Where Is Windows XP's Administrator Account?


As Windows XP makes serious inroads into the home and small office/home office (SOHO) market, frustrated power users are asking me a lot of questions. The most common question is "What happened to the Administrator account?"

See also, "Securing the Windows XP Administrator Account" and "Disable the Administrator Account". 

Two situations typically give rise to this question. The first is when someone running XP tries to install a legacy Windows 2000 or Windows NT application that will install or run only under the Administrator account. The second situation occurs when someone configures a home computer to allow limited access by children or other family members and wants to maintain full access for only the Administrator account. 

If you're using XP Home Edition and want to maintain an Administrator account, you might have a big problem. In that OS, the Administrator account is available only when the computer runs in Safe Mode; you can't create an Administrator account that's available in any typical mode of system operation. This limited availability hinders the Administrator account's effectiveness in managing the computer.

If you're running XP Professional Edition, you can easily gain access to the Administrator account if you give up XP's Fast User Switching capability and use the classic Win2K-style logon screen, which isn't available while Fast User Switching is activated. To access the classic logon screen, go to the User Accounts application in the Control Panel. From the "Pick a task" list, click "Change the way users log on or off." Clear the "Use the Welcome screen" check box (this action automatically disables Fast User Switching as well) and click the Apply Options button. Then, log on to the system using the classic logon screen, and you'll be able to enter any account name you want to. When you open the User Accounts applet in the Control Panel, you'll see that the Administrator account is now visible.

If you've been using XP Pro in a domain, Fast User Switching is probably new to you; when an XP machine joins a domain, it loses the ability to use Fast User Switching because the domain logon requires the classic logon interface.

In most cases, I don't think you lose much functionality by disabling Fast User Switching. I've yet to hear from anyone who wanted to be able to keep their applications running in the background while someone else used their computer, which is what Fast User Switching lets you do. I'm sure situations exist in which Fast User Switching has value, but I've been using XP daily for almost a year, and I've never felt the need to use Fast User Switching.

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