Security

Windows Vista: User Account Control (UAC) levels cut down on pop ups

Windows needs permission

As you probably know by now, Windows Vista's User Account Control (UAC) is designed to help prevent unauthorized or malicious changes from being made to your computer. In order to protect the integrity of your system, UAC displays a dialog box that asks for either permission or an administrator password, depending on your user account privileges, before continuing with the operation.

This gallery is also available as Greg Shultz's article, Windows Vista: User Account Control (UAC) levels cut down on pop ups.

All through the Windows Vista beta testing phase, testers reported that there were way too many UAC pop up messages and that they occurred while performing the most mundane tasks. As such, people have been concerned that UAC would be so annoying that most users would find ways to turn it off and thus ignore a very crucial safety feature in the new operating system.

Therefore, with each revision, Microsoft honed UAC to keep it on target and now UAC only monitors critical operations and is very user friendly. While there are various situations that can cause a UAC, there are four levels to the system that help you identify the seriousness of the situation.

Administrator vs. Standard User
Before we jump into the UAC portion of this article, let's take a few moments to look at the Standard User and Administrator accounts. When you first install Windows Vista in a workgroup or standalone configuration, Setup will create an Administrator account that you can use to set up your system. Any other accounts that you create in the User Accounts tool will by default be Standard User accounts.

In fact, Microsoft recommends that after you've finished installing Windows Vista, you create a Standard User account for yourself and use that rather than the Administrator account for your everyday computing. With a Standard User account you can perform all the things that you normally do such as run your applications and games as well as surf the Internet and check your e-mail.

If you do need to perform an operation that requires Administrator privileges, such as installing a program or changing a configuration setting, you won't need to switch to the Administrator account as a UAC will pop up when you attempt to perform the operation and prompt you for the Administrator account's password.

It's important to realize that UAC applies to both Standard User and Administrator accounts so you won't be able to avoid them simply by running your system from an Administrator account. With this in mind, let's take a look at the various UAC dialog boxes that you'll encounter in Windows Vista.

Windows needs permission
When you attempt to run a native program or utility that will change the way the operating system works or will affect other user accounts on the system, you'll see a User Account Control dialog box titled Windows needs your permission to continue and will be prompted to confirm the operation. Microsoft advises you to check the name of the action listed in the dialog box to ensure that it's the function or program you want to run.

If you're logged on to the system with an Administrator account, you'll see a User Account Control dialog box like the one shown in here. As you can see, to move to the next step, all you need to do is click Continue. When you do, the operation will commence without any further interruption.

By Bill Detwiler

Bill Detwiler is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...