100 Tips #49: Get Guests Online Quickly With The Guest Account

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When friends or family come to stay, they might want to borrow your computer for a while. That’s fine, but sometimes you want to keep your stuff private, and you want your personal settings to stay as they are.

That’s when it’s a good idea to make use of the built-in Guest Account, which you’ll find inside the Accounts pane of System Preferences, as long as you’re running OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or later.

You’ll have to enter your password to make changes inside this pane, but once that’s done you can switch on the Guest Account with one click.

It’s different to normal accounts. You don’t need a password to use it (so your guests needn’t bother asking you for one). They can save files while they’re making use of it, but they need to copy them to a USB stick or send them on by email before they stop using the computer, because once they log out of the Guest Account, everything created inside it gets deleted.

Yup, deleted. Every time the Guest Account gets fired up, it gets fired up as if it was brand new. You can’t store files inside it, or save browser bookmarks, or anything permanent.

You, as the computer administrator, can optionally allow users of the Guest Account to access Shared folders on the computer, or you can set up Parental Controls to further lock down what that account can and cannot do. Your choice.

These restrictions might sound harsh, but they really don’t get in the way for casual checking of web-based email accounts or looking up facts on the web. And that’s all your guests are likely to need, most of the time.

(You’re reading the 49th post in our series, 100 Essential Mac Tips And Tricks For Windows Switchers. These posts explain to OS X beginners some of the most basic and fundamental concepts of using a Mac. Find out more, or Grab the RSS feed.)