Identicalify two XP user accounts?
February 22, 2008 3:01 PM   Subscribe

How do I make my limited user account and administrator account look identical, ie have the same tray and desktop icons, identical start menus, program settings, My Documents folder, etc. The only difference I want is for the limited user account to have limited privileges. Running XP SP1 home. Thanks.
posted by bbranden1 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Create a third Administrator account (you'll delete it after you complete this task).

Restart your computer so that any files currently in use are closed. Log in to the new Administrator account. Open Windows Explorer and turn on View Hidden Files.

Right-click on My Computer, choose Properties. Go to the mumblemumble tab, and click the User Profiles button.

Select the account whose settings you wish to copy, then click the Copy button. Specify the destination as C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator (or whatever the admin account is that you wish to copy to).

In the Permissions area, you should give permissions to the "\Everyone" user.

Click Copy.
posted by odinsdream at 3:13 PM on February 22, 2008

Thanks, odinsdream. I guess to intermittently sync the two folders I could do a similar procedure? Or is there a better way?
posted by bbranden1 at 3:28 PM on February 22, 2008

Well, the other idea would be to just use the Admin account to temporarily grant your regular account Admin privileges for whatever task you need them, then switch it back off when you're done.
posted by odinsdream at 3:43 PM on February 22, 2008

I see what you want to do and I kind of get why you want to do it, but I'm going to tell you now why it's a bad idea, and suggest a hopefully workable alternative.

The whole benefit of limited user accounts in Windows XP is that for the most part they let you avoid running with elevated rights. If you're just going to bounce between an admin account and a limited account willy-nilly, you may as well just work in the admin account all the time.

In my opinion, it's better to set the sole Admin account up for convenient computer housekeeping. Choose a really ugly desktop background (I use the inbuilt "Windows XP" one) to remind you not to hang about in there. Put shortcuts to the following, and only the following, in the QuickLaunch bar:
  • Show Desktop
  • Maintenance Notes (a shortcut to Admin's Documents\Maintenance-notes.txt)
  • Add/Remove Programs (copied from Control Panel)
  • User Accounts (copied from Control Panel)
  • Installers (shortcut to an Admin's Documents\Installers folder, where you keep all your installers/setup programs)
  • All Users Desktop shortcut to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Desktop folder
Create a folder: C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Desktop\Shortcuts, into which you will copy the desktop shortcuts created by software installers before deleting the originals from All Users\Desktop (because not all users will necessarily want to see all the desktop shortcuts ever installed, and the Desktop Cleanup Wizard won't fix this for All Users desktop shortcuts from limited accounts).

Then, just use your limited account(s) for absolutely everything except stuff that absolutely needs admin rights.

If you have programs installed that won't run in a limited account, and you can't find tips on making them work in one or simply can't be bothered doing the fiddling involved, do this:
  1. Copy the launching shortcut for the program concerned from the Shortcuts folder onto your limited account's desktop
  2. Right-click the shortcut and select Properties
  3. Click Advanced
  4. Check "Run with different credentials"
Now, whenever you go to launch one of those needs-admin-rights programs, you'll get prompted for the admin password, and the program will run right inside your existing limited account's desktop.

Also: you really, really should be running SP2. Really.
posted by flabdablet at 4:02 PM on February 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

Oh geez I said SP1 but it's actually SP2. Am up to date on all patches. Sorry about that.
posted by bbranden1 at 4:18 PM on February 22, 2008

So yes, just to summarise what's been said above, if you are separating the two accounts so that you can run some programs with Admin rights and some with limited, XP has a better way of doing that than using two accounts: run everything in a limited account and use your admin password to run only those programs as Admin which you need.

It's actually quite difficult to get two accounts to share files and stuff; I've tried to do it a couple of times but XP is quite pedantic about having separated folders for everything.
posted by katrielalex at 4:24 PM on February 22, 2008

I agree with fladablet that this isn't such a hot idea. I go the other direction and have my admin account's Desktop set to solid red so I don't forget I'm logged in as admin.

I understand the desire here, but you should be spending so little time actually logged in as admin to care about it very much. In addition to the suggestions above, sudowin helps you manage things from your limited account so that you will hardly ever need to log in as admin.
posted by grouse at 4:34 PM on February 22, 2008

I used to do the "copy profile data" route like in the first answer, but you might find it easier to use the File and Settings Transfer Wizard (or User Migration Tool)
posted by samsara at 4:54 PM on February 22, 2008

I second flabdablet. The last thing you want is to be running as Administrator when the hinky new trojan hits you. I've worked as a network admin, and it just isn't recommended that you do that. Basically you're giving up one of the few built-in protections that Windows gives you.
posted by dhartung at 8:48 PM on February 22, 2008

And the fact is that it's quite excellent protection.

I have cleaned up a lot of infested Winboxen for a lot of noobs, and the ones that are still running totally malware-free two years later are the ones that were willing to follow all these recommendations:
  1. Set up a single Admin account, password protect it, and under no circumstances give teenage household members the password (teenage computer users generally seem unable to resist the lure of installing oooo! shiny! things)
  2. Set up limited accounts, one per household member, for day-to-day use
  3. Refuse to install software that won't run without admin access
  4. Disable all the obvious ways to launch Internet Explorer and Outlook Express by turning off their checkboxes under Add/Remove Programs->Add/Remove Windows Components, and use Firefox and Thunderbird instead
  5. Install the Adblock Plus extension into Firefox, along with a subscription to a decent filter list
  6. Uninstall Norton Antivirus or McAfee or Trend and any third-party firewalls, make sure the inbuilt Service Pack 2 firewall is on, and install AVG 7.5 Free Antivirus (or pay for the pro version or for NOD32 if it's a business computer)
  7. Make sure Automatic Updates is turned on and working
It's kind of lucky for me that so many people fail to follow at least some of this advice, or I'd get much less repeat business.
posted by flabdablet at 12:19 AM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

All excellent suggestions. Thanks, everyone.
posted by bbranden1 at 9:01 AM on February 23, 2008

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