I want to add a new account for my brother on my Ubuntu Linux laptop so he doesn’t mess up my account and files. What’s the fast and safe way to do so?
All major operating systems now support multiple users –with the exception of iOS on the iPad and iPhone — and it’s by far the best way to let other people use your computers and devices rather than just trust that they won’t mess up your programs, change preferences, download new stuff and peek at your data.
In the old days, adding a new user to a Linux system was a bit of a pain because you likely had a custom local script like “add_user” to do it, but nowadays with modern Linux systems like Ubuntu, it’s all done through the administrative interface and that’s a GUI-based system. Much easier and more reliable!
To start, log in to your account, then click on the gear icon on the top right of your screen. It pulls down a menu full of useful options:
As highlighted, you want to choose “System Settings…” from this particular Ubuntu Linux 15.10 menu.
There are a lot of choices. A lot of things you can tweak and customize!
To add your brother’s account, you want the option in the lower right: User Accounts.
Click on it.
Here’s where the icons get a bit confusing: logically you should be able to click on the “+” on the lower left, but this particular interface is locked. How do you know? It says “Unlock” on the top right. But where the interface visual cue is wrong is that the padlock should be locked to indicate the current status. Then “Unlock” should look more like a button and it would be a lot more clear what’s going on.
Anyway, whether the interface makes sense to you or not, you’ll need to unlock this screen to proceed, and you do that by clicking on “Unlock” on the top right.
That’s a good thing: You don’t want people changing your account settings without authorization, or adding new users without you realizing that the change has occurred!
Enter your administrative password (probably your regular account password because the main user account is an administrative account by necessity) and click “Authenticate” to proceed.
Now you can click that “+” button!
So… click the “+” button. 🙂
Here you can see the basic elements of a new user account: type, full name and username:
The full name is optional, but I strongly encourage you to enter that data too, but don’t give your brother administrative rights. In fact, there’s rarely a reason to create a new account as an additional administrator, so “Standard” is, well, a good standard setting.
Since I know he’s watching, I’ll create an account for my friend Winston:
A click on “Add” and the account is set up:
Ah, but it’s not ready yet. As you can see, “Account disabled”. Not so useful.
Though it doesn’t look like it, if you move your cursor over the words “Account disabled” it turns out that’s a button! Ayup, more weird interface design. Click on the button and you’ll be able to set a password for the new user account:
As always, take your time and pick a password with upper and lowercase letters, a digit or two, and ideally some punctuation too. Looks good? Click on “Change” when you’re done and it’ll be all set up.
A closer examination of the profile reveals that there’s no photo, however. You can leave it that way, but I like to have user photos too, so here’s how you add a photo for the new user account…
First off, click on the missing profile pic:
This brings up a window with lots of default possibilities, one of which can work just fine:
If you imagine your brother as a soccer ball or guitar, you’re set. Click on it and you’re done.
If you’d rather use his actual photo, however, then click on “Browse for more pictures…” to get to the photo browser, then find the picture you want to use. For my friend Winston, it looks like this:
That’s the photo, sure enough, so a click on “Open” lets me then crop it as desired:
I recommend a pretty tight crop so that their full face is visible, but not much more.
Cropped and looking good? Click on “Select” to proceed.
You’re done. Now to let your brother know his password and rest, confident that you’ve protected your files and settings from his curious fingers!