For a long time, I have had two accounts on my Mac : an administrator account that I normally don't use, and a "normal user" that I use for day-to-day work. I did this because it should be more secure to work in an account with fewer privileges.

The drawback is that I get more security popups. And I believe Apple's standard practice is still to give you administrator rights when you do a standard install.

I will be installing a clean system soon, so my question is: should I continue using two accounts or just have one account for everything? Is having two accounts more secure in practice? or am I just annoying myself for no real reason?

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    I concur with the recommendation to just use an administrator account, with one amendment: I always create a 2nd administrator account (just called 'admin' or some such) which I use in case my primary administrator account gets hosed. I have only needed this very, very rarely, but it's a nice safety net to have "just in case." – TJ Luoma Jun 19 '12 at 19:58

Let's differentiate a user being one individual from a user being a single UNIX user account.

As for the purpose of limiting privileges to the computer account and not for the individual operating it, creating two separate user accounts in Mac OS X is overkill and if you ask me rather impractical. Even an administrator account lacks the privileges to modify anything system critical without authenticating as the root user, which requires manually re-entering your password.

The only significant extra privilege an administrator account has is the ability to switch to the root (privileged) account. If you are familiar with the sudo command in the shell, this is very much the same thing.

You would create a regular user account as opposed to an administrator account if you want to limit privileges of the individual operating the computer, for example with kids or employees.

  • Thank you. So if I understand correctly, without sudo-ing (by entering password), an administrator user has pretty much the same limits as a normal user? In that case there is no reason for me to work on a normal account and I will install my new system using only an admin account. – Michael van der Griendt Jun 19 '12 at 13:25
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    Basically, an administrator account is a regular account with sudo access. – Gerry Jun 19 '12 at 13:30
  • @Gerry, it's close but not exactly the same—I gave my normal user sudo privileges, and I still need to authenticate with my admin user for unlocking preference panes and such. – SilverWolf - Reinstate Monica May 22 '18 at 12:45

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