Like its predecessor, Microsoft's Windows 10 is an operating system highly powered by the cloud. Now more than ever, if you don't have an internet connection (unless you're doing something specific), there is not a lot of work you can get done.
In Windows 8, along with local accounts, Microsoft also introduced the ability for users to create profiles using a Microsoft Account. For those who still need some clarification, if you own an Outlook, Hotmail, Live, or MSN email address, you already have a Microsoft Account.
Unlike a local account, which everyone have been using for a very long time, with a Microsoft Account you can sync your settings across desktops, laptops, and phones. Settings include the current theme you're using, web browser settings, passwords, language preferences, and general Windows settings.
If you're reinstalling Windows 10 or you are getting a new computer, signing in with your Microsoft Account lets you sync many settings in as snap. However, Microsoft recently said that Windows Store apps and Start menu layouts won't roam between devices. If you're also using OneDrive, all of your files will be immediately available. Finally, if you're planning to run Windows apps from the Store, a Microsoft Account is a requirement.
On the other hand, a local account, which is very much alive in Windows 10, will only get you access to the desktop. You can install and use traditional Win32 desktop applications, such as Chrome, Adobe Photoshop, and other apps that didn't originate from the Store, and settings will stay safely stored on one computer.
Now that you know the basics between a Microsoft Account and a local account let's talk about problems. If you see that you can't use certain apps, or you can't access the Store, or download new builds of Windows 10 as a Windows Insider the first thing you want to do is to check that you are correctly signed in with a Microsoft Account. To do this, open the Settings app, click Accounts, and navigate to Your account.
If you read Local Account under your username, you guessed it! You're using a local account, in this case to switch, click the Sign in with a Microsoft account instead link. On the "Make it yours" dialog box, enter your credentials, and click Sign in. You may also be prompted to re-enter your password, and then simply click Next.
You're also likely to get prompted to create a PIN, which Microsoft says is safer than long passwords, but you can skip this step for now.
Additional options available in your account profile are: the ability to change your photo by using an image you already have on your computer or you can also use your webcam to take a new picture profile. You can also add other accounts you use in this section too.
Like in Windows 8, another aspect you can configure in Windows 10 is the authentication method. From the Sign-in options settings page, you can change your current password, set up a PIN password and Windows Hello, and you can also set a picture password.
Changing your current password is straightforward, under Password, click Change, a dialog box will open where you'll need to enter your old and the new password.
Setting a PIN is a similar procedure. Under PIN, click Add, and a dialog box will pop up. You'll need to re-enter your current password, and then enter your numeric PIN twice, and finally click OK.
Remember that the PIN feature works locally. You can't remote into your computer and use a PIN to sign-in. This restriction is one of the reasons a PIN is more secure than a traditional password. If someone were to steal your PIN, the person would have to have physical access to the machine.
In Windows 10, Microsoft is introducing a new security feature called Windows Hello, which uses either facial recognition or fingerprint reader to sign users into their accounts without the use of a password. However, the key feature is the facial recognition capability. Using new infrared and 3D cameras, Windows Hello can recognize your face and get you into Windows 10 in a split second.
Because traditional webcams don't support Windows Hello, you'll need a computer that features one of Intel's new RealSense 3D cameras. At launch, only a few machines will come with the facial recognition camera. However, if you're not upgrading your computer this year, you can buy the RealSense developer camera for $99 from Intel.
If you want to know more about how you can setup Windows Hello on Windows 10, make sure to read Richard's guide here.
Finally, you can also create a picture password. You'll need to setup a picture where you will have to create a pattern that you can use as a password.
To set up a picture password, click Add, reenter your main password, from the left pane click Choose picture. Once you select an image, click Use this picture, draw three gestures on the image including circles, straight lines, and taps, or a combination of the three. Then, simply click Finish to complete.
From the "Sign-in options", under Require sign-in, you can always change whether to require a password after you've been away from your computer.
The Work access section is enterprise and education related functionality that allows your Windows 10 computer gain access shared resources, such as network, apps, and email from your work or school. Typically, your network administrator will provide with the information you need to connect.
Family & other users
Here is where the fun begins. Family & other users is the place to go in Settings to add, remove, and manage new accounts to your computer.
Under the Your family section, you can allow other people you trust to use your computer with their accounts, settings, and apps.
You can add two types of accounts: "Adult" and "Child", and both types of accounts offer different features.
Adult: The Adult account is what you'll be using most of the time if you don't have kids running around the house. This account has two different types; you can set an Adult account as an "Administrator" or "Standard user" – just like you were able in Windows 8 and Windows 7.
When you create a new account, by default it will be created as a Standard user. This setting will give the user the freedom to do almost anything on the computer similar to an administrator account. The big difference that they can't change security settings, install software without permission, or anything that would affect other users. (This is the recommended user account type to let other people use your computer.)
