A fresh look at Vista's User Account Control

User Account Control (UAC) is a controversial new security feature slated for inclusion in Windows Vista. Reactions to this feature from beta testers have been downright caustic. In this post, first in a three-part series, I explain how UAC works in the most recent beta release of Vista.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

A few months ago, I wrote about User Account Control (UAC), a controversial new feature slated for inclusion in Windows Vista. Here’s what I had to say last December:

The theory behind UAC is sound: When you’re about to do something that requires an administrator’s privileges, you need an administrator’s consent. For a regular user, that means typing in a set of credentials (username/password) that belong to a member of the Administrators group; if you’re already an administrator, you just have to click a Permit button. This option allows you to see when a program or process is trying to do something that can have an impact on your system’s stability, and it’s an effective way to block untrained or naive users from accidentally screwing up their system.


UAC in the current build of Windows Vista is working, but not well. Some programs fail when they can’t get full system access or when they try to save a file to an area where the current user doesn’t have write privileges. The barrage of dialog boxes is annoying, especially during the initial phases of setting up a system.

Has UAC been improved in recent beta releases? Somewhat. This post, first in a three-part series, looks at how UAC works, based on the behavior in Windows Vista Build 5365.

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