How to share one computer with your family

One of the first things I recommend when setting up a new computer, usually for a family member, is to use a separate account for each person in the family. This means every person will have there own personal area (login) to the computer to work and play within.

Why use a separate account?

Increased security: It makes it a lot easier to set more stringent settings for kids and monitor how they are using the computer. Having a separate account allows you the option of setting up a more restrictive account which is highly recommended.

Separation: Allows you to keep your information private including emails and messages and avoid having to constantly login and logout of services such as messaging or web sites. Large companies such as Apple and Microsoft have services which they provides, mostly free of charge, when you create an Apple ID and a Microsoft account. It makes it a lot easier to use these services.

Personal experience: Provides a more personal experience as users are able to customise the computer such as background picture, or theme. Even when browsing the internet, you will be presented with ads that are more relevant to you mostly based on your previous browsing history.

So as you can see there are a number of very good reasons why you would want to have separate accounts and these are just a few reasons.

Restrictive accounts

As mentioned above there is the ability to have a more restrictive account also referred to as a non-admin, limited or standard account. When account is non-admin it prevents users from accidentally or intentionally changing potentially critical files and settings on the shared computer and impacting other people sharing the computer. This is a practice commonly used in the IT industry to secure and protect systems and there is no reason why you should not be able to apply this at home.

It also reduces the chances of installing malicious software preventing hackers from accessing your computer and asking for payment for return of the data you might have. If you find yourself in this situation you might find useful the links in the links section below.

It’s highly recommended you choose the more restrictive account when setting up a user, this includes yourself! If you decide to give everyone in your family restricted access it is important to maintain one Administrative user or at least have the ability to login as an Administrator.

The easiest way to do this is create a new separate user, as explained in the links in the next section, as an Administrative type of user. We recommend naming the user ‘Admin’ and keeping it separate from general use. This will allow you to still install programs and makes changes as required.

There are some down sides to running as a restricted user such as not being able to start a program but this can sometimes be avoided by running the programs as an Administrator.

Setting up users on Mac (OS X)

The following links can be used to setup users on Mac (OS X).

Setting up users on Windows

The following links can be used to setup users on Windows.


As you can see it’s a simple task to create separate accounts for your family with benefits such as added security and ease of use when dealing with multiple users.