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How to access the true Administrator account in Windows Vista

July 24, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Click to select the Administrator icon, and then right-click it to open its context menu and choose Properties. Remove the check mark from the "Account Is Disabled" box and click OK. You'll need to restart your computer and follow one of the following two methods to access Administrator.

Accessing Administrator: Method 1

For this method, you press F8 as Windows is starting up when the character mode part of the boot-up says something to the effect of "Starting Windows. ..." In a dual-boot environment, you can do that from the boot menu. Once the boot menu is showing, paused for your operating system selection, use the arrow or tab keys to select "Microsoft Windows" (the option that runs Windows Vista). Don't press Enter; instead, press the F8 key, and you'll progress to the Safe Mode boot screen. Choose the first option, "Safe Mode" and press Enter.

After a time, Vista will show you the log-in screen with two options, Administrator and Other User. Click the Administrator icon.

Running Safe Mode as Administrator both limits and extends your privileges. But for quick access to the Administrator account, this is about as good as it gets in Vista Beta 2.

Accessing Administrator: Method 2

The second method allows you to log into the Administrator account just as you would any normal account. So you get the full-fledged Administrator privileges in a normal boot mode, not Safe Mode. There's a trick you need to know to make it work. And also something you need to watch out for.

Start by enabling the Administrator account in Computer Management just as described above. (Remember: Don't set a password in Computer Management for the Administrator account.)

The second step -- the trick -- is to disable any other enabled accounts with computer administrator privileges in the Users area. Look for account icons that lack the red disable mark. You should find at least one with computer administrator privileges. Follow the same steps to open Properties, but this time, click to add a check mark in the box labeled "Account Is Disabled."

Double check that your Administrator account is enabled. Close Computer Management and restart Windows. When it comes back up, it will just load the Administrator account, since you haven't set a password.

For security reasons, this method should only be used on a temporary basis. Your Administrator account should not be left enabled without a password. So, have a look around, but don't move in. And when you're done, I strongly urge you to re-enable your user account(s) and promptly disable the Administrator account.

If your goal in accessing the Administrator account is to ditch User Account Controls, a somewhat safer way to do that would be to stick with your account with computer-administrator privileges (the one that is not named Administrator). Open the User Account Control Panel. Click the link there that reads "Change security settings" (in Vista Beta 2) and "Turn User Account Control on or off" (in Build 5472 and beyond). On the subsequent screen, you'll find an easy way to turn off UAC.

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