Skip to main content

Administrator accounts are the ‘keys to the kingdom’, as they give a user full control of the computer. Cybercriminals will target administrator accounts in order to take full control of a user’s computer. Not using an administrator account for everyday use will help limit what a virus or exploit can access if your computer becomes infected. 

User accounts

What is the difference between a user account and an administrator account?

A user account is an account that has partial control of a computer and often cannot make changes to other accounts on the computer. A user account should be used for everyday home tasks, such as editing photos and browsing the internet.

An administrator account is an account that has complete control of the computer and can make changes that affect other users of the computer – e.g. installing programs and accessing all files on a computer.

Why it is important to not to use an administrator account for everyday use?

Administrator accounts are the ‘keys to the kingdom’, as they give a user full control of the computer. Cybercriminals will target administrator accounts in order to take full control of a user’s computer. Not using an administrator account for everyday use will help limit what a virus or exploit can access if your computer becomes infected.

The daily use of an administrator account on a computer can be likened to a caretaker using an apartment block master key to enter their own apartment, instead of the dedicated apartment key. While the apartment and master key achieve the same purpose for the caretaker (and might seem convenient for their day job), carrying a master key all the time opens up the caretaker to a greater risk of compromise to the entire building if they lose control of the master key.

Where do I change it?

Modification of user and administrator accounts can be done in System Preferences. Icons and language may differ slightly depending on the version of macOS you are using.

Checking user accounts on macOS

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the top-left of your screen and click on System Preferences.
     
    Screen shot of system preference link

  2. Click User & Groups.
     
    Screen shot of users and groups icon

  3. Check to see if there are any unusual accounts (missing or unaccounted accounts).
    You should only have one administrator account and your daily use account should not be the administrator account.  
    All the next steps start from here.  
     
    Screen shot of a user account

Changing the account type on macOS

  1. You may need to unlock the User & Groups preference pane.
    To do this click the padlock icon in the bottom-left of the System Preferences window, enter your administrator password, and click Unlock.
    The padlock will appear to be open when you enter your administrator password correctly.
     

    Screen shot of user and groups unlock button

  2. Select the account you want to change from the list of accounts on the left.
     
    Screen shot of a user account icon

  3. Check or uncheck the box ‘Allow user to administer the computer’.
     
    Screen shot of a user account checkbox labelled allow user to administer the computer

  4. When changing the user type, you will need to restart the computer for your changes to take effect.
     
    Screen shot of confirmation when changing user account type

Removing accounts on macOS 

  1. Select the account you want to remove from the list of accounts on the left.
     
    Screen shot of a user account icon

  2. Click on the ‘’ icon shown highlighted in the graphic.  
     
    Screen shot of highlighted minus button in user accounts

  3. Choose between deleting all the files of the user you are removing or keeping the files.
     
    Screen shot of dialogue screen confirming deleting or keeping files for user account

  4. Click Delete User to confirm you are removing the account.  
     
    Screen shot of delete user account button

Creating a new account on macOS 

  1. You may need unlock the Users & Groups preference pane – click the locked padlock icon in the bottom-left, enter your administrator password, and click Unlock. When this pane is unlocked, the padlock will appear to be open. 
     
    Screen shot of user and groups unlock button

  2. Click the ‘+’ icon shown highlighted in the graphic. Select the New Account type as ‘Standard’.  
     
    Screen shot of new account type set to standard

  3. Enter the Full Name, Account Name, Password/Passphrase and Password Hint highlighted in the graphic. Click Create User.  
     
    Screen shot of new account details form

  4. When you are done adding users, click the open padlock icon to lock the Users & Groups preference pane to prevent further changes. When this pane is locked, the padlock will appear closed. 
     
    Screen shot of open padlock icon in the users and groups