Here are answers to some common questions about user accounts.

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What is a user account?

A user account is a collection of information that tells Windows what files and folders you can access, what changes you can make to the computer, and your personal preferences, such as your desktop background or color theme. User accounts make it so that you can share a computer with several people, but still have your own files and settings. Each person accesses their user account with a user name and password.

What types of user accounts are there?

There are three different types of accounts:

  • Standard

  • Administrator

  • Guest

Each account type gives the user a different level of control over the computer. The standard account is the account to use for everyday computing. The administrator account provides the most control over the computer, and should only be used when necessary. The guest account is primarily for people who need temporary access to the computer. For more information, see What is a standard user account?, What is an administrator account?, and What is a guest account?

How can I switch to a different user account?

The ability to switch to a different user account without logging off or closing programs and files is called Fast User Switching. To switch to a different user account, follow these steps:

  • Click the Start button Picture of the Start button, point to the arrow next to the Lock button Picture of the Lock button, and then click Switch User.


  • Fast User Switching is not included in Windows Vista Starter.

Do I need a user account to use Windows?

Yes. When you set up Windows, you'll be required to create a user account. This account will be an administrator account to allow you to set up your computer and install any programs that you would like to use. Once you have finished setting up your computer, we recommend that you use a standard user account for your everyday computing. The Welcome screen, where you log on to Windows, displays the accounts that are available on the computer and identifies the account type so you'll know if you're using an administrator or standard user account. For more information on why you should use a standard user account, see Why use a standard user account instead of an administrator account?

Do I need to use a password on my account?

No. However, we recommend that you use a strong password. Using a password is one of the most important things you can do to help keep your computer secure. When your computer is protected with a password, only someone who knows the password can log on to it.

What is a user group?

A user group is a collection of user accounts that all have the same security rights. The two most common user groups are the standard user and the administrator, but there are others. If you have an administrator account, you can create custom user groups, move accounts from one group to another, and add accounts or remove them from different groups. When you create a custom user group, you can choose which rights to assign.

A user account is often referred to by the user group it is in (for example, an account in the standard group is called a standard account). A single account can be a member of more than one group.

Sometimes user groups are referred to as security groups. For more information, see User groups in Windows.