Terry's Computer Tips - Newsletter
December 10, 2006

Volume 2, Number 26 — Sunday, December 10, 2006

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

3.  Feedback

Subscriber and regular correspondent Ivan Tadej wrote from Slovenija with some thoughts about last week's newsletter:

1. First in regards to "/*5. Give a Vista Look to Your Windows XP Computer*/" entry on the http://www.terryscomputertips.com/archives/news_20061203_3.php page. You see, it's that it is possible to otherwise run as an "admin" (i.e. to run in an "admin user" account), while launching certain programs (or types of programs, like for instance Internet-enabled ones etc.) as a "limited user". One such option is to launch programs with Mark Russinovich's Sysinternals *Process Explorer*: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/utilities/processexplorer.mspx and its "/Run as Limited User.../" menu-item (it's located under "File" menu-branch), and the other/second option which I in fact prefer over the first one is to use another program from Sysinternals called *Psexec*: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/utilities/psexec.mspx. And since Psexec.is a commandline application, I've already "converted" all my program-launching batch-files (which all mostly use the Windows in-built START command to start programs) to use the Psexec program instead.

2. And as second regarding "/*7. Flash Drive Won't Disconnect from Windows*/" entry on the: http://www.terryscomputertips.com/archives/news_20061203_4.php page, I just thought to let you know about another somehow related problem with the USBs and I guess also with other such "portable medias", i.e. I am talking about the problem when the "/Safely remove hardware/" icon disappears from the OS's system-tray, and these seems to be no way (at least no apparent one) to get it back and so unfortunately the PC restart is needed. Well, this was all described on the "*Ask Leo*" site, particularly under the "/*Safely Remove Hardware: where did the icon go? How do I safely remove hardware without it?*/": http://ask-leo.com/safely_remove_hardware_where_did_the_icon_go_how_do_i_safely_remove_hardware_without_it.html entry; oh and by the way, I also commented there under the linked entry while my comments are signed with/as "Ivan Tadej, Slovenija, EU".

regards, Ivan Tadej

Thanks, Ivan. Your comments and tips are always welcome.

I've written before about Process Explorer, but only about using it to track what's running on your own computer. I think this would be a good tip for testing programs, but it would probably be a real pain for routine use.

I think I'll take a look at Psexec for better security control on batch programs.

You've found a neat use for the program, which normally is designed to execute programs on remote computers (computers other than your own). But, since the program allows you to run on the same machine and allows you to select the user you want, you can effectively control the "privileges" of the "user" running the program.

For Windows programs, Windows XP gives us a feature — well, a well-hidden feature — to give us better security control of regular Windows programs.

Martha or Frank Battaglia wrote to say:

Your newsletter is so very informative, I am very glad I found it, although I do not know how I did. I seem to learn something new with each edition, so I do look forward to them. Thanks for all your good, no great, information.

Carver Smith had an email problem, and commented:

Signed up recently and love your newsletter

Subscriber Chet Norris wrote to ask a question about CounterSpy, and commented:

ps love your tips and reviews

Subscriber Julie wrote to say that she had subscribed under a new email address and was just unsubscribing her old address (THANKS, JULIE -- I APPRECIATE KNOWING THAT YOU WERE JUST CHANGING EMAIL ADDRESSES!). She also had this to say:

Terry: You have excellent newsletters and offer a great deal and it's nice to know that you take a personal interest. Thank you. Julie

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4.  Running Programs as a Different User

Ivan Tadej gave us a tip, in the above article, on how to run a batch program as if the program is being run by a different user.

Why would you want to do this? In order to run it as a less-privileged user — for better security.

Windows XP defaults to using "administrator mode" for all users (or, at least, that's the way most manufacturers set up the only userID that ever gets used on most computers!).

Unfortunately, this means that almost everyone runs all their programs while they're logged in as an administrator on their computer. When we do that, we're ok with most programs.

But, if we manage to become infected with a virus, trojan, spyware or adware program, or any other nasty, that nasty malware has all the security privileges that we have.

If we're logged in as an administrator, the malware can access the whole hard drive, edit, install or change anything it wants to edit, install or change. If we're logged in as a "Limited User," we'd have much less system access — and so would the malware program.

Tech Tip
Even if you have Windows XP set up to start automatically, without having to select a logon icon or input a password, you really are "logged in" -- if you can do anything on the computer, someone is logged in on the computer.

Windows XP has a mechanism that is designed to let us to run programs as if we're a logged in as a different user, or as a more-limited version of our own userID.

First, is a little tricky because Microsoft hid this setting. You almost have to know that it's there in order to find it.

Second, as I'm disgusted to find out, many Windows programs don't seem to work with this "security feature." Surely this function is good for something (assuming it really works at all), but I haven't found what it is, yet. Maybe it's something Microsoft will finally get right in Windows Vista.

What kind of programs would you want to run as a different user? I would think, first and foremost, the web browser would be good to run as a different user.

But, guess what won't run, either as a different user or in a "restricted mode" for my ID -- Internet Explorer, Opera and Firefox will begin to run, and then die.

This is the process, if you want to try it. If you find a good use for this -- and get it to work with that program -- write me and let me know what you've found...

To activate the "run as a different user" function, these are the steps:

Right-click on a program's icon and select Properties. Then, on the "Shortcut" tab, click on the Advanced button.

the Properties dialog box
(click on the image for a larger version)

On the resulting Advanced Properties window, put a check in the box for "Run with different credentials" and click OK.

Advanced Properties dialog box
(click on the image for a larger version)

At that point, the window closes and you wonder if anything happened. "Wait a Minute", I thought — "I didn't get to pick which user I wanted to use!"

Windows XP is actually pretty flexible at this point.

When we double-click on the program's icon to start the program, that's when we get to choose what we want to do.

Run As dialog box
(click on the image for a larger version)

By selecting the "Current user" option, you should still be able to access your web browser favories, your My Documents folder, your email folders, etc. If you choose to run as a different user, you will NOT be able to access those items.

There are times where you might want to run as a limited user. But, as a different user, you won't have access to your normal files and data.

That is one of the big improvements promised for Vista — a easier way for us to do most things as a Limited User, with an easy change to Administrator mode whenever we need to do something special.

It's not beyond comprehension -- Linux has been able to do this for years. Windows XP just wasn't written with enough security capabilities for that to work.

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Volume 2, Number 26 — Sunday, December 10, 2006

Copyright © 2006 Terry A. Stockdale.  All rights reserved.


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