Sharing Your Computer

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By Herb Payton

Do you ever feel like one of the three bears? Do you share a computer with some other people, maybe your family, roommates, or co-workers? One day you plop down in the chair to do some work, but when the desktop appears, it's all black, you can't find the shortcuts to the programs you need, the text is in a large, yellow, cursive font, and the mouse pointer is a pulsating syringe. Yikes! Goldilocks has changed all the settings.

You can't work like this. And, to add insult to injury, you check Outlook Express and find that someone has opened e-mail addressed to you, and there are fifteen messages for someone else that you have to wade through! How can you keep your mail private and your desktop just how you like it, regardless of who else uses the computer? It's easy: Windows and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 can be set up for multiple users. Each person can have what's known as a profile, which stores individual settings for your desktop, Favorites list, Start menu, e-mail, and more.

Adding multiple users

The first step is to tell the computer that more than one person will be logging onto it. The first time you set up a user, you just follow the steps of a wizard, as follows.( Note: After your computer has been set up for multiple users, you will bypass steps 2 and 3, going directly to the User Settings dialog box. Click the New User button, and then follow the instructions in the wizard.)

  1. Click the Start button, point to Settings, and then click Control Panel.

  2. Double-click the Users icon.

  3. Click the New User button and then follow the instructions in the wizard. In the Enable Multi-User Settings dialog box, click Next.

  4. In the Add User dialog box, type a name (yours or another, if you want to set up a profile for someone else), and then click Next.

  5. Type a password, confirm it, and then click Next. Don't forget to write down your password and keep it in a safe place!

  6. In the Personalized Items Settings dialog box, choose whether you want to just copy the computer's current settings or create new settings. (Note: Whichever method you choose for obtaining your personal settings, they are added to the Windows\Profiles folder.)

    It's easiest to just add a user name and password for now because you can personalize your selections later (see below).


  7. Click Next and then click Finish. The wizard will prompt you to restart your computer.

Adding that "personal touch" to your desktop

Whenever you want, you can personalize your selections.

  • Double-click the Users icon in Control Panel, click a user, and then click Change Settings.

When you do this, a slightly different Personalized Items Settings dialog box appears, with a question-mark button in the upper-right corner. Just click the button, and then click on any of the settings to learn more about them.


After a profile for each user has been set up, the settings that each person specifies while using the computer remain theirs and theirs alone. When the next person logs on, the settings change based on the person's individual profile. These settings include the desktop, the contents of certain folders, and even the way the folders look.

For example, you can customize the Active Desktop feature. It integrates your computer more closely with the Web than ever before. In fact, you can make your desktop look just like a Web page! And if you want, you can make full use of Web channels to bring interesting updated content right to your desktop, even if other people who use your computer like the classic Windows desktop. You can even set folders to look and behave like Web pages only when you are using the computer.

Tired of other people's pages cluttering up the Favorites list? Not a problem. Your Favorites list can now contain only the shortcuts to the pages you've added, including those you've selected for offline viewing. Furthermore, the documents you worked on most recently (and not your little brother's!) appear in the My Documents folder.

Setting up individual Outlook Express mailboxes

After the user profiles are set up, you can move on to Outlook Express to create a personal mailbox for each user. No more worrying about someone else opening your e-mail! You can also have a personal set of newsgroups downloaded to your computer when you log on.

To set up Outlook Express, we recommend that you contact your Internet service provider (ISP) and have them walk you through the process; there's a lot of specific information that only they can provide, such as the type of incoming mail server, the individual e-mail addresses, the connection method, and how to set up your modem properly.

A sense of personal space

It's all up to you, so design your desktop to reflect who you are and what you do. Set up shortcuts to the programs you use every day. Make your most-visited site a backdrop to the rest of your work. Fine-tune your channels or add some "live" items to your desktop. Now every time you log on you won't have to worry about someone else tasting your porridge or messing with your settings. You may have to adjust the height of your chair, though, but that's between you and baby bear!