How can I password protect a Microsoft Windows PC?
Many people have their computer unprotected by a password, so that when you turn on the computer, Windows loads up automatically without the user having to type any password to gain access to the computer. If you decide you want to put a password on the computer after all, here's how to do it.
This is a great idea for just about everyone I know that uses a PC, whether you have a laptop that you travel around and use at a school library or local cafe, or whether you're a businessperson with a computer sitting on the desk in your office. Fact is, we all have files and other information that shouldn't make it out in the public eye, whether it's photos from that last party, email from your significant other, or confidential files about a new acquisition that's in the works.
There are some environments where people might find it a bit odd that you have a password - for example, at home - but what I'd encourage you to do is consider setting up a separate account for each person in your family so that they too are extended the privacy of their own virtual world. In addition, if you're a parent to younger children, having a password on a computer is a simple way to control access and ensure chores are done and homework is complete before Farmville or World of Warcraft are fired up!
To set up a password on your Microsoft Windows PC computer, start by going into Control Panel and click on "User Accounts":
On the "Pick a task" menu that comes up:
click on "Change an account", and then a new window opens asking "Pick an account to change" and listing the accounts on the computer:
If you've never set a password on the computer before or created any secondary accounts, most likely the only accounts listed will be the main account, and the Guest account (which is turned off by default), as in the picture above. The main account on my machine is called "HP_Administrator", since the computer came from Hewlett Packard, however that varies from machine to machine. But if it's the only account listed (other than the Guest account), then that's the account that the computer is automatically signing in to when you boot it up. So that's the account that you want to set a password for.
Click that account name, and a screen will appear asking "What do you want to change about your account?"
Click on "Create a password for your account", which brings up the screen asking you to enter your password:
Enter the same password in the first two blanks. (It's common practice for a program to ask you to enter your password twice, since if you entered the password only once, you might make a typo, and then you'd be locked out of your computer since you wouldn't know what password you had inadvertently entered!) In the third blank, you can optionally enter a hint that will help you remember your password if you forget it. As the text on the screen warns you, however, the hint will be visible to everyone who uses the computer, so don't make the hint too obvious (e.g. "What was the name of my first wife?") or others will be able to guess your password as well.
After setting your password, the computer will ask you if you want to make your files and folders private:
This applies to the pictures you create, the documents you create in Microsoft Word, and so on. If you choose to keep these files private, then users with other accounts on the same machine will not be able to see these files when they're logged in. (Note that, obviously, this only applies if you have created "other accounts" on the same machine. If you set a password on the machine's main account, then if you give the password to someone or sign them in temporarily so they can use your machine, they will still have access to all of your files.)
And that's it! Now, if you reboot your machine, the next time a user signs on they will be prompted to enter a password in order to use the computer.
Bennett Haselton is a technology and political blogger who will make you listen to his entire life story before telling you what you really want to know, like how to bypass K9 Bluecoat Internet filters.
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