Creating New User Accounts on Your Mac

Learn About the Various Types of User Accounts

When you first turned on your Mac, or installed the OS X software, an administrator account was automatically created. If you're the only one who uses your Mac, then you may not need any of the other user account types. But if you share your Mac with family or friends, you should know how to create additional user accounts, as well as which types of accounts to create.

1
Add Administrator Accounts to Your Mac

Add Administrator Account
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When you first set up your Mac, the setup assistant created an Administrator account automatically. The Administrator account has special privileges that allow it to make changes to the Mac operating system, including adding other account types, installing apps, and accessing some special areas of the system that are protected from other user account types.

In addition to having special privileges, an administrator account has all of the features that a standard user has, such as a home folder, and access to all the apps in the /Applications folder. You may, if you wish, use the administrator account for your daily tasks, although if you want to follow a strict security protocol, you should only use an administrator account when needed, and then change to a standard account for day-to-day use.

You only need a single administrator account to work effectively with your Mac, but if you share your Mac with others, a second administrator account can be helpful, especially if you don’t want to be your family's 24/7 IT support staff.

2
Add Standard User Accounts to Your Mac

Add Standard User to Your Mac
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Creating a standard user account for each family member is a great way to share your Mac with the rest of your family. Each user account gets its own home folder for storing documents, its own set of user preferences, and its own iTunes library, Safari bookmarks, Messages account, Contacts, and Photos or iPhoto library, depending on the version of OS X you're running.

Standard account users also have some customization capabilities, although it will only affect their own accounts. They can pick their favorite desktop background, screen savers, and more. In addition, they can customize the apps they use, such as Safari or Mail, without affecting other account holders on your Mac.

3
Add Managed Accounts With Parental Controls to Your Mac

Add Managed User to OS X
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Managed user accounts are similar to standard user accounts. Like a standard user account, a managed user account has its own home folder, iTunes library, Safari bookmarks, Messages account, Contacts, and Photos library.

Unlike standard user accounts, managed user accounts have Parental Controls, which can determine which applications may be used, which web sites may be visited, who the user may exchange email or messages with, and during which hours of which days the computer may be used.

4
Set Up Parental Controls on Your Mac

Parental Controls OS X
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When you create a managed account, you, as the administrator, can set up Parental Controls to give you some level of control over the content and services the managed account user can access.

You can determine which applications the account holder is allowed to use, as well as which websites may be visited in the web browser. You can set up a list of people that are allowed to be in the user's Contacts list, and with whom the user can exchange messages and email.

Additionally, you can control when and for how long a managed user can use the Mac.

Parental Controls are easy to set up and versatile enough to allow your children to have fun on the Mac without getting into trouble.

5
Create a Spare User Account to Assist in Mac Troubleshooting

Spare Admin Account
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

 A spare user account is essentially an account you create, but never use. Sounds a bit silly, but it has a special power that makes it very useable when you are troubleshooting many Mac problems.

Because the spare user account is not regularly used, all of its preference files and lists are in the default state. Because of the spare user account's “fresh” state of affairs, it is ideal in tracking down Mac problems related to apps not working, the Mac exhibiting the pinwheel of death, or just acting flaky.

By comparing how your Mac works with the spare user account vs. the account you normally use, you can determine whether the problem is only happening with one user account or all of the user accounts.

As an example, if a single user is having problems with Safari stalling or crashing, the user's Safari preference file may have become corrupt. Deleting the preference file for that user may correct the problem.

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