Windows Passwords

In Windows 9x, passwords can limit access to your PC. From the Network icon in Control Panel (Click Start, Settings, Control Panel), you can require a password to log on by selecting Windows Logon from the Primary Network Logon field. (You’ll have to restart to implement the changes.) To change the password for an account, log on using the current password and navigate to Start, Settings, Control Panel, and Passwords.

When you start your PC, a window appears requesting a User Name and Password. Once entered, the computer verifies both by looking for the Username.pwl file, where the username you entered stores the local password.

If correct, the computer logs you on, allowing access to the Windows Desktop. From this point, you can access almost anything on the computer. With the addition of Policies, the “owner” or Administrator of a given computer can restrict, based on user IDs, which files and programs each person can view and access. Policies can be a little tricky because they are not enabled by default and require some work to set up and properly configure. But despite the learning curve, they can provide a far more advanced security model at no additional cost.

Notably, if a system hasn’t been configured with policies but has been configured to use passwords, it’s possible to log on to the computer from the Password box and view everything on the computer by pressing the ESC key. While this doesn’t log in to networked resources, it gives anyone full access to your hard drive and its files. You can prevent this by installing and properly configuring policies.

To add policies to computers running Windows 9x, load Security Administrator and in Passwords (click Start, Settings, Control Panel, Passwords), check the Users Can Customize Their Preferences And Desktop Settings radio button. Check both of the boxes under User Profile Settings, too. Policies let you restrict user options when another user logs on to the machine. Use them to restrict access to programs, hard drives, and configuration options, such as network and video, on a per-user basis, which gives you more security and control of your PC.

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