I’m trying to run in a “safe” limited user account, but I often find that I
need to install something – which I can’t. Is there a way I can install
software on my machine without having to be the administrator?
This can be a very frustrating situation, I know. I have machines
where the primary account is an administrator simply because of the frequent
irritation of application updates and installations that require it.
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I will cut to the chase and say that if an application you’re attempting to
install is failing because you’re not the administrator your only recourse is
to login as the administrator. Or perhaps not install the application at
In other words, you’re basically screwed.
The big variable is the program that you’re attempting to install. They fall
into three buckets:
failing because you’re not the administrator your only recourse is to login as
Programs that don’t need administrative access and don’t ask for it. They
just install or update happily as needed.
Programs that do need administrative access. I at least understand these
programs. Perhaps they’re installing or updating device drivers, secure areas
of the system or registry, or who knows what. Basically the whole point of
running as a limited user is to prevent this kind of access by accident. It
makes sense that they would be blocked and warrant the extra scrutiny of
someone who would login as administrator.
Programs that don’t need administrative access and ask for it
anyway. Why, for example, do I have to be administrator to update MSN Instant
Messenger? This is the frustrating bucket.
One clarification: even though I’ve said program’s “ask” for administrative
access, under Windows XP, at least that’s really just a simplification. Most
just try to do something administrative in nature, and that either works or
fails if the user isn’t logged in as administrator.
Now there’s a very strong argument that installing any software
should be totally restricted to administrators. I’d even go along with that if
it weren’t so darned impractical under XP. It seems every day or so something
wants to update, requiring that the user logout from their limited user account
and login as administrator. (Or wait until the person with administrative
access can do so.)
The good news is that I believe that there’s hope on the horizon.
Much like Linux and the Mac, rather than forcing you to log out and log in
as administrator, Windows Vista will prompt you for the Administrative password
if administrative access is needed. Yes, you still need to know that password,
so it’s not a free ticket for the kids to install something that mom or dad have
hopefully protected the computer against. But it is a step in the right
direction to both secure the system while minimizing the inconvenience.
I know that this “feature” of Vista tends to pop up a little too often for
some people, but when it comes to installing software, the approach makes sense