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November 29, 2004

Running as Non-Admin, Day 1

My first day of running as a regular user and there were basically no problems. Email worked fine, web access, etc.

I only hit one glitch, but it was PRECISELY the kind of glitch that Microsoft could avoid if more of its own developers ran as non-admin. By coincidence my antivirus software signature file was out-of-date. When I logged on with my non-admin account, the XP SP2 security control warned me about this. But when I went to update the signatures manually, it immediately popped up a message saying I did not have permissions. So I logged off and logged back on as administrator, and THEN it told me that the reason it couldn't update the signature file was because some service was not running. I rebooted, logged in as administrator, and it updated fine.

The service must have died at some point, and for all I know if it had kept running it would have automatically updated the signature even if I was logged in as non-admin. But running as non-admin in this error situation prevented it from telling me what was wrong -- instead it did the security check first and gave me the access denied error. Plus, the XP SP2 security popup runs as part of the system, therefore it is not a separate process that I can "Run As..." the administrator account.

Posted by AdamBa at November 29, 2004 09:46 PM

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The trouble with running as a non-admin user is that there are way too many badly behaved apps out there that don't play nice, and I get bored of trying to narrow down what key/folder/etc. I have to give apps permission to hammer; how an average user is expected to deal with it is beyond me.

It's not just old or obscure apps that break, either -- Half Life 2 (which will probably be one of the biggest selling bits of PC software this year) requires you run as admin unless you have the time and patience to work round it. Until app vendors start co-operating, 99.9% of home users will run as admin...

Posted by: Mat Hall at November 30, 2004 12:59 AM

It's not terribly surprising that Half Life 2 requires write access to its own installation folder. The Steam system basically means it can continually patch and update itself so it needs to modify its own installation, I'm not sure how they could have got around this. One I granted permission to write to my Steam folder it seemed to work fine with a Limited account.

Posted by: Edward at November 30, 2004 01:23 AM

Have you (as a non-admin) clicked the clock to see the month display ?

Posted by: PL at December 1, 2004 02:55 PM

Yes, when I click the clock I get the popup "You do not have the proper privilege level to change the system time."

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at December 2, 2004 09:22 AM