One of the minor complaints about Windows Vista was the way the User Account Control notification system annoyed the heck out of some people. During the following few years of using the operating system, there were 3rd party applications available that could control how and when the User Account Control behaved. Now with the introduction of Windows 7, Microsoft has adapted a User Account Control system that any user can take advantage of to control how much of an annoyance you wish to put up with.

Over at the Microsoft site for Windows 7, they explain how to control UAC via the built in ‘slider’, which is described as:

The primary goal of UAC is to enable more users to run with standard user rights. However, one of UAC’smalware technologies looks and smells like a security feature: the consent prompt. Many people believed that the fact that software has to ask the user to grant it administrative rights means that they can prevent from gaining administrative rights. Besides the visual implication that a prompt is a gateway to administrative rights for just the operation it describes, the switch to a different desktop for the elevation dialog and the use of the Windows Integrity Mechanism, including User Interface Privilege Isolation (UIPI), seem to reinforce that belief.

As we’ve stated since before the launch of Windows Vista, the primary purpose of elevation is not security, though, it’s convenience: if users had to switch accounts to perform administrative operations, either by logging into or Fast User Switching to an administrative account, most users would switch once and not switch back. There would be no progress changing the environment that application developers design for. So what are the secure desktop and Windows Integrity Mechanism for?

The main reason for the switch to a different desktop for the prompt is that standard user software cannot “spoof” the elevation prompt, for example, by drawing on top of the publisher name on the dialog to fool a user into thinking that Microsoft or another software vendor is generating the prompt instead of them. The alternate desktop is called a “secure desktop,” because it’s owned by the system rather than the user, just like the desktop upon which the system displays the Windows logon dialog.

For us Vista users we are famaliar with the security windows that appears when we install, update, or take on another task in Windows Vista:

Here is what the new UAC control looks like in Windows 7:

Microsoft concludes the new benefits of UAC in Windows 7 with this statement:

To summarize, UAC is a set of technologies that has one overall goal: to make it possible for users to run as standard users. The combination of changes to Windows that enable standard users to perform more operations that previously required administrative rights, file and registry virtualization, and prompts all work together to realize this goal. The bottom line is that the default Windows 7 UAC mode makes a PA user’s experience smoother by reducing prompts, allows them to control what legitimate software can modify their system, and still accomplishes UAC’s goals of enabling more software to run without administrative rights and continuing to shift the software ecosystem to write software that works with standard user rights.

I personally like the new control of UAC in Windows 7 since it allows me to adjust my settings to the way I use my computer. What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source – Microsoft