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Chapter 16. Setting Up Accounts and Main... > Understanding User Accounts

Understanding User Accounts

When Macs were new, they didn't share very well; however, a lot has changed since then. OS X was designed for multi-users, and Panther has continued that tradition with the inclusion of easy user swapping and tighter file security. Think of a user account as a file drawer within a large file cabinet. A specific individual owns each file drawer, and they have access to that drawer through a unique key. That key gives them access to the contents of their drawer, and no other. Controlling the file cabinet is one person, who has a master key that gives her access to all of the file drawers; including her own. Individuals can do anything they please within their own drawer; including throwing away or adding files, but they can't access the other drawers. A User Account is a file drawer that holds all of the user's folders, files, applications; anything they select to add or subtract from their account.

The interesting thing is that on a Mac, the user account is more than just a file drawer; it's the whole user environment. Users create their own world—including desktop, fonts, and folders. For example, one user logs in and sees a background picture of her dog, while another user, logging in on the same computer, has a background of a beach in the Bahamas. In addition, users are assigned privileges that define where they can go, and what they can access. Let's say one user has access to the accounting system; including all the applications and files, and another user is locked out; all determined by the Administrator. The Administrator holds all the keys to all the accounts; they're the ones that set up the other user accounts and decide who can do what. If you're the owner of the computer, you're the Administrator. It's up to you to decide who does what on your computer.


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