PM on August 27, 2006

Brief notes:

- Go to the Apple menu and launch System Preferences. Find the Accounts pref pane and use that to make new user accounts.

- In Mac OS X, user accounts are pretty well insulated from each other. User preferences like desktop picture, screen saver. Dock contents and application preferences are all kept separately, per-user.

- If you browse about in System Preferences, there are only a few things that are settings that span across user accounts. Energy Saver, Date & Time, Sharing, Startup Disk and most everything in Network are "per-machine" settings that do not change based on the user that is logged in.

- It's also possible to have multiple user accounts logged in at the same time. In the Accounts pref pane, click "Login Options" and click "Enable Fast User Switching".

- Lastly, look at the "Help" menu in the menubar. That will answer some of these questions for you.
posted by browse at 12:56 PM on August 27, 2006

Thanks for the help everyone! (And thanks for taking the high road and not suggesting "just try it yourself and see what happens.")

posted by Ian A.T. at 1:16 PM on August 27, 2006

All the same though. Would you mind telling us why you didn't just try it for yourself? It seems the effort of writing to AskMefi and trying for yourself would be about the same, that's all.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:48 PM on August 27, 2006

Also, and slightly off the track of your question, I strongly recommend updating to 10.4. It's better in a myriad tiny ways.
posted by rbs at 1:53 PM on August 27, 2006

Two reasons: as I said in my question, I'm a new Mac owner who never used the Windows equivalent of user accounts to begin with, so I was in the dark about all of this. I know you have to try pretty hard to irreversibly mess up the Mac OS, but I'm still learning.

Secondly, my two employees and I have been using the same account for six months and each of us have configured things on our own. I didn't want to start changing stuff that could potentially mess up any of their settings.

Mostly, though, I was trying to find out what they were called so I could learn more about it on my own (thanks, pessoa!).
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:10 AM on August 28, 2006

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