Yosemite: A Take Control Crash Course
by Scholle McFarland

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Avoid Problems with User Accounts

One of my siblings (who will remain unnamed) used to come home every Christmas and “borrow” my mom’s computer. Without fail, he left behind a jumble of changed preferences, randomly installed apps, and disconnected cords that took hours to fix before my mom could use her computer again. Today, this source of family strife could have been easily avoided. The answer? User accounts .

① 	Use different types of user accounts to solve different problems.

① Use different types of user accounts to solve different problems.

Know Your Accounts

User accounts allow multiple people to have a custom experience on the same Mac—without altering each other’s settings or mixing up files. OS X lets you choose from a number of user account types. Separate accounts can keep people out of your stuff, help kids and novices navigate the computer, and even make troubleshooting easier.

Basic Types of User Accounts

Send Visitors to the Guest Account

When you install Yosemite, the operating system automatically configures a guest account for you. Guests don’t need a password to log in to this account and they can access only certain items.

iCloud Connections

Yosemite’s guest account works with iCloud’s Find My Mac feature. Find My Mac lets you track and lock down your Mac, and even wipe its data, if it’s lost or stolen. If someone finds your Mac, logs in as a guest, and then uses Safari, iCloud uses Location Services to find the Mac.

Guests cannot change user settings or computer settings. They also can’t log in remotely, even when remote login is turned on in the Sharing preferences pane. Yosemite stores guest files in a temporary folder and then deletes the files when the person logs out.

For these reasons, the guest account is where you should steer visiting friends and relatives who’d like to use your Mac. It makes it easy for them to check their webmail or finish a quick paper—and leave no traces behind.

Note: If you use Apple’s disk-encryption system, FileVault, the Guest user can only access Safari.

If you don’t see a guest account on your login screen, open System Preferences and go to the Users & Groups pane . Click the lock icon and enter your administrator’s name and password.

② 	You’ll see the Guest User account in the Users & Groups preferences pane.

② You’ll see the Guest User account in the Users & Groups preferences pane.

Click Guest User in the accounts list. Select the Allow Guests to Log In to This Computer box and, if you choose, the Enable Parental Controls box . (We’ll talk about Parental Controls next.)

③ 	Click the Guest User in the accounts list, enter an administrator’s name and password, and then make sure these options are checked.

③ Click the Guest User in the accounts list, enter an administrator’s name and password, and then make sure these options are checked.

Tip: Want to let someone working on a different Mac access a shared folder on your Mac without a password? As long as the other Mac is on the same local network, it’s a cinch. Select the guest account in the accounts list and enable the Allow Guests to Connect to Shared Folders box. (For more, see the Apple article Mac Basics: File Sharing.)

Create Managed Accounts for Kids and Novices

A managed account can make using the computer easier for kids and tech novices. It can also keep them out of trouble by limiting what changes they can make to the system or which parts of the Web they can visit:

  1. Open System Preferences > Users & Groups, and click the lock icon at the lower left. Enter your administrator’s name and password, and click OK.
  2. Click the plus button and, in the dialog, choose Managed with Parental Controls in the pop-up menu. Name the account.
  3. If this person already has an Apple ID and you want to use it as his or her login credentials, choose the Use iCloud Option. Enter the Apple ID and then click Create User. The Apple ID password becomes the user’s login password.

    If that password is too complicated or you want to keep it private, select Use Separate Password. The first time the account is accessed, you’ll have an opportunity to enter an Apple ID or opt out of iCloud.

  4. Click Create User.

The new account appears in the accounts list at the left.

Administer from Afar

You can administer a managed account from another Mac on the local network, which means you don’t have to get up from your comfortable spot with your MacBook Air to change parental controls on the kids’ iMac. When you set up the managed account, select it in accounts list in the Users & Groups preference pane, click the small gear icon, and choose Allow Remote Setup.

