Using Windows 7 Switch Users Feature to Share Computers

Running a Help Desk, every once in a while I’ll get a request to create a generic user so several people can use the same computer. The problem is that auditors frown on generic users as it removes accountability and erodes security.

For Windows work, I like to encourage them to use Windows 7 Switch Users feature for this task. Switch users allows two different users to be logged on to the same computer at the same time. Each user has their own desktop, the desktop is saved when the computer is locked, and users can easily switch between and sign on to different computers.

Here’s how it works.

  1. The first user signs on and when they need to leave the computer, they press the Windows Start Button–>L combination to lock the computer. Optionally, you can change the screen saver to automatically lock the screen when there isn’t any activity for a short amount of time, say 10-15 minutes.
  2. The second user comes to the computer and they are greeted with the Windows sign-on screen. They click on the button to Switch Users and they can sign on with their own Windows profile and get their own desktop on the screen. This will allow them to work on their own stuff without sharing the other user’s sign-on or desktop. When they are finished, they can either lock the computer again with the Windows Start Button–>L combo or the computer can lock itself through the screen saver timeout.
  3. When the first user comes back, she can restart her desktop simply by signing in. She gets her desktop and any programs she left open are still available.
  4. The users can switch between their sign-ons and desktops as long as they want.

Using Windows Switch Users feature is an easy way to let users share a computer without having them share a sign-on.

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About Joe Hertvik

Joe is the owner of Hertvik Business Services, a service company providing written white papers, case studies, and other marketing content to computer industry companies. He is also a contributing editor for IT Jungle and has written the Admin Alert column for the past ten years. Follow Joe Hertvik on Twitter @JoeHertvik. Email Joe for a free quote on white papers, case studies, brochures, or other marketing materials.
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