Cornell University

Technology Services

146 Ives Hall, 607-255-5484

User Access Levels

It is important to understand the basics of user access levels since they can have a direct impact on the security of your computer and on what you or anyone else might be able to do on your system. There are two levels; USER and ADMINISTRATOR. Each level has an associated account, user name and password.

The typical access level for Windows XP is USER. This level provides the safest computing environment. It restricts what you or a hacker might be able to do on your system. For example, if you accidentally click on an infected attachment or spyware is downloaded to your computer, there is little chance that the malicious code contained in these two common sources of compromises will be able to execute and consequently damage your system.

It is also the level most restrictive of what you will be able to do on your computer. As a USER you will not be able to install software or peripherals that require access to system files or directories. This can be problematic for home computer or laptop users. Therefore, you are also provided with an ADMINISTRATOR account in these situations.

An ADMINISTRATOR of your computer has elevated privileges and is able to do anything on the system. Consequently, running your system as an ADMINISTRATOR decreases the security of your computer. For example, if you are logged on to your system as an ADMINISTRATOR and you visit a web site that downloads spyware, the malicious code contained within the spyware can be installed and executed so that the hacker can take future control of your system whenever s/he wants. You will probably never know that this has happened.

You will occasionally need ADMINISTRATOR access to your system. It is required to install most software and many peripherals. Therefore, you have an account that has been assigned ADMINISTRATOR level access permissions. You should only log in to this account when you need to have these privileges. At all other times you should login on your USER account.

When you receive your computer from ILR Technology Services be sure that you obtain information on both your USER and ADMINISTRATOR accounts and that you understand how to log in to both.