If you have a shared computer at home, do you use separate user accounts for each person? If not, it might be time to change.
There are numerous issues that can arise from sharing a user account. Some of these can be system issues, but the more worrying concern for some can actually be the personal issues.
Firstly, there is privacy. People store their life on computers these days. If you are like me and you're comfortable with the data your computer holds this is not a big problem. If, however, you do keep sensitive documents or correspondence on your computer, separate user accounts are vital.
My main reason for not allowing other people to use my user account is that I like my settings exactly how I have them, and I want them to stay that way. I've spent many years refining my computer environment and the last thing I want is to boot up the system and see something that shouldn't be there, or something that should be there and isn't.
If you have a few people in your home there is a good chance one of them can't resist free toolbars, another may have a unique ability to attract viruses, or maybe you have someone just a little too fond of kitten wallpapers.
They need their own user account.
The most compelling reason to have separate user accounts for all is that we all have many different online accounts. Confusion surely follows when all these loginsare happening from one local user account on your computer.
If you let kids use your account it may take years to remove the Wiggles songs from your Youtube feed. If you let visitors use your Windows account to browse the Internet you'll end up with ads based-on their browsing history following you around.
Email and social media logins can also get mixed up, sometimes ruining relationships. You may not think there is anything problematic in your inbox, but because you may have friends in common with your housemates, the contents of emails from those friends could mean something completely different if your housemate reads them.
I would hope that you can trust everyone who uses your computer but, if you can't, user accounts can save you from grief if one of your guests downloads or posts anything illegal.
While this traffic is still linked to your home's IP address and you'll still have the cops packing your computer away into a van at 3am, it won't take them long to forensically determine which user account was logged on the computer when the illegal activity took place, hopefully keeping the other innocent users out of court.
Make it a habit
Now you have set up separate user accounts for everyone, you need to actually start using them.
- Put a strong password on your account. This will stop anyone else logging into your account accidently.
- Personalize your desktop wallpaper so you can easily see you are logged into your account.
- Log off or lock the computer if you walk away. Make it a habit. It's a small inconvenience having to enter your password each time you return, but before long you'll be doing it instinctively and you'll be sure that you are the only person using your user account.
- Enforce the policy. You own the computer, insist that others use only the user account you have made for them.
Or they can buy their own computer.