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Discover the 'hidden' user control panel in Windows XP

Find out about the features of a hidden control panel in Windows XP which provides user options that normally aren't available.

Most folks who have used Windows XP are familiar with the Users section of the control panel which exposes some user controls but not others. There is in fact another user account panel in XP which isn't directly exposed through the control panel interface, but which can be accessed manually and provides some more options that normally aren't available.

To access the other User Accounts control section, type control userpasswords2 from the command line or in the Run dialog box (and press Enter or click OK). The dialog that appears will list all the available users on the computer and provides you with some other controls:

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Add / Remove / Properties: Clicking Add will open a simple Add User wizard, functionally similar to the one already in Control Panel, but with a slightly different presentation. Remove will delete the selected user, and Properties will let you change their user name, description, or their group membership (standard user / restricted user / admin / etc.).

The Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer checkbox is ticked by default. If for whatever reason you want to allow people to log on without specifying any credentials, you can uncheck this box. You will be prompted for a specific user account to log on under by default.

The Reset Password button will allow you to reset the system password for the Administrator account. Be warned that this can have unexpected side effects if you use the Encrypted File System under that user account. (Read  "Resetting Local Passwords on Windows XP" in this document.)

The Advanced tab lets you manage stored passwords and .NET Passport information, and open the Local Users and Groups snap-in for detailed user account editing.

The Require users to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete option, normally used to protect the login screen, is not enabled by default. This was originally devised to prevent programs that mimic a logon from stealing password information, but its effectiveness has been questioned and it is now disabled by default in Windows XP.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators. He is also the author of the book Windows Server Undocumented Solutions.

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