Ending UAC headaches, once and for all

Fred Langa

Windows’ User Account Control (UAC) helps keep us safe from unwanted system changes — but it can also get in the way of routine operations.

With the right tools and techniques, you can fine-tune UAC so that commonly used programs don’t trigger UAC prompts.

By controlling UAC on an application-by-application basis, you’ll no longer be bothered by unnecessary alerts, but it will still warn you when it should!

A review of UAC’s intents and limitations

Microsoft introduced User Account Control in Vista, and it’s been part of every version of Windows since Vista (including, so far, Windows 10). Simply put, UAC alerts you whenever a potentially significant change is about to be made to your PC or its settings. Its basic task is to protect against malware or system changes that could give a hacker access to your local data.

UAC is a good concept, but it got off to a rocky start. In Vista, its too-frequent warnings irritated users, contributing to the general distaste for that version of Windows. In fact, Vista’s UAC became the central joke in one of the famous “I’m a PC/I’m a Mac” TV ads (YouTube video) featuring John Hodgman and Justin Long.

Adding to UAC’s early woes, the tool had notoriously few user controls. For example, Vista Starter, Home Basic, and Home Premium allow only one all-or-nothing choice (shown in Figure 1): turn UAC on or off! (For more on this limited version of UAC, check out the related MS Windows help page.)

Consumer Vista UAC

Figure 1. In consumer versions of Vista, the UAC setting is limited to just on or off.

Vista Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate offer a bit more UAC flexibility, but making adjustments isn’t easy. For the details, see the “Scenario 3: Configure User Account Control” subsection in the MS TechNet article, “User Account Control step-by-step guide,” and the TechNet reference pages, “Understanding and Configuring User Account Control in Windows Vista.”

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2014-11-13:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.