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Windows 8 : Sharing and Securing with User Accounts - Managing Profile Properties and Environment Variables

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3/10/2014 3:24:35 AM

Managing Profile Properties and Environment Variables

From the earliest days of DOS, the PC operating system we old computer geeks used before Windows came along, environment variables have been used to store information used by the operating system. For example, the TMP and TEMP variables tell Windows where to store temporary files. The PATH variable tells Windows where to look for programs if it can’t find them in the current directory. A number of other system and user variables serve similar purposes.

In most cases, you should not need to change environment variables. But if you do — such as when adding a folder to the PATH variable — you can do so through your user account properties. Open the User Accounts object in the Control Panel and click Change My Environment Variables. In the Environment Variables dialog box (see Figure 1), click the user variable that you want to change, click Edit, modify as needed, and click OK. You can also click New and then add a new user environment variable.

FIGURE 1 The Environment Variables dialog box

image

Note
Only the built-in Administrator account can modify the system environment variables.

Wrap-Up

When two or more people share a computer, user accounts enable each person to treat the computer as though it was his or her own. Users can personalize settings to their liking and keep their files separate from other users. The new Windows 8 Microsoft Accounts provide an account structure that enables multiple devices (Windows computer, Windows Phone, Windows tablets, and so on) to sync settings, apps, and other personalized items.

User accounts also work in conjunction with parental controls. A parent can set up a password-protected administrative account and then use that account to set up parental controls. You can create standard accounts for children and allow them to log in to their own accounts only.

User accounts also add security to your system by making all users have limited privileges. The general term for security through user accounts is User Account Control (UAC). Some key points to keep in mind:

  • At least one person should play the role of administrator for the computer. That person should create a password-protected user account with administrative privileges.
  • The administrator should also create a standard account for him- or herself and one for each person who shares the computer.
  • All users (including the administrator) should use their standard accounts for day-to-day computing.
  • All accounts should have a strong password.
  • All the tools for creating and managing user accounts are accessible from User Accounts And Family Safety in the Control Panel.
 
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