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What's a user account?

A user account determines how you interact with your PC and personalise it. For example, your account determines which applications, files and folders you can use, the changes you can make to the PC, and your personal preferences, such as your Start screen layout, desktop background or screen saver. If you create separate accounts for other people, they don't have to share the same settings, which means you can restrict access to your email inbox, social networking and other files, and use different account pictures, colours or desktop backgrounds for each account.

There are three types of accounts. Each type gives you a different level of control over the PC:

  • Administrator accounts provide the most control over a PC, and should be used sparingly. You probably created this type of account when you first started using your PC.

  • Standard accounts are for everyday use. If you're setting up accounts for other people on your PC, it's a good idea to give them standard accounts.

  • Child accounts are useful for parents who want to monitor or set limits on their child's PC use, with the Family Safety settings in Windows. For more information about Family Safety, see Setting up Family Safety.

In addition to choosing one of these account types, you can also choose a sign-in method for each type: people can sign in to Windows with a Microsoft account or a local account.

How should I sign in to Windows?

In Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1, whether you create a standard, administrator or child's account, you can also choose one of two ways to sign in:

  • With a Microsoft account (an email address and password). Signing in with an email address and password lets you use your favourite applications and your unique settings and preferences on any PC.

  • With a local account. Signing in with a local account (with or without a password) lets you use the files, settings and applications on your local PC only.

What's so great about a Microsoft account?

When you sign in to Windows with an email address and password, that's your Microsoft account. An administrator, a standard user or a child can have a Microsoft account – signing in with an email address is the important part.

When you sign in with a Microsoft account, your PC is connected to online cloud storage and:

  • Your personal settings are synchronised to any Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 PCs you use, including your themes, language preferences, browser favourites and most applications.

  • You can get apps from the Windows Store and use them on up to five Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 PCs. (Some apps require specific hardware or hardware settings.)

  • Your friends’ contact info and statuses automatically stay up to date from places like Outlook.com, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

  • You can get to and share your photos, documents and other files from places like OneDrive, Facebook and Flickr.

If you aren’t signing in to Windows using your email address, that's ok – you can set up a Microsoft account at any time. For more information, see Creating a user account.

Do I need a user account to use Windows?

Yes. The first time you set up Windows, you created a user account. This account is automatically an administrator account so that you can finish setting up your PC and install any programs that you would like to use. When you add other accounts to your PC, however, they'll usually be standard accounts. Standard accounts are best for everyday use. The sign-in screen in Windows shows what accounts are set up on that PC.

Do I need to use a password on my account?

If you're signing in with a local account, no. However, it's a good idea to keep your PC more secure by using a strong password. When you use a password, only someone who knows it can sign in.

How can I add an account?

If you're an administrator, you can easily add user accounts through PC settings. For instructions, see Creating a user account.

How can I switch to a different user account?

If you have more than one account on your PC, you can switch to a different account without signing out or closing applications. To switch to a different account, follow these steps:

  1. Open Start by swiping in from the right edge of the screen and then tapping Start. (Or, if you're using a mouse, point to the lower-left corner of the screen, move your mouse all the way into the corner, and then click Start.)

  2. Tap or click your account picture, then choose another account from the menu.

Can I make changes to someone else's user account?

Yes, but only if you're using an administrator account. You can change someone's account type, or delete their account from the PC.

To edit account types on your PC

You must be signed in as an administrator to follow these steps.

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, tap Settings, then tap Change PC settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, click Settings, then click Change PC settings.)

  2. Tap or click Accounts, then tap or click Other accounts.

  3. Tap or click the account you want to change, then tap or click Edit.

  4. Tap or click the Account type box, choose an account type, then tap or click OK.

To remove an account from your PC

You must be signed in as an administrator to follow these steps.

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, tap Settings, then tap Change PC settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, click Settings, then click Change PC settings.)

  2. Tap or click Accounts, then tap or click Other accounts.

  3. Tap or click the account you want to delete, then tap or click Remove.

  4. Tap or click Delete account and data.

    This might take a few minutes, if the account has a lot of associated data.

What if I lose or forget my password?

Depending on how your PC is set up, there are several things you can try. For more info, see What to do if you’ve forgotten your Windows password.




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