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The home computer: one for the whole family

22 December 2010, by — admin ()

Although many people already have several computers in the home, in the majority of families there is still just one computer. And often it is no longer the remote control, but rather the computer seat that causes those petty, but unpleasant, arguments.

This is not only linked to the computer’s increased role in our lives, but also to the fact that the needs, habits and skill levels are, as a rule, varied amongst different members of the family.

And the person who has to set up and maintain this computer must find a balance between two tasks:

  • creating conditions whereby none of the users will be prevented from completing their tasks,
  • protecting important files and ensuring long-term effective operation of the system.

The simplest solution that immediately comes to mind is to create different profiles for all users of the computer, with corresponding operating system access rights and tools.

Even this action, which does not take much time and has no cost, can have quite a good effect. But in practice, a number of problems continue to arise, and are best solved using third-party software.

Restricting access to operating system settings

If a beginner user could be using your computer, then it is worth thinking about the protection of important system settings. Otherwise, their accidentally changing some kind of parameter can cause you many problems. To avoid the need to change settings too often and reinstall the system, it is worth hiding, as a minimum, from inexperienced users:

  • Control Panel
  • Registry Editor
  • “Run” command
  • Screen resolution settings
  • System tray settings

Various tweaker tools can help you with this, of which there are several. As an example, there is the popular Tweak-7 (or Tweak XP Pro, if you have Windows XP) at $25 and Asmw PC-Optimizer Pro at $30.

Tweak 7 Asmw PC-Optimizer Pro

These are powerful comprehensive tools to tune the Microsoft Windows operating system. If you do not require this functionality, you can use the program RESTrick (licence cost – $6). Using this, you can very easily hide different settings you want to protect from accidental changes.

RESTrick RESTrick RESTrick

It is worth understanding that hiding settings is only a protection from beginner users, i.e. essentially from accidental changes. If you require comprehensive restriction of user privileges and the option of fully hiding access to specific actions, you should consider the Win Control program (licence cost – $30).

Win Control Win Control

Restriction of access to important disks, folders and files

A non-working operating system is not such a big problem as accidentally deleting important documents can turn out to be. If you are not in the habit of constantly saving up-to-date backup copies of important data, then it is worth thinking about protecting this.

As a reliable means of hiding your files and folders, you should investigate the programs MySecretFolder (licence cost – $25) and Hide Folders 2009 (licence cost – $15). These allow you to hide files and folders, as well as block access to them.

MySecretFolder  Hide Folders 2009

Items hidden by these programs will be invisible, but access to them remains open. Therefore it is wise to use them to hide system files and applications – situations where these folders are accidentally moved or deleted are then avoided. Blocked folders remain visible, but non-accessible for both viewing and editing, and documents contained in them are therefore reliably protected from any changes.

User monitoring and access management tools

Today’s parents often find their kids to be skilled computer users even before they learn to write. It creates all kinds of problems: not only do you need to reasonably limit their time at the computer, but also to make sure they spend this time with a purpose and that they are protected from existing online threats.

To completely block your youngest children’s access to a computer, use BabyShield ($10 per license). The program simply disables the keyboard and the mouse, thus preventing any unauthorized use.

BabyShield

Older children require more flexibility in terms of configuring access permissions. To prohibit games while you are not home, install Time Sheriff (30€ per license) and correctly configure the PC usage policy.

Time Sheriff Time Sheriff

When the allowed time quota is exceeded, the program will close the game and will not let your children restart it or will simply shut down the computer (depending on the settings).


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