Windows 7: User Account Control (UAC) overview

In part one of our overview of Windows 7, we looked into Federated Search. In part two, we look into the much criticized feature of Windows Vista - The User Account Control

One of the highly criticized features in Windows Vista is the User Account Control(UAC) which prompts up a dialog box seeking users' permission to continue or stop whenever a system-level change is made. The problem with Vista is that even the default user account which is created during the install, who is a protected administrator (unlike in XP where the user is an Administrator), could not bypass the UAC until its tweaked. This created lots of criticism and the feature which was built to make Vista secure became the most hated feature amongst users. Of course, this was a drastic change for Microsoft and as well as end users who were very much inclined to a single user account (till Windows XP) who is an Administrator.

One of the major complaints was that the UAC involved more clicks to execute a program when such system-level change occurred. And the other - there were only two options provided by Microsoft in Vista's Control Panel - either Turn On UAC or Turn Off UAC. Users did not have much control over the behaviour of UAC notifications.

How far has this changed in Windows 7?

When the E7 Team blogged about UAC, it was clear that Microsoft was taking the user feedback seriously about the issues and problems they currently face using UAC in Vista.

In Windows 7, Microsoft has given options for the users to select their 'comfort level' in UAC notifications and also improved the user interface by providing more relevant and additional information. The default user account created during the installation in Windows 7 is still a protected administrator but with a different UAC setting:

Yes, the default user would be prompted only when programs try to make changes but not the user himself.

The UAC icon has gone for a change and it looks much better now than in Vista:

Windows 7 UAC Settings has a Slider to change your 'comfort-level' with the notifications. You can choose one from the following four options:

Below is a screenshot of the UAC prompt when you run an application form a known publisher:

Below is a screenshot of the UAC prompt when you run an application from an unknown publisher:

Since many software programs did not support UAC when it was first introduced in Windows Vista, the applications failed and created lots of issues, which reflected in a bad user experience. As many applications are built with the support of UAC now, it is a seamless experience in Windows 7.

You can see that the user can go directly to the UAC settings from the prompt to change how these notifications appear if the user is not happy about these notifications.

Overall, the UAC experience is much improved in Windows 7 than in Windows Vista. The number of clicks (by default) is drastically reduced in Windows 7 when compared to Windows Vista. The ultimate goal of the UAC is to provide user the control over what changes can happen to the system and not to annoy users with more number of prompts.

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shrike said,
This is getting rediculous. Instead of having a thousand prompts to install something, you've got a thousand options to configure it.

Surely there is a better way.

Maybe you should go back to school so you can learn to count...? Last time I checked 4 is much less then "thousands"

This is really good what they're doing. Everywhere I turn, I see more and more good things about Windows 7. Beware people! Microsoft may have done something right for a change!

*knock on wood*

Honestly I like UAC the way it is now. All its going to do is make people get lazy again and virus infestation will be up just like it is in xp. The problem is that the average computer user just doesnt read prompts for stuff they just click whatever to get it out of the way instead of just reading it. The little time taken to read will save you the hours of trying to fix a virus issue. Like doctors say a ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Exactly.

What will happen is making this easier to disable ultimately means people will disable it. People take the path of least resistance if it is given to them.

If you set the UAC to a low setting some programs stop working. For example, set the UAC to the lowest setting and your Gadgets on your desktop stop working.


As long as there is still a way to turn it off. The absolute most annoying thing in Vista. For many users who do not know how to turn it off, this is one of the primary reasons they end up disliking Vista. Sure, I can see the utility, but there has to be a better way to implement. Hopefully they have found that solution in Windows 7.

In my opinion, a better approach might be the model used by most firewall and antivirus software. Ask the user if they want to allow the operation, and then ask them if they want to receive similiar notices in the future. Forcing the user to "hunt and peck" these types of settings is yet another annoyance.

The reason UAC takes you to a secure desktop mode is so that you know the prompt you are getting is indeed a UAC prompt.

i was sure that the biggest issue was that UAC lacked a "remember my choice" option...which windows 7 once again fails to implement. people are still going to get sick of getting prompted for the same sh*t over and over again and eventually just turn it off due to frustration

this is the 21st century and microsoft still can't implement a simple "remember my choice" feature?

PermaSt0ne said,
i was sure that the biggest issue was that UAC lacked a "remember my choice" option...which windows 7 once again fails to implement. people are still going to get sick of getting prompted for the same sh*t over and over again and eventually just turn it off due to frustration

this is the 21st century and microsoft still can't implement a simple "remember my choice" feature?


Probably because that's effectively disabling the safeguards that UAC gives you. As hard as it might seem, it's really down to developers to write software that conforms with the new model - i've spent ages converting our software to be UAC compliant and now i don't see one prompt, even on a limited account.

On Vista, I hardly see prompts at all thesedays.

Looks greatly improved, and doesn't have that same "hidden" feeling like in Vista, where you would really need to search in order to find UAC controls to disable them

Since many software programs did not support UAC when it was first introduced in Windows Vista, the applications failed and created lots of issues, which reflected in a bad user experience. As many applications are built with the support of UAC now, it is a seamless experience in Windows 7.


So really, the fact that Vista exists is what makes UAC better in Windows 7. If UAC was not in Vista and appeared in Windows 7 for the first time, it wouldnt be as seemless since it wouldnt any application support. Vista UAC may have not been implimented that well, but it highlights the fact that it needs the applications to support it too!

If you read the E7 blog, you can see that the number of applications support UAC gradually increased and henceforth the number of clicks users used to decreased.

UAC is great, even in Vista, once its up and running that is. Although what I would like to see in 7 is the Administrative share enabled with UAC also enabled. In Vista I cannot access a computer via Administrative share i.e. \\Compname\D$ since the Administrator itself doesn't have full rights and needs to be manually allowed access via UAC. I hope MS will look into the matter. Its being torn between having to turn off UAC or not having Administrative share over a Private network.

User Account Control has a customizable level of security in Windows Vista like it does in Windows 7. The difference is that Windows 7 provides a graphical user interface for people not technically savvy with computers, while Windows Vista controls UAC using the computer's local policy settings. People should not be mislead. Vista users do have control over the behaviour of UAC notifications.

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