If you or your children are big online gamers, you should know the differences between your “administrator” account on your Windows PC, and your “limited user” accounts. Choosing the appropriate account to use when surfing the Web, especially when gaming, is very important to keeping your computer safe from viruses and other malicious software. In this article, the JustAskGemalto team explains the different accounts and how to use them to keep your computer safe while gaming.
What are the differences between administrator and limited user accounts?
When using our PCs there are two different modes in which we do our work and play games: “administrator” and “limited user” accounts, the differences being the level of programming control you have and the security protections.
The administrator account is the default type of account for Microsoft Windows. It lets you:
In the limited user account you cannot install programs, but do have access to the computer's software applications such as:
In addition, some versions of Windows have “guest” accounts, intended primarily for people who need temporary use of a computer; these types of accounts are generally used for quick email checks and browsing the Internet, and not for gaming purposes.
How do I know what account I am using?
It is common for people to not even know if they using their computer in administrator or limited user mode. Here is how you can tell:
When most applications attempt to perform a potentially dangerous operation, like installing software or running an unknown program, Windows requires administrator permission before allowing that program to run. This helps reduce the impact of viruses, spyware, and other threats.
How do Windows accounts relate to gaming?
Gaming accounts are a big target for viruses and other attacks. If a virus or other malware (see: “What is spyware and malware?”) attacks through your online game and you are using your administrator account, the attacker could potentially gain full access to your computer. This could result in a catastrophic loss of data, a hacker using your PC for other attacks or the installation of software designed to steal credit card or online banking information.
Using a limited user account decreases the occurrence and impact of a virus or other malicious software, because the attacker/malware cannot make major changes to the computer.
While the safest way to game is with a limited user account, gamers sometimes report problems running games with this approach. Some games even require that you use your administrator account to play the game. What to do, then?
In cases where you absolutely must use your administrator account to play a game, you should be extremely vigilant about protecting your computer and its information.
Microsoft also provides a few helpful hints should you decide to play games in administrator mode. First, only use the account for playing the game – leave other Web browsing for your limited user account. Second, act as the administrator for your kids. Only let kids game as an administrator under adult supervision and make sure they only use that account for the game, not everything they do on the Web. Learn more advanced techniques by visiting the Microsoft site.
To sum up:
See these related online gaming tips: