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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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How to Set Up a Guest Account on macOS

Oyetoke Tobi - Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Want to create and set up a guest account on macOS? Here’s how to do just that.

In case you want to lend a friend or family member your Mac for some time, you may not want to trust them with your Admin account because they might tamper with some of your settings. You could just create a new account, or you could just have them use the macOS’ built-in guest account.

The guest account basically allows someone to use your computer without the need to create an individual account for them. So any files created by the guest will be stored temporarily, and then deleted immediately after they log off. You can also set and restrict how guests use your computer by setting up parental restrictions. 

However, there’s one important thing you have to understand about the guest user account on your Mac. What a guest sees and how they can use it depends on whether the FileVault disk encryption is enabled or not.

If FileVault is enabled on your Mac, the guest user account is the same to an extremely basic booth account and has so many annoying restrictions. One of the restrictions is you have to completely restart your Mac each time you want to log in to the guest account. Also, the only application available there is Safari and the only settings you can change is the user language. You can only connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot, and restart or shut down the computer. That’s all, nothing more.

Nevertheless, it’s still the best and safest way to protect your files and settings when lending out your Mac to others for some time.

But, if FileVault is disabled, the guest account will be much more useful and have access to many things you can do with the admin account. Guests can log in with fast user switching, which means no one has to log out of their account to restart the computer compared to when the FileVault is enabled.

In addition, guests can use all the variety of applications installed on the Mac, access shared folders on your network, and you can customize the guest user account with parental controls. It’s almost like a full admin account, although making any changes to it still needs administrator privileges, and everything is removed when the guest user logs out.

Alas, you have to disable the FileVault to get the full guest account with all the features mentioned above, that we don’t recommend you to do so. Full-disk encryption is a very significant security feature we believe everyone should be using. It helps to prevent thieves from being able to access the data on your laptop should it get stolen.

In case you need to disable FileVault in order to get the full guest user account, do so only when required, and we suggest disabling the guest account and re-enabling FileVault when no longer needed as soon as possible.

How to Enable the Guest User Account

To enable the guest user account, the first thing to do is to head over to the System Preferences window. You can do that by clicking on its Dock icon, then click on the Users & Groups preferences.

In the Users & Groups preferences, the left pane will display the current user (you) and, under Other Users, you should be able to see the Guest User account.

Then click on the lock icon at the lower-left corner.

Then enter your system password to unlock the Users & Groups preferences.

After unlocking it, click on “Guest User” and then check the checkbox next to “Allow guests to log in to this computer”. Don’t forget that you can follow these steps again and uncheck this box when you no longer need the guest user account.

Now there are two other options to consider as well.

When the guest account is enabled, you can enable the parental controls and allow guest users to have access to shared folders on your network and you can only do this if FileVault is disabled. Parental controls helps to restrict guest user access to apps, certain websites, when they can use the computer, and many more.

Once, you have the guest user account enabled, it will be available and can be seen clearly from the login screen. You can also access it through the fast user switching, if FileVault is disabled. That’s all.

However, enabling the guest account isn’t something you should be doing every time. You should only use it when required, especially if you have to disable FileVault in order to get the full guest account.

Furthermore, since the guest account isn’t protected by any password, it is innately insecure and vulnerable especially if you disable the FileVault. You don’t want to allow unmonitored access to your computer when it is enabled, particularly if there are children present.

So if you have family or friends visiting for the weekend and you don’t want to give them free access to your computer or creating a special user account for them, then the guest user account can be perfect in such a situation.



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