Why You Should Limit User Account Privileges

There’s never a convenient time for a computer crash. If you, like me, are dependent on your PC in order to compete your daily tasks, you know that to be true.



Did you know there is one thing you can do to significantly reduce the likelihood of a computer system crash and the frustration of the downtime that comes along with that crash? That one thing is known as “the principle of least privilege” which means that you operate your computer with the least amount of privilege required to perform your routine activities.


There are two types of Windows accounts: standard and administrator. The type of account you have determines how much control you have over Windows. When you have a standard account you have the ability to perform routine computer activities like check email, browse the internet, and access the applications installed on your computer. Administrative access, by contrast, provides you with complete and unrestricted access level rights on your individual workstation. This includes, among other rights, the ability to install any hardware or software, edit the registry and make system changes to your workstation.  Administrator privilege comes with a high level of responsibility for you, the user, in order to ensure the continued stability of your PC and the security of your corporate network.


Operating your computer with a standard account offers the following benefits:


  1. Reduce the risk of malware infection.


Malicious software often requires full access to your PC to infect your computer. When you are not operating your PC with administrative privileges, you will be prompted for administrator access if any software or application tries to make any changes to your system thus stopping the installation of malicious software before it impairs your system.



  1. Decrease the threat to your corporate network.


Your corporate network is only as strong as its weakest link. One vulnerable PC puts the contents of your entire network at risk. Locked down PCs are less likely to be accessed by cyber criminals who can then use your PC as a gateway to your corporate network (and the sensitive data stored on it).


  1. Improve the stability of your computer.


Standard Windows user accounts prevent modification to the Windows registry. The registry is a database that contains information about your system hardware, software installed on the computer, and Windows settings. Manipulating the registry changes the configuration of your system and may cause serious stability problems with your computer.  By eliminating your access to the Windows registry, the potential for accidental system changes and subsequent downtime is eliminated.


If your PC is joined to a corporate network domain, your network administrator is the individual responsible for setting up your account privileges. Chances are your account is already operating as a standard user account (unless, that is, you’ve convinced your network administrator to grant you administrative privileges). Consider having those privileges revoked. If you operate a computer outside a network domain, your account must have an administrator account associated to it. That does not mean you have to use it for daily use. Set up a standard account to use on a daily basis and login to your administrative account only when you have a specific need to do so. (When those times arise, proceed with caution with any action you take.)


If you are accustomed to using your computer with administrative rights, you may find switching to a standard account will require adjustment, particularly if you frequently install new hardware devices or software applications. I will be the first to admit it can be a nuisance to contact your network administrator or switch user accounts when you come across the need to conduct an activity that requires elevated privileges to your PC. When this happens just remind yourself: “this momentary inconvenience is protecting me from experiencing hours of downtime or the potential for days of impaired performance.”

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