Windows’ user rights can be confusing and frustrating. Whether signed in with an administrator-level user account or evoking the Run as administrator setting, you can still run into insufficient-rights warnings.
But Windows’ built-in, separate Administrator account gives you unfettered access to virtually all parts of your system setup — once you know how to access it.
Many Windows users don’t know this account exists, primarily because it’s usually hidden and inactive by default. Here’s how to enable the “master” administrator account — and use it to streamline heavy-duty system repairs, problem-solving, and maintenance tasks in Win8, Win7, and Vista.
One master account to rule them all
Most operating systems have some sort of special-purpose master account: one that lets you control the OS with virtually no restrictions. This type of account has various names: “superuser,” “root,” “supervisor,” and so forth. Windows calls it Administrator.
Windows’ master account doesn’t simply enhance a standard admin-level user account or serve as an elevated version of the Run as administrator option. Administrator operates much like a normal user account, except it has virtually unlimited permissions.
Once activated, Administrator (or Admin for short) is a separate account, complete with its own private desktop and user files. You can set it up with its own themes, background, and other customizations, and you can install software that’s not shared with non-admin-level users.
The unfettered, full-permission access offered by the Administrator account is ideal when you need access to the deepest parts of Windows — for example, when you’re trying to resolve really thorny system problems. But clearly, that level of control can also be dangerous. There’s no safety net, so a misstep could royally screw up your system.