Are you running as a member of the Administrator group right now? If so, I need you to raise your hand, hold it behind your head, and give yourself a dope slap! There’s absolutely no reason for any developer to be logged in as a member of the Administrator’s group. I’ve been developing as nothing more than a member of the User group for over two years. When Vista finally works its way out of Redmond, we’ll all be non-admins as default, but there’s nothing stopping you from starting immediately to correctly use your computer.
A great case for why running as LUA (Least User Access or Least Privileged User Account depending on who you ask) is important is in a new whitepaper from Microsoft. (Disclaimer, I was a reviewer). The paper covers why it’s good to be LUA and what are some of the practical steps you need to take to get your work done.
The simple fact that the nasty virus targeted at Windows relies on you being an Administrator to get their hooks in should be reason alone for you to just stop! Since everyone reading this is a software developer that makes us technical support for friends and family. What I’ve done is set everyone up as non-admins, with a 15-minute explanation as to why, and all those “come over and get rid of the viruses” or “why is my machine slow” calls have dropped to ZERO. That alone should convince you to take the plunge.
As software developers, please, test your installs, if applicable, and code running as non-admins. I recently purchased a very cool shareware utility that I liked because it could make me more productive. The company came out with a new release yesterday with some even better functionality. Sadly, they obviously never tested their new version running as a non-admin because it crashed or hung all over the place. (Oddly, the previous version worked as a non-admin. I guess they just got lucky). Nothing ticks me off more than finding LUA bugs in an application. It makes the developers look like complete morons. Sorry to be harsh, but that’s the reality of the situation. Don’t be a moron! Test your application running as a non-admin! Please, I beg of you!
There are numerous resources to show you how to run as a non-admin. Start with nonadmin.editme.com as it’s a wiki that consolidates all the various spots on the internet that discuss what you need to do. Much of the content comes from Aaron Margosis, whose blog is a mandatory subscription in your RSS reader.
When running as a non-admin, the biggest issue you’ll run into involves the Control Panel. Unfortunately, many Control Panel applets, like my Toshiba M200 docking station applet, won’t run as a non-admin. While you can go through the hassles of starting a new instance of Explorer as an Administrator, there’s an easier way. I’ve not seen this mentioned anywhere, but to start a Control Panel applet in a different user account, hold down the SHIFT key and right click on the applet. The usual context menu will now have a “Run As…” option on it so you can start the applet with different credentials. Consider this my gift to you to start you on the path of correct computer usage.