Secure NT against snoops and other colleagues

If you're like most users, you probably don't think much about who has access to your PC. Do you know who's been reading your mail at night? And what about those performance evaluations and salary recommendations you're working on? Even if you work from home, you may want to keep roommates, spouses, or kids from accidentally deleting your files, e-mail, or personal finance records.

Windows NT provides real log-in security, user accounts, and file-access controls. But you don't get all those benefits until you change some settings. The first task is creating a user account for yourself. "What?" you ask, "But I'm already Administrator." And your password is probably "password", right? NT creates the Administrator account when you first install, but you don't need most of its sweeping powers every day. To take its place, you can create a user account for yourself in the Users or Power Users group (the latter allows you to share directories and printers with others on the network).

To create a new user account, choose Start-Programs-Administrative Tools (Common)-User Manager to open Windows NT's User Manager. Next, select User-New User. Enter a short, descriptive user name and type a password into the Password and Confirm Password fields. Make the password something memorable that you don't need to write down, and the longer it is, the better - Windows NT allows up to 14 characters. Avoid words from the dictionary and repeating characters (like "123123"). Next, uncheck User Must Change Password at Next Logon, and check both User Cannot Change Password and Password Never Expires. The new user account will automatically be part of the Users group; if you'd like to add it to the Power Users group as well, click the Groups button, choose Power Users in the Not member of window, click Add, and click OK. Click OK again to create the new user account.

While you're at it, rename the Administrator account - and choose a good password - to make it more difficult for anyone to break into it. Renaming the account is straightforward: simply open User Manager, select the account, choose User-Rename, enter the new name in the Change To field, and then click OK.

Lock your Windows

Now that you have a real user account and password, you can walk away from the computer secure in the knowledge that nobody else will have easy access to it. (Disclaimer: if you installed Windows NT to dual-boot with Windows 9x and/or 3.x, or installed to an existing FAT partition without converting the partition to the NTFS file system, anybody with a Windows NT installation disk can take control of your system.)To lock down your system and go to lunch, leaving your work right where it is, press -- and then click the Lock Workstation button. Be sure to save what you're working on before you mosey off. Other users, including the Administrator, can log back on in your place - an act that will log you off and close your programs without saving open files. To get back on, press -- again and enter your password.

Don't want to bother locking down every time you leave your desk? Let NT do it for you. Right-click the desktop, choose Properties, and click the Screen Saver tab. Select the screen saver of your choice, adjust the Wait and other settings to your liking, and then check Password protected and click OK. The screen saver will kick in automatically after the time-out you set, and the only way back in is to enter your password. Now you can let yourself get caught up in conversation at the water cooler without worrying about office snoops.

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Scott Dunn

PC World
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