Hate Windows UAC? Have you actually tried the alternatives?

The next time somebody complains about Windows User Account Control (UAC), I’d like them to actually try using a Mac as a standard user (i.e. not the default setting, which is an Administrator, albeit not the root user). I’m in the process of applying Apple’s latest 10 updates, which are huge (I didn’t notice the total for all 10, but I it was well over half a gigabyte – just one HP Printer Driver Update was 142MB and the Mac OS X 10.5.5 update is 321MB).

In the intervening time, during which I’ve been writing this post on another PC, I’ve had to enter my Administrator credentials four five six times to allow Apple Software Update to do its thing. Mac OS X (and Linux) use a time-based system whereby once I’ve entered my elevated credentials they are valid for a set period but at least once I’ve told Windows Update that I do want to install a bunch of updates, that process (and any child processes) are then allowed to continue unhindered. It seems that the answer for me should really be to use setuid and make Apple Software Update run elevated but that is not necessarily a good idea either.

I guess there are advantages and disadvantages to either approach (actually, the time-based approach has a significant weakness in that any process can run elevated during that window) but the real point is that UAC is there for our protection – and it’s not really that big a problem in my experience.

Meanwhile, for hardcore Windows users that would like to implement an equivalent of the Linux/OS X setuid command in Vista (or Windows Server 2008, I guess), Joel Bennett explains how to do it with PowerShell.

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