User accounts have a much more prominent role in Windows XP than they’ve had in any previous version of Windows. Microsoft faced an interesting challenge with the release of this product, in that support for multiple users is typically a feature of server-type operating systems, and is often seen as a feature used only by network administrators. Since Windows XP is supposed to be a robust, networkable operating system, healthy support for multiple user accounts is a must.
But Windows XP is also intended to be suitable for so-called “home” users, who typically have little or no interest in user accounts, administration, or security. Whether or not Microsoft found an appropriate balance between the high level of interuser security administrators demand, and the streamlining and simplicity that single users expect, is really a matter of perspective.
Support for multiple users is built into Windows XP from the ground up, which is one of the advantages of the Windows NT/2000/XP platform over the older (and now-defunct) DOS-based platform used by Windows 9x/Me. (See Chapter 1 for more information.)
On its simplest level, multiple user accounts can be used to allow each member of a household — or each employee in an office — to have his or her own set of documents, display settings, application settings, Start Menu programs, and even Desktop icons.
But proper use of user accounts can also protect your computer from unauthorized intruders, whether ...