Windows 7—UAC


Ahhh UAC.  This was one of the most despised features of Windows Vista.  It was intended to improve security by creating the equivalent of “Super User’” (su) or “Sudo” in Linux.  The concept is that if the action that you (or software) is taking could change the system (for good or bad), you had to be an Administrator or super-user to do it.  Normally, you ran as a standard user.

However, Microsoft messed up.  Where Linux only requires super-user or sudo (Sudo allows you to use the super-user mode for the specific installation or command that you’re performing—without having to essentially log in as the super-user.)  for certain things, Microsoft required it for virtually everything that you did on the computer.  They also had two options:  On (full) or Off.  Typically users would either turn it off, or just click “Yes” or “Continue” for everything.  Either way, it’s not secure—and it defeats the purpose.

With Windows 7, Microsoft went a long ways towards improving UAC.  Now, it has a slider with three settings:  High (Full like Vista), Medium (the default) and Off.  Technically, there are four settings.  The only difference between the higher and lower ones are whether it dims the desktop.  The triggers are still the same. With the default, you’re only prompted if software tries to change something on the computer.  So, you can move things, or delete things without an annoying prompt.  While a lot of actions will show the “Shield” for UAC, only a few of them actually generate a prompt.

With Windows 7, Microsoft has gotten a lot closer to the Linux version of super-user.  This is good for two reasons.  1)  There’s a good chance that the average user won’t ignore the prompts and will be more secure. 2) If a Windows user migrates over to Linux or vice versa, they’re already familiar with the concept.  An unnoticed bonus is that Apple won’t be able to use the UAC in their ads now.

So, if you are a current Vista user, my suggestion is this:  When you upgrade to Windows 7, leave UAC on for a while.  Give it a fair shake and see if you like it.  If it’s still too annoying, see if it’s set on High.  If it’s set on the default, you could try the lower setting (Notify me if programs try to make changes on my computer- but don’t dim the desktop).  If that still doesn’t satisfy you, then you could turn it off.

I’ve been running Windows 7 since the Beta 1 was released in January.  When I tested (and used Vista) I turned UAC off within a few days because a few programs wouldn’t install properly with it on.  I haven’t changed UAC once on Windows 7, and installed all of the programs plus more.  Hopefully you’ll find that UAC is better, and that you’ll let it do it’s job—protecting you.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

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