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What is UAC?
User Account Control (UAC), introduced in Windows Vista, was intended to make Windows more secure and protect the user from malicious software and other security threats.
UAC works by limiting the functionality of an application to standard user privileges and restricting it from performing tasks that may be harmful to the PC. With UAC enabled, whenever you try to download or install any software, a prompt asks you whether the application was started by you. This is to safeguard against any malicious software trying to run by itself and harm the PC.
On the face of it, Vista UAC prompt is a Yes/No question message box, but it is actually much more than that. Clicking 'Yes' would result in elevation in permission level to the user account. The process resembles the 'Run As' feature in Windows XP, but is different. In Windows XP, if you are logged in to an administrator account, all the applications running in that user account would automatically receive these privileges. However, in Vista even with administrator privileges assigned to an user account, applications run by the user do not enjoy higher privileges without the user explicitly granting it.
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Is UAC Essential?
An antivirus software stops only known threats, whereas the UAC also protects from unknown threats. Even with the user highly competent and aware, some applications may gain entry by stealth, circumventing the firewall and anti-virus. UAC prompts and blocks such applications. The UAC is not a replacement for a firewall or an antivirus for these applications perform much broader functions than what UAC does.
Enabling UAC is also essential to run Internet Explorer in 'protected mode.'
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How to Disable
The enhanced security considerations notwithstanding, UAC is by no means essential for the computer to run, and some users may want to disable it. There are many ways to disable UAC. The two common and easiest ways are from the control panel and using MSCONFIG.
Open control panel and type 'uac' in the search box. A link appears under 'User Accounts' saying 'Turn user accounts Control (UAC) on or off'.
Alternatively, browse to 'User Accounts and Family Safety' ->'User Accounts'-> 'Turn user accounts Control (UAC) on or off.
When another UAC pop up appears, click on 'Continue'. A dialog box appears with instructions on how UAC protects your system and recommendation to keep it enabled. To disable it, just uncheck the box 'Use User Account Control (UAC) to help protect your computer" and click 'OK'. Vista will prompt you to restart your computer for the change to take effect.
Open the Run menu and type ' MSCONFIG'. The MSCONFIG windows appears. Navigate to the 'Tools' tab and from the list of tools select 'Disable UAC'. Click on launch. A command window appears with a message 'The operation completed successfully'. Close the window and restart your system.
A third option to disable UAC is by editing the registry or using the group policy editor, but these methods are best left to experts.
- Microsoft Technet. User Account Control Step by Step Guide. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
- Image Credit: author's screenshots