The administrator account type is self-explanatory, it's the account that allows you to take control of the computer fully.
Child: Microsoft is also including the Child account type, which you can use to keep kids safe online when using your computer. When you create a new account for your kids, they will be able to personalize their desktop, run applications, and surf the internet. Also, you can configure activity reporting, web browsing permissions, apps and games restrictions, and screen time.
And of course, like a Standard user type, the Child account can't modify security settings or install software without permission.
Perhaps where managing multiple users accounts in Windows gets more interesting is when using your Microsoft Account dashboard online.
Signing into http://http://account.microsoft.com/family, you'll be able to see and manage all the accounts configured on your computers, tablets, and phones. While you can only add or remove Adult accounts through the dashboard, you can control many features on a Child account.
For example, you can set activity reports, which will include online searches, visited websites, recently used apps and games, and the amount of time a person has spent on the computer.
Web browsing filtering is a great feature to keep kids safe online. From your dashboard, you can block inappropriate websites, and you can even create a list of allowed or blocked sites. This setting is extremely useful for parents who want more control on which websites they want their kids to browse. However, the best feature is that web filtering not only works with Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer but also with any other web browser including Chrome and Firefox. So the web content filtering is configured at the operating system level and not at the browser level, which is great for savvy kids that might want to find a way around the filter.
If the kid attempts to access a website that isn't allowed, a custom web page will appear, letting them know they aren't allow to access. There is 'Ask for permission' button to request access from an adult account.
Apps & games offers the ability to block inappropriate apps and games kids can run on a computer, and settings will apply for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, and even Windows Phone 8.x. Also, you can limit apps and games kids can access from the Windows Store by setting the appropriate age rating.
Screen time allows you to set limits to the time a kid can be using your computer. You can set schedule for every day of the week, you can also control when they can sign in and for how long. If they didn't do their homework, you could even block access for the entire day or week.
Keep in mind that every account has its own Microsoft Account dashboard. While a Child account can only see which other members of the family have access to the computer, any Adult account can control a Child and other Adult accounts.
Adding multiple accounts to Windows 10
Although, many families will opt for one computer per family member, there still a lot of people who share their computers. As such, if you need additional accounts in Windows 10, here's one way you can do this:
1- Open the Settings app, go to Accounts, and navigate to the Family & other users.
2- Click the Add a family member, then a dialog box will popup, choose the type of account you want to create, enter their email address, click Next, Confirm, and finally Close.
Note: If the person you're trying to add doesn't have a Microsoft email address (e.g., Outlook), you could create a new account by clicking "The person I want to add doesn't have an email address". You'll notice that the invite to join the "family" will never arrive in the new inbox. It will be better if you simply create a new Microsoft Account online and then try to create a new account.
3- Now the new account has been added to your computer, but before the new user can sign-in, they have to check their inbox to accept the invite. Once the accepted the invite, the "Pending" tag will drop from the account, and the user will be able to sign-in.
At any time, you can select a user, and click Change account type. You can also temporarily hit the Block button to restrict a user from using your computer.
If you want to manage further or remove accounts, you can click the Manage family settings online under the user accounts on Settings in your web browser and access your Microsoft Account dashboard.
Interestingly enough, if your account gets removed from the computer, you'll get an email that reads "You've been removed from your family". Just know that Microsoft is only referring to the family account.
For those who still on a local account type, the only issue is that you can't add multiple accounts to your computer if you're not using a Microsoft Account. This limitation should not be a big deal, but it's something you need to keep in mind.
Other users is another type of account meant for people that aren't part of the family and they only are going to use your computer temporarily. Essentially, creating a new user account through "Other users" will create an account with the Standard user benefits. It won't be added to your Microsoft Account dashboard. Also, the new user doesn't need confirm an email invite to sign-in, and to remove an account, you simply need to select the user and click Remove.
There is also a Set up assigned access section that allows to restrict an account only to run one Windows Store app. This feature is very useful to lock down your system to a single application. For example, if you're having a party with a lot of people, you could create a temporary account to only access Groove. Anyone at the party can play around with the app and mix songs, but with the security that no one will be accessing other apps, documents, or posting Facebook status on your behalf.
Sync your settings
Finally, if you use a Microsoft Account, you can also sync your PC settings across devices. From this section, you can enable or disable sync entirely, or you can choose individual sync settings. Settings that can roam between devices include: theme, web browsing settings, passwords, language preferences, ease of access, and various other Window settings.
Wrapping things up
Managing users on Windows 10 remains very similar to what we have seen in Windows 8 (and from Windows 7 in some aspects), but Microsoft has rearranged and simplified how multiple accounts work in Windows 10. Additionally, the company has been including various improvements in the Microsoft Account dashboard, which is a feature underutilized by many users. This usage might change in the future, as Windows 10 becomes more cloud dependent.
Do you share your computer with family and friends? Let us know what you think in the comments below!