Although Windows has built-in methods for limiting the times that a given user can log on, these controls are pretty basic and don't lend themselves to much flexibility. For instance, you can't forcibly log a user off after their time has expired. If you're not running in a domain environment and want to enforce restrictions like this, you need to turn to a third-party tool.

One such program is

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Access Boss, which allows an administrator on a given computer to set specific access time limits for other users. The program, which is available in a free trial edition, uses a graphical calendar-like grid control to make it easy for an administrator to determine when users are allowed on or off.

When installed, it also sets up an agent (essentially a Windows service) that can warn users when their time limits have expired and give them a few moments to save their work before being kicked off. Access Boss also tracks user statistics—who was on at what times and for how long—and lets you remotely manage other copies of the program across the network if you have administrative account access.

The program also lets you set per-user restrictions that can also be set via Group Policy, such as disabling access to the command line, the Internet properties pane or other functions you don't want conventional users to touch. It allows you to save a given user's time-use profile as a template and re-use it for other users.

Note: As far as features go, the program isn't very granular. You can only control logon; you can't disable Internet access in a given time frame. But the program is constantly being enhanced, so a feature like that could be added down the road.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in October 2006

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