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(Not) Running as Administrator

A huge majority of Windows users login with an userid that has administrator previleges. This is very strongly discouraged in the linux world. But unfortunately, not so in the windows world! It is a pity but I have seen even IT savy folks saying "why not" and looking puzzled!

Why not?

Running as an administrator means you have the rights to trash the system. So what? You wouldn't do that would you? Here is why not.
1. You could trash your system accidently.
2. Any malicious program that gets to run on your system, runs as administrator. It has all the rights to trash the system.

Do NOT do it. But in the windows world, that is easier said than done...

Many programs require you to be and administrator - setup programs, Nero Ahead (CD writing software), and many many others. Many simply do not require it. But insist on it anyway.So what do I do??

Since you cannot refuse to do all these, what should you do? Login in as admin whenever you need to? Naaaa! Here is what I do.

Create a 'Restricted user' account for yourself. ALWAYS use it for logging in. If you need to install a piece of software or write a CD or run one of those programs that insist on being Administrator, use the run-as option. Here is how you do it.

Run As>/p>

Say, you want to run the program setup.exe. Hold down the shift key and right-click on the executable (in explorer). You should see an option 'Run as...' (usually the second in the context menu). Choose 'Run as...'. You should be given a dialog box to type in your administrator password. Type it in. Now the setup program proceeds with Administrator previleges.

Explore As...

I usually like to run explorer to browse the files using the previleges of another user (often the administrator). But in many configurations, if you want to run explorer as another user, it does not work off the box. Here is the glitch. Each instance of explorer is by default, configured to not create a new process. So if you try to launch it as another user, it gets confused and does nothing. So here is what you need to do. This is a one time activity.
1. Log in as the user who you want to run as (say Administrator).
2. Launch Explorer.
3. Go to menu: Tools->Folder options->View (tab).
4. Select 'launch explorer window as a seperate process'.
5. Click OK.
6. Logout.
7. Login as yourself.
8. Create a shortcut on your desktop for 'explorer.exe'. Name the shortcut 'Explore As...'.
9. Right click on the shortcut and select 'properties'.
10. You should see a check box 'run as'. Select it and click Ok.

You are set. When you want to run a program or fiddle with the control panel as an administrator, use this shortcut. It automatically pops up the dialog box to ask you for the user name and password. Go ahead and fill them in and click ok. This instance of Explorer has the previlage of the user that you just typed it.

Remember it is MUCH safer to run just select applications with admin previleges.

There are some cases where running as another user does not suffice. In such cases (and ONLY in such cases) login as administrator. Fortunately once the system is configured, these are rare.

Also read the guest editorial at sysinternals.

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Last updated on 28-August-2005

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