Windows 7 has a number of useful features that can help PC owners control what a particular user can do, and when they are able to do it. For example, a parent can block games that possess particular elements that may not be conducive to the environment they feel their children should be subjected to.
Alternatively, a general purpose PC shared by a group of roommates (or guests) may be better managed through allowing only specific programs to be executed by certain users.
Setting these permissions can be done through the Control Panel, though the first general rule of thumb that should always be followed is that each user outside of the owner should have their own user account with standard user permissions. Optimally, only the owner of the computer should have an account with administrative access, giving them the ability to manage and/or alter any settings that have an impact on everyone’s user experience.
Creating a new user is fairly easy. Just follow these steps while logged in to your administrative account:
- Hit Start.
- Select Control Panel.
- Navigate to User Accounts and Safety > Add or Remove User Accounts.
- Click Create a New Account.
- Enter the desired name of the new account, and set user type. Standard is good for anyone that doesn’t explicitly need administrative privileges. Chances are, if you’re setting parental controls on them, you don’t want to give them administrative authority.
Once this is done, hit Create Account and you should be taken back to the main user account page. From here, you’ll be able to access Parental Controls very easily. The option is located near the bottom of the page and it’s labeled Set Up Parental Controls. It may have a shield next to it, indicating that only administrator accounts can access this feature. Give it a click, and we’re on to the next step.
When you enter the Parental Controls menu, you’ll be asked which account you’d like to set the controls for. In this case, you’ll want to select the standard account type you just set up. Give it a single click, and you’ll be moved on to the next step in the process.
The first question is fairly obvious. Do you want to turn Parental Controls on or off? Select on, and you’ll be given access to an area where you can set time limits, control gaming ability, and even allow or block specific programs. These three types of permissions are off by default, so you’ll need to set each one individually as you desire.
Once you’ve toggled parental controls on in a given account, you’ll be able to set time controls that allow you to control when a particular user can log in and use the system.
This can be done in hourly blocks, and each day can have its own time table. For example, if you want someone to have access every evening between 5 and 7, you can set that. If you would like to allow them more time during Saturday and Sunday, that is your option as well.
Setting it is pretty simple, just click the squares you’d like to block out and leave available times blank. You can click and drag your cursor over several blocks to speed up the process. When you’re done, hit OK.
The Games area of Parental Controls is pretty useful for parents that don’t want their children using a particular computer for gaming, or playing games with too much sex, profanity, blood, comedic violence, or anything else that they might not approve of.
The first option you see when selecting Games is a simple yes or no that either allows or disallows gaming for the user in question. No will block the user from executing games that appear in the Windows gaming menu, though it may not block all programs if they don’t identify themselves as games upon installation. For that, the next section can come in handy.
You can select Set Game Ratings to block games that don’t meet a particular rating. For example, if you have a teenager that enjoys first-person shooter games, you may want to set the rating at TEEN. If a six-year-old uses the same computer, you could set this rating at EVERYONE. The ratings available to you range from early childhood to adulthood, giving you enough control to be quite specific.
Below the ratings area are content types you can choose from. For example, you could block games that include references to alcohol, contain strong language, crude humor, sexual themes, or anything else the ESRB may look out for.
You can also block or allow specific games through this portion of Parental Controls.
Allow and Block Specific Programs
Let’s say you want your house guests or children to use one browser, but not the other. You may be all for people being able to browse the Web, but not log in to TeamSpeak or Skype. You can control each user’s ability to execute specific programs through the third section of Parental Controls.
This is a great option for a general-purpose PC in a busy household that regularly has guests over. Giving the guest account access to some programs and not others can reduce the chances of someone accidentally breaking something you’ve been working on or misusing the privilege.
This is up to every PC owner to decide for themselves, but the option is there if you wish to use it.
Parental Controls is a great addition to Windows 7, and a powerful way to set permissions for specific users. You don’t have to be a parent to take advantage of this tool, especially if you share a PC with someone else, or regularly entertain guests.
Not all programs accept or respond to different user accounts, and being able to keep your personal data at least a little safer from unwanted eyes can be quite useful.