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Mac OS X v10.5 or later: How to share a Mac with other people

Learn how you can share your Mac with other people by setting up different accounts. This article applies to Mac OS v10.5 and later.

Several people can share a single Mac by logging in to their individual user accounts. Each user can select their own customized settings, such as Safari bookmarks and Finder view preferences, and access their own private storage space, called a Home folder. You can create as many user accounts as you want.

Users sharing the computer also have access to a common Shared folder. The first user account created on your computer is designated as an administrator account. Administrators are users with special privileges: They can give new users access to the computer, allow for the installation of software, and change some computer settings that non-administrators cannot.

Note: If you forget the administrator password, you can reset it using the Mac OS X Install disc. Start up from the disc and choose Reset Password from the Utilities menu. Because a user with the Mac OS X Install disc can gain unrestricted access to the computer, you should keep the disc in a safe place.

Guest user account

If you want others to be able to temporarily use your computer and you don’t want to create a user account for each user, you can create a guest account. When a guest account has been created a guest may log in to the computer without a password. When the log in window appears the user can just click Guest Account, if names are listed, or type “guest” for the name. For more information, see this article.

How to create a new user account

  1. From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences.
  2. From the View menu, choose Accounts or Users & Groups (OS X Lion).
  3. Click the "+" button in the lower-left corner to create a new user account.
  4. Edit the user's information. You can give a user administrative privileges if you want.
  5. If you are prompted to disable automatic login, disable it.

    Note: Automatic login can be enabled, but to allow other users to login, the user that is automatically logged in at startup must log out (choose Log Out from the Apple menu). Automatic login would also allow any user to have access to the automatically logged-in user's documents and other Home contents.

Switching from one user account to another

To switch from one account to another, you can either log out of an account and log in as a different account, or you can use fast user switching.

Additional Information

Keeping your account secure

You can require a password to access the computer after the screen saver appears. Open System Preferences, click Security, then enable "Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver."

Other security features are available in Security preferences if you wish to use them, such as FileVault and the ability to automatic log out after a period of inactivity.

Last Modified: Jun 21, 2012
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  • Last Modified: Jun 21, 2012
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