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 which files and folders you can access, what changes you can make to your computer, and your personal preferences, such as your desktop background or screen saver. User accounts let you share a computer with several people while having your own files and settings. Each person accesses his or her user account with a user name and password.

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

  • Standard accounts are for everyday computing.

  • Administrator accounts provide the most control over a computer and should only be used when necessary.

  • Guest accounts are intended primarily for people who need temporary use of a computer.

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.

How can I switch to a different user account?

If you have more than one user account on your computer, you can switch to a different user account without logging off or closing programs, which 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 Shut down button Picture of the Shut down button, and then click Switch User.


  • Fast User Switching is not available on Windows 7 Starter.

Can I change an account to a different type?

Yes. If you are an administrator, you can change a user's account type. We recommend that most users have standard accounts. For more information, see Change a user's account type.