When you want to manage the kids’ iMac, go to System Preferences (on your Mac) and open Parental Controls. Click the lock and enter your administrator’s name and password. Select the name of the managed account on the other Mac. Enter an administrator’s name and password for the Mac with the managed account. Now, you can change any of the account’s Parental Controls settings.

Set Up a Managed Account

Working in System Preferences > Users & Groups, click the lock icon at the lower left, enter your administrator’s name and password, and click OK.

Select the account in the account list. At the right, select Enable Parental Controls and click Open Parental Controls to see your options; click a button for specific controls .

④ 	OS X’s Parental Controls let you select which applications a user can access.

④ OS X’s Parental Controls let you select which applications a user can access.

Tip: iCloud Family Sharing simplifies the process of approving (and paying for) a child’s purchases from the iTunes, iBooks, and App Stores. For more, read Use iCloud Family Sharing, part of Digital Sharing for Apple Users: A Take Control Crash Course.

Customize the Finder and Apps

⑤ 	Young children might benefit from the Simple Finder, which presents only a few choices in the Dock and substantially limits what they can do in the Finder.

⑤ Young children might benefit from the Simple Finder, which presents only a few choices in the Dock and substantially limits what they can do in the Finder.

A Little Less Simple Finder

If you find the Simple Finder to be too simple, you can take a slightly less restrictive approach.

Create a managed account and use parental controls to set limits. Then, log in to the account and organize the Dock so that only the apps and folders the user will use the most appear.

Log out, log back in to your administrator’s account, go to the Parental Control pane in System Preferences and select the managed account. In the Apps pane, select Prevent the Dock from Being Modified.

This will put everything the user needs in easy reach, while preventing him or her from accidentally messing things up.

Access More Options

The rest of the options in the Parental Controls pane are fairly self-explanatory and I encourage you to look them over and turn on any that look like they’d be helpful.

In particular, take a look at the very useful Time Limits section. Also, if you don’t want the user to be able to change the account’s password, click Other and select Disable Changing the Password.

Tip: If you, as the administrator, need to change something when you’re in the Simple Finder, choose Finder > Run Full Finder, and then enter your administrator name and password. When you’re done, choose Finder > Return to Simple Finder.

Create a Troubleshooting Account

When your Mac misbehaves, it can be hard to tell if the problem is specific to your user account or whether it affects the computer as a whole. Creating a clean troubleshooting account is a great way to isolate problems . Don’t install any of your usual extras in this account, instead leaving it as plain as possible.

⑥ 	Set up a troubleshooting account to help you isolate problems when they occur.

⑥ Set up a troubleshooting account to help you isolate problems when they occur.

To add a troubleshooting account:

  1. Open System Preferences and go to Users & Groups. Click the lock icon and enter your administrator’s password.
  2. Click the plus button. In the dialog that appears, choose Administrator in the New Account pop-up menu. Type in an account name, like Troubleshooting Account.
  3. If you’d like this account to use iCloud—and don’t mind logging in to the account using your Apple ID password—choose the Use iCloud Option. Enter the Apple ID you’d like associated with the account, and then click Create User.

    Alternatively, select Use Separate Password to choose a different login password. The first time the account is accessed, you’ll have an opportunity to enter an Apple ID.

  4. Click Create User.

The new account appears in the accounts list at the left. When you’re done, quit System Preferences.

Log in with this account if:

Once you’ve logged in, see whether you can reproduce the problem or not:

Find Your Preferences

Looking to trash a bad preferences file? User specific preferences are kept in the ~/Library folder (at the root level of your user folder). In the Finder, choose Go > Go to Folder and then type in the path (or copy and paste it in from this paragraph) and click Go.

Tip: No matter what happens when you try to reproduce the problem in your test account, Take Control of Troubleshooting Your Mac has advice about how to further narrow the cause of your problem and find a solution.

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“To keep visitors out of your stuff, but still let them check webmail, steer them to your Mac’s guest account.”

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