In Lion - on a one person per install setup - the user is admin by default.

Would you recommended this setup?

I thought that the default user should never be admin but have a restricted standard account instead.

If I change my account for the everyday use to standard and keep an extra admin account for maintenaince, what restrictions take place?

e.g. Can I still install software as easily?


All actions taken on a non admin account that would need admin privileges require the user to enter the name of an admin account and the password before continuing.

So if you download software on a standard user account, when you come to install it you will be asked to enter the admin user name and password.

I use the admin account and my girlfriend has a standard user account. She can import music, photos download apps from the app store, she can change system preferences in the settings panel but not alter the status of my admin account, create accounts, etc, etc.

I have not heard of this procedure of using a non admin account as to do anything that will change the system as you are required to enter the password anyway.

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  • About the first paragraph: Do I have to enter the standard user password first and then the admin user name + password? – gentmatt Dec 20 '11 at 18:37
  • And what about accessing another persons home folder. Is this possible via an admin password prompt or do I have to enter terminal? – gentmatt Dec 20 '11 at 18:44
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    @Matt it is possible with an admin account - you will be prompted for the user and password if your current user does not have sufficient permission. – user151019 Dec 20 '11 at 19:23
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    @matt you only need to enter in the admin username and password not the password of the account currently being used. – Graeme Hutchison Dec 20 '11 at 20:46

Matt, your's is a good usage practice ;)

Take a look at Rui Carmo's excelent Switch to the Mac Howto


Don’t use the administration account for anything other than setting up the machine and applications or changing “permanent” settings (if you want to, say, change network settings as a normal user you’ll be prompted for the admin password, and since you’ll do configuration changes less and less often as time progresses, this isn’t a problem).

If you want install some opensource tools use Homebrew instead of Macports or Fink

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  • Is that last line of (instead of) or or ? – user151019 Dec 20 '11 at 13:33
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    no it is not :) can I suggest that you keep these as equivalent as this is not relevant to the answer - or at least give reasons which I will probably produce arguments against – user151019 Dec 20 '11 at 13:39
  • Even if you are the only one using your Mac, it makes sense to consider your everyday account a standard user. Sure, you'll have to enter your password anyway but considering computers do sometimes, get stolen, used by somebody else; any extra protection helps – jmontano Dec 20 '11 at 14:07
  • @Mark, yes you are correct, comment removed. – Graeme Hutchison Dec 20 '11 at 14:16
  • but that extra protection isn't extra, as they will need a password either way? all you are changing is the fact you will need to type in the admin account name, as well as a password, which is shown at startup. There is no sense or point in doing that. – Graeme Hutchison Dec 20 '11 at 14:18

I have a separate admin account that I only use for installing and updating applications and the OS, and making other system configuration changes that require it. My day-to-day account does not have admin rights. The two accounts have different passwords. I never type my admin password to change things from my user account.

This extra step (having to switch to the admin account when necessary) makes it far less likely that some typo, sleep deprivation, or accidental click will even try to change some system setting, file or install some unwanted code. I am far more careful about everything I do when logged into the admin account, as there are many more ways to make your OS crash and you Mac unbootable when logged in as an admin.

But when needed (and when you are awake enough for the extra step), it's easy to log into the admin account to install stuff.

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