How to Lock Down Windows User Accounts
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You might use an administrator account Windows Administrator Account: Everything You Need to Know Windows Administrator Account: Everything You Need to Know Starting with Windows Vista, the built-in Windows Administrator account is disabled by default. You can enable it, but do so at your own risk! We show you how. Read More on your PC, but don’t trust other people with that kind of access.

Whether you want to keep an eye on your children’s computer usage or need to simplify a computer for a loved one 7 Ways to Ensure Your Loved Ones' PC Will Never Need Fixing 7 Ways to Ensure Your Loved Ones' PC Will Never Need Fixing Are you tech support for your family or friends? Do you receive frantic calls because they've installed malware or somehow managed to break their computer and they need you to fix it? This can be... Read More , blocking off parts of Windows is useful. Even if you’re locking your PC when you’re not using it The 6 Best Methods to Lock Your Windows PC The 6 Best Methods to Lock Your Windows PC Locking your computer is essential in preventing unattended access. Here are several great ways to do so in any version of Windows. Read More , other user accounts could be a problem.

Let’s take a look at different ways to lock down every aspect of Windows.

Use Standard Accounts and UAC

The simplest way to restrict an account’s permissions is setting it as a standard account. These limited accounts can run software and change settings that don’t affect other users, but don’t have total control. For instance, a standard account can’t install software, modify internet connection settings, or change the time.

To change an account’s permissions, visit Settings and click Accounts. On the Family & other people tab, find their name under Other people, then hit the Change account type button. This lets you change administrators to standard users. To create a new account, click Add someone else to this PC and select Standard User when asked for the type.

windows 10 user account control

User Account Control (UAC) lets you control how much standard accounts can do. Type UAC into the Start Menu and choose Change User Account Control settings. You can choose between four levels of notification. The default setting notifies admins when apps try to make changes, but not when they change Windows settings. Always Notify is more secure but as annoying as Windows Vista The Most Hated Windows Versions & Why They Were So Bad The Most Hated Windows Versions & Why They Were So Bad The rule of thumb is that every other version of Windows is awesome. But why have the "bad" versions of Windows — ME, Vista, and 8 — been so hated? Read More . You shouldn’t turn off UAC or everything can run as an admin without asking.

Create a Child Account

Standard accounts are great for people who have some basic computer knowledge that you don’t want screwing around with your settings. But they don’t account for the unique challenge of keeping kids safe when using a computer How the Internet of Things Is Dangerous For Your Kids How the Internet of Things Is Dangerous For Your Kids Mixing kids and technology can be a scary thing. Do you know all of the ways the Internet of Things (IoT) could hurt your children? Read More . For that, you should try Microsoft’s Child Account feature in Windows 10.

Head back to Settings > Accounts > Family & other people, but this time click Add a family member under Your family. Choose Add a child and enter their email address. If they don’t have one yet, click The person I want to add doesn’t have an email address. You can create a new email address for them @outlook.com, or use your own address. We recommend making a new Microsoft account to keep everything separate.

Note that if your child already has an email address and you add them to your PC, they’ll receive an invite in their email instead. They must accept this before logging onto your computer, or the child protection measures won’t take effect.

Windows will ask you for your phone number as a backup for the child account. You can use this to get back into the account if they forget the password. Next, Windows will present you with two checkboxes asking if Microsoft Advertising can use their account info and send them promo offers. These settings are annoying for adults, let alone children, so it makes sense to disable them.

Family Setting Options

That’s all it takes to create a child account. Now, you should log into the Microsoft Family Management page online to configure safety options. You’ll find several helpful controls here:

  • Recent Activity lets you see what your child does on your PC. Turn on Activity reporting and you’ll get a weekly report in your email about their goings-on. You can also block private browsing so your kids can’t surf the web without leaving a trace 7 Ways Your Children Might Bypass Parental Control Software 7 Ways Your Children Might Bypass Parental Control Software Just because you've installed a safety net in parental control software doesn't mean your children won't find a way to navigate through it. Here's how they'll do it! Read More . They’ll have to use Edge or Internet Explorer (IE) for this to work, though.
  • Web browsing lets you Block inappropriate websites in Edge or IE, though it doesn’t list what these sites are. This also enforces SafeSearch in major search engines. Underneath this, you can add sites to Always allow these or Always block these to create a whitelist and blacklist. Check Only see websites on the allowed list to restrict their internet browsing to a specific list of sites.
  • Apps, games & media can Block inappropriate apps and games. You can also choose an age level to limit media content. For example, if you choose 10 year olds, this will limit the child to TV-PG shows, games rated Everyone 10+, and music without a Parental Advisory label. Blocked apps & games lets you turn off programs. You should disable other web browsers here so Edge’s filtering takes effect.

