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    I've never personally used User Accounts on any OS, we've (the family) have always used folders to keep our documents separate. Now, I've got a friends who has an aging computer showing the wear and tear of many years of family usage. I've been given the challenge to clean it it, but before I start I want to find out how the User Accounts work on XP. Can someone clarify the below points, please?

    1) I am pretty sure they all use the same Windows system folder located at C:/Windows. If that is messed up, all user accounts are messed up too?

    2) 'Program Files' are stored at C:/ and all or just the selected users can access them?

    3) Internet Explorer 6 is crashing and displaying the dreaded '...encountered a problem...' message on ONE user's account. So, does this mean that each user account has a copy of IE, or can spyware be on one User Account and only affect their IE?

    4) What will running registry/spyware/virus scanners on a non-admin account do? Do you have to be logged in as the Admin to get proper results?

    5) Is there a way to merge all user accounts without the loss of data?

    This isn't a PC Problem, I am just curious as to the workings of User Accounts on XP. Thanks in advance if anyone can clear these points up!

    as far as i remember, if you press the ctrl key at the user account screen you can select the Administrator account which will globally affect everyone. If my memory is correct, just perform all cleanups in there and it should sort it out for everyone

    Short answer: it depends

    Long answer:

    User accounts can either have administrator status or not. Depending on the configuration you may be able to do system maintenance from all the accounts or only from a single administrator account ( or some other funky combination ).

    MOST OF THE TIME programs are installed once, by the system administrators, and other users can run them. Programs can store user-specific settings in folders that correspond to the particular user. ( On XP this will be somewhere under C:\Document and Settings\blah blah blah blah... ). There are also global configurations that apply to all users.

    Internet explorer is a bit of a special case. Basically, back at the time when you still had Netscape Microsoft decided to ( in an illegal fashion ) kill the competition by making Internet Explorer an integral part of the operating system. They did this because it allowed them to say "removing explorer would break windows" when they were latter taken to court over forcing people to buy Explorer by bundling it together with Windows. As a consequence Internet Explorer is partly a stand-alone application, partly a part of windows, so exactly what it does when it comes to different users and administrators is not completely clear. I'm not completely certain how this has changed with IE7 and Vista ( In Vista IE7 has been sandboxed from the rest of the OS for security reasons, so it may well be that they have separated it from windows again, but I'm not sure about that. )

    It is also fully possible to install programs for one user only. Some programs don't even require installation, but copying them to one of your folders would be enough. ( The portable edition of Firefox is an example of this ).

    You cannot merge all accounts without losing at least some data. Consider the desktop background as an example. IF all users have separate backgrounds merging them into a single user means you will only have one background, so you would lose some configurations. There is no reason, however, why you can't keep all files and documents from all the accounts. Just copy them all to one account and remove the other accounts (disclaimer: make backups, I'm not responsible if things go wrong... etc etc ).

    Most virus scanners should be installed with administrator privileges. Otherwise they won't have access to scan / protect all parts of the system.

    Back up all data from all accounts and format and reinstall the whole lot. 'Tis the only way with Windows! Get I.E 7, Adaware, Spybot and AVG then reset all user accounts and replace files.
    As everyone has said, one may have the admin account, all may be the admin account. The accounts may share files and not others, same with settings.

    You can always hack the admin by starting in safe mode as it normally brings up the admin account if it's not been renamed or assigned.
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