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  1. #1


    Member Since
    Jun 10, 2007
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    help wth user accounts
    Hey All,

    I bought my first Mac yesterday and was hoping someone here could help answer a few questions related to user accounts. (I got the 15-inch iBook Pro with the 2.4 GHz processor, and man, is it a beauty!)

    1) I've heard a lot of discussion about User Accounts, and if I've understood it correctly, most people recommend having at least two accounts -- one with administrative privileges, which I use only when installing software and doing other administrative chores and the other, which does NOT have administrative privileges, that I use the rest of the time.

    Am I correct so far? If so, I'm running in to a problem:

    2) I installed Thunderbird on my machine and migrated three years worth of email over to it. I also installed Firefox and set it up with Adblock, NoScript and several other extensions.

    It was a lot of work, so imagine my disappointment when I logged into my non-administrative account, fired up Thunderbird and discovered that none of the email I had imported was there! It turns out the email is there when I open Thunderbird in the administrative account, but not with the non-administrative account. Similarly, none of the extensions show up when I open Firefox using the non-administrative account.

    Is there a way to install a program and have it apply to both accounts? Please tell me there is. It took more than an hour to get Thunderbird and Firefox set up correctly, and I really don't want to have to duplicate the steps.

    Thanks so much.

  2. #2

    DoubleCap's Avatar
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    Wink
    Quote Originally Posted by dang0001 View Post
    Hey All,

    I bought my first Mac yesterday and was hoping someone here could help answer a few questions related to user accounts. (I got the 15-inch iBook Pro with the 2.4 GHz processor, and man, is it a beauty!)

    1) I've heard a lot of discussion about User Accounts, and if I've understood it correctly, most people recommend having at least two accounts -- one with administrative privileges, which I use only when installing software and doing other administrative chores and the other, which does NOT have administrative privileges, that I use the rest of the time.

    No need, you can have one for you that you use, and another for guests so they can't install programs.

    Am I correct so far? If so, I'm running in to a problem:

    2) I installed Thunderbird on my machine and migrated three years worth of email over to it. I also installed Firefox and set it up with Adblock, NoScript and several other extensions.

    It was a lot of work, so imagine my disappointment when I logged into my non-administrative account, fired up Thunderbird and discovered that none of the email I had imported was there! It turns out the email is there when I open Thunderbird in the administrative account, but not with the non-administrative account. Similarly, none of the extensions show up when I open Firefox using the non-administrative account.

    Is there a way to install a program and have it apply to both accounts? Please tell me there is. It took more than an hour to get Thunderbird and Firefox set up correctly, and I really don't want to have to duplicate the steps.

    Thanks so much.
    Give me some time, I'll find an answer to this.

  3. #3


    Member Since
    Nov 27, 2006
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    Power Mac G5 Dual 1.8 GHz
    1) I agree with prpandey; just use the admin account.

    As he said, you only use 2nd non-admin accounts for cases such as these:
    -You want to let your friends use your computer, but you don't want them messing with your files.
    -You're letting your parents use your computer, but you don't want them to screw the computer up like all parents do. ;p
    -etc.

    2) It's normal that your Firefox and Thunderbird settings and data don't appear in your other account.
    This is because user accounts don't share settings and data!

    That's kind of the whole point to them.

    I mean, imagine you and a friend bought this laptop together.
    You create your account; he creates his.
    Now, I don't think you'd want him to be able to snoop around in your email or see the sites you've browsed!
    Or vice versa! (... well, maybe not vice versa XD )

    As prpandey and I said in #1, it's best if you just use the admin account;
    I'm fairly certain that this is what pretty much everybody does.

    However, if you must absolutely insist on using the non-admin account,
    then tell me, and I'll tell you how to get the Firefox and Thunderbird settings and data shared between two accounts.

    It's a bit complicated, but I believe I know how to do it.
    But I'll only bother typing it all out if you really need it.

    side note:

    Here's another reason to not use a 2nd non-admin account at other times:
    I only know how to get Firefox and Thunderbird to be shared between users,
    but I don't know how to do this for other apps,
    nor do I think that it's actually possible for most apps out there.
    (It's only possible for Firefox and Thunderbird 'cause of the way their settings and data are stored.)
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  4. #4


    Member Since
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    remain is correct (if a bit long-winded)

    The admin account is not something you use for normal work. You only log into it when you're changing system settings, installing software, or troubleshooting. Powerful, but dangerous.

    Your normal account is a safe place. If you screw up, you've only screwed up yourself, not your entire Mac.

  5. #5


    Member Since
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    I'm not being long-winded; I'm being detailed.

    XD

    But wait, you're saying you agree with what prpandey and I said... but you're telling him to not use the admin account??

    'Cause that's sorta the exact opposite of what we said. o_O
    (which is to just go ahead and use the admin account, as the normal account)
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  6. #6
    MacHeadCase
    Guest
    Here in this thread mac57 and nukemm (where are you guys?) in their posts give the reasons why it is safe practice to use two types of accounts.

