Setting Up User Accounts on Your Mac

As much as the computer staring you in the face is your very own Mac, you'll probably be sharing it with someone else: your spouse and kids, perhaps, if not your students and coworkers.

The Mac allows you to give everyone his or her own user accounts, which are separate areas to hang out that are password protected to prevent intrusions. (The folks at Apple can't do much to avert fights over when people use the computer, however.)

Not all user accounts are created equal, and yours is extra special. That's because as the owner of the machine, you're the head honcho, the Big Cheese, or in the bureaucracy of your computer, the administrator.

Being the Big Cheese doesn't earn you an expense account or a plush corner office with a view of the lakefront. It does, however, carry executive privileges. You get to lord over not only who else can use the machine but also who, if anyone, gets the same administrative rights that you have.

Think long and hard before you grant anyone else these dictatorial powers. Only an administrator can install new programs in the Applications folder, choose which files to share among all users, or muck around with system settings such as Date & Time and Energy Saver. And only an administrator can effectively hire and fire, by creating or eliminating other user accounts.

To create a new account for one of your coworkers, for example, follow these steps:

1. Choose Mac menu --> System Preferences, and then click the Accounts icon.

Alternatively, click your user name in the upper-right corner of the screen, mouse down to Accounts Preferences, and click. In both instances, you end up in Accounts Preferences.

2. If the Password tab isn't highlighted, click it.

3. Click the plus sign (+) below the list of names on the right.

If the + appears dimmed, you have to click the padlock at the bottom of the screen and enter your name and password to proceed. (You'll encounter this padlock throughout System Preferences and must click it and enter an administrative password before being allowed to make changes.)

4. Enter a name, a short name, a password, the password verification, and (if you choose) a password hint.

This is the same drill you went through to create your own account. Unless you have a good reason to do otherwise, deselect the Allow User to Administer This Computer option. (Of course, you may want to give a coworker or other person sharing an account the ability to enter his or her own password and user name.)

5. Click the Picture tab.

6. Select the small image that will be displayed next to the user name when the account holder logs on to the computer. (Again, you may allow the other person to choose his or her own picture.)

You can click the bowling pins, gingerbread cookie, or other goofy iconic images presented by Apple in the Accounts window. But account holders may well want to choose one of their own images. To do so, open OS X's default navigational window Finder (by clicking the Finder dock icon) and then click Pictures. Drag an image into the little picture box next to the word Edit in the Accounts window. Alternatively, click the Edit button and then click Choose, which puts the user back in the Finder.

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