Tips to Maintain Multiple MacBook Users

After you’ve created your multiple user accounts, turn to a number of topics that affect all users of your MacBook — things such as how they log in, how a user can share information with everyone else on the computer, and how each user account can be protected from unscrupulous outsiders with state-of-the-art encryption.

How to log in and out in Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion offers four methods of logging folks in to your multiuser laptop:

  • The username and password login: This screen is the most secure type of login screen you’ll see in Mountain Lion because you have to type your account username and your password. Press Return to complete the process.

    When you enter your password, you see bullets rather than your password because Mountain Lion displays bullet characters to ensure security. Otherwise, someone could simply look over your shoulder and see your password.

  • The list login: This login screen offers a good middle of the road between security and convenience. Click your account image in the list and type your password when the login screen displays the password prompt. Press Return to continue.

  • Fast user switching: This feature allows another user to log in while the previous user’s applications are still running in the background. This is perfect for a fast e-mail check or a scan of your eBay bids without forcing someone else completely off the MacBook. When you turn on Fast User Switching, Mountain Lion displays the currently active user’s name at the right side of the Finder menu bar.

    To switch to another account:

    1. Click the current user’s name in the Finder menu.

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    2. Click the name of the user who wants to log in.

      Mountain Lion displays the login window, just as if the laptop had been rebooted.

    To switch back to the previous user:

    1. Click the username again on the Finder menu.

    2. Click the previous user’s name.

      For security, Mountain Lion prompts you for that account’s login password.

  • Auto login: This option is the most convenient method of logging in but offers no security whatsoever. Mountain Lion automatically logs in the specified account when you start or reboot your MacBook.

To set up a username/password or list login, open System Preferences, click the Users & Groups icon, and then display the Login Options settings. Select the List of Users radio button for a list login screen, or select the Name and Password radio button to require your users to type their full username and password.

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To enable fast user switching, select the Show Fast User Switching Menu As check box, and click the pop-up menu to specify how accounts should appear in the Finder menu.

To set Auto Login, click the Automatic Login pop-up menu and choose the account that Mountain Lion should use.

Logging out of Mountain Lion all the way is a cinch. Just click the Apple menu and then choose Log Out. A confirmation dialog appears that automatically logs you off in one minute. If someone clicks Cancel, he’ll be using your laptop with your account! Your MacBook returns to the login screen, ready for its next victim. Heed this Mark’s Maxim:

Shared stuff on your MacBook

You might wonder where shared documents and files reside on your MacBook. That’s a good question. Like just about everything in Mountain Lion, the answer is simple. The Users folder on your laptop has a Shared folder within it. To share a file or folder, it should be placed in the Shared folder.

Each user account on your MacBook also has a Public folder in that user’s Home folder. The Public folder is a read-only folder that other users on your laptop can access. They can only open and copy the files that it contains. Every user’s Public folder contains a Drop Box folder, where other users can copy or save files but can’t view the contents.

Encrypt your MacBook’s Home folder

Allowing others to use your Mac laptop always incurs a risk — especially if you store sensitive information and documents on your computer. Although your login password should ensure that your Home folder is off-limits to everyone else, consider extra security to prevent even a dedicated hacker from accessing your stuff.

To this end, Mountain Lion includes FileVault, which automatically encrypts the contents of your MacBook's drive. Without the proper key, the data stored on your drive is impossible for just about anyone to read.

When you log in, Mountain Lion automatically takes care of decrypting your files and folders for you. You literally won’t know that FileVault is on the job for you.

To turn on FileVault protection for a specific account, follow these steps:

  1. Click the System Preferences icon in the Dock, and then click the Security & Privacy icon.

  2. Click the FileVault tab, and then click the Turn On FileVault button.

  3. If necessary, click Enable User, provide the login password for each user on your account, and then click Continue.

    If you don't know the login passwords for the other user accounts on your system, you'll have to ask each person to provide his or her password to continue.

  4. Write down the FileVault recovery key displayed by Mountain Lion and store that key in a safe place.

  5. Decide whether or not to allow Apple to store your FileVault recovery key.

    If you want this extra safeguard, click the Store the Recovery Key with Apple radio button and click Continue, then provide three security questions and the answers to each. If you're satisfied with the copy of your key that you've made yourself and you'd rather not bring Apple into the picture, click Do Not Store the Recovery Key with Apple and click Continue.

  6. Click the Restart button on the confirmation screen.

    Your MacBook automatically reboots and begins the encryption process — you can continue to use your laptop normally during the encryption.

    You’re done!

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