  7. #7


    Member Since
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    Um... actually, both mac57 and nukemm seem to be saying that the default Admin account is fine:


    For nukemm:

    Quote Originally Posted by nukemm View Post
    I have an admin accout (root), my own account (admin rights), my wife's account (basic user), and my brother's account (basic user).
    As you see there, he's not setting his own account as Basic User, only for the other users.

    As for mac57:
    At first, he thought by default, you start out with a Root account.

    But then, baggss told him that it wasn't so, that you actually start with a regular Admin account.

    Unless I'm mistaken, mac57 was only saying that you should create a Basic User account because he thought otherwise, you'd have Root privileges.


    Quote Originally Posted by mac57 View Post
    The recommended setup is to create a user account for yourself which is separate from the root account.
    (...)
    So, it is strongly recommended that you create your own personal account and set up shop inside there.
    Quote Originally Posted by baggss View Post
    The standard seems to be an Admin account. Don't forget Admin in OSX is NOT root user, so you still can't really screw things up that badly. Standard user in OSX, can't even install programs etc. Only root can mess with the base system files, not Admin, although Admin can mess with user profiles and muck things up a bit if they try. This doesn't seem to happen often though.
    Quote Originally Posted by mac57 View Post
    You are right baggss (of course!). My personal account does have "Admin" listed under it. This must be the default that OS X uses when you create a new account.
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  8. #8
    MacHeadCase
    Guest
    Well you quoted just parts of posts.

    But Apple has some fairly good arguments against using for every day use an Admin account:

    Mac OS X Security Out of the Box
    Following the initial install, Mac OS X is fairly secure. A few simple tweaks make it even more secure. But before we get to those changes, there are a few things you should notice during the install process.

    Administrative Accounts
    The first account created on a Mac OS X system is an administrative account. If possible, this account should not be the account you commonly use; it should be reserved for making changes to the system and installing system-wide applications. After installing Mac OS X, go into the Users item in System Preferences create a new account without administrative access. For your common tasks, log in as that user.

    The root has been disabled, although it can be re-enabled if need be. This means that all administrative tasks, such as turning on and off various types of sharing and adding or deleting users, must be done by one of the administrator accounts. ...
    That being said, I myself do not take that type of precaution. Why? I never download anything I don't know about firsthand. I also steer clear of illegal downloads and am fairly stiff on emails I receive: if the sender is not in my Address Book, the email gets sent to the Junk folder.

    So crap can still happen on my iMac but then again, I do practice safe internet surfing/usage.

    Anyhow, without wanting to start an endless debate here, here is a wikibooks article which helps make the types of accounts in Mac OS X Tiger a bit less of a mystery/hocus pocus thing, Mac OS X Tiger/User Accounts.

  9. #9

    DoubleCap's Avatar
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    Well, I guess I have to say something.

    If you are experienced enough and know what's going on with your Mac system, by all means, use the administrative account for everyday use.

    If not, then use the multiple account method.

  10. #10

    joshbrez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prpandey View Post
    Well, I guess I have to say something.

    If you are experienced enough and know what's going on with your Mac system, by all means, use the administrative account for everyday use.

    If not, then use the multiple account method.
    Agreed, completely. It seems to me that using a non-administrative account on your own machine is a needless inconveniece, particularly if it's not your common practice to muck about in the Mac's system files in the first place. The lack of an appreciable amount of malware for the Mac on the Internet makes me skeptical of the necessity of such a step.

    I'd say that the ultimate safety net for your Mac is not setting up multiple accounts, but rather keeping your personal data backed up and safe on another machine. Then, if your system gets wonky for whatever reason, you can easily do a fresh OS install.

  11. #11


    Member Since
    Jun 10, 2007
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    Thanks to one and all for an especially lively response. It would appear there is not a consensus on this issue. Since I 1) am well versed in issues relating to computer security (owned a PC for 20 years now and never once been a victim of malware and 2) don't want to have to install and configure Thunderbird and other apps on multiple accounts, I am going to opt to log in as an admin.

    Sure is nice to know this forum is here. I have a few additional questions, but will wait for another night and will start a new thread.

    Kind regards,

    Dang

  12. #12

    slashjunior's Avatar
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    The admin account in OS X is not the same as an admin account in Win XP. Basically the admin account lets you install programs and change system preferences, but it will only let you change important system files with password from the root user. The root user is not shown by default on the Mac, which is a good thing, because it allows complete control of your machine, essentially what the admin account on XP is, which is great news for people who write viruses.

    You have no need to worry about being in admin using OS X. If you want added piece of mind then you could login as a standard user and then it will ask you for an admin password when you want to do things like install new applications, which in a way is a good thing, because that prevents malicious sites from installing applications without you knowing by OS X asking you for a password. However, I doubt an application could do much damage without being given root access which requires a password even in an admin account.

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