Microsoft to improve Vista's problematic UAC in Windows 7

In Windows 7 Microsoft plans to improve the user account control (UAC) feature, a new feature it put in Vista that caused problems for users.

Microsoft plans to improve the much-maligned user account control (UAC) feature in the next version of its Windows client OS, acknowledging that the new security feature it built into Windows Vista has caused unnecessary problems for users.

On the company's Engineering Windows 7 blog, Microsoft called UAC one of the "most controversial" features of Vista, and said it will tweak UAC in Windows 7 so it works more closely with Microsoft's intended goal for the feature.

Microsoft added UAC to Vista in an effort to improve the security of the system and give people who are the primary users of a PC more control of its applications and settings. However, UAC turned out to be more of a headache for many users than a benefit.

"UAC was created with the intention of putting you in control of your system, reducing cost of ownership over time and improving the software ecosystem," according to the post, which is attributed to Ben Fathi, corporate vice president of development for Microsoft's Windows Core Operating System Division. "What we've learned is that we only got part of the way there in Vista and some folks think we accomplished the opposite."

UAC prevents users without administrative privileges from making unauthorized changes to a PC. But because of how it was set up in Vista, it can prevent even authorized users on the network from being able to access applications and features they should normally have access to.

UAC does this through a series of screen prompts that ask the user to verify privileges, and it may require a user to type in a password to perform a task. Vista users reported that these prompts would interrupt a user's normal workflow, even during some mundane tasks, unless a user is set as Local Administrator. UAC prompts became so problematic that competitor Apple even spoofed them in a television commercial.

Microsoft said that in Windows 7, it will work to reduce UAC's "unnecessary or duplicated prompts in Windows and the ecosystem, such that critical prompts can be more easily identified," according to Fathi's blog post. It also plans to make the prompts "more informative" so that users can make better choices about how to proceed once prompted, and will provide "better and more obvious control" over UAC in Windows 7.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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