User Account Control (UAC)The results of my poll about Vista's User Account Control (UAC) are quite impressive. More than 2000 4sysops readers voted so far. 67% have disabled UAC altogether, 5% disabled the elevation prompts, 3% changed other UAC settings and only 24% use the default UAC settings.

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This poll is certainly not representative. 4sysops readers are more tech savvy than the average Vista user. They not only figured out how to disable UAC, they also install software and change system settings more often. Thus they get annoyed by UAC prompts regularly.

Did you disable Vista's UAC?

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But these numbers surprised me anyway. I think this poll shows that more than 70% of IT pros reject UAC. I've been criticizing UAC ever since. I've read several times that one of the major reasons why Microsoft introduced UAC was because they wanted to encourage developers to distinguish between applications that need admin privileges and those needing just standard user rights. I wonder if this approach will work considering that the majority of IT pros disabled it anyway.

I am a supporter of separating administration work from ordinary Windows usage, but UAC is just a bad solution to this problem. Su/sudo under Linux is certainly a better one. However, that doesn't mean that I recommend disabling Vista UAC. You can just turn the elevation prompts off and let UAC enabled. UAC improves security not only by asking for approval if an application changes important system settings. I blogged about the reasons not to disable UAC more than a year ago.

Another option is to use the free tool TweakUAC to disable UAC quickly when you have to do some tasks requiring administrator privileges. After you are done with your work, you can enable it again without hassle. This is already close to the su command under Linux. By the way, I just added TweakUAC to the list of free Windows management tools. So you can rate it now.

If there are just a couple of applications where UAC is getting on your nerves, you might use this little trick to get rid of the UAC prompts just for those aps. I think many disabled UAC not only because of the constant confirmation prompts, but also for compatibility reasons. In those cases it often helps to elevate an application manually. I listed eight ways to run a Vista application with administrator privileges.

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The scripting guys might be interested in the Script Elevation PowerToys that allow you to launch PowerShell with admin rights from Windows Explorer and help you to elevate a tool on the command prompt. You can also rate them now. And here you'll learn how to run VBScript or JScript scripts with admin rights under Vista.

  1. Avatar
    Colin Bowern 16 years ago

    It’s a shame that people are disabling this feature. What I really like about Vista is not necessarily the implementation, but that they’ve chosen to go forward with this controversal move. UAC exposes a lot of the poor development practices that exist out there. Even Microsoft’s own applications suffer from it. The latest Dynamics GP release (from late 2007) requires you to disable UAC for it to execute properly because they have chosen to write to the Program Files folder. The execution of UAC can certainly be optimized and I expect we’ll see more of that in the next major Windows release. If people wanted to have an impact on how it works they should have been loading up the beta copies of Windows and providing feedback. The product groups took the feedback they received and made the best guess at how to implement it to suite a majority of situations. With UAC in the wild now they’ll be able to get a larger degree of feedback and address it with the necessary implementation changes. I would challenge all those that have disabled UAC to file a piece of feedback on Microsoft Connect *before* they disable it outlining what they think could be done to make it work for them.

    On the development side there have been a set of guidelines in place for quite some time now on how to develop applications that will behave under a normal user account. It is known as the Designed for Windows guidelines. Unfortunately no one respected it because Windows granted you administrative rights for your first user. With Windows Vista they took the lead of what Apple has already done in Mac OS X which is build a system to prompt you to run the process as an alternative user. I have to appauld them for taking this move because it’s cleaning up a lot of smelly code. It will be painful, but we’ll get more robust applications in the end because of it. So in the end please don’t disable UAC, lobby your software vendors to get their act together. They have had plenty of notice and it’s time that we stood up for quality software that uses supported methods for accessing system resources in a secure, stable fashion.

  2. Avatar
    Dan Shappir 16 years ago

    This is a subject I’ve blogged about, including this poll:

    Overall, like you, I like the concept but have issues with the implementation. The title of my original post about this subject was “Why Vista UAC Is Good, Sort Of”

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    Colin, I agree that there is some room for improvement. I’ve read that they already changed something in Vista SP1. The UAC prompts seem to pop up less frequently. But what I miss the most, is a tool where I can fine tune which apps and which parts of the OS require elevation prompts and which don’t. Hopefully Windows 7 will come with such a feature.

    Dan, I just read your article. You linked to my post at the end of November, so you have slightly different numbers. It is worthwhile to note that the numbers changed over time. The longer this poll runs the more opt to disable UAC.

  4. Avatar
    Dan Shappir 16 years ago

    It’s my understanding that one of the reasons Microsoft made UAC so intrusive is to put pressure on ISVs to make their software more compliant with security restrictions. In other words, not to require administrative privileges for no good reason. If UAC usage is indeed going down then so will the pressure on ISVs. This will, in turn, cause more people to turn it off. This could mark the begining of a death spiral for UAC.

  5. Avatar

    Dan, I think you are right. Maybe the strategy to get on the nerves of users in order to educate developers was not really a good one.

  6. Avatar
    Dan Shappir 16 years ago

    We no longer have to guess that annoying the users was a UAC design goal. Microsoft has now publicly stated it. Read more on my blog:

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