How to Manage User Accounts on Mac

When a computer is used by more than one person, these users may consider setting up separate user accounts on Mac for each user. Thus they all have their own personal set-up, complete with their own folders, desktop background, their preferred custom setting and much more. It may even seem that each user has their own Mac (well, not quite as only one user can use the computer at any one time.

How to Switch Between The Different User Accounts on Mac [Video]

Video uploaded by Mac OS X Tutorials and App reviews from HowTech on June 20, 2016.

How to Manage User Accounts on Mac

When you purchase a new Mac, you must set it up. You’ll be prompted to enter your name (in fact, any name you want to use), short name and password. You’ll be able to pick a twee little image from a selection (butterfly, snowflake, billiard ball). All these actions mean that you will be setting an account with administrative powers, that’s a person who has power to administrate the computer, make system-wide changes, install or refuse updates and applications, and so on.

The administrator assigns power to new users who will share the computer with the admin. When a new user is added, the admin can choose whether to make the new user administrator as well (trust needed as a new admin must not be inclined to do anything that could damage the computer) or whether to assign a new user the standard users powers (for your kids, for example, or also for great technophobes or people who thrive at the idea to improve the Mac by adding something they have read over the Internet).

To access the settings for user accounts, go to System Preferences – Accounts pane. You’ll be able to add and remove accounts from there, just by using the standard “+” or “–” buttons.

How to Change Name, Short Name, Password

When the user enters the name for a new account, the Mac generates and creates a matching “short name”. Users can override this name and pick anything they want. The short name will appear on the home folder. The fact is that the user can change the name at any time, but he or she can’t easily change the short name.

When the user really wants to change the short name for an account that already exists, one of the easiest options would be to create a new account with the correct name, copy all your files across and delete the previous account (for detailed instructions, visit There are other ways that could help, but they’re for technically advanced users only.

How to Set Up and Change Passwords

By default, your account will also be the password for your Keychain, which can save you remembering many other passwords.

As to your future password, you’ll have to choose whether or not to pick a password. Indeed, you are not obliged to use a password if you don’t want to, and having a password makes it quicker to log in, but it means anyone with physical or network access to the Mac will be able to instantly access your files.

You can set a hint, which can be recalled via the Forgot Password button on the account Log In panel.

When setting a password, a nonsensical concoction of numbers and letters would be much better for security purposes. You can press the key-icon button to rate the password chosen for crackability. On a day-to-day level, however, usually it’s more important to pick something that is easy and quick to type. Unless, of course, you deal with top secrets or work in an insecure environment.

Besides only those with administrative powers can make changes to all accounts (note that the administrator will have to enter the password of the user whose account the administrator is changing).

What to Do if You Forgot Password

If you forget your account password and other users share the computer, you can ask another user with administrative privileges to log in and access Accounts from System Preferences pane. Then the administrator can change your password.

If there are no other users with administrative powers or no other users at all sharing the computer, you can try this:

  • Turn off your computer.
  • Insert the Mac OS CD or USB that came with your computer.
  • Press C while you turn on the Mac and keep it held down until the Apple logo appears.
  • Choose Reset Password from the Installer menu.
  • Choose your user name (not System Administrator). Then follow the prompts.

Note: This shouldn’t affect your Keychain or other passwords.

How to Set Up a Picture

The Mac offers series of pictures that you can use and choose one of them for your picture. If however for some reason, the default pictures don’t appeal, just click Edit and download your own picture. You can also click Choose to browse for a pic on your Mac. When you find what you want, drag the image directly into the Edit window from a folder, from a Web pages or from an iPhoto. Alternatively, you can click a Video Snapshot to take a picture with your webcam. Then use the slider to zoom in, and drag the pic around to select the area you’d like to use.

The picture you choose for your accounts finds its way into your Address book card and iChat profile. Your messaging buddies will see it, so our advice is not to choose anything too embarrassing.

Parental Controls

The Parental Controls built into OS allow administrators to monitor or restrict the computer usage by children or other people who have non-administrative accounts. To set up the Parental Controls, go to System Preferences, once there choose the Parental Controls and select the user whose account you’d like to manage.

You’ll find various tabs where you can specify, among other things, that the user can only access certain applications and view certain websites. You can also restrict whom the kid can email to and what period of time the computer will respond to kid’s demands. You can even hide swear words from children’s dictionary.

You can also see what your beloved offspring have been looking at and what did they discuss in iChat.

If an account has Parental Controls activated, it is labelled as “managed” in the Account pane of System Preferences.

Note that if you have more that one Mac, you can manage the Parental Controls on one computer from the other :

  • Open System Preferences.
  • Go to Parental controls.
  • Choose the account you want to manage.
  • Click the cog icon near the bottom left of the window.
  • Choose Allow Remote Setup. After you choose Allow Remote Setup, administrators on any Mac on the network will be able to find and edit the account under System Preferences – Parental Controls – Other Computers.

Login Items

The Login Items panel lists the files or programs that will launch automatically every time you log in or switch on. You can add or remove Login Items by pressing standard “+” and “–” buttons. It is possible to tell OS X to hide applications once they’ve been launched. This feature is very useful, as it saves users from facing a screen full of windows each time they log in.

Don’t remove those techie-looking items you see in your Login Items list. These items probably relate to specific applications that run in the background. If you are not sure about them consult Internet or a computer guru.


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This post currently has one response

  • With new Apple’s OS the process of managing accounts differs from what you describe here. It’s still useful info, but you should add new info. Thank you.

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