Understanding User Accounts

In OS X user accounts are helpful for when multiple people want to use the same computer. Learn how to navigate these accounts here.

What are user accounts?

Video: Understanding User Accounts

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A user account allows you to sign in to your computer. By default, your Mac already has one user account, which you were required to create when you set up your computer. If you plan to share your computer with others, you can create a separate user account for each person.

Why use separate user accounts?

At this point, you may be wondering, why do I even need to use separate user accounts? Wouldn't it be simpler for everyone just to have use the same account? Well, if you're sharing a computer with multiple people—for example, with your family or at the office—user accounts allow everyone to save their own files, preferences, and settings without affecting other computer users. When you start your computer, you'll be able to choose which account you want to use.

Administrator, Standard, and Managed accounts

Before you create new user accounts, it's important to understand the different types:

Screenshot of OS X MavericksMultiple accounts

Generally, it's safer to be logged in to a Standard account than an Administrator account. If you're logged in as an Administrator, it may actually make it easier for an unauthorized user to make changes to your computer. Therefore, you may want to create a Standard account for yourself, even if you're not sharing the computer with anyone. You'll still be able to make Administrator-level changes; you'll just need to provide your Administrator password when making these changes.

To create a new user account:

  1. Use the Apple icon to navigate to System Preferences, then select Users & Groups.


    Screenshot of OS X MavericksSelecting the Users & Groups settings
  2. Locate the Lock icon in the lower-left corner of the window. It will either be open or closed.


    Screenshot of OS X MavericksThe Lock icon
  3. If the lock icon is closed, you will need to click it and type your password to make changes. When you're done, click Unlock.


    Screenshot of OS X MavericksTyping a password to unlock the settings
  4. Click the button with the plus sign (+) to begin creating a new account.


    Screenshot of OS X MavericksCreating a new account
  5. Choose the account type from the drop-down menu.


    Screenshot of OS X MavericksSelecting an account type
  6. Type a Full Name and Password for the new account (the Account name will appear automatically). In the Verify field, type the password again. If you want, you can type a Password hint to help you remember it. When you are done, click Create User.


    Screenshot of OS X MavericksTyping the name, password, and hint for the new account
  7. If you want, you can click the account picture and select a different picture. Then click Done to switch to the new image.


    Screenshot of OS X MavericksSelecting a new account picture

To switch to a different account:

  1. Click the Apple icon, then select Log Out.


    Screenshot of OS X MavericksLogging out
  2. A sign-in screen will appear. Enter the desired user name and password, then press Enter. In some versions of OS X, you may need to select the user account before typing the password.