child account restrict media windows 10

Utilize Group Policy Tweaks

Group Policy is a tool in Pro editions of Windows that lets you control all sorts of account aspects. It’s intended for corporate use, but it can make lots of awesome tweaks for home use, too. The required tool isn’t officially available in Home versions of Windows, but you can use a workaround to install the Group Policy Editor to get it on those editions.

To access the Group Policy editor, press WinKey + R to open the Run dialogue and type in gpedit.msc. Double-click on any item to change its status from Not Configured to Enabled or Disabled. Check out some of these tweaks to lock down Windows:

  • Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Installer and enable Turn off Windows Installer to prevent anyone from installing software How to Block Users from Installing Software on Your Windows Computer How to Block Users from Installing Software on Your Windows Computer "Resistance is futile...." is not something you'll want to hear from a PC. When too many people access your computer, it's best to restrict the Windows Installer. We show you how. Read More .
  • User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Control Panel, then use Hide specified Control Panel items to remove some entries, Show only specified Control Panel items to create a restricted list, or Prohibit access to Control Panel and PC settings to remove them entirely.
  • User Configuration > Administrative Templates > System contains Prevent access to the command prompt and Prevent access to registry editing tools so savvy users can’t use them as workarounds. Also, Don’t run / Run only specified Windows applications lets you control what software the user can run.
  • User Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Ctrl + Alt + Del Options lets you remove the user’s ability to change their password, open the Task Manager, log off, or lock the PC.

  • User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer can Prevent access to drives from My Computer if you don’t want an account poking around in the file system.
  • Computer Configuration > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Account Policies > Password Policy holds several options that let you restrict passwords. Set Maximum password age to force users to change their passwords, and Minimum password length so people can’t use short passwords Test Your Password Strength with the Same Tool Hackers Use Test Your Password Strength with the Same Tool Hackers Use Is your password secure? Tools that assess your password strength have poor accuracy, meaning that the only way to really test your passwords is to try to break them. Let's look at how. Read More . Password must meet complexity requirements forces passwords to contain at least six characters and contain a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.

The Group Policy Editor supports many more tweaks, but the ones listed above let you lock down major Windows features.

Try the FrontFace Lockdown Tool

This app locks down a PC that’s acting as a kiosk. Since it collects common lockdown options all in one place, you can still use it to secure your own PC. Download the tool and you can run it without installing anything.

frontface lockdown tool

The Welcome tab on the left lets you pick from two preset profiles: Digital Signage Player PC and Interactive Kiosk Terminal. They contain settings so you can leave a computer out on a table for the public and not worry about people messing with it. If you’d rather customize these settings on your own, check the Startup & Shutdown, Continuous Operation, and Protection & Security tabs on the left.

You can set a program to automatically start when an account logs on, shut down the PC at a given time, disable access to the Task Manager, and even hide System Tray icons. Some of these changes will affect the entire machine, while others apply to only one user account. FrontFace provides a great way to beef up a restricted profile, especially if you don’t want to track down all the settings individually.

How Do You Lock Down Your PC?

These options let you restrict your computer to pretty much any level you’d like. Whether you want to keep inexperienced users from installing software or want to keep your kids safe, you can do it with these tools. Most other locking software costs a fair bit and doesn’t offer anything most users need that you can’t get with the above methods. For a nuclear option try a Deep Freeze, which resets your PC System Restore On Reboot - Deep Freeze Your Windows Installation With Free Tools System Restore On Reboot - Deep Freeze Your Windows Installation With Free Tools If you've ever wanted to maintain a system state to keep it secure and not allow any changes, then you might want to try deep freezing your Windows computer. Read More to a standard image every time you reboot.

For more, check out everything you should know about managing user accounts 5 Tips for Managing Windows User Accounts Like a Pro 5 Tips for Managing Windows User Accounts Like a Pro Windows user accounts have evolved from isolated local accounts to online accounts with various privacy challenges. We help you sort out your accounts and find the settings that work for you. Read More .

What are your favorite tools for blocking off Windows features? Let us know what you restrict on your computer by leaving a comment!

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